March 8th is International Women’s Day. We invited your women missionaries to answer this question: How have women leaders impacted you? Their answers are printed below and they will also appear on International Ministries Facebook wall throughout the day.
Some of the missionaries have taken this question to their own Facebook wall. Jill Lowery is living in the United States right now, and wrote that she is missing the observance of International Women's Day back in Congo. Kihomi Nzunga reported last year about parades in the streets in Haiti. Mayra Giovanetti in Nicaragua has written a journal in tribute to International Women’s Day. (Click here to read it.) And Mylinda Baits shared this link to a song called "One Woman" from the United Nations that is a shining example of the global community working together.
Originally called International Working Women’s Day, this annual event has a different focus depending on the country and culture. In some places it is a general celebration of respect, appreciation and love towards women, while elsewhere it lifts up women’s economic, political and social achievements, and examines the struggles of women worldwide. The day has lost its political flavor in some regions and has become an occasion for expressing love, similar to Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day.
How have women leaders impacted you?
I'm so thankful for the many women leaders that God put in my life, starting with my own mother. I could name several more of them, but wouldn't want to forget anyone. What they all have in common is their passion for the Lord and faithfulness to serve Him, even in the most difficult circumstances. Their example encourages me to try to do the same.
Jill Lowery, missionary in the Democratic Republic of Congo
Women leaders have impacted my life by showing me that I am not limited by my gender but rather I have been gifted with unique abilities to show God's grace and love. Others have also shown me that I can do anything I set my mind to!
Kristy Engel, missionary in the Caribbean and Iberoamerica
My seminary professor Carol Schreck invited me to do a first person narrative of the bent-over woman in Luke 13 as part of a worship service celebrating women in ministry. The physical act of portraying a bent-over woman, and then being set free to stand up in Jesus liberated my soul that evening. It marked the beginning of letting go of all the "bent-over" places in my life. It is a story I go back to over and over when I feel overwhelmed by physical & emotional wounds, as well as by legalistic restrictions imposed on me by the Pharisees in my life. Later, I asked Carol why she chose me to enact that woman's story. "Lots of reasons," she responded, "But mostly because you needed to be set free."
Joyce Anderson Reed, missionary in Mexico
Dot Yoder was my favorite teacher. I took elementary school art classes from her at the Agnes Irwin School. She instilled in me a love for creating art that continues to this day. One day in early elementary school, I painted "The Parting of the Red Sea". It consisted of a field of red paint on the left third of the page, another field of red paint on the right third of the page and the blank, white paper in the middle. Mrs. Yoder laughed and laughed and said it was, "just perfect!". Come to find out later that Mrs. Yoder was a committed Christian believer and sang in the church choir. Memories of her warm, tender smile and encouraging spirit hover over my shoulder even now when I paint and when I teach art classes for our girls at the New Life Center. Mrs. Yoder passed away in 2005, and I never told her how much I loved and appreciated her. So here's to Mrs. Yoder. You made a difference in my life!
Kit Ripley, missionary in Thailand
Manay Ruth Corvera once told me “everything you put on the table should have beauty - this is a good life rule as well!” Manay Ruth dedicated her life to releasing the hidden potential in others, to helping people help themselves. She adopted our young family in the Philippines and cared for us as friends and colleagues, even becoming an honorary grandmother to Elena and Asa, our children. She is a strong, fierce, loving, woman of God. Today Manay Ruth is now retired. She was the Founder and Director of the Katin-aran Center, the Christian community outreach program of Central Philippine University. Manay = honorific meaning respected, beloved, admired.
Mercy Bedona was my dear sister and colleague in the Philippines. She was a female Barnabas who encouraged, guided, and mentored others in their personal and professional growth. She was a committed, visionary leader in both the local church and the Convention of Philippine Baptist Churches, urging us all to live out kingdom values. As my dear friend, she walked with me through some dark valleys. Mercy and I served together at Central Philippine University, the Convention of Philippine Baptist Churches, and Community Christian Church in the Philippines. She went to be with the Lord in January 2012.
Ann Borquist, missionary in Brazil
My mom was a single parent for most of my early years so she taught me never to give up, the importance of education and the strength received through my relationship with God and the faith community. Later as a young woman growing up in the church in Puerto Rico, I was surrounded by many female role models. They taught me to acknowledge and respond to my call. God gives us what we need at the right time.
Around that same time I heard a woman preach at our church and what stands out with her was her appearance. You could hear the passion for ministry in the sound of her voice; you could see her confidence by how she stood and presented herself. I don’t remember her sermon but do remember that she wore a beautiful scarf. She taught me that public speaking is part of a complete package. The final woman I want to mention is my daughter as she shows me her willingness to meet each challenge head on, sometimes with fear and uncertainty but she continues the journey. She reminds me that the call to serve will continue even after I become a memory.
I have met many women in ministry who have influenced me in so many ways; yet the main lesson that is repeated is the dedication, compassion and love they demonstrate to the people they serve and with whom they serve. Some are young while others wear gracefully the trophies of age; yet all of them have taught me that the struggles I have encountered are not new and that I am not alone on this journey. They are my teachers, partners and friends and part of the great cloud of witnesses.
Mercy Gonzalez-Barnes, missionary in Mexico
Women leaders gave me opportunities to try my hand at leading, encouraging me and giving me constructive criticism as I learned. Women leaders working out of feminine strength taught me that I have unique contributions to make just because I'm female.
Debbie Kelsey, missionary in Italy
As a young seminary student, I had little, to no previous exposure to women in leadership, let alone those pursuing pastoral ministry. My first roommate was a graduating senior, Joan Friesen, who now serves the churches of the Indianapolis region as their executive minister. As I observed her in her studies and interactions with people, I got a glimpse of a life called out to serve within and outside of the church. Joan continues to this day to be a person who calls out the best in me, stays connected in tangible ways, and lives a life worthy of the Gospel to which she was called.
Mylinda Baits, missionary in Costa Rica
On this International Day of the woman, I think of so many women who have changed their world. But they all stand in the background, almost as a backdrop to one woman who changed my life. Her name was Carol Kimbriel. She was not a simple woman. She was a mother and a housewife, a leader in her church, and the financial manager of her husband´s business. But most importantly for me, she was my mentor. She was my best friend´s mother, who somehow in her busy life, found space for me. She encouraged, me believed in me, and “straightened me out” when I needed it. She changed my life and she is the inspiration for the Talita Kumi Girl´s Clubs ministry, matching young girls who need some encouragement, with women who are always willing to make a little extra room for one more.
Barbara Bolick, missionary in Chile