Celebrating Women in Missions on International Women’s Day

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This upcoming Sunday is International Women’s Day.

The official International Women’s Day website refers to it as “a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.”[1] On this day, we will celebrate the lives and achievements of women as we strive towards a day when people all around the globe will acknowledge the inherent value and worth of women. We recognize that all women should have opportunities to flourish and prosper and live without fear of being objectified, ignored, or stigmatized. While we understand that we can’t accept all the arguments surrounding women’s issues, we also realize we have much to celebrate. We serve a God who created women and redeems us. He loves us and uses us in mighty ways. Here at the CGCS, we use this day to honor Christian women missionaries: those currently on the field and those who will one day go.

Remember the Trail-Blazers

First, we remember those missionary women who came before us. They represent some of the faces in the great cloud of witnesses described in Hebrews 12. These are women who left their families, faced illness and death, worked in dismal conditions, and gave their lives that others may know Christ. We can describe these amazing women in many ways: Bold. Courageous. Unwavering. Tenacious. Faithful. Obedient.

Here are just a few examples:

  • Women like Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong changed the world through their letters. They wrote, Moon from China and Armstrong from the United States, calling on a denomination to fund missions and send more workers.

  • Women like Ann Judson and Elisabeth Elliot worked side-by-side with their husbands so that the nations might hear the good news.

  • Women like Amy Carmichael and Gladys Aylward leveraged their singleness for God’s glory among the nations.

  • Women like Lilias Trotter, Rebekah Naylor, and Betty Greene showed the world what women can do when they use gifts such as art, medicine, and aviation for God’s mission.

Thank God for the Fruit of the Harvest

As we remember those courageous women who have gone before us, we also see the fruit of their endeavors, as well as others’. As missionaries proclaimed the gospel to all nations in past years, people from every tribe, language, nation, and tongue responded. The center of Christianity shifted from one center in the West to multiple centers in the Global South and East. And Christ has called laborers from this myriad of cultures to take his gospel to those who have never heard.

  • East Asian women are taking the gospel to others in East Asia and beyond.

  • South Indian women are planting their lives in North India to reach their neighbors.

  • Brazilian women are going to the furthest corners of the earth.

  • Iranian women are proclaiming Christ’s good news to those around them despite great risk.

  • Refugees and immigrants are carrying the gospel to their Western neighbors.

Missiologist Allen Yeh points out  shift from “the West to the Rest” to a gospel mission “from everyone to everywhere.”[2] No longer do we celebrate only white women from the West going to the mission field. On International Women’s Day, take a moment to thank God that the gospel has taken root in the furthermost corners of the globe, and women from various nations, tribes, languages, and tongues have responded to our Savior’s call to carry his gospel to those around them.

Pray for the Current Workers

As we remember and praise God, we also pray for those who are currently serving. Married and single women comprise approximately 2/3 of many mission agencies.[3] Often times, more single women go to the field than single men.

Take a moment to pray for these women. Many of them have given up the comforts of home to take the gospel to those who have never heard, to heal those who are hurting, and to teach and disciple others who are going. They need our prayers.

How should we pray?

  • Pray that God will give them the strength to continue striving towards God’s mission.

  • Pray for their families and friends.

  • Pray for joy and peace in the midst of high-stress contexts.

  • Pray for grace as they learn the language of their people.

  • Pray for boldness and courage to proclaim Christ’s gospel as they ought (Eph. 6:19).

Pray for the Senders

This group often goes overlooked. It includes mothers, sisters, grandmothers, aunts, and friends who have sent women to the nations. Instead of hindering a loved one’s calling to go, they have affirmed it. Instead of holding tightly to a woman they love and care about, they have served her, loved her, equipped her, and then let her go. They trusted that God’s big mission was worth watching someone they love get on a plane and move thousands of miles away.

Pray for these women, too.

  • Pray that on the days when they hurt because their loved ones are far away, they will remember God’s mission and see the value of their sacrifice.

  • Pray that they will be diligent in caring for the women they sent.

  • Pray for opportunities for them to hear about God’s work in and through the life of their friend or family member.

Ask God to Raise Up More Women for His Mission

Finally, on International Women’s Day, ask God to raise up more women for his mission. Remember Christ’s words in Matthew 9:37-38, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

  • Ask that he will call women who are currently in our churches to join in his overseas work.

  • Ask that he will give high school and college-aged women a desire to leverage their jobs for the sake of the gospel.

  • Ask that he will begin working in the hearts of little girls and giving them a vision for His mission.

  • Ask that God will save women currently living in darkness who He will then equip and send out to take His light to others.

  • Ask that God will continue to move among women in all the nations and raise up hundreds of women from all backgrounds to join Him in the harvest.

[1] https://www.internationalwomensday.com/.

[2] Allen Yeh, Polycentric Missiology: Twenty-First-Century Mission from Everyone to Everywhere,” (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2016), 6.

[3] While actual statistics are sometimes hard to find, Dana Robert claims that women were “outnumbering men by two to one on the mission field during much of the [twentieth] century.” Dana L. Robert, Gospel Bearers, Gender Bearers:Missionary Women in the Twentieth Century, ed. Dana Robert, (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1970), xi. John Piper claims that “80-85% of all single missionaries are women. It is a rare thing, like two out of every ten, for a single man to make missions his life’s vocation, which results in the overall statistics that one-third of those in evangelical world missions are married men, one-third are married women, and 80 percent of the last third are single women. Which means that something just less than two-thirds of the total missionary force are women.” John Piper, “Why Are Women More Eager Missionaries?” DesiringGod, December 28, 2017, https://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/why-are-women-more-eager-missionaries

Anna Daub is a PhD student in applied theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. She lived in South Asia for two years and has traveled to many other parts of the world. Anna’s interests include orality, Bible storying, the arts, and anthropology. She loves sitting around with friends drinking a cup of coffee, hosting people in her home, traveling, and other adventures.

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Anna Daub

Dr. Anna Daub is the Director of Special Projects and Partnerships for Global Theological Initiatives at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. She lived in South Asia for two years and has traveled to many other parts of the world. Anna’s interests include orality, Bible storying, the arts, and anthropology. She loves sitting around with friends drinking a cup of coffee, hosting people in her home, traveling, and other adventures.

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