Heather-Dawn Small, Director
ome, see a man . . .” (John 4:29). These were the life-changing words of the Samaritan woman to the people in her community. Over the past five years this has been the cry of the women of the Seventh-day Adventist Church to the world, not only by our words but by our actions.
The theme for General Conference Women’s Ministries (WM) for this quinquennium has been “A Ministry for Every Woman—Touch a Heart, Tell the World.” Our vision has been to help those in need based on Isaiah 61:1-3 and The Ministry of Healing, page 143. We have accomplished this by addressing six challenge issues: abuse, illiteracy, women’s workload, poverty, women’s health, and training ?and mentoring.
Abuse: Statistics indicate that globally one in three women experiences abuse in her lifetime. Violence in the family and community has to do with coercive and abusive behavior intended to intimidate another person, and may consist of brutal and repeated beatings, death, or more subtle forms of abuse including threat and domination.
As a result of the global outcry to this issue, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency and Women’s Ministries launched the “enditnow” advocacy campaign in October 2009 to stop violence against women and girls. In addition, WM promotes an annual Abuse Prevention Emphasis Day, observed on the fourth Sabbath of August each year. Women have welcomed this day and feel affirmed that the church cares about their suffering.
Illiteracy: Statistics show that women make up two thirds of the world’s 1 billion nonliterate population. Women’s Ministries is the primary General Conference department trying to meet this need, and is using literacy as a tool for community outreach.
In the Solomon Islands last year, WM sponsored a program called “Buk [Book] Save,” in which participants were taught the Pidgin alphabet using the pidgin Bible. WM operates more than 3,000 literacy projects in nine divisions worldwide.
“Never Too Late to Learn” is a program developed by WM in the Southern Asia Division. Along with our believers, more than 30,000 women and men from other Christian denominations, Hindus, and Muslims have benefited from this project. Forty percent of the learners are Hindus. More than 1,000 accepted Jesus Christ, more than 10 new congregations were organized, and more than 1,000 women were trained to lead small groups.
Poverty: More than 1 billion people in the world today live in abject poverty, of which 70 percent are women. In Bangladesh, WM implemented a sewing machine program, helping women to earn extra income and giving them hope for the future.
Other projects, among many others, include a card making ministry in Israel (Trans-European Division), in which the proceeds go to buy food and clothing for those in need. Our sisters in Zimbabwe (Southern Africa-Indian Ocean Division) donate equipment and children’s coffins to a hospital in need. In the United States (North American Division), “Bags of Love” and “Just for You” comfort bags are given to children in need.
Women’s Health Risks: Women’s health includes emotional, social, and physical well-being, which are affected by social, political, and economic factors. The quality of a woman’s health directly impacts her life and her family’s well-being.
Last year the General Conference Global Conference on Health and Lifestyle in Geneva, Switzerland, brought together representatives from the World Health Organization (WHO), representatives from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), and more than 600 leaders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church July 6-11.
East-Central Africa Division
General Conference Women’s Ministries presented a workshop track during the conference titled “Women’s Health Issues: Optimal Mental and Emotional Health” to focus on how the issues that women deal with affect their mental health, which in turn affects their spiritual health. Each WM director was encouraged to partner with their Health Ministries director to focus on this challenge and promote awareness and give assistance for our sisters in the pew.
In 2008 General Conference Women’s Ministries partnered with Adventist Aids International Ministry (AAIM) to produce part 2 of an HIV/AIDS home-based care training manual, The Loving Touch. In addition to this, hundreds of seminars and workshops focused on women’s health care.
Women’s Workload: Women around the world, in all cultures, face the problem of work overload. Women are either faced with the challenge of doing two thirds of the world’s work, which includes long work days, small salaries, and hours of housework and child care; or balancing societal expectations for maintaining intact, healthy families in highly competitive work environments with limited rest and recreation, and little time for God. Women’s Ministries has presented seminars on time management and small business management that have assisted women, especially those in single-parent or low-income households.
Lack of Education, Leadership Training, and Mentoring: Education for all is a basic human right. For women to achieve better health, better nutrition, and a better quality of life for themselves and their families they need equal access to education. If this is unavailable to them, women become trapped in a cycle of poverty with limited options for economic improvement that results in sentencing their children to chronic poverty and limited education.
Women’s Ministries completed the last two levels of the four-level leadership certification program. Ellen G. White wrote: “There is a higher purpose for woman, a grander destiny. She should develop and cultivate her powers, for God can employ them in the great work of saving souls from eternal ruin” (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4, p. 642).
Developing and cultivating the abilities of women is the task to which we are committed. Our sister leaders throughout the world have translated this material into many languages in order to train others to achieve their best as God directs their path.
“Come, see a man . . .” (John 4:29). The words and actions of the Samaritan woman resulted in many souls being won to the kingdom of God. Women are actively involved in reaping souls and nurturing them to ensure better retention and discipleship. Over this quinquennium 646,960 baptisms are directly attributed to the efforts of women in this church. What an amazing God we serve!
Yes, our sisters face challenges that are common to all women globally. And these challenges could be stumbling blocks to the work of God. But we see them as stepping-stones to living lives of greater love and compassion for those we serve. We are determined to fulfill the call to serve alongside our brothers. All praise to God!
This article was published June 24, 2010.