Before retiring, outgoing Women’s Ministries director in the South Pacific Division church region Erna Johnson recently toured several islands across the region, holding a series of meetings for teenage girls.
“I can’t believe nine and a half years have passed since I was called to the position of Adventist Women’s Ministries Director (WM) of the South Pacific Division!” wrote Johnson in the Going Places newsletter posted by her department. “I’ve loved this ministry, [but now] it’s time to hang up my hat and make place for a new person who will love this ministry as much as I do.”
Significant events on the tour included the first Adventist meeting for teenage girls to be held in Samoa and Vanuatu, a prayer breakfast attended by the Tongan royal family and the opportunity to speak to hundreds of women in Kiribati, Fiji, Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea.
Johnson said that ministering to women in the South Pacific is “challenging, wonderful and exciting,” as she has strived to help women realize their God-given potential. “To see the faces light up when they realize what their spiritual gifts are is wonderful,” she wrote. “Some didn’t think they had any, [so] it was a wonderful feeling.”
Johnson was accompanied by Seventh-day Adventist Church Women’s Ministries director Heather-Dawn Small.
In Kiribati, where there are only three employees at the Mission office, the world church donated seven sewing machines that will stay in the local churches, so women can sell clothes and earn some money.
In Fiji, training on how to reach out to teenage girls was held at Fulton College, the Seventh-day Adventist tertiary school in the country. Forty people, including four men, attended. After the training, the team went to Navesau Adventist High School in Wainibuka and talked to students about domestic violence, before holding a ‘Real Me’ conference, a specially-designed program for teenage girls. In Fiji, more than 200 girls attended.
“In 2009, while traveling around the Division, I started to see and hear the immense need to reach our girls before it was too late,” shared Johnson in referring to the ‘Real Me’ program. “Way too many of them are experiencing abuse in many forms, and it just broke my heart to see and hear.”
Women’s Ministries leaders decided they couldn’t accept the situation and launched various initiatives to fight abuse across the region. Johnson concedes that changes are slow, but she said women leaders in the South Pacific are determined to keep working against abuse of any kind. “We need to continue to fight this,” she said.