Women in Ministry Are ‘Called, Chosen, and Faithful’

Conference brings more than 60 Adventist women to Italy for training and reflection.

Tsvetelina Tsvetanova, Bulgarian Union of Churches Conference, and Adventist Review
Women in Ministry Are ‘Called, Chosen, and Faithful’
Group photo of participants and presenters at the Women in Ministry Conference for Seventh-day Adventist pastors, chaplains, and departmental directors in Florence, Italy, February 4-8. [Photo: Maike Haase]

“I know I was called to ministry, but was I really chosen, or did I made the choice myself? Am I being faithful, and will I be faithful enough to the end?”

These questions crossed my mind during the first couple of days during the Inter-European Division (EUD) Women in Ministry Conference, held in the city of Florence, Italy. Other questions popped up as well. Some were answered, while others I continue asking today. Perhaps not all questions have to be answered, but some must be asked.

From February 4 to 8, more than 60 Seventh-day Adventist women from all over Europe gathered at Italian Adventist University to reaffirm their ministry, encourage one another, and find more ways and opportunities to serve in their communities, guided by the work of the Holy Spirit. The women who participated in the event were pastors, chaplains, departmental directors, and institutional leaders and administrators.

I sat there on my chair, translating to some of my Bulgarian colleagues, and at the same time trying to comprehend the scope and importance of this event, not just for those who participated but also for the Adventist Church in Europe as a whole. The messages prepared by the presenters spoke directly to my heart, and yet, somehow, I struggled to accept that my place was there, that my role was what it was, and that I was equipped enough to fulfill it.

Three extremely gifted, wisely humble, and inspiring women ministers led us on this journey for the next few days. They included General Conference vice president Audrey Andersson, who shared her knowledge, her testimony, and her mission as a woman in ministry with all its advantages and vulnerabilities. She revealed to us the processes, significance, and results of the calling, the choice, and the faithfulness in our personal and professional lives.

Another speaker was Kessia Bennett, a lead pastor from the Oregon Conference of the North American Division, who proclaimed and performed the gospel in a very real, life-changing way. Bennett emphasized the role of the minister (not her title), profoundly noting that “how we think of our role in ministry will determine how we fulfill the task before us.”

Finally, Edyta Jankewicz, representing the women in ministry from the South Pacific Division and serving as an associate ministerial secretary, shared useful tips on being a disciple of Jesus. She also offered us some practical advice about how to connect and what to disconnect from, in order to have a meaningful time and relationship with God.

All three lecturers openly shared their knowledge and their very personal experiences. A sincere message of hope, humbleness, and affirmation accompanied each presentation, always followed by a special time for prayer.

Special guests led the morning and evening devotions, including Dagmar Dorn, EUD women’s ministries director; EUD president Mario Brito; Italian Union of Churches president Andrei Cretu; and EUD Ministerial Association director Ventsislav Panayotov. The passion for women in ministry and the encouraging words of Mario Brito still resonate in my mind. “If you want to go strong, you must go through challenges. Challenges bring success. Take it with patience. Remember that our boss is God. And if God is with us, we are much more powerful,” he said.

As women in ministry, we had the chance to connect to the joys and struggles of each other and to feel sincere empathy for one another. We worshipped together, we prayed together, we shared openly, we learned, we experienced the Fruit of the Spirit, and we also reasoned through the challenges we face as women in ministry. During these several days together, we discussed questions of our faith, our personal relationship with God, our role, and our purpose and mission in ministry.

“I really needed this special time,” Petya Gotseva, Youth Ministries leader at the Bulgarian Union, said. “What I took from this conference was the impression that to be more efficient in my ministry, I should try to be more focused on building a healthier relationship with God and with others. I need that time for personal spiritual growth.”

Maike Haase, Bavarian Conference communication department director, agreed. “I am happy that I was able to connect with other young women in ministry. I think it was a great experience for all,” she said.

The last day concluded with a panel discussion in which some of us shared the testimony of our calling and the path we follow as ministers. It would not have been so memorable for me if it had not ended with a beautiful blessing from the speakers for the women who have just recently started their ministry. It was a true dedication and confirmation of my calling and my choice. I strongly believe that through Christ Jesus and with the inspiring support of my fellow laborers, I could stay faithful till the end.

Varta Panayotova, EUD Ministerial Spouses Association director and one of the conference organizers, said the event should be repeated soon. “We should have meetings like this more often. It is so encouraging and inspiring to see so many women in different ministries, and yet, sharing their hopes, dreams, and challenges in a very open and heartfelt way,” she said.

The original version of this story was posted on the Inter-American Division news site.

Tsvetelina Tsvetanova, Bulgarian Union of Churches Conference, and Adventist Review