International Women’s Day is, according to the UN, “a time to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities.”
Thankfully, Harvest Bridge gets to celebrate women like this all year long! We have the privilege of coming alongside many incredible South Asian women who have indeed played extraordinary roles in their countries and communities.
Women who are first responders in disasters and medical emergencies. Women who start prison ministries and organize vocational training programs. Women who, while raising their own families, pour into other children. Women who share the Gospel in remote areas, lead church plants, and baptize villages.
They are single, married, and widowed. They are young and old. They are Christians who come from Buddhist, Hindu, and Muslim backgrounds. All are women who walk in the strength of Christ.
These are women who will most likely never have movies made of them because of the languages they speak, and the remote areas where they live. Women whose identities we have to protect because of the persecution they face due to their Christian faith. Their strength and example runs deep.
So as we celebrate “acts of courage and determination by ordinary women”, I want to thank these sisters who have not only changed the lives of those around them, but who have also deeply shaped my own life.
To the women who have expanded my view of womanhood because of how you have both embraced and changed your culture, thank you.
Mya*, thank you for showing undivided devotion to God’s calling.
As a 30 year old single woman, in a culture that is often unkind to single women, you show strength and dedication. Often you do not know where you’ll be sleeping at night, because you go wherever God leads. Supporting yourself by teaching English, you travel throughout Myanmar (Burma) to share the Gospel and plant churches. You have helped start three prison ministries, and they’re men’s prisons! Through you, so many have heard the Gospel, and so many have been touched by your genuine kindness and compassion.
“I just want to live my whole life for the Glory of God. I do not want to rest because I have such a short time on this earth.” ~Mya
Bina*, thank you for exemplifying what it looks like to be a mother and missionary.
You have intentionally taken each of your four children to remote villages in Nepal with you as you share the Gospel. You have taught your three daughters and your son to love those around them regardless of caste or religion. From you, they have learned that that exhaustion, persecution, and sacrifice are a natural part of loving others and serving Christ. And from you, they have also learned what joy, compassion, and love look like.
“We love everyone, in the name of Jesus. And I know, and I believe, that God created woman and man in Jesus’ image. So there is no partiality between the high caste and low caste. We don’t believe it.” ~Bina
Amira*, thank you for putting your life on the line by holding Bible studies.
You have brought the Gospel to women who are not allowed to leave their homes because of strict religious law. After literally being thrown out of some homes, you have continued, despite the threat to our own life. House churches are forming in Muslim homes in Pakistan because of your dedication.
“If I had not gone to them, I say with confidence that perhaps they would have never heard the gospel. Though I also confess that it was truly God who sent me to them.” ~Amira
Divya*, thank you for taking action when you saw the reality of girls in the town you had just moved to.
You realized that when you started a school, you had to focus on enrolling girls. Child brides were common in your area of North India in the early 2000s. So you went to dozens of homes, drinking tea and carrying food, to speak with parents about the importance of their daughters being educated. Before taking physical action, you addressed the deep concerns of the culture around you. 10 years later, most girls in your town are attending school, and child brides are much less common.
“When we came we saw that many female children were not educated, because the parents were burdened with paying for their marriage instead. We had a burden in our hearts…We now educate the parents, teaching them their children are the future of India.” ~Divya
Dina*, thank you for being the woman that your husband calls “his wisdom”.
Never have I met someone who prays the way you do. With such conviction and with such consistency. You have the most beautiful combination of wisdom, boldness, and gentleness. When a baby is born or a loved one is dying, you are the first person called by Christian, Muslim, and Hindu friends and acquaintances. You are the hands and feet of Jesus.
“Our Lord continues to show He is alive through the miracles He does through our team, and the church. Praise Him!” ~Dina
So, to the women who have demonstrated how to serve others without expecting thanks or praise, thank you. To the women who have shown me I can question God while still serving Him, thank you. To the women who have taught me to love my enemies, thank you. You know that God views you as equal, even when many around you say the opposite. That conviction has changed lives.
Thank you, sisters.