Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Mariama Seray B. Bockari – African Women and Mission, Part I

Today’s post contains the first of two parts of remarks prepared by Rev. Mariama Seray B. Bockari for the panel “African Women and Mission” at the Methodist Mission Bicentennial Conference. Rev. Bockari is a District Superintendent in the Sierra Leone Annual Conference.

The Almighty God and creator of humankind has engaged men and women in the past for the execution of His great programme of redemption. As He did in the past, so He is working through men and women today to show His great love to the lost. At creation, He made them male and female to compliment the effort of each other in the task He gave to them.

Having a purpose to accomplish on earth and having more work to do, God called men and women to be co-labourers with Him in the building of His church here on earth.

What is mission?
Mission means sending or to be sent. Christ came to seek and to save the lost, and He called His church to join Him in this. This is mission.

To be called to mission work is one of the highest callings one can receive. It is a sacred responsibility and should be considered a privilege to become partners with God.

The call to mission is not a preference among alternatives. It is a militant command that requires immediate action. It is usually clear and distinct. And those who are called have some knowledge about or are captured by something beyond human comprehension, e.g., Moses in the burning bush (Ex. 3: 4-6), Elijah in the cave (1 Kings 19: 9-15), or Saul’s encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus (Acts 9: 1-8).

Friends, the God who called in biblical times is still calling people today. From nothing, God made those called to be something, and those who were called were empowered for mission work. Their focus and emphasis in ministry remain unchangeable.

The role of women in the plan of redemption
Although the first sin came through a woman, yet to fulfill God’s plan for redemption, the Saviour came through a woman.

In the Old Testament, women were not relegated to the background of the home and domestic work. They held prominent positions in the church and society.

Deborah was a judge and prophetess in Israel (Judges 4:4). Hulda was a prophetess and spiritual leader (2 Kings 22:14). Esther was queen in Susa (Esther 4: 15-17). Abigail was a woman with brain and beauty (1 Sam. 25:3). All these and Anna (Luke 2: 36-38) are examples of women who influenced their generation positively.

In the New Testament, women also influenced prominent places and situations. In the gospel, we read of several women messengers who proclaimed the Good News (Matt. 2: 1-10; Luke 24: 9-12; John 4:28-30 and 20: 16-18).

In Romans 16, we have records of a number of women who served the Lord in various churches: Phoebe (Romans 16: 1-2), Priscilla (v3-5), Mary and Tryphena. Priscilla was specifically used of God to touch lives of people in Rome, Greece and Asia Minor. She housed Paul, led a home cell group and was assigned by Paul to disciple Apollos (Acts 18:21). Priscilla’s role in cross-cultural service was perceived by Paul as unique.

In contemporary times, women like Martin Luther King’s wife Coretta Scott King, Florence Booth and Mary Slessor have made remarkable positive influences on their husbands, their children and the entire world.

What is the role of United Methodist Church women in relation to this?
Since the merger of the Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church in 1968, which led to the development of The United Methodist Church, women have been active in mission work. Many people agree that the more difficult and dangerous the work, the more women volunteer to do it, and The United Methodist Church and United Methodist Church women are no exception to this. They have demonstrated a holistic approach with emphasis on both evangelism and meeting human needs.

They have shown a deep commitment and concern to other women and children. Medical work and economic structures were commonly the focus of their work.

Today, some of the ministries of the women in The United Methodist Church include:
  1. Teaching, counseling and leading of other women (Titus 2:25)
  2. Women’s prayer meeting (Acts 16: 12-15)
  3. Ministry of visitation (Matt. 25:36; James 1:27)
  4. Ministry of hospitality (2 Kings 4: 8-10; Hebrews 13:2; Timothy 5:10)
  5. Ministry of singing (Ex. 15: 20-21)
  6. Ministry of soul winning (Matt. 28: 18-20; Mark 16:15; Joshua 4: 28-30)
How can the women of today emulate others in mission?
For the purpose of reaching others for Christ, today’s women can emulate the women in both the Old and New Testament by using their:
  1. Meals: Friends and neighbours could be invited to our homes, during which we share our testimonies (Acts 2: 46-47).
  2. Homes: Women can offer their homes for meeting places.
  3. Talents: We can use our talents to help the poor and needy in the church by teaching them to do petty trading and craft to learn their living. Women can organize lessons for school children and illiterates as a minimal cost with the hope of winning them to the Lord.
  4. Substances: Women can use their money and materials to help pastors, believers and unbelievers.
Women in evangelism in Africa
The role of women in mission and the evangelization of Africa specifically is becoming more and more important as we approach the end of the age. These include:
  1. Ministry to children and youths. Many of the children and youths are wayward, drug addicts and prostitutes. Women of the church can volunteer to care for and teach others the way of salvation that will qualify them for leadership roles in the future.
  2. Ministry of hospitality, comfort and visitation. Women should provide care and comfort to the bereaved, orphans, widows, aged, poor and needy, sick and handicapped.
  3. Prison ministry. The women who are confined to the prison need our love and the gospel to set them free.
  4. Ministry to rural people. The primitive and illiterate who live in villages are more open to women than men. The woman can learn their languages and reach out to them.
  5. Ministry to social misfits. Singles, mothers and prostitutes get discouraged and frustrated because of the hardship and harshness they are exposed to. Church women are more suited for ministering to this category of persons.
In circles where there have been controversies concerning the ministry of women, new openings can be observed. Most churches are giving more opportunities for women to become involved in evangelism, seminary training, missions work, children’s welfare, radio and TV ministries, correspondence and counseling testimonies. All of these are abounding in abiding fruits of women’s ministry. The need for women’s ministry in the church is supported by several reasons, including:
  1. The population of women is about half or more of the population of the world. Multitudes of these women have peculiar needs that attract special attention, which can best be handled by women.
  2. Women by nature have caring, compassionate qualities and experience, which better provide them the opportunities to counsel on sensitive areas in the lives of women.
  3. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon all flesh shows that God will not waste His gift on women if it is not needed (Joel 2: 28-29).
  4. Women are better equipped with love, gentleness, tenderness and knowledge needed to reach millions of children in the world and lead them in the right direction of Christ.
There is a diversity of ministries yet undiscovered which women of the African church can be fully involved in. We are to depend on God to open our eyes to these areas and rise up to the great task committed to our hands by Our Lord Jesus Christ.

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