I could hear the pain in her voice. She’d travelled thousands of miles for a very short time in the States. There was a lot to accomplish in just a few weeks, hopefully including some moments for rest. Rest, she really needed rest, but she also needed time with team leadership. She went in for a scheduled hour on her calendar and received fifteen minutes.
That was it. That was all they gave her to share her concerns, talk about strategy, finances, and needs. Her voice cracked as she shared with a small group of prayer warriors. I also heard something else—it’s not easy being a woman on the mission field.
I’m all for male leadership. I think the biblical model for the church is on point, but I also think men in leadership need to be more sensitive to the women who are doing the serving in hard places. If there were other men on the field with her as part of her ex-pat team, that might be another matter, but it’s not. She’s the team. One and done. She the one in the know.
So, what did we do?
We prayed, and when I had my chance, I prayed for those in her stateside leadership team to take note and not push her aside so easily (one happened to be in the room).
Later, as I had time to speak to her, I encouraged her to stand her ground and push for a meeting. Again, she’s the one who was being supported, was seeking guidance from leadership, and knew the situation on the ground better than anyone. They needed to listen to her and hear her concerns.
This story made me remember another woman who served in a difficult place. Her name was Lottie Moon. She too received less than enthusiastic support from leadership across the ocean, but she was not easily intimidated. God’s call was so strong on her life, that she turned down a marriage proposal and left her job to sail to China, where she served for almost forty years.
Discouraged at the soft missionary candidates who were arriving on the field, she wrote leadership to make sure they told those seeking to serve that they were “coming to a life of hardship, responsibility and constant self-denial.” Her efforts in writing American churches to send workers and financial support eventually led to the adoption of an annual offering for overseas missions that Southern Baptists would name in her honor.
Lottie Moon died, standing her ground with her sending organization and fellow missionaries, because she was not there to serve them but God and the people of China, and as a result, she was part of one of the fastest-growing Christian movements in the world.
Whether you are male or female, when you see a need where God has called you to serve, stand your ground in conveying it to those who supervise and send you; then pray, asking God to speak to them as loudly as he spoke to you. In the meantime, keep serving to his glory.
Grace and Peace