Phyllis Kilbourne is an easy person to like. I met her at an impromptu meeting this week and realized that I was in the presence of one of God’s “special people” as my grandmother would have said. She is an ordinary woman that God has used to do extraordinary things. As the founder of both Rainbows of Hope and Crisis Care Training International, she has brought the needs of homeless and discarded children into the light in a powerful way. Having served 20 years in Liberia and personally experiencing what war can do to children, she was deeply burdened about their plight. The wonderful thing about Phyllis is that she did more than simply express her concern; she began a ministry to rescue, restore and redeem these kids.
This week, Christianity Today produced its October edition of the magazine with a cover story entitled, “50 Women to Watch” highlighting key evangelical women making a difference in our world today. It must have been a pretty tough job narrowing it down to the final 50. For many years I have been influenced and impacted by women in key roles in our own ministry. Whether it was my grandmother modeling boldness in witnessing, my mother living out daily sacrifice or Clara (my first boss in CLC) patiently teaching the basics of running a Christian bookstore, I owe a great debt to women. Each day, I have the joy of working with my wife in this ministry and seeing her gifts bless others and am humbled to work alongside her.
While there has often been controversy surrounding the appropriate role of women in the church, this has not seemed to affect those that have made the greatest impact. Often working in obscurity, these women have lived lives of service and obedience to God and simply “got on with it”, putting Kingdom work as their first priority. Many single women have been the backbone of the advance of the gospel around the world through various mission organizations and did so without much recognition or fanfare. Some of my favorite writers and authors like Amy Carmichael and Corrie ten Boom wrote based on lives of suffering and sacrifice and yet did so with a joy that only the Holy Spirit could have provided. What an example of faithfulness and perseverance these women are to the church today.
As we celebrate Clergy Appreciation month in October, I am ever mindful of the role that women have played in the growth and development of the church. Rarely have I worked with a church where women were not working tirelessly to make the day to day functioning of the church work more smoothly and effectively. Whether they were leading a ministry or simply making sure that the church had enough communion supplies, each one played a vital role that has helped to advance the work of the Gospel. While I certainly do not want to denigrate the role of men in ministry, I think that we get plenty of attention already and not all of it is good. This month I will be working hard to celebrate those unsung female heroes of the faith and the ones who have a larger platform that God is using to draw people unto Himself.