Heroines of the faith: Catherine Booth

“… The “unjustifiable application” of Paul’s advice, “ ‘Let your women keep silence in the Churches,’ has resulted in more loss to the Church, evil to the world, and dishonor to God, than any of [its] errors.” From a pamphlet written by Catherine Booth in 1859.

Catherine Booth was born Catherine Mumford in England in 1829 to Methodist parents. Her father was a coach builder and preacher. Despite (or perhaps because of) long illnesses she is said to have read the Bible through eight times by the age of 12. Because of a spinal curvature, she was unable to take part in many of the normal activities of adolescence and became a fierce proponent of temperance.

In 1851 she met William Booth, a preacher with similar interests. They were soon engaged and married three years later. They had eight children.

One of Catherine’s role models was Phoebe Palmer, who caused quite a stir by preaching at a time when women were not expected to take an active role. Catherine became convinced of women’s rights, and wrote a pamphlet (Female Ministry: Women’s rights to preach the Gospel) from which the above quote was taken. She was convinced that women have an equal right to preach in public meetings. Her arguments for women in ministry were:

  1. Women are neither spiritually nor morally inferior to men
  2. There is no Scriptural reason to deny them public ministry
  3. What the Bible urges, the Holy Spirit has ordained and blessed and so must be justified.

William and Catherine Booth worked as partners in a traveling evangelistic ministry, and Catherine was soon recognized as a powerful speaker in her own right. Initially speaking in homes and at cottage meetings, eventually she held her own campaigns. Many think she had more influence than any other men (including her husband) of her time. Her life demonstrated the validity of women in ministry.

In 1865, William and Catherine Booth began the work of The Christian Mission in London’s impoverished East End. (Note: this is the area where Tony and I practiced medicine and started a church. Even when we were there it was known as the “trash can” of London, where people who couldn’t go any lower lived. Traces of William and Catherine Booth’s work were evident even then. The area has now become gentrified.) William worked with the poor, and Catherine spoke with the wealthy urging them to help them financially. They provided social help as well as preaching the Gospel.

When the name  of the mission changed to The Salvation Army, William was known as the “General,” and Catherine became the “Mother of the Salvation Army.” She was an important contributor to the changes made, not just in their uniform but also in their beliefs. She died at age 61.

Photo Credit: http://www.salvationarmy.org.uk

Information for this article taken from here

 

Heroines of the faith: Amy Carmichael

Amy Carmichael was born in Ireland in 1867 to a well-to-do family. She decided to follow Jesus at the age of 13. At 18, her father died, leaving the family in a difficult financial situation. They moved to Belfast, where Amy became involved with the “shawlies,” mill girls who wore shawls rather than hats. She saw the appalling conditions in which they lived and worked. Starting as a small group class, the work grew until Amy needed a hall seating 500. Later she moved to Manchester, England, where she did the same.

A couple of interesting stories about Amy’s early life. She had brown eyes, but as a child always wished for blue ones. She was very disappointed when God didn’t answer her prayers for her eyes  to turn blue. But she was very grateful later on when God revealed his call on her life. Amy also suffered from neuralgia, a very painful neurological condition that often had her bedridden for weeks on end. An unlikely candidate for the mission field.

In 1887, at the Keswick Convention, Amy heard Hudson Taylor, founder of the China Inland Mission, speak about the missionary life. Soon, she felt God’s call to go overseas as a missionary. Initially she went to Japan, but she never really felt at home there. From there she went to Sri Lanka. Then, after a year at home, she set sail for India in 1895, where she did her life’s work. She never returned home again, serving for 55 years without a furlough.

Amy did not fit into the missionary community in Bangalore–she hated the tea-drinking parties and gossip of the missionary wives. Soon she moved to join the Walker family on the very southern tip of India. Along with one of the Walker daughters and a few Indian Christian ladies, they began an itinerant ministry, speaking about Jesus throughout the surrounding villages. Their motto? “How much can I do without that I may have more to give?”

Amy adopted Indian dress and lifestyle, sometimes dying her skin with dark coffee.

In 1901, a young five year old girl named Preena was brought to Amy. She had been sold by her mother into temple prostitution, and was being taught all the degrading practices of the Hindu temple prostitutes. She had run away twice before, only to be found, taken back to the temple and beaten. But this time, the lady who found her, rather than taking her back to the temple, brought her to Amy. From that time onwards, Amy Carmichael set herself to rescue these young children from this terrible lifestyle.

This work was known as the Dohnavur Fellowship. They have rescued literally thousands of children, mainly girls, from the horrific lifestyle of the temple prostitute.

In 1931 Amy was crippled by a fall that left her bedridden for the nearly 20 remaining years of her life. She wrote many books during this time. Wheeled in a wheelchair onto the veranda outside her bedroom, the children would come and sing songs to her in the evenings.

The impact of Amy Carmichael”s life and writing continue to have an impact, more than 50 years after her death–for example, her vision of Christians making daisy chains.

Information for this post came from here and here. There is an interesting short video about her life here.

 

Photo taken from the website http://www.amycarmichael.org

Heroines of the faith: Gladys Aylward

Gladys Aylward, born of working class parents in London, England, in 1902, became a domestic servant at the age of 14. From the time she attended a revival meeting at which the message was about dedicating one’s life to the service of God, her heart was in missions. She longed to go overseas as a missionary to China. However, when she applied to the China Inland Mission, she was turned down because of her inadequate education–she failed the mission’s entry exam. They also thought at the age of 28 she was too old to learn Chinese.

Undeterred, by 1932 she had saved up her money and eventually spent her life savings on a one way train ticket to China, via Russia. She couldn’t afford the boat fare. She had been invited to work with Jeannie Lawson, an older missionary who was looking for someone to take over her work.

The two of them decided that the best way to reach out in their city, which was an overnight stop for mule trains carrying consumer goods, was to open an inn. So they founded the “Inn of the Eight Happinesses.” (A movie, “The Inn of the Sixth Happiness” starring Ingrid Bergman was based on this work.) After the first few months when they had to be coerced to stop, the mule drivers willingly stayed there because the food was good, the beds were warm and the innkeepers provided free entertainment in the evenings. They were storytellers, telling tales of a man named Jesus.

Gladys learned Mandarin from them, and adopted Chinese dress and culture.

After Jeannie’s death following an accident, Gladys Aylward served as a “foot inspector” for the Chinese government, traveling around the countryside enforcing the ban against the cruel practice of footbinding in which an infant girls feet were tightly bound with cloth to make their feet tiny–thought to be a sign of beauty, but crippling the girls in the process. It enabled her to get into many situations where she could tell the good news of Jesus. She also gained great favor when she stopped a prison riot.

Gladys took in orphans, adopting several herself. When the Japanese invaded her region of China in 1938, and with a price on her own head, she led 100 orphans to safety over the mountains. It was a twelve day journey with some nights spent unprotected on the mountainside, but eventually she delivered all the children to the safety of an orphanage in Sian. She promptly collapsed with typhus.

After 10 years back in Britain, she was denied re-entry to China by the Communist government, so settled instead in Taiwan where she became a friend of Tony (my husband’s) family. Again, she founded an orphanage. She died in 1970.

A book about her life by Alan Burgess, The Small Woman, was published in 1957.

Picture taken from Google images http://www.christianity.com

Information for this story was primarily obtained here and here.

The life and times of Mrs. Zebedee

Sometimes the life of a minor character in the Bible suddenly comes into focus. Since I wrote a post on the female disciples of Jesus, I’ve been fascinated by “the women,” a group of women from Galilee who took care of Jesus. My imagination has been particularly captured by “Mrs. Zebedee,” a simple fisherman’s wife.


Photo Credit: StateofIsrael via Compfight cc

There’s a few facts we know for sure, but there’s a lot we can legitimately surmise about the life of the wife of Zebedee, mother of James and John.

Here’s the core verse:

And many women who had come from Galilee with Jesus to care for him were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary (the mother of James and Joseph), and the mother of James and John, the sons of Zebedee. (Matthew 27:55-56)

James and John were among the first disciples Jesus chose. They were fishermen, partnered with Andrew and Peter in their fishing business (Luke 5:10). This was more than a “mom and pop” business since when James and John left to follow Jesus, they left Zebedee in the boat with the hired men (Mark 1:20). Were Zebedee and his family people of means?

Since Peter and Andrew lived in Capernaum on the Sea of Galilee (Mark 1:21, 29), it seems likely that their partners, Zebedee and his family, also lived nearby. I’m sure that James and John reported back to the family the story of Jesus turning the water into wine in nearby Cana (John 2:12). Were the Zebedee family in attendance at the synagogue in Capernaum the morning that Jesus cast out a spirit in the middle of the service? Later that day, after the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law in Peter and Andrew’s home when the whole town came to watch Jesus healing the sick, were Zebedee and his wife there too?  (Mark 1:32) As word spread about what Jesus was doing as he traveled through Galilee, I’m sure the parents of James and John followed the news of what their kids were involved in with great interest. From time to time, did they join the large crowds from Galilee that followed him wherever he went? (Matthew 4:25)

Whatever they were involved in during Jesus’ early ministry, Zebedee’s wife became totally committed to the One who taught her sons to fish for men.

In the Matthew version of the women watching as Jesus hung from the cross and breathed his last, three women are mentioned, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph and the mother of James and John (ie., Mrs Zebedee). The Mark version of that same story also lists three women, the two Mary’s and Salome (Mark 15:40). Was Zebedee’s wife’s name Salome?

Mrs. Zebedee was part of the group of women that accompanied Jesus on his final journey from Galilee to Jerusalem (Matthew 27:55). This group of women is described as Jesus’ friends (Luke 23:49). The journey from Galilee probably begins in Matthew 19:1.

This means that Mrs. Zebedee accompanied Jesus and was most likely present for the following:

  • Jesus’ teaching on divorce and remarriage (Matthew 19:1-11)
  • The rich young ruler (Matthew 19:16-28)
  • The teaching on leaders being servants (Matthew 20:20-28)–she is specifically mentioned as present for this.
  • The healing of two blind men (Matthew 20:29-33)
  • The triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:1-11)
  • The clearing of the temple (Matthew 21:12-17)
  • The fig tree withering (Matthew 21:18-22)
  • Jesus’ telling of various parables (Matthew 22 and 25)
  • His altercations with the Pharisees (Matthew 23)
  • His foretelling of the future (Matthew 24)
  • Mary’s anointing Jesus for burial (Matthew 26:6-13)
Most passages just refer to the disciples accompanying Jesus for all of the above. Take, for example, the Mark version of Jesus teaching on the road to Jerusalem about leaders being servants (Mark 10:35-45). it would be easy to think that only the twelve disciples were involved. However, the Matthew version fills in the details. The mother of James and John comes with her sons, kneels before Jesus and requests they be allowed to sit on his right and left hands in his coming Kingdom. Jesus seizes this “teachable moment” to talk about servanthood (Matthew 20:20-28).

 

How often do we assume, when the Gospels refer to the disciples (as opposed to the twelve) that women were not present? This example demonstrates their involvement.

Mrs. Zebedee was certainly there watching as Jesus died.  She watched as his body was taken down from the cross and as Joseph of Arimathea laid it in his own tomb (Luke 23:55). If she was indeed Salome, she purchased burial spices and prepared them on the evening of the Sabbath with Mary Magdalene and Mary, mother of James (Mark 16:1; Luke 23:56). Then early next morning she may have also been present at the empty tomb when the angel told them that Jesus had been raised from the dead (Mark 16:2-8; Luke 24:1). She was probably with Mary Magdalene and the other women as they told the eleven disciples that Jesus had risen (Luke 24:10).

 

Did Mrs. Zebedee leave for home immediately after Jesus’ resurrection? Or was she one of the five hundred who, at one time, saw the risen Jesus’ in person (1 Corinthians 15:6). Did she  “tarry in Jerusalem” until the Day of Pentecost? Was she one of the group of women who were part of the 120 in the upper room as the disciples cast lots to choose a replacement for Judas (Acts 1:14)? Was she there when all the believers were gathered together in one place (Acts 2:1) and the Holy Spirit came like a rushing, mighty wind and tongues of fire settled on each of them and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues (Acts 2:1-4)? Did she rejoice as 3,000 people became believers that day? Was she part of the early church in Acts 2?

I’d like to think so. What about you?

 

Guest post by Bruce: One line conversation starters with not-yet-believers

I have a job in a very busy, very intense human services setting. I often do not have more than 10-15 seconds to talk to a person. I always have a brief ‘teaser’ line that might elicit interest, and a quick follow up line that gives more info that can lead to a conversation.

Sometimes I say that I am a writer, and that my materials help people understand God a little better. I have a short booklet that I wrote about Jesus that I keep copies of to give out, and people are often interested in something that I wrote myself.

I often get prophetic words for co-workers, and that itself leads to conversations. Or I tell them that a lot of my time is spent helping people get closer to God. Or that I pray for a lot of people, and see God doing exciting things. I offer to pray for anyone, for anything.

My rule of thumb is to have a handful of very short ‘one liners’ and a matching follow up line that an interested person can follow up on later. This has worked well for me.

Sales people are trained to give their ‘elevator speech’.  We should be trained to give, not necessarily the gospel in 15 or 30 seconds (though that has its uses) but a 5 second comment that can give us an indication of who might well be approached later for more specific questions or comments, as a possible person of peace.

My teaser line is a way for almost anyone (even one as naturally timid as me) to ‘safely’ feel out the territory without being (or feeling) overtly or blatantly ‘religious’. The follow up might be a more definite comment or a question about spiritual beliefs.

Long ago, a friend from the South, when asked “How are you?” would often say, quietly and sweetly, “I’m blessed.”  That line, never heard in the region where I live, usually raises an eyebrow when I use it, and can give an indication of interest.I usually save that one for people that i suspect of a spiritual interest.

David Watson once blogged that he would say something like, “I feel like God may have spoken to me in a dream last night.”  or, “I recently realized something really powerful, that i never saw before.” and just let it sit, without another comment. If the other person didn’t say a word, he would not follow up with another word about it.But if they did, he gently followed up with comments to the level of the person’s interest, but never beyond it.

Just saying “God bless you” when finishing a brief conversation and watching reactions can also show who to follow up on.

Offering prayer about a personal situation shared in the workplace often leads to grateful responses, and lots of openings to share the goodness of God later on.

Bruce teaches church planting principles, working in many countries where security is an issue.

Photo Credit: procsilas (Creative Commons)

 

Bringing our faith into our working lives

When we worked and ministered in the UK, our lives were very blessed. Everything we touched seemed to “turn to gold”–in the spiritual rather than physical sense. Tony, my husband, was leading a ministry that worked among doctors and others in the caring professions and extraordinary things were going on all over the country. The ministry taught these professional how to bring their faith into their working lives in a sensitive and relevant way. We ran conferences that showcased examples of doctors who were doing something meaningful. As others professionals saw what was going on, their response was often, “I could do that in my practice.”

For example, I remember one family doctor giving a report on what he had seen the previous year. He had kept a record of every patient he had communicated the good news about Jesus to over the course of that year–about 150 people. Of those, around 50 had become followers of Jesus the first time he spoke with them, and another 50 had become believers some time during that year. The remaining 50 were an ongoing story. All over the country, doctors were seeking to communicate the Gospel in effective ways to their patients.

When Tony was practicing medicine, he probably saw several hundred of his patients find the Lord. In the UK, in part because of socialized medicine, the family doctor handled far more than the typical medical problems. If someone had a kid who was using drugs or had marital difficulties or any other social need, the GP was usually the first person they went to for help. Often, when his patients came to him with needs that were not really medical in nature, Tony would say to them, “You know, I don’t have a pill I can prescribe that will sort this out, but have you ever thought of praying about this situation?” The most common response was, “Doctor, I’ve prayed about it, but I don’t know if anyone is listening.” That was an open door for a spiritual conversation. During one memorable six week period, a person became a follower of Christ every day his office was open.

Other doctors moved into the very poor and socially deprived area of London where we lived and worked and had our church. One day, we did the math. In our (more traditional) church, there were 14 family doctors.  Our area had around 120,000 people living in it. Between the doctors in the church and their partners, anyone becoming sick in our area had a one in three chance of sitting down next to a Spirit-filled doctor who was looking for an opportunity to share about Jesus.

Other doctors around the country were running Bible studies in their offices, or referring the social needs of their patients to their churches. In fact, the impact was such that even the medical authorities were beginning to take notice. We heard one day that a family doctor, in his final oral exam in front of the licensing board was asked this question: “What would you do if you found yourself in a practice with doctors who were evangelical Christians who took every opportunity to speak to their patients about their faith?”

Our conferences were attended by around 5,000 people per year. I remember a particular conference we ran for consultants. At one stage, this group of 50 or so eminent consultants were asked to stand on their chairs and praise God at the tops of their voices. If these distinguished professionals were willing to humble themselves before God in this way at a weekend conference, it was easy for them to speak to their patients about the Lord during the following week.

So when in 1987, the Lord spoke to us that we were to move to the USA, we assumed, naively, that God wanted us to do the same kind of ministry among professionals here. Were we in for a shock!

Have you found effective ways to communicate your faith through your working life? I’d love to hear the story.

The church moves West (part 2)

The focus of Christian missions has historically moved west. This is the second of a three part series (here is part one) looking at this phenomenon, and is part of the foreword I have written to a new Kindle book, Greet the Church in Your House.  by Victor Choudhrie, due out in September. This book details the principles behind one of the greatest disciple making movements of our time.

 

This is a photo of Tony and me standing on the very harbor wall in Turkey (Seleucia) from which Paul and Barnabas left with John Mark to sail west on their first missionary journey. The harbor is now silted up and the harbor wall is about 100 yards inland.

 

While all this was going on in Europe, the epicenter of Christianity was sailing west across the Atlantic to the United States.  Waves of revival spread across the land as Jonathan Edwards and George Whitfield, John Wesley and Charles Finney preached to huge crowds. In 1906, the Pentecostal Movement began in Azusa Street in Los Angeles and spread rapidly throughout the world. The United States became the great missionary-sending nation.

But even as Christianity waned in Europe and began its decline in the United States, the center of Christianity was moving west again. Initially this was hidden. When the Communists overtook China in the late 1940s, threw out the missionaries, closed the churches and jailed its leaders, everyone wondered whether the church could possibly survive. When the bamboo curtain finally lifted, the world was amazed to see the church had thrived and multiplied. Ordinary people, mainly women and children, rather than trained preachers, were spreading the Gospel, and churches were starting everywhere in the homes of ordinary people. Small and hidden, the good news was spreading like yeast in a lump of dough.

Again the focal point of the church moved west. Via Korea and the cell church movement, it has moved on to India where the Choudhries and many others like them are seeing similar growth to China. Here God is restoring disciple-making and house church planting, not as a matter of necessity because of persecution, but as a deliberate policy with well-understood theological and ecclesiological reasoning. An emphasis on the Kingdom is producing marked changes in the local community too. As other nations hear what is transpiring in India, they are inviting men and women from India to come and infect their own lands with what Jesus is doing.

Part three to follow…