At Northwest Yearly Meeting Sessions this summer, twenty people met with the NWYM Board of Global Outreach (BOGO) as they prepared to leave the U.S. for places of service. This exciting time each year reminds me of God’s faithful leadership in our yearly meeting and the honor we have of serving God in faraway places such as Russia, Hungary, China, and Palestine.
Many things can be confusing about all the acronyms and names we use to describe the various NWYM international programs such as TA, FTS, FSA, and EFM. It might take a while to explain all of them. Instead let me tell you about some of the interesting things I notice about specific Friends with NFC connections who are serving abroad—Karen Swenson in Hungary; Marilyn Harmon in Wuhan, China; Anna Thomas and Kara Maurer in Moscow, Russia; Elizabeth Todd in Ramallah, Palestine. I greatly appreciate that NFC continues to be a supportive partner for the NWYM Global Outreach efforts. This participation includes people going, people sending, and people praying. I want to say thank you for that faithful support in all its forms.
All of these NFC connections happen to be women. In fact women make up a majority of our global staff and board. Maybe it isn’t necessary to point out that women outnumber the men, but I can’t help but think of the similarities to many brave early Quaker women leaders.
The first Quaker missionaries to China in the late 1800s were mostly women. Though we have lots to learn, I am glad to be a part of a group that values the contribution of women in ministry.
While women and men both offer many of the strengths we look for in our Friends Serving Abroad, I recognize why it is important to have balanced representation in our leadership. Through these women I, and others, become more aware of the fullness of God. What we think of as feminine qualities of God become more alive and at work in our teams. To only have men (or to only have women) involved throws us off balance. We want the fullness of what God has to offer in the variety of people he has created. In what ways can we encourage the equal value of men and women to those we go to serve? In what ways can these women serve as inspiration and role models for younger women and girls who are often caught in a culture that tends to be male dominated?
I have also noticed the prevalence of teaching as a ministry focus. It seems that each one of our fields and Friends who serve end up teaching. Beyond subjects like theology or Bible, we often don’t credit the teaching profession as a viable outreach tool. I am here to tell you that nothing can be further from the truth. Author Donald Snow argues that the English teaching practice can be seen as an act of reconciliation.1 I’ve appreciated that sentiment. Here are a couple of others I have grown to appreciate.
• Teaching opens doors: Parts of the majority world have an ever-growing hostility toward the West.
• Teaching, especially English teaching, has provided an avenue for Christians to better love the world and shatter those stereotypes. I am certain that Christian teachers could offer a contrasting experience that is seasoned with the fruit of the Spirit.
The teacher and learner share a life-changing experience; a level of intimacy is intrinsic in that relationship. Caring teachers want the best for their students, and learners often feel drawn to those who spend their lives opening new worlds to them. Students care what their teachers think/believe.
By definition, learners are always transformed. But knowledge and facts are not the ultimate transformers. We understand God to be the one who transforms us most completely, and we can be God’s instruments as we teach, especially when we work to do it well.
I love getting to work with these talented, called, and gifted people. I look forward to the days ahead and am eager to help you find out how God might be calling you in one of these areas of ministry.
1 Snow, Donald B., “English Teaching as Christian Mission”