EFCA Women You Should Know, Part 2
Glimpses of their effective ministry around the world
Welcome back to meet a few more of those who minister across the EFCA landscape. Last week’s article introduced us to women whose roles range from physicians and church planters to technology instructors. Enjoy seeing how a movement-wide commitment to evangelism and discipleship can vary so greatly in a different landscape, and as expressed through different hands and hearts.
Just talking about Jesus: Judy Brower
Judy calls herself a full-time missionary to the city of San Francisco, California.
Since her early years as a college student attending an Evangelical Free Church, Judy has loved the EFCA and served in a multitude of roles ranging from pastor’s wife and high-school ministry director, to women’s ministry mobilizer and evangelist.
Judy and her husband, Neal, are a strong team for his role as superintendent of the Western District. Judy speaks at women’s retreats and otherwise supports the wives of district pastors. Yet her role as missionary to this city is her full-time passion.
“I spend my days with people who are coming from very different places than me,” she says. “I am building relationships and falling in love with them. It is my hope that God will do something through these relationships that results in another community of faith being established in this city. So maybe I could call myself a church planter?
“I have relationships with confirmed and contented atheists, with people who are into their own version of ‘spirituality,’ and with people who simply don’t care whether or not there is a God. I am learning from them and growing as a person, and they are too.
“God is using my presence to connect people and create community in three different contexts: a discussion group we host, the building we live in and a park close to our home.
“We have moved to deeper levels of trust through our discussion group, which involves sharing ‘what you believe and why’ about a given topic over dinner. And we are becoming like family as we live life together with a group of people in our building. (I have been called the Mayor of Alamo Square.)
“I also go to the neighborhood park several times a day with our dog, to talk to people—both new people and regulars—asking them about their lives and telling them about mine. I invite them to coffee or to dinner, to girls nights or to casual group get-togethers.
“I offer to walk people’s dogs and babysit their children. I organize others to help when someone has a need. I walk and pray, and look out my window and pray, and live praying for the Spirit of God to move among us and draw people to Himself, raising them up to labor for His kingdom.
“I have never invested so much in relationships with people who don’t believe, or been at a ministry for more than two years without seeing someone find Jesus. Yet vision is having an eye for the invisible and the not yet. It involves living with anticipation that God’s invisible hand is at work, and supernatural things are taking place that will be revealed.”
Transitioning to “coach”: Jennifer Cox
Jennifer serves as an area leader with EFCA ReachGlobal in Europe; in addition, she is board chair of Bucharest Christian Academy and volunteers at a shelter for survivors of human trafficking.
Jen, her husband and two toddlers moved to Romania in 1996 to engage in pioneer church planting in that post-Communist context. Their daily ministry included evangelism, discipleship and investment in the lives of church members. Before long, however, they became city team co-leaders in Bucharest. Jen’s role later expanded until she was supervising several different city teams. She now provides oversight and coaching to ReachGlobal team leaders in seven European cities—leaders whose teams and partners seek God’s transformation of their cities through church planting, discipleship and holistic ministry. She also networks with other area leaders across Europe.
Jen freely refers to some of her EFCA ministry as “less than glamorous” even while valuable. “Over the years, I’ve moved from being a ‘player’ to a ‘player/coach,’ where I was still involved in direct ministry but had the responsibility of helping others succeed in their ministries.
“Now I’m more of a ‘coach/player.’ This shift has required a lot of prayer and an adjustment in my own thinking (multiplication vs. addition). But Jesus is our model—He empowered others to extend His kingdom.”
Jen also coaches and mentors on a local level, in her adopted city of Bucharest, Romania. “Although we are not in a creative-access context or working among an unreached people group,” she explains, “we see Romania as a gateway through which believers are going to the least-reached peoples. So we are mentoring and investing in those future missionaries.”
Serving the urban church: April Warfield
April directs BUMP—the short-term, holistic, urban ministry of the EFCA. She is also a member of the newly formed EFCA Urban Cluster, promoting health in urban churches. Learn more about the BUMP experience via one urban blog.
Bridging Urban Mission Partnership connects high-school students with EFCA urban churches across the country, demonstrating how the gospel intersects with issues of compassion, justice and poverty. “The very purpose of a bridge,” April says, “is to be a path over an obstacle.
“Leaders and students from suburban and urban contexts are separated by distance, life-experience and mindset,” she explains. “During our ministry weeks together, however, our choice to depend on one another and reach people for Jesus is a powerful demonstration of the gospel.”
April also serves on the EFCA ReachStudents Council, joining 13 others who give direction to ministry-wide student initiatives. On that council, she is the only woman and only person of color. “I was invited by Fritz Dale [ReachNational executive director], in an effort to bring ethnic and gender diversity. When I came on board, there was also a more narrow focus on the suburban church leaders and students. I’m thrilled to partner with these guys, broadening our thinking and offering an ethnic/urban-church perspective as well as a woman’s point of view.
“Since joining, I’ve watched EFCA leadership work diligently in other areas to live out its ‘All People’ values. Wherever God takes me in the future, into whatever ministry, I will most assuredly be in the chorus advocating for the EFCA.”
Networking women: Linda Gunderson
Linda serves as coordinator of the ReachGlobal Women’s Network—coaching ReachGlobal staff women around the world.
After 20 years with ReachGlobal in Brazil, Linda and her husband clearly heard God’s call to return to the United States. Now, Linda says, “the years I struggled on the [missionary] field are the connecting points I have with missionary women.”
Through the Women’s Network, Linda meets new ReachGlobal missionary women before they head out to the field, and she connects them with veterans for support and encouragement. She also debriefs with those who return. “My goal is to help missionary women make it for the long haul,” she says, “not just survive one term.
“My ministry wouldn’t exist without email and Skype, but it also is the most difficult part of my job, because I love face-to-face.
“Women make up more than half of our Evangelical Free Churches, and over half of the missionaries worldwide. What a force to be leveraged for Christ. God has given them big dreams. Let’s empower them for ministry and release them on the world.”
Ministering in a slum: Angie Ziel
Angie serves in a church-planting ministry in Costa Rica, in addition to helping those who wish to leave a lifestyle of prostitution and assisting with the online seminary ProMETA. Follow Angie’s blog to learn more.
“After leading our church replant in Rio Azul for over a year, Pastor Gilbert wanted to share some of the burden. So he invited my husband and me, along with four others, to serve on a rotating teaching team. I’m involved in numerous other ways too: leading a Bible study, teaching English and Sunday school classes, and helping with a children’s feeding program each weekend. Each week, a group of us also go out to talk with those engaged in a lifestyle of prostitution. We get to know them, pray for them and share where they might go if they wish to leave this lifestyle.
“I am passionate about people living a life of dignity. Seeing the love of Christ cross cultural, economic and countless other boundaries continually reminds me of the power of the gospel.
“So often on Sunday mornings, the only people we see in the front of the church are men. To a young girl in the audience who dreams of doing something big someday with God, it is hard for her to see how she fits in.
“Here in Costa Rica, however, I have been invited, pursued and encouraged. Instead of me feeling afraid that I am going to overstep the limits, my pastor is constantly encouraging me to dream bigger and implement my ideas. It comes down to invitation.
“My dream is that in every church there would be a lot of invitation, equally, for men and women.”
Many more EFCA women are engaged in powerful ministries in communities near you. Offer them a word of encouragement today.