EFCA Women You Should Know
Glimpses of their fruitful ministry around the world
You know what EFCA ministry looks like in your church, your community, your country. Would you recognize it elsewhere? Would the sweet smell of grace and sacrifice, of passion and persistence, be a familiar fragrance? I think so. Whether or not you knew the believer whose missionary calling was being lived out in front of you, I believe that your spirits would connect.
And so I invite you to meet 10 women who minister across the EFCA landscape—whose commitments to evangelism and discipleship are the same as yours, even if their callings and talents vary. Some are upfront leaders; others minister behind the scenes, quietly changing lives and communities.
Their comments, in this article and the one to follow, are only a glimpse of all they could tell us about what it means to walk with God in their shoes. Celebrate with these leaders in our EFCA movement, and pray for them.
Doctoring women: Tricia
Tricia serves in the Middle East as a physician and church planter. Contact Tricia if you would be interested in her blog. We’re not using her real name or publishing her photo, to safeguard the ministry there.
“I work in a primarily Muslim area, where the majority of women live their public life with their heads covered and sometimes even their faces. When a woman uncovers for me as her physician, I see her face, but I also see her hurts, her shame, her lack of hope. Being a female physician has opened doors for the gospel to go forward.
“It is hard to explain what it is like to live and work in an area of the world that doesn’t respect women, where women are often not educated to the same degree as men and not valued apart from their role in a family.
“Just by walking out my door, I feel like I am stupid in the eyes of the public. I have given up the expectation of being viewed as a respected and competent woman.
“I never expected to be in the Middle East. I never expected to learn a foreign language, much less Arabic. I never expected that my profession would bring down walls in such a hard place. I never expected to find women with hurts so familiar even when their lives are so unfamiliar. Here’s one example, from my journal in April 2013, of my conversations with God about this difficult journey He and I are on together:
I wrestled with God a bit over coming to the mission field. I didn’t want to let go of comfortable. . . . This was the question that I wrestled with: “Is God still good if I am uncomfortable?”
Is God still good if I never get married? Is God still good if I don’t ever have children of my own? Is God good if I struggle to put food on the table? Is He good if I don’t see my family or friends again? I admit that some days, I still wonder. The answer, however, doesn’t change: YES! God is good no matter the circumstances in my life.
“Where I live, women will only be reached by women. They are hidden by their society, and culturally they are outcast. It takes women who are committed to loving them, to living life with them and to sharing the gospel with them to effect change in their lives. This job needs women who live life with a depth to their faith. It can’t be done without them.”
Leading strategically: Jeannette Cochran
Jeannette is executive pastor of Seneca Creek Community Church, in Gaithersburg, Maryland. Previous to that, she served as pastor of children’s ministry for 10 years at Seneca Creek. Follow Jeannette on her blog.
“Most of what I do is behind the scenes. I partner with our lead pastor to facilitate strategic thinking and big-picture planning to accomplish the mission and vision of the church. I also coach and shepherd our staff. Each ministry leader focuses on his or her part of the pie. It’s my job to keep an eye on the whole pie, to identify and predict changes that are needed so that we can remain effective.
“I also help with pastoral and teaching duties, and spiritual care and counseling.
“Saying no is crucial to being a healthy leader, because there will always be more opportunities than you can humanly accomplish. I have found this to be especially true in my role as executive pastor. Every week people bring me problems, ideas or causes that they think I should own or help with. They are usually good ideas, but I still have to say no so that I can focus on the best ideas.
“I definitely consider myself a visionary leader. I love dreaming of what could be and then inspiring others to get on board to accomplish the dream together.”
Educating: Holly Freitas
Holly is a public health education specialist and team leader for the Wholistic Ministry Team in Tanzania, with EFCA ReachGlobal.
Like that of so many EFCA women around the world, Holly’s ministry activities vary vastly from day to day. Add to that the cross-cultural challenges, and her role almost defies description.
Officially, she trains pastors and leaders in community development initiatives—combining physical and spiritual components in every training session, every bit of curriculum. That involves time in front of a computer (writing curriculum, preparing for upcoming training, working with translators) as well as time in dusty villages (visiting community-development programs in-process, practicing Swahili, encouraging local believers).
“It takes me seven or eight hours on the bus and then one or two hours in the back of a truck or motorcycle to get out to the village,” she says about those trips. “There are no toilets or running water and I sleep on a cowhide. But it encourages me in my faith as I watch Tanzanian villagers live out their Christianity.”
Even back in her Dar es Salaam home, she faces the cultural adjustments common to many ReachGlobal colleagues. “Part of missionary life,” she says, “is putting aside the American cultural drive for stability: stable housing, hours, schools and electricity. Stable anything is hard to come by. I’ve given up making meal plans. Now I go to the store, buy the food that is available, and then make my plan.
“I’ve had times, especially in the heat of Dar es Salaam, that I didn’t want to be here. I eventually heard God say ‘Holly, you could be miserable anywhere. You can also be happy anywhere, so get on with being happy about where I placed you.’ Pretty much from that time on, I looked for things that I like about Dar. Not surprisingly, it turns out that I like the place.”
And even though Holly’s role of training and empowering others means it’s often hard to measure results, God does make clear the value of her ministry.
“We developed an educational tool to reach Maasai people with HIV education and the gospel,” she explains. “Communities in the program area show a significant difference in attitudes and a decrease in HIV-related behaviors. Many of the changes were attributed to their Christian faith and reliance on God.”
Not only has that HIV program been adopted by a large denomination in Kenya, but its pairing with the evangelistic JESUS Film led to more than 400 of the Maasai giving their lives to Christ last year and new churches being planted.
Demystifying technology: Hedemarrie Dussan
Hedemarrie has served with ReachGlobal in Miami, Florida for 23 years—first as a church planter among second-generation Cubans and now as an online facilitator with ProMETA, a theology program in Spanish.
ProMETA reaches pastors, lay leaders and missionaries around the world, offering master’s degrees in theology and Christian leadership. Marrie’s role combines her skills in teaching and technology with her passion to see entire communities influenced by trained, gospel-driven leaders.
“Our first-generation Spanish-speaking leaders were petrified about computers,” she says. “I wondered, How can I demystify technology so that they can develop breadth and depth in their study of God’s Word?”
Marrie’s role can be a solitary one—hours spent at her computer connecting students and professors, or helping proofread and upload content. “I’m also the one who asks students how they will integrate what they learn this week into the sermon they preach next Sunday.
“Yet church leaders have to be trained to do more than preach on Sunday. Who better than they to diagnose a problem in their communities and go to the Bible and to God for solutions?
“My dream,” she shares, “is that 100 years from now, local churches will be healthy and robust places where everyone knows how to read and think biblically and strives to live a life worthy of Him who called us.”
Planting churches: Deborah
Deborah has served in church-planting ministry to unreached people in Asia for 26 years as part of ReachGlobal. We’re not using her real name or publishing her photo, to safeguard the ministry there.
When you’ve lived for a quarter of a century in a country that’s not your own, it becomes your own; it roots itself inside you and becomes home. Deborah serves in a country that does not welcome Christian witness, so she’s done whatever jobs have been necessary in order to renew her visa year after year and keep telling people about Christ—everything from teaching English, training as a midwife, even opening her own western restaurant.
She explains how it started. “I met people from one tribal group in 1993. God gave me the vision of planting indigenous churches in their villages so they could worship the Lord in their own language. My vision is to train them to then reach out through evangelism and discipleship to plant churches in other surrounding people groups. Disciplemaking is my passion.”
Deborah is the only American working alongside national believers. When safety demanded that she no longer visit the villages herself, she continued training and discipling others to carry on the work, as well as teaching in an underground Bible school and with women recently brought out of prostitution.
“Church planting among semi-literate farmers in the countryside is not easy and it takes time, but my passion for ministry for these people has never waned. I’m 64 ½, and there is so much more church-planting work that needs to be done. I doubt I will see the fulfillment of my vision unless there is a powerful work of the Holy Spirit among them.”
Remember to read part two of this series, to meet a few more EFCA women engaged in effective ministry worldwide.