September is International Women’s Friendship Month. To celebrate and narrow the gap a smidge between Western and Eastern women, we thought it would be inspiring to share how Indian Christian women described what it means to be a woman.
These responses came from a recent AIM conference we had earlier this year in Northern India.
Asking women to respond to the word “woman” was simply an idea to get the blood flowing before we progressed further into our training material. Earlier that morning, they had learned the meta-narrative of the Bible – the overall story of God. Now, it was time for them to see how they fit into that story. They needed to know their story.
It was late morning on a long conference day and a break in the flow was needed. Time to shift gears. I wanted to hear their voice. I wanted to hear what they had to say. So I asked the question…
“What do you think of when you hear the word, “woman?”
It seemed like a simple, reasonable question that connected to the next part of the teaching. A few weeks prior to the mission, I was at a ministry meeting in the States where the speaker asked the group to describe what it means to be a woman. Typical responses were given… daughter of God, wife, mother, etc.
Taking that cue, I thought I’d pose this question to my audience of Indian Sisters to start this teaching. What I heard was NOTHING like I expected…
An older leader approaches the microphone and addresses the crowd. My translator whispers in my ear bits and pieces of what she says…
“Sin came from a woman, but SALVATION also came from a woman!” she says forcefully and sits down.
My eyes grow large and I smile. Not what I was expecting. I nod to thank her and acknowledge her thoughtful answer.
Now more women arise. They see it is safe to speak up. Another woman is handed the microphone.
“Women know how to get to the front of the line.” (I chuckle because lines rarely exist in Indian culture.) She continues…”God used this characteristic in the life of Esther!! She boldly went to the front of the line uninvited to speak with the King! God can use our boldness as women to tell others about Him,” she proclaimed.
“This was better than my lesson,” I told the translator. “Let the others speak.” And they did…The next woman looks right at me, speaking Hindi as if I could understand each word.
“In India,” she says, “the daughters-in-law and mothers-in-law don’t always get along. (In Indian culture, it is common for a mother-in-law to mistreat her daughter-in-law by imposing daily chores and treating her like an outsider.) “My daughter-in-law and I are now Christian. We go out in the village to do our chores together. We walk together and sing songs to Jesus as we do our work. The other village women notice that we are different and we tell them about Jesus.”
Don’t you just love these sisters?! Not only who we are as women, but also how we respond in relationships with each other can be used for God’s glory. These women were modeling Christ’s love in them and through them. Nonbelievers noticed!
“I work as a nurse,” another spoke up, “and as a woman, I can pray in the name of Jesus for the sick who come to our office…many miracles have happened.” Incredible. Women in Indian culture are the keepers of the religion. She is culturally allowed to pray for others since that is her role in society. She is doing so in the name of Jesus and people are healed…lives are changed for eternity!
More responses flow…
“As Christian women, we do not gossip, like the other women do.” Instead, “we use our words to spread God’s word.”
“My husband was concerned for me to travel across town to come to this conference. I told him that God would protect me. I am a woman of God. He did protect me.”
“This week I was very sick – too sick to come to the conference. I could not get up and walk. I was very sad that I would miss the conference. So the women of the church came over and laid hands on me and prayed. I became well! It is a miracle to be here today!”
These responses are a glimpse into the life of the Indian Christian church. We learn how the women rely on each other for strength and prayer; How their relationships with each other draw others to Christ; How they use what God has gifted them – boldness or jobs – to proclaim His love and demonstrate His power.
As you celebrate International Women’s Friendship Month this September, please join me as we pray for our Indian sisters. Their lives are hard – sometimes dangerous – yet they willingly do whatever it takes to be disciples and make disciples of Jesus Christ.
Your turn. How would you describe what it means to be a woman?
In His Strength for His Glory,