A Faith Walk, Not a Cake Walk

By Jessica Jenkins

The 2017-2019 ministry focus of American Baptist Women’s Ministries is “Feel/Siente.” Information about the theme, based on Luke 8:43-49, Acts 17:27-28 (NLT), and 1 Samuel 2:1-11 (The Voice), may be found at www.abwministries.org/theme. This post is part of a series of “Herstories” from American Baptist women around this theme.

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1 ESV

         I remember the last visit I had home to Philadelphia to see my family. I ran into an old friend and she said something that totally took me off guard. “Jess, I don’t know if I would have had the faith like you did to move away, by yourself, and go to school.” I was confused with her words. It never really dawned on me until that moment the transformation that had taken place in my life.

It has been three years now since I moved hours from my family to Nashville, Tennessee, to pursue a Masters of Divinity degree at the age of 23. Moving here was never in my five-year or ten-year plans. If you would have asked me a few years ago where I saw myself, I would not say Nashville. I was planning to get my Masters in Public Health, and I had already acquired a job with an amazing non-profit after graduation; I was well on my way to an amazing career in healthcare. That is, I was until my ambitions were pleasantly introduced to God and God’s plans. Once introduced, my life’s plans were transformed into something that I could have never imagined.

I don’t think that there has ever been a time in my life where faith was a major factor. Faith, by definition, is complete trust or confidence in someone or something. I have never really had much confidence in anyone or anything other than myself. But I knew that I was out of my league when it came to this new life direction. So I guess you can say that I developed a slight lack of faith in what I personally was able to do. And if you couple the ignorance that I had with a total faith and reliance on God, I guess you can also say that there developed the perfect match. Someone saying that I had a lot of faith was right. All I did was put my faith in God. I felt that God was leading me to seminary and, if God was leading me, God would make provisions for me as well. Having that trust in God and God’s ability made it so much easier to follow. My desire in life transformed from pleasing myself to pleasing and doing the will that God ordained for me.

Don’t get me wrong: this faith walk has not been the easiest. Trusting in a God that you cannot physically see or touch is tough. But a God that you can feel every step of the way is comforting. Any moment that I feel stressed, financially unstable, doubting my calling, or saddened because I am away from my family, God has made me, instead, feel engulfed in complete love and care. Somtimes it is by a message from someone I have come to know here, or reading the scriptures and being comforted. I have been taught a new type of faith: one that does not depend on what I am able to do, but one that is lived out by having faith in God and trusting that I will consistently feel God’s presence. There is not a step that I have taken in which I did not feel like God was there. In the midst of total mayhem, as well as the silence of the most peaceful moments, God has been with me.

Jessica Jenkins is a member of the young adult women’s ministries advisory team of American Baptist Women’s Ministries.


Becoming Beloved Community–Attending to Diversity from the Inside Out

By Virginia Holmstrom

I met Edna 32 years ago at a national ABW committee meeting and conference. She was the one who invited me to see her African-American sisters as my sisters, too. Edna wisely and quite accurately assessed my limited exposure to African-American persons when she prescribed a step-by-step journey for me to personally know and nurture friendship with black women.

Ten years later, I transferred my church membership to a Black congregation of American Baptists, largely comprised of Caribbean-born individuals and extended families once rooted in Georgia and Virginia and the Carolinas. I reveled in the spirited music that invited me to clap along on the up-beats. I learned to sing at half tempo the gospel hymns of the black church. One Sunday I brought my violin to church and began to play with the instrumental group, knowing all the while that I had no clue how to improvise for the rhythms I heard and felt.

Church services, worship styles, church-led activities, church dinners, and even women’s ministries take on the distinct traditions within a congregation; these contribute to the blessings of being an American Baptist. However, from the vantage point of our familiar church pew, we may rarely see or experience the beautiful cultures and traditions happening in American Baptist churches across the U.S. and Puerto Rico.

When your church’s AB Women’s Ministries group or circle meets, you might be surprised to learn that ABWM groups in other cities or states aren’t just like yours. The ABWM group in the next city may be praying in their first language brought with them as immigrants or refugees to this country. There’s an ABWM over in the next state that may accommodate as many toddlers as women because their congregation has plenty of young adults but is sparse on the grandparent ages. The Euro-American church across town may have monthly ABWM meetings in the church parlor, and the African-American church women in the next region are organizing their next supper fundraiser to support the church’s wider ministry.

Our American Baptist denomination is among the most diverse Protestant denominations in the U.S. in terms of race, ethnicity, culture, class, and theology. That’s a gift from God, and the stewardship of that good gift is entrusted to each of us and all of us. American Baptist Women’s Ministries, just like our wider denominational family, is greater when we can learn to appreciate and respect every individual for her spiritual gifts, her perspectives, and her service to God. Offering one another the space and encouragement to serve God according to her spiritual gifts and in her own way is a beautiful thing.

Diversity indeed resides in your church’s women’s ministry group, whether or not it’s visible at first glance. In order to lead amidst our diversity, we can learn how to navigate through our differences. Developing cultural competency is a skill that can be taught and learned and practiced. Every group can learn how to make good decisions together amid differences, similarities, and related tensions. It begins from the inside out.

Becoming Beloved Community is God’s intentional desire. God created the differences within us as a faith community. American Baptist Women’s Ministries invites you to lead and share and learn how to be Beloved Community. Practical information, how-to’s, and resources for learning will be ready for you to access in July 2017 at www.abwministries.org.

Virginia Holmstrom is executive director of American Baptist Women’s Ministries.