UN Sustainable Development Goals: Goal #5 Gender Equality

By Sandra Hasenauer

e_sdg-goals_icons-individual-rgb-05We’ve addressed United Nations Sustainable Development Goals in previous blog posts; this week we’re highlighting SDG #5: “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.”

The empowerment of women and girls is key to a multitude of issues such as peace-making, economic development, and health and nutrition. Although there have been improvements in the state of women and girls in many areas—girls’ access to education, rates of child marriage, fewer maternal deaths—there is still a long way to go. This is why the targets of SDG #5 begin with ending “all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere,” and continue on to address eliminating all forms of violence, ending harmful practices such as child marriages and female genital mutilation, recognizing the value of unpaid care and domestic work, ensuring full political participation and participation in decision-making at all levels, ensuring access to health care, addressing rights to land ownership and property as well as other economic resources, enabling use of technology, and developing legislation to ensure gender equality.

Although practices such as child marriages and women’s right to vote can feel “over there” to us living in the United States, we cannot get complacent about our own situations. The 2015 reports of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research indicate that “the status of women in the area of poverty and opportunity has worsened in the majority of states (29) in the last decade.” 43% of single mothers live in poverty compared to less than 24% of single fathers. In another section of the report, it points out that Millennial women (aged 25-34) are more likely than men of the same age range to have bachelor’s degrees or higher, but at the same time are much more likely than their male counterparts to live in poverty. Violence against women still includes alarmingly high statistics and to complicate matters, only 15 states and D.C. have employment rights laws for victims of domestic violence (the right to leave work to seek services and legal aid, for example, or protect victims from employment discrimination), and in most states, victims of domestic violence are not “eligible to receive unemployment benefits if they leave their jobs without ‘good cause,’” such as needing to escape a violent partner. The good news here is that as of July 2014, 32 states and D.C. have now defined ‘good cause’ in such a way that it can include family violence.

abwm_logo_eng_72           American Baptist Women’s Ministries has a history of empowering women and girls from the very moment of our inception as an organization. We continue that engagement today as we read news headlines and attend to our communities and see where women and girls are…and are not…being encouraged and empowered. How can we help every women have the opportunity to support her family? How can we help women and children to feel safe in abwm_logo_esp_72their own homes? How can we help girls feel safe in their schools and secure in their futures?

God calls us to this day, to this hour: “to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and mantel of praise instead of a faint spirit,” (Isaiah 61:3, NRSV).

(For other posts in this series, click on “Sustainable Development Goals” in the category list to the right.)

headshot higherresRev. Sandra Hasenauer is associate executive director of AB Women’s Ministries.

Breaking Barriers, Building Bridges–Post #2

By Rev. Mary Beth Mankin

This is the second of two posts on Debi’s Journey, “Breaking Barriers, Building Bridges.” The Georigan word debi means “sisters.”


Rev. Nikita McAlister with a new Muslim friend who is wearing the stole of American Baptist Women in Ministry

While on Debi’s Journey, a spiritual sisters’ adventure in the Republic of Georgia in August, we became acquainted with several women from Georgia and we caught glimpses into their lives—their hopes, dreams, and their struggles. Our group of eight women from the U.S. included four who had been to Georgia before, so we new ones had some experienced guides for this continuing series of friendship building.

As part of our cross-cultural, interfaith experience of “Breaking Barriers and Building Bridges,” our primary hosts were Georgian Baptists from the Evangelical Baptist Church of Georgia. We were also hosted by Muslim families who have become friends of the Baptists in Georgia, through the compassionate support of Baptists when the Muslims were victims of unlawful discrimination.

In Georgia, religious freedom is provided in the constitution, but where 89% of the population affiliate with the some form of Orthodox Christianity, the Georgian Orthodox Church (at 83.9%) enjoys a privileged status in terms of legal and tax matters and property disputes. There have been numerous incidents of harassment and persecution of minority religious groups and interference with their worship activities. Muslims and Baptists, as well as other Protestant groups, have faced opposition to building houses of worship as they wish.

During our time in Batumi where we were hosted by the Georgia Muslim Union, we met Gvantsa, a young lawyer who does research on human rights, including women’s and religious rights. Describing the situation of many women in Georgia, she noted that women are victims of discrimination in their everyday lives because of religious and cultural traditions: a man is the head of a family or business and is seen to have authority over women. Although the Georgian constitution grants equality to women, the cultural norms seem to have a greater effect on what actually happens.

Gvantsa told us that domestic violence and sexual harassment are significant problems, but women tend to believe that they deserve what they get or that a man has the right to control them. One of 11 women report such problems, but since women are shamed by their family or community if they take an abuse or rape case to court, most will not bring charges. Other challenges were noted: early marriages with insufficient income generate frustration and anger; an unemployed husband may be resentful if his wife is employed and try to show his power over her; and, typically, religious leaders tell women to stay with their husbands, even when there is abuse. Divorce has a bad reputation, and women are unlikely to divorce.

Unemployment is a challenge for young adults in Georgia. One educated, unmarried woman we met finds it difficult to get a job that will support her. In our air travel to Georgia, I met three young adults who had left Georgia to find work elsewhere.

The government is working to improve the conditions for women. There are five shelters for victims of domestic violence in the country. To protect minors, there is a law preventing marriage before the age of 18, even with parental permission, if the court does not grant permission. Sexual harassment in the workplace is now a criminal offense, and the government can help a woman sue a boss who is found guilty. Family law cases are private.


Rev. Dr. Patricia Hernandez, Director of American Baptist Women in Ministry

As I reflect, I realize that many challenges women face seem to be universal. As followers of Jesus, who treated women with respect and dignity, we are called to help women throughout the world gain equal rights for religion, education, health care, employment, and protection from harm. May we, too, find ways to break the barriers of fear and misunderstanding between religions and ethnic groups, and build bridges of friendship and understanding—of education and action for justice and peace. Our hurting world is crying out for us to make the grace and love of God’s kingdom present and alive wherever we go!

American Baptist Women’s Ministries (ABWM) and American Baptist Women in Ministry (ABWIM) have been invited by the Georgian Muslims Union and the Evangelical Baptist Church of Georgia to bring another group of American women to Georgia in November 2017. Watch www.abwministries.org for more information!

Interested in learning more about Baptist Muslim Dialogue? Save the dates for AB Women’s Ministries virtual mission encounter “See Me As I Am,” May 8-12, 2017. Visit www.abwministries.org/vme for more information as it becomes available.

mary-beth-mankinRev. Mary Beth Mankin is a retired pastor, living in Boulder, Colorado. She recently completed her term as president of American Baptist Women’s Ministries of Colorado.


Breaking Barriers, Building Bridges–Debi’s Journey to the Republic of Georgia

By Rev. Elizabeth Congdon

This is the first of two blog posts on Debi’s Journey. The Georigan word debi means “sisters.”

“Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ’s law. If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived.” Galatians 6:1b, 2, 3 (The Message)


Participants in Debi’s Journey in the Peace Cathedral

A Ministry of Reconciliation. The Menorah in front of the cross at the Peace Cathedral is distinctive. It was a gift to remember that Jesus was Jewish and to celebrate our Jewish roots, we were told. Bishop Malkhaz Songulashvili described the years of interfaith work that the Evangelical Baptist Church of Georgia has pursued. For years the church has worked to find common ground in mutuality and humility and increase tolerance and understanding between those of other faiths, especially among Jews, Muslims and Christians. He described the work as wanting to help Jews be better Jews, Muslims be better Muslims, and Christians be better Christians. During our short stay in the Republic of Georgia, we too lived out the call to a ministry of reconciliation referenced in 2 Corinthians 5:18b. We were building bridges between American and Georgians, between Baptists and Muslims.

A Ministry of Healthcare. Time with the Georgian Baptist Saint Nino Sisters—deaconesses who are health professionals—gave us opportunity to learn of their ministry among the poor, old, disabled, and refugees in the community.  These deaconesses serve people in need, whether they are Georgian Orthodox (dominant in Georgia), Muslims, Baptists, or other faith traditions. The Saint Nino Sisters visit in homes and bring care, medicine, and companionship. They make medical appointments for those in need. They serve in the church. They are such dedicated nurses, doctors, social workers, physical therapists, mental health workers, and aides. It is amazing that these Saint Nino sisters assisted by 80 volunteers currently serve over 440 people in 30 stations throughout Georgia. They bear one another’s burdens.

Standing with Those Who Are Persecuted.  “I kept hearing that the Americans are coming,” Peace Corps volunteer Stanley Bizub told us when we arrived in the mountain village of Chela. He stepped inside the village mosque to listen with us to stories told by the imam and members about the


At Chela mosque

time when the mosque’s towering minaret had been torn down by the solders, verified as “public officials” in a 2013 Report of the Public Defender of Georgia on the Situation of Protection of Human Rights and Freedoms in Georgia.  On 26 August, 2013, Georgia’s Revenue Service dismantled the minaret without legal basis, alleging that the minaret had been imported from Turkey with incorrect categorization of imported goods at the customs service. With the minaret removed, further persecution ensued. A group of Orthodox Church members blocked the road to the house of prayer, the mosque, making it impossible for the Muslims to gather there for prayer. When the Muslim community protested the damage, employees of the Ministry of Internal Affairs had brutally treated those who confronted them. We stayed in the home of a Muslim man who had been beaten during the protest. Prior to that, Public Defender’s Report  cited evidence that the “protests of the Orthodox majority was against the religious building of the minority and were followed by the manipulation with legal procedures by the public officials in order to cause the situation favored by the Orthodox majority.”

As we sat in the mosque absorbing this information, the Imam told us, “We have chosen peace.”  They did not respond with violence. They began a long legal process to once again place a minaret at their mosque; it stands today as a testament that this is indeed a mosque.  I remembered that just days before we had learned that although the number of Muslims is significant among the 20% of the non-Orthodox population in Georgia, no Muslims hold public office locally or in state government. Most are entrepreneurs.  Georgia’s constitution assures religious freedom; however, persecution against the Muslims continues.  The words of 1 John 4:21 spoke to me.  “The command we have from Christ is blunt: Loving God includes loving people. You’ve got to love both.” I John 4:21 (The Message).  I felt like I was standing on holy ground in solidarity with my Muslim sisters and brothers.


Participants in Debi’s Journey

Different Together. We were breaking barriers and building bridges with our diverse group of eight women. Lay, clergy, Muslim, Baptist, black, and white, we were the visiting Americans. People of color are an anomaly in the Republic of Georgia. Georgians would ask to take pictures with our African American sisters. Virginia Holmstrom, Executive Director of American Baptist Women’s Ministries, and Rev. Dr. Patricia Hernandez, National Director of American Baptist Women in Ministry (ABWIM), co-led the group of Americans coming from New Jersey, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Colorado, Michigan, Rhode Island, and Kansas, which included Connie Eigenmann, Esmat Mahmoud and Reverends Sarah Hicks, Mary Beth Mankin, Nikita McCalister, and Elizabeth Congdon.

In breaking barriers and building bridges amongst one another as well as with Georgians, we met many people from different lands. For example, at a restaurant in Mtskheta, Georgia, we got acquainted with Akbar Moghaddazi, a Rumi scholar, visiting from Iran with his family. At the mosque in Batumi, we met a father and his five daughters visiting from Saudi Arabia on holiday in Georgia. We crossed paths with them again on the iconic Peace Bridge in downtown Tbilisi; this time, it felt like a chance meeting with old friends.

It is difficult to recap the variety of our experiences. We enjoyed generous hospitality at the Evangelical Baptist Church of Georgia’s Beteli Centre in Tbilisi and homestays with Muslim families while guests of the Georgian Muslims Union and the Georgian Muslim Women’s Union.  We were curious tourists in Batumi on the Black Sea, and in the capital city of Tbilisi, and especially as we meandered along the narrow, curving, climbing cobblestoned streets of Old Tbilisi. Visiting mosques and visiting the Mtskheta-Mtianeti Orthodox Cathedral during worship were unique experiences. Communicating with Georgians with the assistance of our delightful interpreters was unforgettable. Being in the Caucasus Mountains was breathtaking. The Batumi ferris wheel and numerous cable car rides afforded us amazing vistas. Visits to Gonio Fortress, Batumi botanical gardens, Zarzma Monastery, museums and other interesting sites afforded us opportunities to learn more of the history and people.

American Baptist Women’s Ministries (ABWM) and American Baptist Women in Ministry (ABWIM) have been invited by the Georgian Muslims Union and the Evangelical Baptist Church of Georgia to bring another group of American women to Georgia in November 2017. Watch www.abwministries.org for more information!

Interested in learning more about Baptist Muslim Dialogue? Save the dates for AB Women’s Ministries virtual mission encounter “See Me As I Am,” May 8-12, 2017. Visit www.abwministries.org/vme for more information as it becomes available.

liz-congdonRev. Elizabeth Congdon is a retired American Baptist pastor and active in interfaith dialogue.

A Summer to Connect

By Merletta Roberts
0726161404_resized croppedIn early summer my husband and I were on our way to an evening event when we stopped at a fast food restaurant to get a bite to eat. As we were starting to leave, a young man in a long robe and with what seemed to be a concerned look on his face hesitantly approached us and asked, “Do you believe all Muslims are like those who recently bombed Paris and London?” We shared with him our belief that not all people are alike, no matter what their faith; that we do not believe all Muslims are terrorists. I watched as a big tear rolled down his cheek and his face seemed to relax. Together we smiled and went our separate ways. In that brief exchange something powerful happened. We went through all the layers of assumptions and we connected; connected as human beings each caring for the other

In mid-July in the Washington D.C. area, I attended the national American Baptist Women’s Ministries board meeting followed by the national conference for women and girls, “3D” (“Dwelling, Discovering, Discipling”), and after- events. The after-event I chose was Connecting Faithful Women: Experiencing Baptist-Muslim Dialogue. This event was co-facilitated by Virginia Holmstrom, executive director of American Baptist Women’s Ministries, and Rafia Sayeed, the founding chairperson of Bridging the Gap, Connecting the Faithful.

Twelve American Baptist women and five Muslim women met for two and a half days to explore what it means to be Muslim and Baptist, sharing our faith stories and getting to know each other. Rafia shared her story of developing “Bridging the Gap, Connecting the Faithful” out of her desire to do something constructive after 9-11. Her belief is that when people really get to know each other, they begin to see each other and relate differently.

As women of faith we shared our stories, our struggles, our joys, our concerns, and our celebrations. Interfaith understanding was certainly at work. The more we shared the more the group seemed to move closer together, talk more softly, and connect in a deeper way. As we respected each one’s uniqueness we found it easier to hear each other and to share more.

When we visited a Muslim Community Center we were warmly welcomed. It was clear that the Center’s focus is on the whole person at all ages. We were privileged to witness their afternoon prayers and to experience the strong connection they have with the surrounding communities.

As we said our goodbyes and shared email addresses and so forth, I realized a strong connection had occurred; that in a relatively short time together we had moved from “us” and “them” to “we.” We had plowed through the layers of assumptions and were real with each other. Wow! Again I realized that in our connecting, we cared for each other as human beings.

Merletta Roberts headshotMerletta Roberts is president of the American Baptist Women’s Ministries of the Pacific Northwest.

United Nations “Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”


2016-03-15 13.33.28 HDRThe United Nations Commission on the Status of Women is “the principal global intergovernmental body exclusively dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women,” (www.unwomen.org). Each year in the early spring is a two-week colloquium that brings world leaders together to assess progress on targets and goals addressing these issues. During UNCSW, there are parallel events organized by NGOs (non-governmental organizations), free and open to the public, on a wide variety of topics. By attending the parallel events, you gain a deeper understanding of issues with impact on women and girls in the U.S. and around the world, as well as hearing about exciting initiatives and meeting inspiring leaders. Additionally, there are creative, moving ecumenical worship services each morning to bring women of faith together and bathe the experience in prayer.

American Baptist women frequently attend at least part of UNCSW. In 2016, AB Women’s Ministries national coordinator of Mission with Women and Girls, Bonnie Sestito, executive director Virginia Holmstrom, associate executive director Rev. Sandra Hasenauer, and national director of American Baptist Women in Ministry/Transformation Ministries, Rev. Dr. Patricia Hernandez, attended several days of the event. These participants learned about pornography and its connection to sex trafficking and violence against women; the vulnerability of refugee and stateless women to violence and trafficking; how women in disadvantaged communities are working together towards peace and justice; opening doors through interfaith dialogue, and more. Through conversations at the end of the day, they came to the conclusion it was imperative they share what they were learning with the wider audience of American Baptist women.

SDGs_poster_new1In 2015, the United Nations assess the progress that had been made on it’s 15-year Millennium Development Goals initiative begun in 2000. Although significant progress had been made in many areas, there is obviously still more work to be done. Therefore, the UN launched “Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.” The 2030 agenda has 17 Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs, to “end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all,” (www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/sustainable-development-goals/).

Although many of these issues may seem overwhelming and, in some cases, “far away,” there are many ways that congregations or women’s and girls’ ministry groups can become engaged in the betterment of our global neighborhood. To that end, American Baptist Women’s Ministries has posted information on our website about the SDGs and has ideas or other resources available to help you think through how you or your faith community could work on these issues locally as well as globally. (Lose this link? Just go to http://www.abwministries.org and hover your cursor over “Mission Focus.” It’s one of the options in the drop-down list that appears.)

May God bless our efforts to care for our world and all who inhabit it. Amen.

Women’s Leadership Exchange

by Sandra Hasenauer

women's confIt was pretty amazing, although “amazing” doesn’t even begin to cut it as a descriptive term for what I experienced: Over 6,000 Baptist women singing, praying, laughing, and crying with one another, gathered in the name of Jesus Christ in a very small village in the countryside of the Kachin State in Myanmar (Burma). I had the privilege of being a guest speaker at the 2016 Kachin Baptist Women’s Conference, hosted by the Kachin Baptist Women Department of the Kachin Baptist Convention in Myanmar. I traveled to Myanmar with my friend and fellow American Baptist woman, Hkadin Lee, also ethnically Kachin and now a U.S. citizen after having relocated to the U.S. in 1990. She and I were invited guests of the Kachin Baptist Women Department for this incredible event the week after Easter this year.

Early on the day the conference began, our guides took us on some pre-conference sight-seeing. As our car bumped and jostled our way over an unpaved road through farmlands, we passed caravan after caravan of vehicles (mini-vans, cars, pick-up trucks, motorcycles, and a few ox-carts) heading in the opposite direction toward the church campus where the conference was being held. It was pretty easy to tell they were heading for the Kachin Baptist Women’s Conference, as the vehicles were loaded with women of all ages and many of the cars had flags with the Kachin Baptist Convention’s logo fluttering on their hoods. We found our anticipation of the event rising as we passed so many about-to-be-conferees, especially seeing their smiles and laughter as they journeyed on their road trip. Many women had walked for several days from their villages just to get to a point where they could be picked up and driven the rest of the way. Attending this gathering of their Baptist sisters was worth the sacrifice for each of them.

When we attended the opening session of the conference, I was hit with a wall of sound as the 6,000 attendees all stood and sang praise songs with exuberance (accompanied by an excellent praise and worship team). I may not have been able to understand the language they were singing, but some things need no translation: They sang of their love for, and trust in, their Creator God and his given son, Jesus Christ. They sought God’s wisdom and guidance. They sought the comfort of Jesus and the challenge of the cross. They shared their burdens and fears and they multiplied their joys by singing their praise and worship.

Ja Ing Guidebook Thumbnail

Zahkung Ja Ing

Hkadin and my participation in the Kachin Baptist Women’s Conference was part of a Women’s Leadership Exchange, a grant-funded project between American Baptist Women’s Ministries and the Kachin Baptist Women Department of the Kachin Baptist Convention, Myanmar. Zahkung Ja Ing, the director of the Kachin Baptist Women Department, and Lahtaw Ja Nu, an advisor to the Kachin Baptist Women Department, will be attending 3D: Dwelling, Discovering, Discipling / Dedicando, Descubriendo, Discipulando, the national event for women and girls sponsored by American Baptist Women’s Ministries in Washington, D.C., July 21-24, 2016. They will be speaking during an evening session and facilitating a time of table conversation one afternoon. Additionally, Ja Ing and Ja Nu will be participating in one of the

Ja Nu Guidebook Thumbnail

Lahtaw Ja Nu

optional after-events of the conference, a two-and-a-half day seminar, “How, Then, Shall We Lead? Leadership Capacity Development.” We are looking forward with great anticipation to welcoming them to the U.S. and this great opportunity to build deep, meaningful relationships with our Baptist sisters from overseas. If you’ve already planned to join us at 3D, I hope you’ll be sure to greet Ja Ing and Ja Nu, hear their stories, and share yours. If you’re not yet registered for 3D, there’s still room! Click here for more information.

By leaders in women’s ministries learning from one another across national boundaries, ethnic/racial boundaries, yes–even language boundaries, we all expand our capacity for leadership in ministry tenfold. God blesses us through one another, and may God bless us through this exchange.

headshot higherresRev. Sandra Hasenauer is associate executive director of American Baptist Women’s Ministries. 

The Kachin are an ethnic group of Myanmar. The Kachin State is in the far northern reaches of Myanmar, and is bordered by China and India. It is estimated that 99% of Kachin are Christian, and of the Christians, the vast majority are Baptist. Baptist Kachin in the United States have formed their own churches and associations. Like the Chin Baptist Churches USA and the Karen Baptist Churches USA, the Kachin Baptist Churches USA were recently welcomed as an Associated Ministry Organization of American Baptist Churches USA.

Transformed by the Spirit: “See….”

By Karen Yee

(c) 2011 by Kurtis Garbutt, used by permission www.creativecommons.org.

(c) 2011 by Kurtis Garbutt, used by permission www.creativecommons.org.

When I was in the 4th grade I got the news…. “You can’t see–you need glasses.” That moment changed everything. From that day on I never went without my glasses, though there was a very brief period during college when I tried doing the contacts thing. When I realized that I couldn’t get the contacts in or out of my eyes without my optometrist friend helping me, I figured they just weren’t for me. If I wanted to see, I would have to wear my glasses.

Wisdom and ministry has shown me, however, that I need more than my glasses to see how to handle the adaptive challenges that all of us are facing today in ministry. Adaptive challenges are challenges that we are facing for which we do not presently have an answer, but must be addressed if we are to live into the future God has for us. Again, these are challenges for which we don’t have the answer. There are things that we do know and just need to fix or change: those types of challenges are called technical challenges. Technical challenges are those problems that we know how to fix ourselves. They might not be easy to solve but they can be solved, and we know the answer or the way to do that using familiar tools. But adaptive challenges are different. For adaptive challenges, we’re in new and unfamiliar territory in which our traditional tools and “go-to solutions” just don’t seem to work. For adaptive challenges, we don’t have the answer. But we do know who does: God. Yup, God knows. God desires to help us, to lead us, to equip us to discover how God is already at work in that challenge; God is inviting us to join in.

But here’s the catch. We need to try to see, and that seeing involves so much more than a pair of glasses. It means we need to begin to see with the eyes of our hearts. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people,” (Ephesians 1:17-18). It means we need to slow down and see and listen to what the Spirit is doing among us and through us. It means allowing the Spirit to transform us. American Baptists are embarking on a journey to listen, to see with the eyes of our heart what God is doing, and following God’s lead into our future.

11 ABC TranSpirit Logo 2

If you have ever been to an American Baptist Churches USA Mission Summit (formerly known as Biennials), and have participated in the conversations around tables about various topics, then you have taken part in the ABCUSA Transformed by the Spirit initiative. Transformed by the Spirit involves learning to listen to God and others about what God is already up to. If you have ever gone to a Rhythm of the Spirit conference, then you have been part of Transformed by the Spirit, as you learn how to be still and know, be still and listen, be still and see what God is doing in your life. The leaders of our denomination are being Transformed by the Spirit when they gather at “The Mission Table” to discern what God is doing and where we should be working. At the last Mission Table in 2015 seven priorities were discerned, as follows: Next Generation of Leaders, Violence, Discipleship, Poverty, Gospel in a Rapidly Changing Society, Women in Ministry, and Innovative Models for Pastoral Ministry. Some of our regions and churches are going through a process named “Joining God in the Neighborhood” to discover what God is doing around in their neighborhoods and then joining God in that work.

The leaders of our American Baptist Women’s Ministries have participated in Transformed by the Spirit as they joined an “ACT – Adaptive Challenge Team” and went through a process to discern the future of the ministry in light of the changing environments we are all facing as American Baptist women. Through the process, the AB Women’s Ministries ACT team discovered that the challenge wasn’t what they thought when they began—in fact it was completely different than the challenge statement they began with—but by the end, they knew that the Spirit was leading them to be about transformation, drawing women and girls into transforming relationships with Christ, with one another, and with the world.

Together as AB Women’s Ministries and as the American Baptist family, we are learning to see, learning to listen with the eyes of our heart. We know the future is bright because God is in control and God is leading us. We just need to pay attention.

Karen YeeRev. Karen Yee serves as associate pastor of New Life Christian Fellowship in Castor Valley, California, and the English-speaking pastor at the lu-Mienh Friendship Baptist Church in Richmond, California. In 2014-2015, she was coach for the AB Women’s Ministries Adaptive Challenge Team. 

For more information about the ABCUSA Transformed by the Spirit initiative, click here.

AB Women’s Ministries three-year initiative, “Living out Our Cultural Reality into God’s Intentional Desire” with consultant Rev. Dr. Trinette McCray, stems from work done with the Transformed by the Spirit initiative in AB Women’s Ministries.

AB Women’s Ministries 2015-2017 ministry focus “See…” provides an excellent framework for discerning God’s vision for our ministries.

To learn more about adaptive challenges, read Leadership without Easy Answers by Ronald Heiftez (Harvard University Press, 1998). Using this Amazon link helps support AB Women’s Ministries–thank you!