Heather-Dawn Small
Acting Director

The General Conference Department of Women's Ministries has experienced much change and growth over the past five years. Both of these can be painful experiences, but they can also bring much joy and many rewards.

Change
On December 31, 2004 Ardis Stenbakken, director of Women's Ministries Department at the General Conference, retired to care for her aging parents. Her work in the areas of literacy, Muslim ministries, mentoring, evangelism, abuse prevention, and leadership training has impacted the lives of countless women around the world and has helped to establish Women's Ministries as a crucial department whose time is here and whose resources are much needed.

We thank Ardis for her leadership and vision and for allowing God to use her in this office since 1994. Our prayers go with her as she enters this new phase of her life, and we are thankful that her support and prayers are with us also.

During this quinquennium we also saw a change in associate directors. In 2001 Lynnetta Hamstra left that position to become a full-time, stay-at-home mother. Heather-Dawn Small,
of Trinidad and Tobago, was elected to replace her. She in turn was voted acting director as of January 2005.

Our focus in Women's Ministries Department has always been to help women grow in their relationship with God and as a result become more involved in the mission of the church. This report shows what has been done from the General Conference Department of Women's Ministries, but at the local level there is a wide variety of ministries to meet the local needs of women. The aim is to have every woman involved in some type of ministry.

As you read, you will see what a difference women's ministries has made in the lives of women, their families, their communities, and the churches where they worship.

Outreach in Mongolia
Women all over the world are finding that they are gifted in evangelism and are contributing to church growth. We are excited about the many ways women can reach others for Christ.

Fourteen women from the Middlewest Korean Conference traveled to Mongolia to present a health and gospel evangelism program in 2004. The meetings were held in the town of Tolgoit, where we had 40 church members. Lectures were presented in the mornings and one-on-one health care was given in the afternoons. Three hundred fifty persons attended the final Sabbath meetings, which resulted in 15 baptisms. Olga Murga, a native of Ukraine, has dedicated her life to evangelism. Over the past five years she has conducted 13 evangelistic programs in Israel and baptized more than 300 souls. Hanna (fictitious name), a Palestinian activist, was serving time in prison when she met Olga, who gave Bible studies to the inmates. She was baptized on June 29, 2004, after her release from prison. Women like Olga can be found in every country, willing to share the gospel--regardless of obstacles.

Literacy
The Adventist Church estimates that as many as 2 to 3 million members cannot read. The majority of these members are women. Women's Ministries is the primary department trying to meet this need and also to use literacy as outreach in the community.

In Pakistan, this past year, Women's Ministries Department sponsored two large literacy classes in Kchi Fatomand and Tokhar Niaz Baig. These classes are helping the women to become better mothers, to be more effective in running their homes and their finances, and are leading them to God's Word by giving each her own Bible as one of the textbooks to read. Now they do not have to depend on husbands, or children, or another villager to read for them. They can gain a better understanding of God and His love for them by reading His Word themselves.

In 2003, 890 students learned to read and write because of the "Les Para Crer" ("Read to Believe") program created by Women's Ministries Department in the Sergipe-Alagoas Mission, Brazil. Two notable women leading this program are Marluce Cruz do Santos and Valdelice Leal. Cruz has led 22 of her students to baptism, and Leal is the teacher and coordinator of this program.

Projects
From time to time we endeavor to assist with projects that in turn will assist with outreach. The following project is truly a story of how God can turn the worst of circumstances into one that will bring lasting rewards to many women and their families.

On June 24, 2002, 350 Adventist women were returning by train from the first women's ministries congress held in Tanzania. There was a terrible train accident, and 62 of our women died. As a result of this tragedy, it was decided that a women's center should be built in Mwanza, Tanzania, as a memorial to these women. A fund was established through our department, and $66,000 was raised to help in building this center.

At this time the center--which is still under construction--has classes in Bible study, tailoring, health, and embroidery, with 30 students in attendance. When it is completed, computer classes, literacy, and gardening will be introduced.

Over the past five years we have assisted with raising funds for a goat project in Laos, and church buildings and literacy in India.

Abuse Prevention
On September 26, 2001, as a result of a Women's Ministries Department initiative, the Annual Council voted to add an Abuse Prevention Emphasis Day to the church calendar. This day is observed the fourth Sabbath of August each year, and the Women's Ministries Department is responsible for working with other GC departments to create and distribute the resource materials. Women have welcomed this day and feel affirmed that their church leadership cares about their pain.

Evelyn Nagel, women's ministries director for the South American Division, reported that 90 percent of the churches in that division participated in this special day in 2003. The division prepared 100,000 pamphlets and a magazine with the resource material provided.

Resources
The importance of resources to aid women as they minister cannot be overstated. Over the past five years we have provided resources in the areas of evangelism, abuse, mentoring, leadership, literacy training, HIV/AIDS training, teen ministries, Bible study lessons, and much more.

We also obtain women's ministries materials that are available in different languages and pass them on to other parts of the world where that same language is spoken. This has been of great benefit to women who have no funds to translate or create resources of their own.

During this quinquennium we launched a Women's Ministries Leadership Certification program. This consists of three levels; to date levels 1 and 2 are completed. The program includes 56 seminars complete with PowerPoint, overheads, and handouts.

December 18, 2004, was a big day for 23 women and two men in Israel when they received their certificates of completion for level 1 of the Leadership Certification program. The women and men had come together once a month for classes. At the graduation ceremony they received a certificate of completion along with a CD with all the Level 1 material translated in their own language--English, Russian, or Romanian. In attendance were the Israel Field president, Richard Elofer, and two officers from the Trans-European Division. Nina Usachev, women's ministries mission director, said, "We know that many of the women have eagerly awaited this material, and we are glad that we can finally do our part to meet this need." Level 2 training began in January 2005, and graduation is planned for the end of the year.

Scholarshipping Our Sisters
Since 1991 this department has been involved in a women's scholarship program. The program is for all Seventh-day Adventist women, regardless of age, who desire to pursue a tertiary education. Over the years the money for this fund has come from the profits of the women's ministries devotional book. From 1991 to 2005 there have been 965 scholarships awarded to women in more than 91 countries, totaling $386,243.04.

At least 50 percent of the applications received are turned down because of lack of funds, so in 2004 we began working with a group of women to raise funds under the name of "Scholarshipping Our Sisters." As a result, $21,428.37 has been raised, which enabled us to give each division an additional $1,500 toward scholarships this past year.

The importance of this program for our women cannot be overstated. Many of these women, after graduation, return to their homes to work with their churches or mentor and teach other women.

The Future
With the formation of this department a "sleeping giant" has been awakened. The women of this church are eager, ready, and more than willing to do God's work. Yes, there is change, but there is also phenomenal growth. We do not know what the future will hold, but we know that with God on our side there is no obstacle too big for us to conquer.



 
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