Archive for May, 2015

Opportunities opened up for women to minister in many ways in the kingdom of God during the nineteenth century.

Historical Review – The groundwork for the great explosion of lay ministries and missionary activity in the nineteenth century was laid in the eighteenth century. Church historians remember the eighteenth century for the First and Second Great Awakenings. During the revivals many more women than men were converted. Jonathan Edwards, the great evangelist acknowledged that the majority of his parishioners were women. Women attended the Bible studies and participated in all of the church ministries. It is interesting to note that to this day in the United States women far outnumber men in our churches.

Yet to Jonathan Edwards and other eighteenth century preachers there was no place for women in public preaching and teaching. And indeed many women did not seek leadership positions in established churches. They merely wanted to serve in other capacities. In the eighteenth century this usually took the form of prayer meetings and home bible studies for children.

New Opportunities for Women — The tremendous new interest in religion that came as a result of the Great Awakenings would lead to the desire to spread the Gospel. A belief that Christ would come when the Gospel was preached to the ends of the earth prompted many to be a part of a great missionary movement within the United States and into foreign countries. Jesus said, “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14) This task would more easily be accomplished when all of the soldiers of Christ, including women would move out of their pews and into the world.

Phoebe-Palmer-1Not seeking leadership positions within established churches, women began to participate in lay evangelism. The most common method of religious activity that women used would be the prayer meetings. But other female lay ministries began to flourish during the nineteenth century. Ministries included benevolent societies, Sunday schools, writing and publishing, evangelism, the temperance movement, and home and foreign missions. Women would also begin to see opportunities to serve in prisons, poor neighborhoods, hospitals, to those afflicted with alcoholism, and to prostitutes. Wherever they could share the love of Jesus as the Gospel women would find a way to minister. For the next few weeks we will look at the lives of women who served in the following areas:

Benevolent Societies – Women founded most of the benevolent societies during the nineteenth century. It has been suggested that perhaps this was because the nurturing side of women is stronger than in men. Women are more relationship oriented. They see needs and their tender natures cause them to want to meet those needs.

Many women were already involved in home mission societies. Some desired to do more than just go around asking for donations for charity. Many women wanted to be involved in the work of caring for the poor and downtrodden personally.

Sunday School Movement – Due to the overwhelming numbers of new church members, a need to educate people, young and old arose. In the United States we often think only of the Sunday School Union that took over in New York in the late nineteenth century. A common belief is that the Sunday schools were only held in churches and only taught religion to children. But early Sunday schools were very different.

Women were teaching children as well as the “lower elements of society” as lay ministers for decades before the Sunday school groups were formalized and taken over by churches. There was plenty of opposition to the women. Hannah More and her sisters founded schools for poor children and taught them the Bible and practical skills such as cooking, growing food and handling money. (See post on February 22, 2012.)

Writing and Publishing – Women refrained from seeking to preach in pulpits. But this did not stop them from writing. Actually, a woman could have much more influence through writing a story or an article that would be published in a national periodical than by speaking at a local church.

Women mainly wrote on spiritual themes. These included sanctification or holiness in living, biographies, and the justice issues of the times including poverty, abuse, temperance, and other vices. Women also wrote poetry and hymns. Today we still love the hymns of Frances Ridley Havergal (1836-79) and Fanny Crosby (1820-1915).

Evangelism – A few women led revivals and non-sectarian services. Women like Mary Savage went into poor villages where there were no churches. She was not ordained and did not serve in an established church. Nevertheless large crowds would gather to hear her speak. Other itinerant evangelists included Sally Parsons and Clarissa Danforth.

It is significant that these and other women who desired to spread the Gospel relied on a “call” to service. They did not want to enter what they saw as the man’s domain in the church but nevertheless could not disobey their call from God for service.

Jarena Lee was the first well-known woman evangelist in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Jarena1It was important to Jarena that her call was truly of God. She did not want it to be of her own desire or to be a temptation from Satan. She recognized the devil could “transform himself into an angel of light for the purpose of deception.” The first time Jarena heard her call she was very careful to make sure it was from the Lord. She sought the Lord in prayer and her call was confirmed to her. Jarena was concerned with the lost souls of human beings. To win people for Jesus became an all-consuming passion for her. (You can read more about her and other black female evangelists on this blog in the posts of April 23; May 6, 9, 21, 27; and June 3, 2013.)

Other nineteenth century evangelists include Phoebe Palmer, Catherine Booth (Salvation Army founder), and Hannah Whitall Smith, and Amanda Smith (See my post on November 24, 2011).

Temperance Movement, Home and Foreign Missions – Reformers and revivalists include Frances Willard, Frances E.Willard (Post January 23, 2013), and Susan B. Anthony (Post on March 4, 2011). These women spent their lives trying to improve the lives of others.

There were so many women’s missionary societies formed in the nineteenth century that we cannot list them all here. Suffice it to say that in an article about women in mission, Marguerite Kraft stated, “Overall, probably two-thirds of the missions force has been, and currently is, female.” The women’s missionary societies were eventually taken over by men in the early twentieth century. Most women were glad when men became involved. Again, they did not seek leadership positions; they only wanted to be allowed to spread the gospel and serve Christ by serving others.

Taking the Gospel to the lost was the paramount thought on women’s minds in the nineteenth century. Though women did not seek leadership positions in the established denominational churches, they did accomplish much with their organizational work in lay areas. Benevolent societies, social welfare, the early Sunday school, and especially missions became a sphere in which women became actively involved like never before in history.

In the coming weeks we will look at the lives of some of the women who brought lasting change to the kingdom of God during the nineteenth century.



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Ida-B.-Wells-Barnett… Go on, thou brave woman leader,
Spread our wrongs from shore unto shore;
Until clothed with his rights is the Negro,
And lynchings are no more….
And the wise Afro-American mother,
Who her children of heroine tells,
Shall speak in tones of gratitude,
The name of Ida B. Wells!

                                                       Katherine Davis Tilllman






ida-b-wells-websiteLast week we left off with Ida’s story during the time when she was being hailed as a heroine by the African American Press Association in Philadelphia while back in her hometown of Memphis her newspaper office was being destroyed by an angry mob. Her life was threatened and Ida was advised not to try and return home. And so now Ida began her famous campaign against lynching.

In 1893 Ida took her campaign across the ocean to England, Scotland, and Wales. There she gave speeches and met with leaders of British civic groups. Ida was impressed with how active British women were in their campaign for justice. She helped the women in London establish the London Anti-Lynching Committee. She wrote to women at home in America and encouraged them to follow the example of their British counterparts. Ida returned to England again in 1894 on a speaking tour.

On returning home Ida settled in Chicago. She collaborated with Frederick Douglass, the famous advocate of equal civil rights for blacks. At this time she also met her future husband, Ferdinand Barnett. Barnett was a lawyer and the owner of the first black newspaper in Chicago, the Conservator.

They fell in love and married in 1895. Barnett was willing to support Ida completely. He sold the newspaper to her and she took over the duties of editor. This freed Ferdinand Barnett to practice law and actively campaign for “colored rights”.

In March 1896, Ida became a mother at the age of 33. She had mixed feelings about motherhood. She had taken care of her younger siblings and was happy to have a break from child rearing. Her active public life was also very fulfilling. But after her child was born she understood all the joys of motherhood.

However, before her first baby was five months old, duty called. Ida traveled with baby Charles and a nurse and continued her campaigning. A year later Ida had another son, Herman, and this time she chose to bow out of public work and stay home and raise her children. She gave up her position as editor at the Conservator and told everyone she was “quite content to be left within the four walls” of her home. Taking one child on the road was difficult but manageable; two children required her to be a full time mother. Ida was very happy with her decision.

Her decision was short-lived. Three months later the Frazier Baker lynching
occurred. This was considered one of the most brutal of all times. People looked to Ida to attend the protests and speak to the injustice. Ida wanted to stay home, but explained to the people who were concerned about her new station as a mother that race work was a matter of necessity, not choice. It “seems that the needs of the world were so great that again I had to venture forth, “she insisted. She left baby Charles with his grandmother and took Herman with her on her travels. During this next period of her life she concentrated on getting women organized.

In 1896 Ida formed the National Association of Colored Women. The next year she lynch poster  1893attended a conference that would eventually lead in a few years to the founding of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Ida combined campaigning and motherhood for the next ten years. She gave birth to two daughters, one in 1901 and the other in 1904.

By 1910 Ida was fully participating in public life again. She formed the Negro Fellowship League. This organization was housed in a building in Chicago. It served as a fellowship house for blacks that were new to the city. The Negro Fellowship League also conducted religious services. It became an employment office for blacks moving to the city and a shelter for the men until they could find a job.

Throughout the rest of her career Ida remained active in campaigning, writing, and activism. In 1909 she became one of the founders of the NAACP. In 1913 Ida established the first black women’s suffrage club, the Alpha Suffrage Club. Also in that year Ida met with president McKinley about a lynching in South Carolina. Later she would also meet with another president, Woodrow Wilson in an effort to get legislation passed that would end discriminatory practices in hiring.

Other famous people that Ida knew and sympathized or even collaborated with included Susan B. Anthony, Frances Willard (though Ida disagreed with Willard on methods), Jane Addams, and Irene McCoy Gaines.

Ida worked tirelessly in many other areas. She created the first African-American kindergarten in her town. From 1918 through the 1920’s Ida covered race riots in Arkansas, East St. Louis, and Chicago. Her reports were published in newspapers worldwide.

Ida even threw her hat into the political ring. She ran for a seat in the Illinois state senate in 1930. She pledged to “work as hard for the benefit of my Race and my district as I have done for the past 37 years I have lived in Chicago.” Ida lost to the incumbent, but she sent a strong message to the people of Illinois that with hard work, women, even black women, could accomplish much. Ida garnered 752 votes out of 8969 votes. That is really a good showing for an independent candidate.

Though Ida was 68 years old by this time and beginning to have health issues, she looked forward to the future. The election defeat did not stop her. She did not look back. Ida had faith in the future. She remained active in politics, and could take credit for helping to defeat an appointment of a judicial candidate for the United States Supreme Court. This man, nominated by president Hoover, was on record as saying he was anti-African-American. With her usual amount of energy Ida went to work. She and other organizations got up a petition against the appointment. The man was defeated.

Her successful campaign against Hoover’s candidate encouraged her to plan a new venture. She began to publish a periodical called the Chicago Review. At the same time she continued to work on her autobiography, begun in 1928 – Crusade for Justice. It would be the first full-length autobiography written by a black woman activist. Ida did not quite finish it before she died.

In March of 1931 Ida was to attend a book fair for African Americans. She was going to donate many of her own books written by black authors. This event would be her last.

On March 21 after returning home from shopping she went to bed saying she wasn’t feeling well. Several days later she had a high fever. Ferdinand and her daughter, Alfreda took Ida to the hospital. Ida “slipped away quietly” in the early morning hours of Wednesday, March 25, 1931, four months before her sixty-ninth birthday. The cause of death was given as uremic poisoning.

The funeral service for Ida was befitting of this extraordinary woman. It was simple, direct, and straightforward. “No fanfare of trumpets, no undue shouting, no flowery oratory – just plain earnest, sincere words” were spoken for her. This was truly reflective of a great and wise woman who spoke plainly but effectively for justice.

Truly, Ida B. Wells shows us what one woman can accomplish. Her faith and determination made a difference in this world for many people. Today, lynching may seem like a horrible thing of the past, but hatred is still with us. People still find ways to be unjust to others. We can learn from Ida B. Wells as we fight against all injustice.

Black men and women received more freedom sooner than they would have if it were not for the efforts of Ida B. Wells. Her life was a truly great example of how to meet problems with justice in an honest, forthright way with great strength. That is why her work has lasting power and is of interest to us today.















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Ida Wells “understood the radical implications of her message and was prepared to endure the consequences even if, as she said, ‘the heavens might fall.’ But she had made up her mind that her campaign, wherever it took her, was her calling and that she would see it through. It was the determination of a woman who was indeed ‘dauntless,’ as the black press characterized her. It was also the determination of a woman whose campaign against lynching fit perfectly with her own leadership aspirations and emotional makeup. As a southerner-in-exile, she possessed an authority that gave her word more weight than those of northern leaders. The ‘outrage’ of lynching matched her inner storm; and the blood-libel horror of the crime gave Wells a wide berth of expression for her moral indignation and anger. Ida’s crusade to tell the truth about lynching gave her the means to reorder the world and her and the race’s place within it. Once defamed herself, now she would expose the lies that ‘sullied’ the race’s name and restore it. Somebody ‘must show that the Afro-American race is more sinned against than sinning,’ wrote Wells, who had found the vehicle of her destiny, ‘and it seems to have fallen on me to do so.’” (Paula J. Giddings, Ida: A Sword Among Lions, pg. 229)


Ida B. Wells 1Ida B. Wells-Barnett has pretty much been forgotten today, but she was truly one of the bravest and most dedicated women who ever lived in America. She did not sit idly by when she saw the injustice that was being done to people of “color”. She met the challenge head on and I believe that black Americans came to enjoy more of their rights as citizens earlier than they otherwise would have because of her efforts.

Ida was born in Holly Springs, Mississippi on July 16, 1862. She was the oldest daughter of James and Lizzie Wells who were slaves. After the War ended, James Wells helped to found a school for blacks. Ida attended this school until tragedy struck.

When Ida was 16 the yellow fever took the lives of both of her parents and one of her siblings. Ida dropped out of school to help take care of her younger sisters.

In 1882 Ida and her sisters moved to Memphis Tennessee to live with her aunt. Her older brothers had found work. Ida continued her education at Fisk University in Nashville.

A turning point came for Ida one day in 1884 when she was riding the train between Memphis and Nashville. She had bought a first class ticket and expected to use it. Train officials tried to make her sitRosa Parks in the African American car instead and she refused to move. The railway men physically removed her. Ida sued the railroad and won a settlement, but the Tennessee Supreme Court overturned it. Readers
may recall that in 1955, Rosa Parks refused to go to the back of a bus where the “colored” people were supposed to sit. Rosa went on to become an activist for equal rights for black citizens. Seventy years before this, Ida B. Wells became an activist in her own way.

Dauntless Ida picked up her pen and began to write about the injustices in the way blacks were treated. Her articles were published in black newspapers and periodicals. She was well received for her honesty and clear statement of the issues. Later Ida would be the owner of the Memphis Free Speech.

Another turning point came for Ida when a lynch mob murdered a good friend of Ida’s along with his two business partners. In 1892 Tom Moss, Calvin McDowell, and Will Stewart, African American men, were defending their store against an attack. They shot several attackers, white men. They were arrested, but before they could have the lawful trial that American citizens are entitled to, they were dragged out of their cells and taken a mile out of town to a railroad yard. The men were shot to death in a horrible fashion.

Ida wrote an editorial deploring the lynching in the Free Speech. Realizing that blacks were helpless against the white “mobocracy” she encouraged Negroes to save their money “and leave a town which will neither protect our lives and property, nor give us a fair trial in the courts, but takes us out and murders us in cold blood when accused by white persons.” In fact, many thousands did leave Memphis after this. In the late nineteenth century there weren’t many options for African Americans in cities that refused to give them their rights as citizens.

Ida had proven herself to be a good reporter and writer. With encouragement from friends, Ida traveled throughout the South and gathered stories and information about lynching. One thing that Ida was especially interested in was debunking the myths about the reasons for lynching. One common reason given for the lynching of black men was that they had raped a white woman. Ida gathered evidence that proved that while black men were the most common victims of lynching, black and white women and white men were lynched too. And there were many more reasons for lynching including prejudice, rioting, robbery, fraud, and incendiarism.

book lynch idaFor example, in a speech given to a Chicago audience in 1900, Ida said that out of 241 persons lynched in 1892, 160 were of Negro descent. Not all were in the South; four were lynched in New York. Other victims included several children and five women.

Ida also went on to report how horrible and full of hatred lynching was. Many times the bodies would be dismembered, riddled with bullets, or thrown into a fire.

Ida’s reporting was honest and must have been convicting because one day some whites in Memphis had had enough. They stormed the offices of Ida’s newspaper and destroyed all of her equipment. Fortunately, Ida was visiting in New York at the time. Her friends there warned her not to return to Memphis. Her life had been threatened.

This became another turning point in Ida’s life. She would not return to the South again for thirty years.

While in New York, Ida wrote “The Truth About Lynching”. She meant to wake people up and she did. Tens of thousands of copies were sold. Ida was hailed as a hero at the African American Press Association in Philadelphia.

But this was not enough for Ida. She got the press association to adopt a resolution to raise funds for an anti-lynching campaign. Money was needed for travel, publishing, and on-site investigations of the killings.

And so, while in exile in the North, Ida began her campaign against lynching. In Part Two, next week, we will continue her story. Besides fighting for justice Ida would know the joy of being a wife and mother. She would spearhead the founding of many organizations still with us today that help all Americans enjoy their God-given rights.













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Summer is just around the corner. Here are four books that will keep you on the edge of your seat (or lawn chair or beach towel) as you read them. Joanne Shetler, Jackie Pullinger, Immaculate Ilibagiza, and the women of the underground churches were willing to sacrifice their lives if necessary to follow Jesus and to bring His message of forgiveness to others. I pray that your heart will be warmed and your own devotion to Christ will become more extreme as you read their stories.

— Ilibagiza, Immaculee, Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust, (Hay House, Inc., New York City, 2014).

Immaculee  left to tellImmaculee Ilibagiza lost most of her family during the 1994 Rwandan genocide. After bravely hiding for 91 days in a three foot by four foot bathroom where she starved along with seven other women, she was eventually saved and went on to emigrate from Rwanda to the United States in 1998. Immaculee is a woman of extreme devotion. She is now a popular speaker and writer sharing her faith and her message of forgiveness and peace worldwide.

Here is an excerpt from the book:

I heard the killers call my name.

            A jolt of terror shot through me, and then the devil whispered in my ear again: “Now they know who you are … now they know where you are…”

            My head snapped back, and I was thrown completely off guard. Why did they call out my name – how did they know I was here? Were they coming to the bathroom?

            I tried to call on God, but all I could hear was the negative voice blaring in my mind … along with the vicious, sadistic chants of the killers echoing through the house. Clothes soaked in sweat, I fumbled with my faith.

           There were hundreds of them this time. They were yelling at the pastor, accusing and threatening him. “Where is she?” they taunted. “We know she’s here somewhere. Find her … find Immaculee.”

            They were in the pastor’s bedroom right on the other side of the wall. Less than an inch of plaster and wood separated us. Their footsteps shook the house, and I could hear their machetes and spears scraping along the walls.

            In the chaos, I recognized the voice of a family friend. “I have killed 399 cockroaches, “ he boasted. “Immaculee will make 400. It’s a good number to kill.”

           As I cowered in the corner, the devil was laughing at me: “They know your name … they know you’re here. Where is your God now?” (Immaculee Ilibagiza, “Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust”, pg. 129)


— Pullinger Jackie, Chasing the Dragon: One Woman’s Struggle Against the Darkness of Hong Kong’s Drug Dens, (Regal Books, Ventura, California, 2006).

Imagine going to work every single day in a slum area. Everywhere you walk you are slushing throughjackie pullinger chasing book the worst imaginable sewage. You walk with your head down in case someone from the tenement above you throws their slop out their window. The streets are filled with homeless men and women and children. Most are lying in a drug-induced stupor. Many of these will die soon. You cannot help them all. You are only one person.

But you can be faithful to your calling and follow where God leads. You can do all you can for even a few people. You can make opportunities for the young, especially, so that they can kick their drug habits and look forward to a totally different life. You accept this call for the long term knowing that poverty and danger from gangs will be your daily lot in life. You have very little outside help.

Who would be willing to do this? A woman of extreme devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ – a woman like Jackie Pullinger.

In this book you will be amazed at how God worked in the slums through Jackie. Many former drug addicts were given a new life thanks to the love and forgiveness of Christ. The ministry has been extended and is still active today in more than one country. You can also go to Jackie’s blog site and the site of the ministry she started – ST. Stephen’s Society – for more information.


— Shetler, Joanne, And the Word Came With Power, (Wycliffe, Orlando, Florida, 2006).

joanne shetler word power bookThe Balangao people in the northern Philippines had asked for translators to come and translate the Bible into their language. They were not pleased that two tall women came instead of the men they were expecting. But Joanne Shetler and her friend Anne Fetzer were up to the task.

In remote cultures like Balangao the evil spirits manifest themselves more openly because the people believe in them. And the demons keep the people in tremendous fear and bondage.

Here is an example:

An old woman named Chalinggay, filled with evil spirits came to Joanne’s home one day.

Her body was going stiff in the jerky shakes that accompany spirit possession. “They’re killing me, they’re killing me!” She screamed. “Send them away, they’re killing me!”

I was paralyzed with fear. ‘What have I done? Oh God, now what do I do?’ I started to pray. Chalinggay prayed each word, right on top of mine. Then I stopped in mid-sentence.

“Chalinggay, the trouble with you is, you’re not God’s child. If you would repent of your sins, and ask God to make you his child, then God could protect you.” I knew God had to help us in this battle.

Chalinggay didn’t wait for me to pray this time; she just threw her head back and shouted up at God, “God, it is true, I am wicked.” She looked down and muttered curses at the spirits, threw her head back and continued, “But even though I’m old, just a remnant of me left, make me yours and nobody else’s but yours alone.”

Instantly the shaking stopped ant the pain vanished: the spirits had fled. Wonder and awe filled us all. Fifteen minutes later Chalinggay was slapping her leg and laughing out loud at the news that the angels in heaven were playing gongs and dancing, rejoicing because she had become a child of God. (Pg. 101)

Only the extreme devotion to Christ and His message of hope and salvation would keep Joanne serving in the Philippines for so many years. Joanne translated the Bible into the Balangao tongue so that the people would have the Word of God in their own language. Today Joanne ministers around the world giving seminars. You can keep current with her at her blog site.


— Voice of the Martyrs, Hearts of Fire: Eight Women in the Underground Church and Their Stories of Costly Faith, (Thomas Nelson, Nashville, 2003).

These are the stories of eight women who were kidnapped, beaten, starved, and imprisoned becausehearts of fire book they were Christians. They refused to be defeated. They showed strength and the courage of their convictions as they stayed true to their Savior. They went on to “become leaders who have exercised extraordinary boldness and tenacity, refusing to shrink from the needs and opportunities that challenged them. Ironically, only in suffering have they had equal rights with their male counterparts; in some instance, they have suffered even worse.” (From the Introduction.)

Here is an excerpt from one story:

Purnima was only thirteen when she became a Christian. She was from Bhutan, which was mostly Buddhist. She and her sister became refugees. After some time moving around and sharing the Gospel in villages with people who had never heard of Christ, Purnima was arrested. She was sentenced to three years in prison for being a Christian. She was led away to a horrible, primitive prison.

Purnima and the other women were handed a thin straw mat and led into their cell. It was almost pitch black, but gradually their eyes could make out the silhouettes of others sleeping on the floor. An eerie voice rose from the ground, “Welcome. Welcome to hell.”… The floor was cold, damp, and filthy. (Pg. 69)

There is still persecution of Christians going on today, especially in Muslim countries. Pray for these stalwart defenders of the faith. I would also recommend that you send a donation to Voice of the Martyrs and get on their mailing list. You can keep current with what is going on in Christ’s church in other parts of the world.

As we sit around in the comfort of our homes, sipping tea or lemonade, I pray that we will not become too callous. Pray for these and other women all around the world who are suffering poverty, torture, and even death sentences for the love of Christ. Remember those who do not have our freedom and thank God every day that you get up in our free country that you may serve Jesus openly. We are so blessed!





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