Sisters in Service, Part 2
About the Guest
Today on the broadcast, Michele Rickett, president of Sisters In Service and author of the book "Daughters of Hope," talks with Dennis Rainey about her sisters in Christ around the world who are risking their lives to share God's love.
Michele RickettMichelle Rickett is founder and president of She Is Safe (formerly known as Sisters In Service), an international ministry mobilizing advocates to equip women against poverty, oppression, exploitation and spiritual darkness in the world's hardest places through practical grassroots projects. Based in Atlanta, Georgia, she is also coauthor (with husband Daniel) of a Bible study course that graduates mentors called Ordinary Women (Wine Press, 2001) and a contributing author to A Celebration of Wom...more
Michele Rickett talks about her sisters in Christ around the world who are risking their lives to share God’s love.
Sisters in Service, Part 2
Michelle: Some Indian women came to us and asked us, "Has anyone ever spit on your because you're a Christian? Has anyone ever burned your house? Has anyone ever thrown rocks at you?" And they were asking that because they have experienced all of those things and yet they stand so very bold in the face of those things.
It reminds me of the Apostle Paul who said, you know, these light and momentary afflictions, they're just for a moment, and they're working for me – far more eternal weight of glory.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, May 4th. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. What momentary light afflictions are you facing today that are producing godliness in your life and how can we reach out to help our sisters all around the world?
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Friday edition. I have a question for you.
Dennis: Okay, got it.
Bob: You have heard people say for years that one of the things about Jesus and Christianity is that Christianity transformed women in a society and in a culture.
Bob: Jesus had a completely different view of the dignity of women than was prevalent in His culture in that day, right?
Dennis: In that day, women were viewed like property. They had very few rights and were not viewed with any kind of nobility or dignity.
Bob: Now, today in our culture, there are a lot of people who would look at Christianity and the role of women, and they would say just the opposite – Christianity isn't liberating to women. In fact, it puts them into some kind of marital bondage.
Dennis: There are those in Christianity today who have put women down, and that is not true Christianity. As I look at the New Testament, Jesus placed high value upon women as did the Apostle Paul, and just because we have a different role in the marriage relationship doesn't mean there's lesser value, it just means we have functions that are different as husband and wife, and we need to complement one another.
I think what's happening today is the culture is trying to homogenize the sexes where there are no distinctions and where men and women are just two interchangeable units and, if anything, I think we come to the Scriptures to find out what the true identity of a woman really is.
Bob: But you would say authentic Christianity in our day is still exalting to the value and worth of women, the nobility of women, right?
Dennis: Absolutely. All you have to do is go overseas. I mean, if you go overseas and see what's happened to women there, all of a sudden, you realize Christianity in America has done much to protect, again, the nobility, the value, and the role of a woman in our culture.
Again, there's been distortion, no doubt about it, but we have a guest who has seen some of these distortions internationally. In fact, Michelle Rickett formed an organization called Sisters in Service, which really has, as the purpose, to correct the wrongs that are being perpetrated upon women. Am I right, Michelle, is that pretty much what Sisters in Service is all about?
Michelle: Yes, we certainly want to address things that are abusive and oppressive to women and girls and certainly aren't what God has in mind for women and girls. Oppression, the fact that girls are least fed, least educated, least valued, as you mentioned, considered a piece of property. This is not God's heart for little girls and for women.
And so what we want to do is address issues of poverty and oppression and persecution and spiritual darkness in the most culturally appropriate ways but in the loving way of Jesus. This isn't an angry feminist approach; instead, it's the heart of Christ that always existed for women and girls.
Dennis: You know, I'm glad you said it that way because a part of what Bob and I have fought hard for here on FamilyLife Today is to be known by what we're for. We are for marriage, we are for marriage that goes the distance, we are for men to be sacrificial servant leaders of their wives and their families, we are also for women, for mothers and wives. And that's what you're about.
In fact, you've written a book called "Daughters of Hope," which are stories of women whose lives have been transformed by Christ, and they've begun to reach out to others.
I want to take you to a country right now that's in the news, and I want you to give us a glimpse into how women are viewed and are treated in the country of Iraq. What's happening there?
Michelle: Well, I'll tell you, though, some really good things are happening. The Iraqi Christian leaders tell us that they are so very grateful that we intervened; that innocent girls were snatched off the streets by Saddam Hussein and his sons before, and defiled, and then tossed back to their families; that everyone's life was oppressive during that regime.
So they're very grateful, the local people, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, we know there's a lot of conflict right now. One of the unfortunate things is as the hostile people in the area, it's a regional problem not just one country's problem – as they try to dig in more deeply, some of the unfortunate practices against women and girls are more prevalent right now – the honor killing problem.
Honor killing is basically because a girl and a woman are property to a family, everything they do reflects on the father or the husband. So if there's a dishonor in any way – let me give you an example. One of the men, as he dropped off his children, said, "Oh, I don't have any wives. I know I'm very unusual, a Muslim man, I could have four wives. I only had one. She was the love of my life, but we had an honor problem in our family.
One day my wife was at home washing her hair, and it's very thick, beautiful hair. No one ever saw it but me and unfortunately it wouldn't dry, so she opened the window to allow warm air to blow through her hair as she brushed it and, unfortunately, right at that moment, my father passed by the window and saw her hair."
This inflamed a murderous anger in his heart against her, and so he called a meeting of all the male relatives and said, "We have a dishonorable woman in our family flaunting her hair. It's the job of the husband to stamp out this dishonor." And he said, "I pled for my wife." I said, "We'll board up the windows, she'll never go outside," and they realized he was not going to take care of it.
So about a week later, his brothers broke into his home, kidnapped his wife, took her up into the mountains and murdered her. This woman was murdered for brushing her hair in her own home.
I'll tell you, of all the things women and girls must suffer, I just can't sit still on this kind of information. We have got to do something to get the message of God's love and value to them. Surely, they don't have to suffer without knowing there is a God who loves and treasures them.
Bob: But if you bring the Gospel into some of these countries, and you reach these women, and they begin to see the liberation in Christ, they still have a problem. They still live in a culture that does not value them the way the Gospel values them. What does that do for them? I mean, how do they continue to function in their culture now that they see what is true about them in the eyes of God, and yet the culture does not reinforce that?
Michelle: I have been amazed at how these women know when to be bold and when to pull back. I wouldn't begin to try and tell them what's appropriate in Afghanistan right now. It's part of the beauty of how Sisters in Service works. We have an invisible servant role. We identify the local Christians who are there, and their initiatives, and then we fan into flame their strengths and their abilities. They are sensitive to the issues; they are sensitive to what's going on, and they know how to reach out to the women in a way that's not going to draw hostile fire.
Where if I tried to show up and translate, you know, my teaching that I do on spiritual formation here in the United States and just do it over there, I could cause all kinds of problems for the women in the things that I just don't understand about the culture.
And yet the women who are running the initiatives that we're working with – the Iraqi Christian women, the Chinese Christian women, the Indonesian Christian women – are atypical to their culture. And I have this sense that once you – and I am atypical, in a sense, to my culture. Once you understand how deeply loved you are, you can boldly live.
And it's not about living a life of comfort anymore, it's about shining the light of God's love in the face of darkness and evil, and that's what we're talking about is evil.
Bob: And so your goal with these women is to equip and encourage them to reach out to other women in their community, is that the idea?
Michelle: That's right. There are Christians in virtually every country of the world. That wasn't true 100 years ago, but because of the good work that missionaries, mostly Western missionaries have done, we have grown an indigenous church – local Christians who are there who have the spirit of God, who understand how to study the Word. Many of the women I deal with have higher degrees, seminary degrees, than I do.
So they are there, they are equipped, they know the language, they know the culture, and they have these initiatives. So like the women in Africa who wanted to provide school, they were willing to do the work for free; to bring their own food, and yet there was no way they had the capacity to do what needed to be done in this garbage-dump community.
So I have this theory that God has reserved a tiny percentage of the whole family of faith and given us the purse-strings and given us the freedom to speak up about what is true and what's good from His heart so that we can join arm-in-arm and work together.
Dennis: Give us an illustration in one of the countries where you've traveled to of how you have come alongside a woman who is one of these heroes of the faith, who has demonstrated great courage of putting the arms and legs to the love of Christ as she has reached out to other women in her culture.
Michelle: Well, there are so many women going through my mind right now – one woman was a priestess in India in a tribe, a very small tribe, the Banjara [sp] tribe, a very hostile and entrenched people group – very superstitious. And she was famous in her community – it reminds me of a Bible story – for being able to help couples conceive who could not conceive. She would cast a spell on them. If people were sick, she could heal them with demonic power.
Well, her sister came to know Christ, and that was through a discipleship, an evangelism, and [unintelligible] program that Sisters in Service helped some local Indian women have. So this sister went to her priestess sister and shared Christ with her, and this priestess was very resistant to the Gospel, and she would sneer at her sister.
But then the priestess herself became sick, and she could not get well, no matter what incantations she did, she couldn't get well. And so her sister said, "Well, you know, if I pray for you in Jesus' name, He might have mercy on you even though you've talked about Him that way and, sure enough, she was healed in Jesus' name and afterwards this very priestess, "Now," she said, "I have a job to do. I have to go back to all of those people I've given such bad spiritual advice to and tell them that Jesus is the one true God."
There was a shrine that people used to go to, and they would put money there, and food, to try and get the demonic forces to help them, and she made it her cause to stomp around this shrine, and she said people just mysteriously stopped coming. She said, "I stomped around and in Jesus' name cast all the forces of darkness away and now nobody goes there anymore."
Bob: If I ask you to juxtapose American Christian women and the African Christian women that you've met, or the Iraqi Christian women that you've met or the Afghan Christian women that you've met, what are the big differences in how they're living out their faith and how Christian women in this country are living out their faith?
Michelle: They understand that this world is not their home. There was an encounter that we recorded in the book, "Daughters of Hope," where some Indian women came to us and asked us, "Has anyone ever spit on you because you're a Christian? Has anyone ever burned your house? Has anyone ever thrown rocks at you?" And they were asking that because they have experienced all of those things, and yet they stand so very bold in the face of those things.
It reminds me of the Apostle Paul who said, you know, these light and momentary afflictions, they're just for a moment, and they're working for me – far more eternal weight of glory.
He said, "I glory in God, in exalting Him," and when that becomes your focus, building the kingdom of God, then you can put up with all kinds of – well, the Apostle Paul was talking about being beaten and left for dead, right, and some of the women I deal with have been stoned and left for dead, and there is that marketplace parallel.
If you're living for making Christ known, you're living for His glory, you realize this is a sin-sick world, and the Bible tells us Jesus said it's going to get worse and worse before Jesus returns – "Some of you can be taken into custody, some of you are going to be put death for My name's sake," he said, "but don't be alarmed. These are the birth pains before the birth of my kingdom. Things are going to get worse, but I want you to understand something" – He told his followers – "This Gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations and, after that, the end will come."
So if we get off mission and think that we have some other job to do in this life, we are going to be, of all people, most miserable.
Bob: You think that the affluence of American culture is a hindrance to the work of the kingdom?
Michelle: Absolutely. We are lulled to sleep, much like Queen Esther in the Bible, you know, I think she had a nice job being the Queen of Persia, and you had servants, you had to put on facial creams a lot, as I understand, and have a party every now and then. But the people of God were in big trouble. It wasn't Esther who came up to the moment. Remember, it was a male relative, and he came to her and challenged her and said, "Esther, wake up, it could be that it's for such a time as this that you are in this position," and she resisted. She said, "I don't think I remember his former wife."
But, finally, he said, "Well, don't think that you're not going to go down with all of us. I want for you to reconsider your part in this" and, finally, she said, "Ya'll pray for me," because she was from Southern Persia – "Pray for me, and if I perish, I perish." That's what we love about her.
So I think she had to be jolted awake from her affluence and her ease and finery, and we need to be jolted awake, too. We've had a little bit of that hostility in our borders. It's time to awaken to the joy and the privilege of speaking up for those who suffer to serve.
Bob: Do you think it was your years in Africa that jolted you awake?
Michelle: That was a beginning. When I came back from overseas was when I really began to research and see what a pervasive problem women and girls had everywhere. We do live in a little bubble of affluence and ease.
I know lovely Christian women who would not think of going through the day without studying their Bible. They don't do the big sins, you know, but they're not happy. They don't have this bedrock joy and fulfillment they're supposed to have, and they sigh and wonder what's going on, and then I meet a woman who makes 50 cents a day busting rocks with a hammer to make gravel, and she tells me when she has Jesus she has everything.
So, for me, that is the problem. Without a vision, something that's bigger than ourselves, the people perish.
Dennis: You know, you don't know this, Michelle, but Barbara, along with her friend, Susan Yates, together are working on a book around calling women to a mission and a vision. And it's really challenging women coming out of raising a family and into that period of time of the empty nest with a higher calling.
It's kind of designed to be the women equivalent of half time. You know, we talk to men about their half-time in their career and how they can use that as an opportunity in their 40s and 50s to recalibrate and think about how they can use their skills for the kingdom of God.
Well, what Barbara and Susan are doing is they're writing a book to really come alongside ministries like yours and challenge women to say, what is my vision? What am I about? What is my purpose? What's my reason for getting up in the morning? Is it rescuing women in foreign cultures who will be taken advantage of, maybe sold into slavery, sex slavery, or little girls taken advantage of? How can they use their influence, their leadership skills, their hearts, to represent Christ around the world?
And I just appreciate the leadership you're giving to Sisters in Service, as well as this walk, where you're challenging women and men, for that matter, in churches, on the Saturday before Mother's Day, to get out of their churches and take a walk in the neighborhood.
Bob: Yeah, but it's four miles, right? You want women to walk four miles?
Dennis: And pray for their neighborhoods, right?
Michelle: That's right.
Dennis: Pray for women, pray for mothers, and begin to reach out in the name of Christ.
Bob: You are hoping that this will be a national movement. In fact, you're hearing from churches around the country that are going to participate in this on the Saturday before Mother's Day. If somebody is just now hearing this program and thinking, "Well, we've got a week, maybe less than a week, how do we join in?" What do you want us to do and what do you hope will be accomplished?
Michelle: Well, what we're inviting people to do is, as you said, just flow out of their churches and prayer walk their neighborhoods the Saturday morning before Mother's Day. We want to contact local media, you can contact the newspaper, local newspaper, and say, "Hey, this is what we do, as Christian women, we really care about moms who stand alone near and far, and so it's a sponsored walk. We get four sponsors and walk four miles for moms." It's very simple.
You don't have to organize a big rally, you need to pray. I believe in the power of prayer to hold back the darkness with the beauty of the light of Jesus Christ, and I want to tell the nation that. This is what Christians are for. We care about moms, and we pray for them, and we are going to help them. It's not rocket science. It's very simply, "Do we believe in prayer or not?" Yes, I think we do. Let's exercise that a little bit.
Bob: And the money that gets raised on that day will go to help these women in these other cultures who are living in very oppressive situations, right?
Michelle: Yes, they're going to help moms near and far. We are actually going to be working with the local churches that partner with us on determining – up to 50 percent will go to local ministries in their communities. They'll recommend to us – these are ministries that provide emergency help to moms or education for them so that they can get a leg up and then, of course, 50 percent or more will go to projects overseas that do the same kind of thing.
Bob: Yes, we've got a link on our website at FamilyLife.com to the National Walk for Moms website. If you go to FamilyLife.com, and you click the red button that says "Go," in the middle of the screen, that will take you to the broadcast page, and there is information available there about how you can connect with the Walk for Moms, information about your book, "Daughters of Hope," which we have in our FamilyLife Resource Center, and you can order a copy of that book online, if you'd like.
Again, the website is FamilyLife.com, click the red button that says "Go," in the middle of the screen, and that will take you right to the part of the site where you need to be to get more information or to get resources from us here at FamilyLife.
You can also call 1-800-FLTODAY if that's easier, 1-800-358-6329, 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY, and we'll answer any questions you have or make arrangements to get resources out to you as well.
Something we're pretty excited about here at FamilyLife, we have had a group of friends who have come to our ministry, and they want to encourage listeners to FamilyLife Today to join with them during the month of May to help support this ministry, and they've agreed to match any donation that we receive this month on a dollar-for-dollar basis.
So a listener sends us a check for $50, and that's matched with another check for $50 from this group of friends. Or if you send a $25 donation, that's matched as well. Any amount is matched dollar-for-dollar up to a total of $475,000, which means that we need as many of you as possible to make whatever donation you can make during the month of May so that we can take full advantage of this matching gift opportunity.
It is easy to donate online at FamilyLife.com. You can also call 1-800-FLTODAY to make a donation. In either case, the donation you make is going to be matched, dollar-for-dollar, and, of course, all donations to FamilyLife Today are tax deductible.
So, again, we hope to hear from you this month. Go online at FamilyLife.com or call us at 1-800-FLTODAY and make a donation to the ministry of FamilyLife Today, and we appreciate your financial support.
And that is going to wrap things up for us this week. I hope you have a great weekend. I hope you and your family are able to worship together this weekend, and I hope you can be back with us on Monday, when we're going to hear a clear call to men to step up and embrace what it means to be a man. We're going to hear a powerful message from Dennis Rainey on this subject, and I hope you can be with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. Have a great weekend, we'll see you Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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