March is Women’s History Month. When we think of important Christian women, we often think of the Virgin Mary. But did you know that one of the very first missionaries in the New Testament was actually a woman? She never gets a proper name, but we know her as the woman at the well (John 4:4-26). All throughout, women have played a pivotal role in Christian history. Women have been used by God to spread the good news of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection, and are examples of God’s love on earth ever since Jesus’ days. Three deeply Christian women who allowed their lives to be used by God for his glory are Lottie Moon, Harriet Beecher Stowe and Elisabeth Elliot.
Missionary to China
Lottie Moon, born in Virginia in 1840, was a woman who God greatly used. Even though most girls at that time were not educated, Moon earned as high as a master’s degree in language, which served her well later in life. Her younger sister went to China as the first single woman Baptist missionary in 1872, and Moon followed to China the following year. Serving as an evangelistic missionary there, she reached thousands with the gospel and hundreds converted to Christianity because of her efforts. Because of her work and many letters she wrote to the Foreign Mission Journal, early December was established as a time for churches to devote themselves to giving a little extra to fund the work of missionaries overseas. Today, many churches still take part in the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and donate extra to the International Mission Board.
Throughout her time in China, Moon experienced wars, famine and even plagues. During these hard times, she was still given a decent salary and provided food by the Foreign Mission Board. Rather than keep the food for herself, she secretly shared all that she had until her health began to be affected at which point her colleagues realized she had nearly starved herself to death, weighing only fifty pounds. At this point, she was so ill that they rushed to send her home, but it was too late and she passed away on the voyage at the age of 72. Her devotion to spreading the Gospel and loving the people around her led to hundreds accepting Christ who otherwise never would have even heard his name.
Harriet Beecher Stowe is a name most recall from her classic novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Born into a devoutly Christian home in 1811, Stowe carried that faith on for herself throughout her life. She married Calvin Ellis Stowe at 25 and, together, they for a time were part of the Underground Railroad that helped slaves escape from the South and get to freedom. All the while she learned more and more about the horrors of slavery in the South and felt that something had to be done. She decided to write and encouraged others to do the same: “I feel now that the time is come when even a woman or a child who can speak a word for freedom and humanity is bound to speak.”
She wrote the book, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, to reveal the terrible circumstances of slavery to those in the North and to help Southerners see the humanity of the people they were oppressing. She saw that slavery was a sinful institution that needed to come to an end. Some have even credited her book with being the spark that ignited the Civil War. Because she was willing to stand up for her convictions as a Christian, she helped change the course of American history and bring the enslavement of millions to an end.
Bible Translator and Missionary
Elisabeth Elliot was born in 1926 and pursued a degree in Classical Greek in order to be able to translate the Bible for an unreached people group. She then became a missionary to Ecuador to work with the Quechua Indians. There she married a fellow missionary, Jim Elliot. They and several other missionaries sought to reach out to another tribe of Indians called the Huaorani to share the gospel with them and bring them to a saving belief in Christ’s sacrifice. For months, they would fly over the tribe and leave gifts for them, which were well-received and reciprocated. The men in the group decided it was time to try meeting the Huaorani face to face. Shortly after meeting with the Huaorani, they were slaughtered by the tribesmen.
Instead of running away in fear or coming back for revenge, Elisabeth and a sister to one of the men who was killed returned to continue to minister to the Huaorani. Through their efforts, many in the tribe came to Christ and violence between the tribes diminished greatly. The tribesmen have since made peace with the families of the missionaries they murdered. Today, millions have watched “End of the Spear” and read Through Gates of Splendor about this event and have been moved to share the gospel in various ways. All of this occurred because a Christian decided to live out her faith in a real way and put God before even the death of her husband.
As Christians, we can look to these women as examples to follow. These should be the role models of our friends and daughters, rather than obscene celebrities or steroid pumping athletes. We need role models that will encourage women to dedicate their lives to the one and only thing that matters: Jesus Christ.
It is my prayer that more would truly devote themselves to God to accomplish the goal he has set for us: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28-19-20 HCSB).