Heather-Dawn Small, Director, General Conference Women’s Ministries.

During this new quinquennium 2005- 2010, the General Conference Women's Ministries Department is focusing on combining evangelism and ministry. We are taking our marching directions from Isaiah 61:1-3 and this quote from E. G. White found in the book Ministry of Healing:

"Christ's method ALONE will give true success in reaching people. The Savior mingled with [people] as one who desired their good. He showed His sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence. THEN He bade them, 'Follow Me'" (p. 143, emphasis supplied).

This emphasis on evangelism and ministry means that we must change the way we do evangelism. We have been involved in evangelism and in ministry, but to combine the two will result  in even more souls brought to God. It will mean placing more intentional emphasis on our Six Challenge Issues and helping each woman find a ministry that will help women who face these challenges. It will mean helping our women see evangelism in a new way, for God has called us to proclaim to the world Christ's love and to be His touch in this world as we serve Him.

The Six Challenge Issues that impact women around the world are (1) threats to health; (2) a woman's work load; (3) poverty; (4) lack of training and mentoring; (5) abuse; and (6) illiteracy. Interestingly, these issues tie in with the United Nations Eight Millennium Development Goals (see http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/) and with the challenges women face as noted by the Committee on the Status of Women at their Beijing Conference in 1995.

1. Threats to Health. A Women's health includes her emotional, social, and physical well-being and is directly affected by social, political, and economic factors. The quality of a woman's health directly impacts on her life and well-being, her family, and society. Yet women around the world are still victims of poor health.

Ministry Ideas: Breathe Free for Women, blood pressure/cholesterol programs, osteoporosis prevention, exercise, weight control, vegetarian cooking, nutrition classes, cancer screening/awareness, reproductive health classes, grief and loss support groups, support groups, stress reduction.

2. A Woman's Workload. Women around the world and in all cultures face the problem of work overload. Women are either faced with the challenge of doing 90 percent of the world's agricultural work, which includes long work days, small salaries, and then the additional hours of housework and childcare with limited access to basic necessities; or the balancing act of societal expectations for maintaining an intact and healthy family while achieving in a highly competitive work environment that results in long days, limited rest and recreation, and little time for time with God.

Ministry Ideas: Time management, organization seminars, management classes, small business classes, self esteem, Bible study skills, working-mothers seminars.

3. Poverty. The Unifem report, "Progress of the World's Women 2005," presents some startling information on this question of women and poverty. Progress for women in this is improving, but very slowly. The report notes that "despite parity in primary education, disparities are still wide in secondary and tertiary education—both increasingly key to new employment opportunities."

Ministry Ideas: Small business development, money management seminars, preparing for retirement seminars, professional mentoring, time management, budgeting, widow support groups, debt reduction.

4. Lack of Training, Mentoring, and Opportunities. Education for all is a basic human right. For women to achieve better health, nutrition, and quality of life for themselves and their families, they need equal access to education. Lack of education results in women being trapped in a cycle of poverty with limited options for economic improvement, which results in sentencing their children to chronic poverty and limited education.

Ministry Ideas: Leadership training, mentoring programs, communication classes, parliamentary procedures seminars, women's ministries committees, spiritual gifts seminars.

5. Abuse. Domestic violence, incest, rape, and battering are all-too-common burdens that women carry. Physical, sexual, and psychological battering happens to small girls, adolescents, single, and married adult women, and elderly women. No stratum of society is immune from the epidemic of violence, and as a church, we believe that tolerance of abuse within the church, is a denial of Christ.

Ministry Ideas: Abuse education seminar, women's shelters, support groups, healing seminars.

6. Illiteracy. Nearly one billion people in the world are illiterate, one-fifth of the world's population. One out of every three women in the world cannot read and write. In many developing countries 80 percent of the food is produced by women, and women in rural areas women are mostly unpaid laborers. Statistics show that two-thirds of the world's nonliterate population and one-third of all heads of households are women, yet they carry two-thirds of the worlds work load.

Ministry Ideas: Basic literacy training, computer literacy, second language training programs.

The Women's Ministries Department cannot work alone. We need the support of leadership as we challenge women with their potential to share the good news. Our desire, by God's grace, is to provide ministry ideas that encourage women today to take up their mission as disciples of Jesus Christ. As church leaders today, we can make a difference by talking with one another, supporting one another, and consistently looking beyond the church walls.

The women of this church are eager, ready, and more than willing to do God's work. May God help us to accomplish our task by uniting our efforts as we touch hearts and tell the world!

Heather-Dawn Small
General Conference Women's Ministries Director