The ladies’ meetings in the local church were boring. One young lady wondered why she should bother attending since there was nothing to learn. One by one, the women stopped coming, until finally only two or three die-hards were left. We could be talking about Canada, but this particular story is set in the mountains of Peru. Enter ATEK, a national organization partnering with Wycliffe to promote the use of translated Scriptures in the Cusco Quechua language. As part of its Bible reading comprehension program in the local language, ATEK presented a training workshop called “Women of the Bible.” In an effort to revive the women’s group, the local church sent two women to the workshop. When they returned, the women in the community started meeting once a month, thinking that any more frequently was still a waste of time. However, the teaching soon challenged attendees in their personal faith. They found that their lives as women didn’t line up with those they had learned about in the Word of God. As the women applied the teachings to daily life, their relationships with their children, husbands and neighbours began to improve. Rather than look for excuses not to attend, now women were walking long distances, bringing their babies and small children with them. Meetings were increased to twice a month to accommodate women eager to learn more from Scripture. The women had discovered that God’s Word, when understood and applied, is never boring. A couple of years ago I had the privilege of visiting the offices of ATEK and AIDIA, a similar ministry among a neighbouring Quechua group. In both cases, I was impressed at the comprehensive and customized way they approached Scripture engagement. In their quest to see communities and lives transformed by God’s Word, they addressed real community needs, including:
• finding ways to do children’s ministry in a culture that expects children to care for the animals while adults go to church
• addressing issues that impact the family, like physical abuse and alcoholism
• giving strong attention to literacy and leadership development among women.
In his book, Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell observed that if you select a certain subset of people early enough and give them consistent development opportunities, you’ll change the composition of the group at the highest level. I believe his lessons apply to leadership, the traditional domain of men. In Canada and Peru alike, while women outnumber men in a variety of fields, they are conspicuously absent from leadership roles. But when leadership ability is identified and cultivated in women early enough, women prove to be excellent leaders. In Peru, more and more bold women are beginning to model hardy and courageous leadership in a country where 30 per cent cannot read, and 70 per cent of the illiterate are women. Such leadership brings transformation to lives and communities. God has equipped His global Church with a wide array of gifts, strengths and personalities. He is raising up atypical leaders to meet needs that can’t be met by the majority.
Originally published in Word Alive, Summer 2015