One Woman MattersBy: Amy Carroll
I settled into the seat of the plane, closed my eyes and sighed. Faces of the women who attended our two women’s conferences in India flashed through my mind and their stories permeated my heart. I smiled as I remembered Rita, Babita, Merry and Jaya — four spiritual generations of women passionate to pass on the transforming love of Jesus. I grinned wider as I thought of Phoebe, the pastor’s wife, fervently praying over the women who had pursued God’s truth like they were running to an oasis in the desert.
But my smile faded as I pondered stories attached to other beautiful faces haunting my memories. Sabitri’s bruised face and purple eye filled my mind. She bravely returned to the conference after a beating from her husband for attending. Another lovely but tear-stained, teenaged face told us of her impending arranged marriage. She was just a girl who longed to go back to school. The face of a tiny, powerhouse of a woman was wracked with pain as she told of her father’s verbal attacks.
Although I fully understand that women everywhere face abuse and disrespect, these statistics shocked me:
• Girls in India die at a 50% higher rate than their male counterparts between the ages of 1-5. An Indian girl dies from discrimination about every four minutes.
• Gender selective abortion is rampant in India. There are only 940 girls for every 1,000 boys under 6 years old, creating a shortage of marriageable girls.
• One study of Indian prostitutes found that about half said they had been coerced into the sex trade.
• Bride burnings, a punishment for a low dowry or to allow a husband to remarry, occur about once every two hours.
Does this information make you uncomfortable? Me too. These aren’t the subjects I discuss over coffee with a friend or at dinner with my family, but my experience in India changed me. After making friends with women who are abused, devalued and shunned, I can no longer go back to life as normal. I feel inspired, driven and compelled to do something. It’s not because it’s a “women’s issue.” It’s because these are issues that God cares about — justice, caring for the poor, defending the weak.
The problem with the previous statistics is they can immobilize us. My friend Shawna said it this way, “A lot of times we do nothing because we can’t do everything. But we must do something.” I want to share some ways you and I can do things that matter.
There is a growing awareness of the problems facing women worldwide, and many are beginning to speak out. From recording artists like Natalie Grant to authors like Carolyn Custis James, Jesus-followers are beginning to articulate the suffering of women worldwide. Books like “Half the Sky” by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn (Note: This book is written from a secular perspective.), “Half the Church” by Carolyn Custis James, “The Hole in Our Gospel” by Richard Stearns, and “Too Small to Ignore” by Wess Stafford address the concerns and problems of “the least of these” in our world. Tom Davis, CEO of Children’s Hope Chest, writes an amazing blog containing his personal encounters with poverty and the sex trade at http://blog.beliefnet.com/redletters/.
Help a Child
If the statistics included in this article were broken down to their core, the problem is the strong preying on the weak. And the weakest in any society are children. When poverty is added to the equation, children live at greater risk.
Proverbs 31 Ministries partners with Compassion International, a child-sponsorship organization we’ve come to love deeply. Compassion addresses the physical, educational and spiritual needs of children by providing medical care, education and the Good News of Jesus’ love. Education, resources and a sense of self-worth give sponsored children a layer of preventative protection from sex-slavery, poverty and violence. To learn more about changing the life of a child, visit their website www.compassion.com.
Find a Place
I came home from India with a strong desire to invest both money and time. Because the problems aren’t just “out there,” I want to invest locally as well as globally. Prisons, homeless shelters, rescue missions and domestic abuse shelters are always looking for volunteers and donors.
Trades of Hope (www.tradesofhope.com) is a home-party business that partners American women with artisans worldwide. They create a mutually beneficial fair trade relationship that helps impoverished women become self-sustaining by selling handcrafted items. I’m waiting with baited breath for someone near Raleigh, North Carolina to become a Compassion Entrepreneur so I can have a party in my home. Anyone?
Jesus makes the biggest difference for any woman. I was astonished to see the contrast of the lives of women within the church versus those outside the church in India. The most impactful action we can take is to spend time praying for Jesus to break through into the hearts of women. Project Hannah, a branch of Trans World Radio, publishes a monthly prayer guide (www.projecthannah.org/prayer) that gives wonderful direction.
Years ago when I was overwhelmed by the needs of the women in my church, my friend Christie encouraged me to pray for one woman in whom I could invest, pray for, encourage, and strengthen. Today I urge you to do the same. Please, please don’t lay down this article and walk away. Take a moment to pray. Ask God for one woman to impact. Ask Him for direction as you invest your time and money. Ask Him and watch Him respond in delight. You truly can change a woman’s life.
About the Author
When Amy Carroll isn’t searching for a new way to travel the world, she lives in a small community near Raleigh, North Carolina. Her husband Barry and two boys, Anson and Nolan, provide the sound track to her life by playing a house full of instruments. Amy is the director of Next Step Speaker Services (www.nextstepspeakerservices.org) and speaks for the Proverbs 31 Ministries team. You can share everyday life with her at www.amycarroll.org.