by Barbara Latta
March is recognized as International Women’s Month and most posts will focus on political and economic achievements of women throughout the centuries. I would like to focus on those who have made progress in the spiritual realm by their obedience to God’s Word.
These are merely a few of the women who have made sacrifices for the kingdom of God. Some are known, some not so known, but to God they are all famous in His eyes. They left all and followed, much like the twelve Jesus called.
Gracia Burnham, a missionary in the Philippines for 17 years, was kidnapped by the Abu Sayaaf group along with her husband, Martin, on May 21, 2001. They were held hostage for 376 days enduring starvation, gun battles, witnessing murder and facing fear of death every day. When Philippine troops invaded the camp in a rescue attempt, Martin was killed. Gracia was rescued but she suffered a gunshot wound to her leg. After her recovery and much soul-searching, she forgave her captors who were now imprisoned. Reports are that three of the kidnappers became Christians because of the witness of Gracia and Martin Burnham.
Ruth Bell Graham (1920-2007), born to medical missionary parents in China, spent her childhood learning about Jesus in the midst of hostile circumstances. Chinese culture resented outsiders and the risk of kidnapping, looting and death surrounded the family. But Ruth’s parents continued to teach about Christianity and serve the people which formed the personality and faith of Ruth. Years later she met her future husband, Billy Graham, at Wheaton College. Her years on the mission field with her parents prepared Ruth for the journey of being the wife of the most well-known and respected evangelist the world has known. Her willingness to surrender her life to be the woman behind the man gave him the support and partnership he needed. Some of their children continue to carry on the legacy they left behind.
Elisabeth Elliott (1926-2015) served with her husband, Jim, in the Ecuadorian jungle as missionaries. After Jim was speared to death while trying to contact the Huaoroni tribe, Elisabeth left that country but returned two years later accompanied by her young daughter, Valerie, to serve the same people who had taken the life of her husband and partner. After leaving Ecuador, Elisabeth wrote books and spoke in various venues about her life on the mission field. The seeds she and her husband planted continue to grow to this day. The movie, The End of the Spear produced in 2005 tells their story.
Katherine Bushnell (1855-1946) served as a missionary to China and became a forerunner of women’s rights in the church world. Her intelligence and ability to read multiple languages served to reveal the discrepancies in translating the Bible into different tongues. She discovered that some translators interpreted scripture based on the culture of the people, rather than the way it was written in original Hebrew and Greek. She was instrumental in shining light on the way women were treated due to the misinterpretation of scripture. Her courageous attempts at entering prostitution rings rescued many women from the sex slave trade.
Learning from the lives of women like these can inspire us to follow the call of God wherever and whenever that may be. A hero is someone who lays down their life or their way of life for the benefit of another. To me, these women and others like them are true heroines of the faith. Where would the world be without the influences these women left behind?
Join the conversation. Feel free to honor a woman you know who has made an impact on your life.