At least it is for our church here in Niger. Every December is a month dedicated to women. The women facilitate special events, special music, and we “run” the church services throughout the month. We even wear the same lovely “uniform”, or fabric, woven with the Scripture from Proverbs 31:30 “Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”
In a predominantly muslim culture like Niger, where women are not cherished as equal human beings, this annual focus is a bright light. Christians in Niger must function counter-culture every day, and this month for women in my church reflects how Jesus Christ truly honors women.
One Sunday, the women made cakes and special drinks to celebrate everyone’s birthdays
This year we planned a day-long retreat for the young women and the older women. My dear friend back home said to me, “What can women like me over here do to support and encourage your ladies over there?”
I think sometimes you just want to join in on something special, cheering “Go, go, go! You go girl!”.
And just like that, a little international friendship was born. Sisters across the world.
The USA ladies shared their prayers and financial support for the retreat, which was a special encouragement for my ladies group here.
This is a group photo from our retreat last month.
My friend Marie shared a devotion from God’s Word to get the morning started.
And then my friend Hannatou, who is a gynecologist, taught us about women’s health, as well as what the Bible teaches us about our value as human beings and taking care of our bodies. It was practical and also courageous. These topics are taboo here. Mothers do not talk to their daughters about these things – even here in the city and in Christian families. (I heard about a young girl, only 15, who became pregnant even though she didn’t know how!)
We were able to have a lovely lunch together, including delicious “capitaine” (fish) and many other delights! It was a special feast.
It is true, women around the world continue to battle against oppression, diminishment and abuse. It is overwhelming to think about solving that problem! But we can all invest in women right where we live. Remind them there is an undeniable truth about the beauty of being a woman.
One of our activities this month was to visit a local orphanage, have lunch and share some love with the kids.
When God created the first woman, Eve, from Adam’s rib, He didn’t give her a second-rate life. He didn’t relegate her to be a wallflower on the sidelines. Many people struggle to understand the meaning for words like “submission”, but further study of God’s Word and understanding of God’s heart reveals her importance, her great role here on earth.
This topic – the equality of women – is a core teaching in our marriage ministry here in Niger. We are learning that many of the most fundamental problems arise from this cultural and un-Biblical diminishment of women. I pray that we can continue to share God’s truth and love in a way that breaks through these barriers for women here in our community, and then to the next generations.