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You remember the H.E.R. series. By now you probably have a pretty good idea of how we feel about women. But we’re not just putting women in leadership here, our desire to honor, empower and respect women is reaching around the world.
Dave and Penny Semmelbeck attend Pulpit Rock. Dave is the president of BEE (Biblical Education by Extension) World, an organization that trains pastors and leaders in limited-access countries. This year Pulpit Rock gave $5,400 to fund a Women’s Conference in Nepal that Penny helped lead.
Nepal, one of the poorest countries in the world, has one of the fastest growing Christian populations, though at 1.2%, the percentage of Christians there is still tiny. We began working with women in Nepal in 2008, and the transformation we’ve seen in the women’s lives is striking. I believe these women would qualify as “the vulnerable”, in our world-wide community of believers.
BEE World women’s ministry began training women leaders at the request of the pastors and leaders (mostly men) who were just finishing their training. These leaders recognized the great benefits that came with biblical training, and they realized how much the women leaders needed this as well.
The majority of Christians in Nepal are first generation believers and with little access to biblical training, it is difficult for our brothers and sisters to know how to live the Christian life. The mothers and fathers treat each other, as well as their children, harshly: unforgiveness and anger are a way of life in so much of the culture. As a result, their children often turn away from this “foreign religion” since it is no better than the world around them. As the women learn who God is and how they are to be like Him, these women’s lives (and the lives of their families, churches and communities) are forever changed by the training they have received.
The 2018 conference was the third of five yearly conferences BEE World has planned for ongoing support and encouragement as we increasingly pass the ministry off from our first generation leaders to 100% national leadership in 2020.
We consider it a great privilege to be a part of training and equipping women—at this time in Nepal when we are still able to enter these countries which are increasingly hostile toward Christianity and whose window of opportunity may close in the coming years. More on that here.
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Sometimes we have the blessing of seeing more deeply into the heart of our students. Such was the case with one hungry, attentive, eager, student named Sukuntala, a second-generation leader who sat on the front row for each meeting. This dear woman not only concentrated without flagging energy (we put in long days and all started to droop by afternoon as the temperatures rose) but Sukuntala showed a quick understanding, even helping those around her, when it came to small group times.
Imagine our surprise when Sukuntala shared, with tears, in our “circle of sharing time” at the end of the training, that she had only been educated up to class three (grade three)! She is leading 2 groups of 15 women each in Dhandgadi and feels so discouraged sometimes because college students are in her class and she feels intimidated because of her low education. She prays that she will teach scripture correctly from this new training. She is excited to get all the training from BEE World and excited to apply it in her personal life.
Kathy, one of our US team of facilitators, says, “I was very impressed with all the women, but Sakuntala stands out as a very dedicated student. I did not know until the circle of sharing time that she only completed up to third grade. She often had the answers when we would ask questions in the group. The other students said she was very diligent each night doing her homework.”
Later in the week, we gave out an award for “Who stayed up latest doing their homework?” Sukuntala, won, with her 1 am homework time! Also, she was one of the few who did not go shopping after class or on Saturday, the one rest and church day between BSM training and the National Conference. After Sukuntala shared about her lack of formal schooling, it is easier to understand why she works harder. And it is especially inspirational to see how God is rewarding her hard work with the fruit of knowledge and understanding.
Sukuntala faces challenges with her husband not always wanting her to attend trainings/conferences and wondering why she spends so much time working with her BEE groups. He says she is not getting any money for what she does. They do have financial challenges as well. She has asked for prayer that her husband will allow her to come to the Pokhara BSM, part 2 training in September. She asks for his heart to soften.
Will you join us in praying for Sukuntala, as well as all our gifted and faithful Nepali sisters? Please pray for God’s continued work in every area of their lives, as they grow as godly woman, and as their world is opened up, as they use new skills to study and live according to God’s Word.
Thank you! Your teamwork has helped change hundreds of lives through our sisters in Nepal. May this good work continue to grow and multiply, by God’s grace and to His glory!
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We started our three days of the National Conference with the Ice-Breaker Questions: “Share 3-5 things you like and 2-3 things do you not like about being a woman.”
We expected short answers and laughter, but God led us in more than two hours of sharing time that touched all of our hearts and brought beautiful bonding to these women from all regions of Nepal!
Here is the testimony that Sarah, a second-generation student from Pokhara, shared with the large group.
“When I was 8 years old, I bore the difficulties of being a daughter. I asked God, “Why did you give my parents six daughters, and just one son?” My father worked for the army and my mother had a heart problem. When I was 10 years old, my father suddenly became paralyzed. No one knew why he became paralyzed—the doctors had no diagnosis. Sarah said, “In the hospital, my father lay like a log.”
My brother had gotten married previously, and it was a big wedding—three full days of celebration. But at the same time as my father became paralyzed, my brother not only did not help at all, he sold all our property! So, we six sisters and our mother had no house, no land—it was all gone!
I tried to take care of everything, but I couldn’t. I thought, “If I was a son, I would treat my family nicely, but a daughter, I can’t do anything.”
Others made fun of Sarah and her sisters, and others wanted to sell the girls. They couldn’t go to school at this time. They had nothing, no money.” Sarah sobbed as she told her story, and most every woman listening cried along with her. Sarah says she hated men because her brother treated her and her mother and sisters so badly.
Later, the family bought a tent and made a temporary house on someone else’s land. After that time, pension money came to them, because of their father’s previous job. They survived. Sarah’s father was paralyzed for 17 years and died at age 70.
After getting married, Sarah said she struggled a lot. After 5 years, she had not conceived, and she cried many tears. Now, however, Sarah says, “God has blessed me with a wonderful daughter and I also do ministry among women. Though families didn’t want daughters, they are a gift from God!” When asked about her husband, Sarah smiles and says, “He is a very good man.”
Today, Sarah is a strong leader. She described the benefits of BEE World training in this way:
“Women who were not able to speak, can now speak and can lead, strong in God’s Word. BEE World Training is very beneficial for our churches and our pastors and leaders are encouraged, happy and thankful to see our sisters who take BEE classes.
As leaders, we have to speak in many places and before BEE World training, I was afraid to speak! I would ask myself so many questions and I had little confidence in my teaching. Now I still have many questions, but I hope God will give me answers to the questions in the future! I have more confidence.”
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Urmila is one of our first-generation students from western Nepal. Though she had undergone some big changes in her life over the three or so years of training (2010-2014), such as getting married and having a daughter, one thing remained the same: Urmila was quiet and shy.
When I saw her at this conference, I wasn’t sure if she was the same young women we had known. So, I asked our primary helper and staff person for BEE World women’s ministry, Sundari, and she confirmed that the woman really was our sister, Urmila.
What really impressed us initially was the great effort Urmila was making to hear and participate in as much of the Bible Study Methods training as possible. In our seminars we often have women with infants, since they are nursing, and sometimes we have toddlers, (though you can imagine how distracting that can be!) but at this bigger seminar, things were chaotic enough on their own, and the women came without children. Except for Urmila.
When we had time to visit a bit with Urmila, through the help of Sundari’s interpreting, she gave a big smile and told me that her daughter was now 9 years old! Oh, my goodness—it’s amazing to think of how long God has kept us connected to one another! Her baby, James, was about 6 months old. The BSM training and National Conference were for leaders who were multipliers, so in the midst of mothering, God was helping Urmila to continue to train other women as well.
Urmila shared personally toward the end of the BSM training time, in our big circle of sharing (37 women, given 2- minute timer limits 😊). She shared about her great hunger to keep learning and growing in her relationship with God and how at last year’s conference in Dharan, she learned about “A Godly Woman” and had a great desire to attend all classes. Urmila also shared that, this time, she felt she really learned “Observation skills” in the Bible Study Methods training—no small accomplishment, while juggling a baby!
What was so striking wasn’t just what Urmila said, but also the way in which she shared it—with such confidence and strength, in front of the big group. What transformation God has brought in Urmila’s life, through BEE World training!
This story, a small glimpse into Urmila’s life, felt like beautiful fruit of our labor—yours and ours– and what a privilege to get a glimpse of it, this side of heaven!
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Some of you may recall a story we told a few years ago, called, “The Cook’s Story”. It was about a woman named Sabita who served at many of our first generation training seminars in far west Nepal. If Sabita finished lunch or dinner preparations in time, she would look into our training, through the windows… you never knew when or where you’d see her. Her face was so interested and hungry (imagine, the cook being hungry!) God had placed in this woman, Sabita, a deep hunger to learn and grow in the Lord, and she eventually was able to become a BEE World second generation student.
At this year’s Bible Study Methods training (about four years after we finished first generation training), at the circle of sharing time Sabita said, “I did not have the privilege of going to school and I think I have the lowest education in the group. This time, I have enjoyed observing every word and detail of Luke 6:46-49. In the group discussion, I am often the one confused, but finally after this study, I am clear about studying scripture!”
Sabita continued sharing, “When BEE World training started, I used to cook for the students and I felt very sad that I could not participate and I would come to the window to stand and listen. When class was over, they would say, ‘The food was good, etc., but they did not say “Come into the class and learn.” I have a great desire to learn the BEE course and train others!”
I don’t know what all Sabita shared in her 2-minute limit, as there was no way Sundari could keep up with the interpreting that quickly, but there were many times where everyone was laughing with Sabita—a joy to see!
What was really moving in a fresh way about this story came at the end of the conference time, when we were giving each woman two 500 NR notes (about $5.00 each), to use to go and practice helping others, (our Conference theme). As they received the money, we had each one sign their name on the “Funds Received” form. Sabita came up and slowly signed her name, and smiled big, gave a hug, and took her rupees… I didn’t think anything of it, as each woman had done the same. But Sundari touched my arm and said, “Did you see that—Sabita wrote her name!” And then I realized that Sabita, in her 30’s, couldn’t even write her name before taking BEE World training!
To think of how great Sabita’s desire was to know God’s Word, that she had to start from a place of not even knowing how to write her own name—that is some commitment, and some growth!
And “well done!” to those who patiently led her in their second generation group, so Sabita would not be left behind!
It is safe to have confidence that God will continue to use this woman and her life, to inspire many others—really, it is our hope that He already has.