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God Who Calls Is Faithful

(1 Thessalonians 5:24)

By Melinda Booze

Enrichment Journal Spring 1997

The challenges and blessings are sometimes different for women in ministry than for men. Not wrong. Different.

Janie Boulware-Wead, Patricia Cote, Cynthia Smith, and Angie Thomson are in varied and far-reaching ministries. But their single-minded goal is the same—to be personally obedient to God.

These four ministers talked about achieving balance and effectiveness in their responsibilities to ministry, home, and relationships. As one voice, they said personal devotional time with God—in prayer, fasting, and reading the Word—is their most important commitment.

In addition, they are staunch believers in education for women in ministry. Janie has a master’s degree in Spanish and plans to earn a doctorate when "her nest is emptied." Patricia is completing her D.Min. from Fuller Theological Seminary. Cynthia holds a master of science in education and is working on a second and third master’s degree. Angie plans to continue her education in child psychology.

"We need education with the accent on the spiritual emphasis. You have to have the two," Pat said. "Someone once told me, ’Medical doctors spend 12 or more years learning how to care for the body. Shouldn’t we who care for the spirit have even more?’ That drove home to me that I have a responsibility to make certain I’m doing all I can to exegete and present His Word in all the power that it should be."

The third element to balance in ministry these women spoke about with urgency is mentors—role models who encourage, stretch, and correct. Cynthia talked about her mother’s example of living in peace. Janie said she wouldn’t have known where to start in her home missions work without many "wonderful years in foreign missions and the beautiful examples" of other missionaries. Pat still calls on a former professor who "always has the right words at the right time." Angie recalls Mark Buntain’s powerful impact on her life.

These are just four women—lifestyles of personal devotion—whom God has gifted to build His church. Pastor Cynthia Smith said it, but it is the testimony of each of these four ministers: "My little has become much in God’s hand."

Janie Boulware-Wead, Home Missionary

From the time she was a little girl, listening in on Sunday night preacher talk at her parents’ kitchen table, Janie Boulware-Wead knew she would be a missionary. More than the stories of adventure and exciting reports of the gospel’s penetrating new territory, Janie observed a "quality of missionaries’ lives that deeply impacted me. That was the directive for my life."

Confidence in God’s call has sustained Janie through sorrows and buoyed her in joyous times. God recently used her in the ministry she describes as the "most affirming of my life"—Hispanic Project 2000.

In 1991, after 16 years in foreign missions, Janie and her three children (she’s a single mom) left Mexico for Siloam Springs, Arkansas. Northwest Arkansas is a poultry production center which draws hundreds of blue-collar workers, many of them Hispanic.

Janie’s first introduction to Hispanic America was as a missions convention speaker for First Assembly of God in Siloam Springs. She spoke in Spanish for the benefit of the Latinos who attended a banquet. "They seemed so in need of a place to belong," Janie said. "You could see it on their faces."

The need for Hispanic churches was evident. First Assembly of God felt the burden, but no one came forward to plant a Spanish-speaking church in northwest Arkansas. After returning to the missions convention a second year, Janie said, "I felt impressed that I should be the one."

Leaving foreign missions was a big step for her family; however, "without the foreign missions experience, I would not have known what to do in Arkansas," Janie said. "The setting is within one of our 50 states, but it’s so much a mission field. What I learned in the foreign missions context was a marvelous preparatory journey." She is now a nationally appointed home missionary.

Today there are six Hispanic congregations, and every one has a Spanish-speaking pastor. A seventh Hispanic couple coordinates youth ministry. "Once we establish a church and have a nucleus of working believers, our task is to disciple them to the place they can multiply themselves through new preaching points, home groups, and cell groups," Janie said.

As she reflects on God’s blessing upon Hispanic Project 2000, Janie’s joy is evident. But the pioneer ministry came during trying times. Joseph (23), Jason (18), and Annie (16) are the trio without whom, Janie said, "my life would be very bleak. But these years have been a tremendous challenge—my children all going through teen years. I burn a lot of midnight oil. I determined that my children would always come ahead of ministry demands. That balance has been a tremendous struggle of physical strength and endurance."

Janie’s commitment to an orderly home and secure haven for her children meant sacrifice and flexibility. "I still wash and dry clothes at midnight or 2 a.m., trying to keep it all going. That’s when I dig deep into the resources God makes available to us as Spirit-filled believers. ’Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.’ God has been my shield, my guide, my buckler. Without Him, we never would have made it."

When tragedy disrupted the Wead family, the Assemblies of God foreign missions board opened a door to Janie and her children to continue in missions. "No one would have thought that I could ever continue in our structure. I want to say thank-you to the Assemblies of God for giving this woman an opportunity to serve."

Some have tried to deter Janie because she is a single mother in ministry. "I just smile and go on," she said. "Any woman in ministry is going to tell you that it is a tremendous challenge. Whatever I experience in gender rejection does not change my course. I absolutely disallow any bitterness. At the same time, I’m not going to stop simply because man deems God’s call invalid—there are no prejudices of gender when it comes to our Lord."

Men, Janie said, will be the vanguard of change in the church’s acceptance of women in ministry—men who "open their hearts and realize that God is sovereignly calling women to ministry as part of the answer for the tremendously needy world in which we live. Take away all the women who feel the call of God, and you greatly reduce that work force for the Kingdom."

Again at God’s directive, Janie transitioned last summer to the Division of Home Missions in Springfield, Missouri, where she is coordinating Hispanic Project 2000 at the national level. She left seven ministry couples (children in the Lord) to continue the work in Arkansas.

In her personal life, God’s directive has come full circle. Now Annie has heard God’s call to ministry. What does Janie tell her? "Trust in God and serve Him. No matter what happens, there’ll be a way made for you by the Waymaker." No one is more qualified to advise Annie than her single-missionary mom whose life and ministry are self-described testimonies to God’s "extra doses of mercy."

Patricia Cote, Military Chaplain

Patricia Cote’s day begins at 3 a.m. alone with God. This sacred time prepares her for ministry to over 1,000 men in infantry training at Fort Benning, Georgia. She meets her congregation for physical training at 5 a.m. and then accompanies them to the rifle ranges, on road marches, into field training.

"My Sunday services are not the majority of my time," Captain Cote noted. "Six days a week I basically do everything with the soldiers. Ministry of presence takes on a whole different meaning here. I know that term can be overused, but I have never before seen how important it is." Her presence is especially significant since she is the only chaplain serving Fort Benning.

After a dramatic conversion in 1982, Pat attended Southeastern College of the Assemblies of God in Lakeland, Florida, to prepare for evangelistic ministry. Her first experience with the military was student ministry in a Veterans’ Administration hospital. During seminary she worked with a chaplain in Boston’s V.A. system. "I noticed an aspect of patients’ lives that I really couldn’t identify with," she said. "They were dealing with military experiences that I had no way of understanding." Pat was commissioned in the Army in 1988 and entered the chaplaincy in 1990.

"Military chaplaincy just sort of came upon me; I didn’t really go looking for it," she said. Traditional church had never been a comfortable fit, but in the military Pat found a natural niche. "My physical propensities, the ministry I wanted to do, all my spiritual gifts and natural abilities—they just meshed."

Pat also found an open door to fulfill her call to evangelism. Soldiers cycle in and out of Fort Benning every 13 to 15 weeks. "They’re all in a crisis setting," she said. "Many times it’s the first time they’ve been away from home. They’re hurting, they’re afraid, they’re searching. It’s such fertile ground."

During the relatively short time she has to minister to each group, Pat concentrates on discipleship and Bible study. Surprisingly, because of the little personal time the soldiers have, cell groups form among the soldiers. They actively disciple each other.

"Some soldiers from 3 years ago still correspond with me and let me know what they’re doing," Pat said. "They still have a deep love for Christ. You see that you’re out there making an impact. The words Christ spoke in Matthew that we are the salt and light of the world really come true here. Either what I’m doing or not doing makes a statement. I am salt and light. The question is, ’Am I effective salt and light?’

"I sit in my private prayer closet and see shortcomings and faults, yet soldiers say to me, ’I don’t want church, but I want whatever you have.’ That is humbling," she said.

God miraculously cleared many obstacles to place Pat in the military and especially at Fort Benning. A legal loophole was found—her battalion is a training infantry, and troops are not deployed—and Pat is the first woman assigned to an infantry unit. This is an example of the affirmation and support the military has shown Pat—a positive ministry field for her, she said.

Because she represents a different role for women than some religious traditions and church stereotypes incorporate, Pat has been marginalized in some nonmilitary settings. "I don’t always feel accepted as an ordained minister," she said. "When I felt the call to ministry, I needed to know that I was not out of line with God. I’m very solid on what the Bible says."

Pat promised God she would walk through doors He opened, but she would not fight any battles to make a statement about women in ministry. "We can get discouraged with the obstacles, but there’s not a ministry out there that does not have obstacles. Men have obstacles, too. They’re just different from mine."

Pat has been compelled to address disparaging comments directed toward her family. Her husband Bill, an electrical engineer, homeschools their two daughters, Hannah (8) and Kristen (6). "Bill recognizes that this is an opportunity most fathers never have," Pat said. "He enjoys what he’s doing. He has a quiet strength about him and trusts that God has his family in control. Our gifts dovetail. It may not be traditional, but it is the meshing of two gifts to God’s glory."

Shouldn’t the church also benefit from both men and women’s gifts? Pat asked. "I grieve for the church sometimes. So many untapped gifts are lying dormant and frustrated. We need to see female leadership as well as male. They complement one another. The very verses that justify our Pentecostalism are the same ones that give equality to women."

Pat’s unique ministry as a female pastor in a military setting guarantees challenges and rewards. "I’ve jumped out of airplanes and done things I had never thought of," she reflected. "I feel God’s strength, and I feel His pleasure when I use it. That’s reassuring to me, because I know it’s coming from God. I couldn’t do this if it weren’t from Him."

Cynthia Smith, Pastor, Radiant Life Ministries, Pittsburg, California

Cynthia Smith is a minister, but she had no plans to be a pastor. When she obeyed God’s directive to establish a healing station in Pittsburg, California, she often reminded people at Radiant Life Ministries (RLM) who called her "pastor" that RLM was not a church, and she was not their pastor. She always encouraged people to find a good church and join.

In 1990, 4 years after RLM began responding to the community’s needs, its myriad of ministries and the regular Sunday afternoon service was incorporated into a church. Cynthia became pastor of this "rescuing church."

"We feel a strong call that our church needs to look like our community," Cynthia said. "We are willing and excited to take hurting people. Hurting people tend to hurt others and come with fewer resources. A rescuing church is involved in their total life—not just their spiritual life. Our ministry goes beyond preaching what God says about wholeness and love to applying that and walking with people as they go through the process."

The community is needy. People are transient, homeless, hungry, and hopeless. An RLM home for AIDS victims is the only such facility in East Contra Costa County. The church runs daily feeding programs, provides counseling and referrals, has opened a transitional men’s home and a short-term overnight shelter, a clothing outreach, extensive children’s ministries, and plans for educational programs and a free clinic.

"We want to do well in whatever we do," Cynthia said. "We never started out to do it big. I believe in excellence in ministry. If you do it well, it grows."

Cynthia’s parents were her early role models for pursuing excellence. When she was in the eighth grade, a counselor told her it was unrealistic for her, a black female, to schedule college prep courses. "I told her, ’I didn’t know that. My father told me I could do anything I wanted to do,’" Cynthia said. "My father didn’t tell me, but he had a talk with that counselor. I often think of that when I sit in graduate classes today or when I’m teaching a college class. We need to know we can do all things through Christ who transcends us. Negative things only sharpen us. We are seasoned by the experiences of life."

A teacher by profession, Cynthia said she was hesitant to become Pastor Smith. "I was afraid even to say I felt God was calling me to preach, let alone pastor. It’s hard being a woman in ministry. I often say to my friends, ’You finish the service, go home, and lie down. I finish, go home, and cook dinner.’ I would say to any young woman who feels the call of God in her life that God will confirm that call to everyone around her without her ever speaking a word."

Claude, Cynthia’s husband, was the voice of confirmation she needed to hear. "He is so totally the man God called him to be, it frees me to be the person God called me to be," Cynthia said. "There is absolutely no competition. If you’re married, God is not going to call you to do something your family is not in agreement with. We’re one another’s best friend, best buddy, and staunch supporter. My family is the center of my life and always has been. God has honored that." Sons Thomas (24) and Scott (23) are two proud supporters.

"As women, when we rest in the Lord and in the call of God, we can do well what God calls us to do," Cynthia said. The community of Pittsburg has recognized Cynthia in previous years by naming her Outstanding Woman of the Year and Humanitarian of the Year for East Contra Costa County. Television is another outreach Cynthia uses as hostess of two television programs.

First and foremost, Cynthia nurtures her relationship with God. "Number one, I give time to it," she said. "I give place to it. I can’t live without it. I’m a simple person with a simple faith. All I have learned only leads me to know that I need to know Him more. A fool believes he has become so valuable to the world and the kingdom of God that he no longer has time for the Lord."

God’s directive to Cynthia to establish the "healing station along the side of the road" has grown to an outreach ministry that by faith meets the $11,000 monthly mortgage payment to purchase and renovate the old shopping center RLM moved to in 1987. Cynthia, or "pastor" as she answers to now, shepherds her flock in the spirit of the Shepherd in her beloved Psalm 23.

"You don’t need to walk hard," she said. "You don’t need to be a man—you don’t need to compete—you just need to settle who you are in the Lord and walk in that. The desire of my heart is to be found faithful to the Lord—not faithful to people or faithful to ministry but faithful to the Lord."

Angie Thomson, missionary associate under Missions Abroad Placement Service Appointment

Although he’s dead, and his regime fallen, the legacy of Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu haunts Romania still. His government hoarded the country’s resources, leaving nothing for the care of its citizens. He taxed couples who had fewer than five children, presuming to build a strong nation. Today those children reflect the consequences of Communism’s evil. Addicted to glue, exposed to frigid winters, relegated to the sewers, and helpless to fend off abusers, thousands of Romanian children cannot comprehend hope. The 150,000 street children in Bucharest alone have not heard about the hope that transcends all evil.

Angie Thomson is showing them, one child at a time. Angie’s vision and God’s miracles have transformed a dilapidated Bucharest building into the City of Hope—a home for Romania’s neglected children.

In 1992 Angie left her management position at Digital Equipment Corporation in California and sought God’s direction. She was asked to lead a relief team to a Romanian orphanage. What she saw devastated her.

"It was the middle of winter and icy cold," she remembers. "It was a government-run orphanage housing hundreds of small children. They had no winter clothes. Many of them didn’t have shoes. Some had hepatitis. I cried for weeks."

Angie soon learned the plight of children who didn’t even have an orphanage to call home. She teamed up with Cristian Soimaru and visited Bucharest. "We were standing over a sewer hole, and 12 children crawled out. All of them were sniffing glue. They were all barefoot in subzero weather. They begged us for a place to live—for anything we could give them. I felt like God had spoken to me to do something."

Where could she start? The miracles began. A Romanian parliamentarian, who is a Christian, arranged for a building. The city donated it with the stipulation that it be renovated and function as a home for street children within 6 months. "Romanian authorities don’t want the country to be known only for all these needy children," Angie said. "There is no support for the street children. They are considered an embarrassment."

First, the funds to renovate the building were donated. Miracle by miracle, City of Hope rose out of dilapidation. August 30, 1994, within 2 weeks of the 6-month deadline, Angie and Cristian (now City of Hope director) brought the first boys home. Most needed three or four showers; they were covered with body lice and sores; their meager clothes were filthy.

Angie grew up a missionary kid in Latin America. "I saw poverty in Latin America," she said. "I saw poor children, but they ran home to their moms and dads. I believe orphans are special to God. Isaiah 58 addresses taking care of the fatherless and meeting the needs of the dying. The Lord says that true religion, true spirituality, is caring for widows and orphans."

When she was 12, Angie said, the Lord gave her a specific call to missions unrelated to her missionary background. At Bethany College of the Assemblies of God in Scotts Valley, California, the Lord confirmed her call. After graduation, Angie took a management job to pay her school bill, knowing that the corporate world would not be her ultimate destination. God used that experience to prepare her for ministry in Romania. As a young woman with international responsibilities, she gained skills managing people and cultures.

"I was respected for the position I held and the job I did versus whether I was single, married, female, male, 30, or 50," she said. "I didn’t have any experiences with people looking at me through the shades of my being female or younger. I have approached what I do in Romania the same way."

Responses to her as a single female missionary have not been drastically different from a corporate manager, Angie said, although she has sometimes sensed people’s reluctance to hear her bigger vision for Romania’s children. "A few people have a condescending attitude, rather than believing I have the wherewithal to do what God has called me to do and that He has spoken to me strongly and individually." Angie, 33, is quick to say no one has been negative. "Because of the need of the children, people see that something larger has to be done," she said. "There is no time to do secondary things. We need to be about God’s business quickly. With a God-given confidence, we can affect destiny in a powerful way."

Angie’s larger vision is a minicity on 10 acres in Bucharest where as many as 200 children will have their total needs met by individual homes, a school, a chapel, a vocational training center, a recreational facility, and a Christian business. "This campus is planning ahead for what the children need to become godly individuals who make changes within their own country," Angie said. "I want this to be a place where there can be ongoing hope."

Melinda Booze is the manager/senior editor for the Assemblies of God Commission on Discipleship’s Discipleship Digital Design Team. She previously served as founding editor of On Course magazine, the Assemblies of God magazine for teens.