By Margaret Gibb
I was back on Canadian soil after spending two weeks with World Vision in Uganda and Tanzania. What I learned about the HIV/AIDS pandemic and its life-altering affects on women and children forever altered my life. How could I ever get back to normality after seeing a very different world – a world with almost insurmountable challenges?
Our meetings with community workers, single moms, grandmothers raising their grandchildren, and teenagers being Mom and Dad in child-headed households, gave me a clear picture of life in a developing country. Women were at the forefront of fighting to survive with their small gardens and meager ways to earn money.
Illiteracy and lack of education was a deep concern. Like all mothers, they wanted their children to have better lives. Education was the answer. But how, when school fees were beyond their means?
I had come from Canada with a message to African women. “God has a plan and a purpose for your life.” They listened, pondered and then shared their dreams. “I want to start a day-school for orphans,” expressed one older woman. Another painfully told of her fear of not being able to provide for her children. Most expressed their fears for their children should they succumb to HIV/AIDS.
Back in Canada, I stood at a lectern giving my opening remarks at a women’s conference. I scanned the audience. The women were all smartly dressed in business casual. They were educated. They lived in a country that has a well-developed infrastructure in place for education, health care, social assistance and pensions.
My message to this audience was one I had spoken dozens of times: “God has a plan and a purpose for your life.” Yet, throughout the delivery of my message, I was in conflict. “Why do Canadian women even need to hear this message again?” “Why is there a need to bolster self-worth and reiterate purpose?” “Why do Canadian women live with such a small vision of themselves and their potential?”
After years of leading women in Canada and now in my fourth year of leading Women Together, a Canadian ministry to come alongside women in developing countries, my perspective has changed from asking the hard questions to taking action.
I am now very aware that Canadian women must rise and become concerned about what is happening to women throughout the world. We have the skills, abilities, expertise, experience and the resources. Enough of women’s gatherings and conferences here in our nation that keep sounding the same message. Yes, we do matter and we do have a purpose, but that message must stir us to step out and engage women living in cultures who also matter and have a purpose. God’s vision must compel us to look beyond ourselves and break the bubble of the West that keeps us isolated from the real world.
It is now time to engage in a global perspective. We must understand that the Gospel message is universal. The Bible is not a Western Book. The North American “what’s-in-it-for me” approach has become wearisome and unfulfilling.
Women in developing countries have much to teach us. They are closer to Biblical culture than we are. They have a grasp of the power of the Gospel and how it can transcend tradition, deep biases and trendy culture. Its transforming power in women who have no power and no voice is welcomed and received. They become change-makers and leaders in their communities.
There is a new calling to women in Canada. It is time to engage in global conversations and come alongside women globally. In the process we will find ourselves, grasp our calling and fulfill our divine purpose.