By Kirk Bookout
Children of Promise was founded with a heartfelt desire to help children among the poor of the world by meeting immediate needs, and by making a long-term impact. In doing this, other positive things have happened, and continue to happen, in powerful ways. One way we see this is in the role of women in many countries we serve. This is often reflected in societies that have not traditionally offered opportunities for women.
For example, when Children of Promise received the first list of young children to be sponsored from Kalahandi, India, each child was a boy. Jean Johnson, our first director, and her husband Sidney, asked, “Where are the girls?” The response was to ask why Children of Promise would want girls in the program in the first place, when they would just marry anyway. The Johnsons stood firm. From the beginning, Children of Promise has required programs to submit the same number of girls and boys for sponsorship.
Initially some countries would not have sent girls’ names to Children of Promise. Yet today, many tell us Children of Promise was right to insist on including girls in the program.
In the twenty-nine countries where Children of Promise serves, twenty-five of forty-one of our national directors of Children of Promise programs are women.* They are leaders, empowered to make decisions, oversee the challenges of individual locations, give guidance, and work with church leaders. One of the greatest strengths of Children of Promise is our amazing leadership around the world. Many of these great leaders are women.
Another example of an outstanding female leader among our programs is Marlene. Marlene was raised in a Christian home but drifted from the faith. She was a street vendor struggling to help her four young daughters. When her daughter Jewell entered the program, she was able to attend school and church. Marlene attended church with her daughter and ultimately rededicated her life to Christ. Since then, she has been a vibrant Christian. Now she serves as a key staff member of Children of Promise in the Philippines. Recently, the Church of God there named Marlene the new leader of the Church of God in the Philippines.
Many of our Children of Promise young women are opening new doors of service and leadership in their countries. We recently talked with a Children of Promise director who told of a young girl in whose family there had been extreme abuse. Surrounded by the nurture of and love of the church, growing as a follower of Christ, and equipped because of her education, she is now graduating and going to seminary to become a pastor.
At Children of Promise we do not need to look for stories of girls who are making a difference as adults. We see it consistently, and we see the impact in every country we visit. As young women receive an education, more and more graduate and move into professional positions. Children of Promise sponsors change children’s lives every day and give hope for the future. We see it in the lives of girls and women. With more girls receiving an education through Children of Promise, we see more opportunities opening for these women. Many are in countries who have a cultural view of women that can make advancement or leadership very difficult. Yet we see women leading Children of Promise, in their churches, and emerging as leaders in society.
We work with many women who are pastors and have two great purposes—to love and honor God, and to help children. They perform tremendous ministry at the highest level. The church would be crippled without these leaders. Around the world it would be devastating to Church of God congregations without women serving as national leaders, pastors, Children of Promise leaders, and local leaders. It would be tragic for these women if they did not have opportunity. It would be tragic for the church that their service, gifts, and leadership to go untapped.
From our first days in the Church of God, it has been taught that women and men are called to lead in the church as scriptural truth. While we have taught it, all too often doors of opportunity to serve in leadership are shut to women.
When we come back from visiting the countries we serve, we often realize that, while we went to serve, in going, we have been blessed. We can learn from Christians who are changing their world through dedicated sacrifice. We can learn from the women of Children of Promise.
Learn more about Children of Promise at www.echildrenofpromise.org.
*When a husband and wife serve as co-directors both were counted.