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101 years later...

I am a bit of a history nerd.  My favourite corner at the PAOC International Office is in the archives.  You could lock me in there for days, and I would not complain.  (Just remember to bring me the occasional sandwich…oh…and Starbucks coffee please.)  Recently, with the help of our PAOC archivist, James Craig, I started to explore the history of women in PAOC. I had begun to lead the National Women’s Network and firmly believe that we cannot know where we are going unless we understand where we have been.  

Oh the places PAOC women have been! 

Did you know that PAOC women began to organize in 1915?  (Let me do the math for you…that is 101 years ago!)  That means that women began organizing within our movement before we even officially became a movement. Under the direction of Mrs. A. H. Argue, a Women’s Missionary Society group was established in the Winnipeg congregation. Their purpose was to sew for local and District needs as well as overseas missionaries. As members moved out of that church to other places in Canada, they would set up similar groups. Ethel Bingeman, who was the first National Women’s Ministries director appointed, under the general supervision of the Missionary Secretary, George Upton in 1944, wrote in her records “women were busy about their Father’s business, serving as a great blessing to the local churches. They were all busy assisting the many home mission’s churches as well as overseas missionaries.”

Under the leadership of Mrs. Gladys Lemmon in the 1950s, "... thousands of our Christian women are praying, visiting hospitals and shut-ins, doing house -to-house visitations, wrapping thousands of pounds of literature, distributing thousands of tracts and standing back of all our Christian workers at home and abroad."  Mrs. Elma Scratch, the fifth National WMC leader, activated PAOC women to "get the vision" that the mission field was the whole world including their homes, neighbourhoods as well as the far off reaches of the world.  She said, "I would love to see Christian homes by the thousands across Canada get that extra room set up, move over and include the lonely, lost child at our table and in our hearts."  PAOC women have a long history of Spirit-empowered, outward-focused, fruitful mobilization! 

Vitality defined is “the capacity for survival or for the continuation of a meaningful or purposeful existence.”  If we are honest, in many parts of Canada, WM has lost its vitality. Women’s ministries “ain’t what it used to be!”  Programming that “worked” a generation ago is no longer proving effective. It would be easy to despair and give up, but I believe that PAOC women still have an essential part in God’s story.  Our form may need to change, but our function has not changed. Alan Hirsch states, “We must remain committed to constant critique of the structures and rituals we set up and maintain…” 

The National Women’s Network (made up of District Women’s Leaders) engaged in this critiquing process last fall.  Celebrating the past, with anticipation for the future, we together discerned our mission, as leaders of PAOC women.  

We determined that: we exist to empower, activate and mobilize, through the power of the Holy Spirit, every PAOC woman into the mission of God, here in Canada and abroad.  

Let’s unpack it a little further.

  • By “Empower”, we mean that we equip women with what they need to move forward and thrive in the Mission that God has for them.  This equipping includes skills training, resources, and opportunities.  We believe in women and let them know that through God, “they can!”
  • By “Activate”, we mean that we love action!  We ignite and spur women on to great things.
  • By “Mobilize”, we mean we gather teams of women around shared vision and goals, preparing them for purposeful action. 
  • By “Every PAOC woman”, we mean every woman connected with PAOC (including those traditionally outside the “WM sphere.”)  This includes every age group and every cultural group (including women from the 37 distinct cultural groups represented in PAOC).  We recognize and value the unique contributions of all.
  • By “Mission of God”, we mean God's mission to reclaim the world and reconcile everything and everyone to Himself.  As “sent ones,” we are invited to participate in His mission.
  • By “Power of the Holy Spirit”, we mean that we are not about “good ideas.”  We are Spirit-led, rooted in prayer so that we can together discern “God directives” that come from the very heartbeat of God.
  • By “in Canada and Abroad”, we mean the mission of God is all around us…both in our neighbourhoods and around the world.

It is a big dream! How will we begin to live out this mission?  There are a couple of ways that we have already started…

      ZOE Projects – ZOE Projects, an initiative of PAOC International Mission, connects Canadians with the work that our PAOC Global workers and National Partners are doing with women around the globe.  We work in four keys areas: Health, Human Trafficking, Economic Empowerment and Education…all with a heart for spiritual transformation. ZOE Projects educates and offers tangible avenues to get involved.       

     ZOE Discipleship - We believe that every woman is given a unique "deposit" of gifts and passions that God wants to use for His purposes!  Through ZOE Leadership, we empower, activate and mobilize everyday women to respond to the nudging of God.

 

Are you interested?  The story of PAOC women is far from over!

Check out our website (www.zoenetwork.ca) and look for us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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A "New Generation of Ruths"...a call to PAOC women from David Wells

David Wells

Our guest blogger today is David R. Wells, General Superintendent of the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada.  David has always been a strong supporter of ministering women within our fellowship and today he shares with us how his theology surrounding the role of women was "fleshed out" through the example of his mother.

by David Wells

I’ve pondered numerous times why I have the convictions I do regarding the shared place I believe women have to fulfill their calling in ministry to God and others.

I know I have worked through at various times the theological, philosophical and cultural considerations to come to those convictions.

I could reiterate most of them in a conversation…at least on a good day. In fact if I had written this blog when first asked I’m sure that is what you would now be reading.

But something happened in the meantime. My Mom passed away.

We should have a clear theological and philosophical basis for our convictions. With that understood my observation is that it is in the crucible of relationships and experiences that those convictions get fleshed out.

In fact if they are not reinforced in real life they simply become items of mental assent that do not pragmatically influence our lives.

Ruth Wells

So when we consider the shared place women have to fulfill their ministry to God and others actual persons come to mind, none more than my mother, Ruth Wells.

My Mom was not necessarily concerned about having a platform on which to publicly proclaim her biblical insights nor was she going to serve at many decision making tables. That said she certainly would have expected that women so called would have the freedom to do so.

She strongly believed in the Spirit’s gifts being expressed through both God’s daughters and sons.

If the evangelist was a women named Eunice or the worship leader’s name was Ruby that was great. Thus Mom’s daughters and granddaughters are free to be whoever God wants them to be.

Mom herself was of a generation where women were expected to marry, have children and make sure they were raised with love and discipline. She did all those admirably. Yet in the mid-1960’s with five young children economic circumstances and her own strong sense of responsibility motivated her to work full time. Nevertheless that did not stop her from volunteering in ministry at our church and run an open house full of hospitality and nonstop food. All that while helping children and eventually grandchildren to do their homework and get to their school and music lessons and sporting events.

This life of sacrificial service was rooted in the deep relationships of a close knit Danish immigrant community.

Her mother passed away when she and her two sisters were all eight and under. Their family’s relatives and the community rallied around her father and the girls. On immigrant farms in the 1930’s and 40’s there wasn’t a lot of debates regarding roles and responsibilities especially when tragedy had come knocking and survival was at stake. Work got done by young and old, men and women. Family looked after family, neighbor looked after neighbor.

Those values of mutual respect, hard work, hospitality and love for God and others continued beyond the farm to a marriage, a family, a church and multiple relationships.

As one man who knew my Mom when he was a college student wrote, “Mom Wells will always be in our heart and our thoughts. I will never forget how this Angel took care of me when I was without a place to live. She fed me when I was hungry and gave me shelter. She truly was My Angel.”

No one had to tell my Mom she was free to minister as she was called. Who was going to tell her otherwise? Now anyone who knew her, understood there was steel under that velvet!

I pray for a whole new generation of Ruths.

Women whose calling by the Spirit is forged by a sense of love for God and others that causes them to tenaciously do what they are called to do whatever anyone else says… all with solid theology and a good philosophy of ministry of course!

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Whose Shoulders Are You Standing On?

In the past few years the plight of marginalized women has globally become a "hot topic".  It could seem that ZOE Projects is simply jumping on the bandwagon, but this could not be further from the truth.  Canadian Christian women have always been active in their work with the vulnerable.  We are not jumping on a bandwagon, instead we we are simply returning to our roots of action...and we stand on some pretty strong shoulders! Here are just a few examples:

Nellie McClung

Nellie McClung

Leader of the "Famous Five" (Check our more here.), Nellie was born in Ontario in 1873 and raised in Manitoba.  She was a passionate womanand her goal in her own words was to "be a voice to the voiceless and a defender of the weak".  It is hard for us to believe, but at that time in the eyes of Canadian law, women had no legal rights in terms of voting, finances, property, children and legal recourse in the matter of spousal abuse.  Women were not actually classified under Canadian law as "persons".  She was involved in the temperance movement because McClung saw fathers and husbands drinking aware the family's wages, leaving their wives and children hungry.  In the early 1900's McClung led the women of Manitoba to become the first in Canada to win the right to vote.  She went on to fight "The Persons Case" all the way to the Privy Council in Britain...where women were finally declared "persons".  She is recognized as being one of the most influential social activists in Canada's history.

Coralee Haist

Miss Coralee Haist was born in Drumbo, Ontario in 1889.  In 1917, she and her sister left for Hong Kong on the "Empress of Japan".  It was there that she began a vibrant ministry in a refugee area that had great social need.  During her 30 years there, she establishing two schools and a church.  It was however not without personal cost as she experienced isolation and fought both Malaria and Smallpox.  It was not an easy journey.

Joy Smith

Joy Smith

Joy Smith is a present-day Canadian politician that spearheaded the national Canadian action plan to combat human trafficking.  Check our more here. She has described her self as "ordinary" but she could not escape the burning desire to do something.  She works to ensure that every Canadian man, woman and child is safe from manipulation, force or abuse of power designed to lure and exploit them into the sex trade or forced labour.  She is doing this through education the public and providing funds and support to front-line organizations that rescue and rehabilitate victims.

These are our foremothers...and the crazy thing is...we could go on and on...

This legacy of faith, strength, compassion, resourcefulness and determination has been passed to us...What will we do?

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