I would love for you guys to get to know who’s behind the face of The Marcella Project. So I’ve asked our board chair, Debbie Dunn to write a blog about what’s on her heart.

Be encouraged! – Jackie

The church in Colorado that makes a desperate plea for people to serve on their understaffed missions board, then turns away a woman with a passion for missions because they will only allow women on the board if their husbands serve with them.

The young woman who was recognized as a gifted teacher of the Word- called a “preacher woman” in her high school youth ministry and an acclaimed teacher of the gospel in her college Para church organization – who is told after college that she cannot use her preaching gift within the church she has attended since she was a child, because only men can preach.

These stories, and countless more like them, can be discouraging to those who desire to be about the work of bringing God’s Kingdom to earth; yet as discouraging as incidents like these are, I’ve recently seen signs of great encouragement – stories of a new generation of Christians who genuinely care about the work of God and have both a deep awareness of the downside of limiting half the church and a seeming unawareness of traditional gender-based limitations set by the evangelical church.

Signs of encouragement

When the University or Oklahoma chapter of the SAE fraternity recently blew up the Internet and national news over a racially charged video that went viral, my 25 year-old son posted about it on his Facebook page. The ensuing discussion, made up entirely of young men his age, was thoughtful, intellectually stimulating, and appropriately outraged at the actions of the OU fraternity members. In and of itself, the discussion was a reassurance that there are many mature, thoughtful young men, despite the less honorable ones who so often make the news. But even more encouraging was a comment posted by my son’s friend, James, toward the end of the conversation:

images-1On that subject (the university’s claim that the SAE’s were expelled from the University for creating a hostile environment), there are horrible things said about women every day that create a ‘hostile environment’ for them, but these are more accepted despite likely being more prevalent.

James then included a link to an article about the University of Oklahoma’s admittance of two football players who had been convicted of assaulting women. This comment made me pause and re-read it several times. James is in his mid-20’s, a Ph.D. candidate in chemical engineering at a prestigious European university, who is aware and willing to acknowledge the degradation women regularly face, simply because they are women. James, a follower of Jesus, gives me great hope for the future of the church.

Another encouraging sign 

Last week I was in Washington, D.C., for the International Justice Mission (IJM) Global Prayer Gathering. IJM does remarkable work in countries around the world to bring justice to the poor. For three days we hechild-poverty-young-mothers-smallard stories of dramatic rescues of girls who had been sold for sex, of slaves freed from rice mills where they had been held for years, and of IJM attorneys working around the globe to fight the impunity enjoyed by those who commit crimes against the poor.

Near the end of the conference, I was struck by the fact that the Master of Ceremonies, the person directing this unabashedly Christian conference of 2,500+ high-powered people, was a woman. Another woman was leading worship and an exceptional worship team was composed of both men and women. The IJM regional directors who lead in-country teams fighting for justice around the world and who shared stories and led prayers at the conference were made up of nearly equal numbers of men and women. My astonishment wasn’t that there were so many women in leadership roles. What was astonishing was that it was a non-issue. At this conference, where people of nearly every color, language, and nationality were working to bring justice to the poor, freedom to slaves, and aid to widows and orphans, men and women were “running hard” together to accomplish the work of the Kingdom. It was a beautiful taste of heaven and a joyful celebration of what we can accomplish when we unleash all of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

 Be encouraged

God will not be stopped. His Kingdom will come and, Lord willing, we will continue to see more and more signs of encouragement.

May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 15:5-6

DD_BW-1Debbie is the Associate Director of Spiritual Development at Austin Ridge Bible Church. She has helped her church launch a ministry to Austin’s homeless population and led discussions on how theology intersects with culture. She currently trains church staff and volunteers to write Bible studies. Debbie has served in a number of non-profit positions. She graduated from the University of Texas and has a master’s degree from Dallas Theological Seminary. Debbie has been married to Buddy for 29 years, and she and Buddy have three grown children.