Living Behind the Veil

I'm often asked what I wear in Afghanistan and what it's like to wear a veil. It's freedom. Freedom to have a bad hair day, freedom to arrange my chadar to conceal the curve of my breasts and backside, freedom to not be an expatriate for a little while. It means freedom to hide even on the street from the Afghan men's eyes which seem to strip me naked.
When I relax my shoulders and walk less purposefully, less confidently, my eyes downcast and covered by sunglasses, I pass for an Afghan woman. I hear the men whisper in Dari, "Is she a foreigner or local woman?" I chuckle but am silent. On the street, I'm also a free target....freely exposed to groping, sexual innuendos whispered to me as a man bicycles by, free to have stones thrown at me, freely seen as no one's wife, daughter, sister, mother, friend, or boss. I step inside my gate, and remove my chapan and chadar. Now I'm someone's boss, motherhood returns to me as little steps run to greet me, and I receive a kiss from my adoring husband. Now I'm free to his loving and gentle eyes which know and enjoy my curves, free to once again be under the protective umbrella of being a wife, mother, friend, colleague, boss, niece, sister, daughter, woman.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019


There are the 3 Ghosts that Haunt the Evangelical Church, graciously shared by Jen Wilkin.

Then there's the recent letter of coming to reality by Beth Moore.  I was always embarrassed when told she regularly stated: "I'm not teaching you men here."  I'm so glad she's grown on this issue. Pastor Thabiti Anyabwile responded to her with a gracious  apology of his own. 

But the gender wars of the American Church are not that way in the Global Church or on the mission field.

My Kenyan sisters don't face the same issues I do on a Sunday morning. Women preach and and women.

And I was shocked and quite nervous last summer to be invited to teach the Bible (devotionally) in Europe to a well-known translation group (more men then women in that group).

On the mission field, it is not uncommon all over the world for women to take leadership, to plant churches, disciple men up into leadership, and more.

It's when we return back home (to USA) for descriptions of what women on the mission field do, that we enter back into a misogynist interpretation and description.



a person who dislikes, despises, or is strongly prejudiced against women.

First, there are also ghosts in the reporting of women in missions and secondly, how they are treated by pastors, theologians, and churches back home.

In our day, we see this when a single women is given an evening service to "share" but a single man is given the morning sermon to "preach."

Since so many churches no longer have evening services, the single missionary woman is relegated to the Tuesday night Women's Bible Study, or 90 seconds on a Sunday morning with the pastor standing next to her.

The Current Debate: Distorted Facts and Theology:

1. David Barrett & Todd Johnson's stats show that the ratio for foreign missionaries is 54% men and 46% women but the projected figure shows the women will outstrip the men by 2025. See

Not sure where buried on this page that a man found the quote above, but I couldn't find it.

I normally love and appreciate all the statistical research Barrett (did) and Johnson still does.  Theirs is a valuable service to the Global Church.

But this just sounds off, if it is truly what they have published. Is it possible Barrett and Johnson were not counting the wives of the men as "the missionary"?  That would be totally wrong. It would be helpful for Johnson to clarify where and how they arrived at this figure, as there is overwhelming anecdotal evidence that the contrary is true, that there are a higher majority of women then men in numerous missions, both in N America and from the Global South.

A married woman is as much a missionary as the single woman. To say anything less is to once again, impose white American male evangelical patriarchy on the married Christian woman  #churchtoo.

Patriarchy is a social system in which men hold primary power and predominate in roles of political leadership, moral authority, social privilege and control of property. Patriarchy is associated with a set of ideas, a patriarchal ideology that acts to explain and justify this dominance and attributes it to inherent natural differences between men and women.
The Bible no where sanctions Patriarchy. Jesus exploded all stereotypes and ways of interacting with women. Patriarchy is man's sinful treatment of women and an Evangelical rationalization of how women should be treated.

2. There are male mission leaders who say that if a woman is allowed leadership or the preaching role, then those encouraging her are heretics because they are not following the Bible. Hmmm, God must be a heretic, as He seems to have used women planting and leading churches for the last 2000 years to further His Kingdom. See this post. 

3. John Piper doesn't think a woman should be in the role of elder on the Mission field, saying it would be disobedient to the Bible. See this link here. He goes on to say that if a woman is leading on the mission field, when a man comes along, the woman will naturally want him to lead even if she is doing a fine job of it, just because he is the man.  I'm not the smartest person, but isn't this an inconsistent application of the Complementarian View in direct conflict with the sound teaching of Scripture???


My experience: 

How many times have I suffered through a poorly exegeted sermon in an International Church, and had no opportunity to remedy it, simply because I am a woman?  Last I checked, just having a [male organ] does not make one fit to teach or lead or be an elder. I would tend to think that if it was THAT IMPORTANT the Bible would be VERY clear if it was sin for a woman to be an elder (and that's without a microscopic view of the translation Greek embedded in a 1st Century Hebrew Rabbinical worldview using Hillel's Rules of Interpretation).

How many times have I seen a totally gifted woman - married or single - ready for leadership, spiritually gifted in administration and empowering others, with extensive time on the field in the culture with fluent language skills, but she is passed over for mission field team leadership simple because it needs to go to the man on the team. Yes, that one, the one who can't speak the local language as well, doesn't know the culture and who has no clue about administrative details?  This is some of the worst misogyny on the mission field, usually dictated by the sending organization back in the USA.  

At the same time, not just any woman should be given a leadership, preaching, or teaching role.  That would be militant feminism.  We don't "choose a minority" just to have a minority and diversity. They should be women who fit the description of elders and mature women as described by Paul.  Women who know how to hold their tongue and how to speak with wisdom.  Women who know how to lift up men and women, and not usurp authority or have a "chip" on their shoulder against men. Those type of women are incredibly damaging, as much as a sexist man is.

We should choose elders and leaders who are anointed by the Spirit. As it was in Moses' time, the Prophets's time, and the 1st Century church, so it is in ours.

Let's take a brief look at some more recent history: (Excerpted from a paper by Marti Smith):

A. The Significant Presence of Women in Missions

In spite of the challenges women in many times and places have faced by following God’s call in missions, they have followed him in numbers. By 1910, more women than men were serving in missions.

(1) In the coming years the numbers of women would continue to climb until women in some areas outnumbered men by 2:1.

(2) Statistical studies on the topic are few, but one in the late 1980s, a survey of 19 mission agencies representing 20,333 missionaries, showed that 56 percent of them were women, with unmarried women outnumbering unmarried men six to one.

(3) A more recent report, from 2002, found that some 54 percent of Southern Baptists’ 5,241 missionaries were women, about a fourth of them single.

(4) In short-term missions as well as in situations that are considered too dangerous to send families, including many areas with a Muslim majority, the foreign mission force is composed largely of workers who are single, and a majority of these laborers are women.

Representatives of Frontiers, which works solely in the Muslim world, report that they are seeing women respond to the call in great numbers. In 2002 women comprised 75 percent of their short-term team applicants.

(5) Anecdotal evidence produces similar numbers. In a 2002 personal interview, a woman working with Operation Mobilization reported that of the 100 people working with her agency in one Asian country, 60 were women and 40 were men; and in ratios that seem fairly typical, these included 35 married couples, 25 single women, and five single men. Colleagues currently studying in Yemen say the expatriate community in their city includes 26 couples, two single men, and 21 single women. We must conclude that women have a significant presence in the mission force: not that of a minority, but a majority.

What is astonishing is that the American Church debates these issues as a matter of life and death (heresy and not heresy) when people by the tens of thousands are going to hell every single day.
What does it matter if it's a woman or man leading and teaching them to understand the Gospel Truth? 

See Kenneth Bailey's excellent exegesis of Paul's complex thought and Rabbinical cultural commentary in his book, Paul Through Mediterranean Eyes.    

I wept when I read his chapter on women's role in the church.  Ladies - his interpretation will sooth and heal your bruised souls, and men, this will empower you to discuss interpretation of Scripture with those who want to continue to marginalize women in the Church. 

Also, take a look at Dr. Skip Moen's thorough exegesis and discussion of the role of women from Genesis to Revelation. 

Finally, pick up a copy of "How I Changed My Mind About Women in Leadership: Compelling Stories from Prominent Evangelicals" edited by Alan Johnson.  Noteworthy is Stuart Briscoe's discussion of the values in tension of stewardship of the talents vs. a potentially misunderstood one single verse of Paul.  He chose the stewardship value and encouraged his wife and daughter to preach and teach.

I was also impressed when I saw that I. Howard Marshall, one of the most preeminent conservative New Testament Theologians of our time also contributed to Alan's book. His New Testament Theology is the gold standard used in seminary classes today.

Oh, and I was an elder of the CCCK - Christian Community Church of Kabul, under the blessing of my husband (who is way more progressive than me particularly on this issue) and the leadership of the (male) pastor and with permission of our male mission leadership. I was one of 3 women on the elder board, along with 3 additional men and the pastor.

I think these "gray" areas are why Jesus gave us a tool to navigate them quite well when He taught the Sermon on the Mount, particularly Matthew 7: 15-17:

15. Beware of false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16. By their fruit you will recognize them. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit...
Perhaps we need to start a #missionarywomentoo movement. 

Related Posts
Women's Bodies as Battlefield - conservative Evangelicals highest domestic violence rate in USA.
Christianized Purdah
#silence is not spiritual
response to #missionarywomentoo
What if the Good Samaritan was an Orthodox Sunni Muslim Woman?
Sexual Harassment in Cross-Cultural Work
Women with a Wartime Mentality
A Tribute to the Single Woman Missionary
Androcentric Translation: A Poem


(1) Ruth Tucker, From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya (Grand Rapids: MI, 1983), p. 232.
(2) Tucker, p. 232.
(3) Howard Erickson, “Single Missionary Survey,” Fundamentalist Journal, January 1989, p. 27, cited in John Piper’s Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1991), p. 23. The foreword to this book, which addresses single men and women, includes some very helpful thinking on the topic of singleness and includes thoughts from a number of single missionaries throughout history.

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