At Missions Fest Edmonton in February, I’ll be teaching a workshop called “The Plight of Women in the World.” While preparing my material, I’ve read some stories that are enough to make one’s hair turn grey. It’s difficult to fathom the evil of mankind’s heart. My life is shamefully easy compared to millions of other women.
Hagar was one of these women. Remember her? She was Sarai’s Egyptian servant, considered more a possession than a person of worth. Sarai, fed up with the shame of being barren, forced Hagar to sleep with Abram for the purpose of impregnating her. The culture said the child would belong to Sarai. Talk about the plight of a poor slave girl!
The story goes on to say that, once pregnant, Hagar treated Sarai with contempt. Sarai, in turn, treated Hagar so harshly that she ran away into the wilderness. Pregnant, abused, homeless, and now hopeless – what a mess. At the same time, her story is a beautiful picture of God’s mercy for women in need.
Genesis 16:7 (ff) says the angel of the Lord found Hagar in the wilderness, sitting along a road by a spring of water. He asked her two key questions: “Where did you come from?” and “Where are you going?” Today, these two questions aptly address the needs of broken, hurting women around the world whose lives feel as forsaken as the wilderness to which Hagar fled.
How might they answer the question, “Where have you come from?” Their answers might say, “I came from an abusive marriage,” or “I came from a country where army soldiers killed my family and kidnapped and raped me,” or “I came from a village where all the adults my parents’ ages died of AIDS and only children were left to care for younger children.”
How might they answer the question, “Where are you going?” Well, that’s probably more difficult. Hagar needed help with that one, and many women in hopeless situations today feel the same. They don’t know where they’re going because they feel trapped, imprisoned in their own homes or villages. Without an education and no means to pursue it, their future looks grim. Considered more a possession than a person of worth, they feel they have no value other than providing sexual gratification, bearing children – many of whom die before their fifth birthday – and hauling water or feeding livestock.
The plight of women around the world defies the imagination…especially in cultures that defy the living God, the One who created them and called them “good,” the One who knows the number of hair on their heads, and who writes their names on His hands. But we can make a difference. We’re called to be Christ’s hands and feet, to be a voice for those who cannot speak for themselves, and to love the poor as He did.
Researching for the workshop has resulted in my being challenged to raise awareness of what women around the world are dealing with on a daily basis. As I compile more material, I’m planning to create a space on my website to post links to articles and organizations that will educate and offer creative ways to get involved. That’s one way I can be a voice on behalf of my sisters. I’ll let you know when that section is posted.
How about you? What insights can you share regarding the plight of women around the world? And what practical suggestions can you share to help a modern-day Hagar?