|Bible Women Spreading Word and Work Throughout Asia|
Erlincy Rodriguez, a pastor and deaconess, travels up and down Davao, Philippines, teaching five rural communities about health issues and doing three-day seminars on HIV/AIDS in Western Visayas.
She takes with her “health begins at home” manuals, translated in native tongues, with cultural images that are appropriate for her country. Though many of the women from the villages she visits cannot read, she uses a method introduced to her in a “Bible Women” training – sponsored by the United Methodist Women’s Division and developed by ProLiteracy Worldwide (formerly Laubach International).
Using a simple learning-focused technique, she teaches rural women to make herbal bath soaps for cleanliness and to make money. She trains them on using herbal plants from their surroundings for medicines. And she teaches them about HIV/AIDS and its prevention.
“I belong to where I am needed is my motto,” says Ms. Rodriguez.
It’s the motto of many Bible women – a program that is spreading rapidly and began three years ago. Their actions demonstrate how some of the greatest evangelization takes place when living out the Word.
In Malaysia, their work has already reached more than 3000 people in the rural villages of Sarawak and the remote towns of Sabah, where male missionaries and ministers refuse to go.
Christmas day marked the baptism of 85 new Christians in a longhouse in Malaysia, because of the work of Bible Women there.
Stories like those in the Philippines and Malaysia are becoming common throughout Asia as women in Cambodia, East Malaysia, Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, Solomon Islands, the Philippines, Southern India, and Indonesia work as Bible Women.
At Women’s Division trainings, “Bible Women” – as the indigenous women are called – are armed with a knowledge of HIV/AIDS, community-based health, micro-credit, domestic violence, etc. They choose the issue, based on what they see as urgent in their areas.
Together, they study the Bible – specifically focusing on Jesus’ ministry of healing, challenges and transformation.
Then, they use their knowledge as they travel – many times by foot and for days at a time -- into rural areas and towns. The treks can be brutal. The weather can be uncooperative. But these women are committed and believe this is their “calling.”
The women teach others about “burning issues” – like community health and HIV/AIDS for Ms. Rodriguez. They share Bible stories. They use materials that have been developed for their culture and situation. And, they incorporate literacy techniques throughout the entire training, so that women can learn to read.
The result -- communities are living healthier, women are becoming leaders, and many people want to become Christian because of the actions of these Bible Women.
The Bible Women program is not new to the Church. It was a program of women’s missionary societies more than 100 years ago. Re-invented in March 2001, trainings for this year are scheduled for Laos, Northern India, Southern Cambodia and the Tamil areas of West Malaysia.
The Women's Division represents United Methodist Women, a one-million member organization whose purpose is to foster spiritual growth, develop leaders and advocate for justice. Members raise approximately $20 million a year for programs and projects related to women, children and youth in the United States and in more than 100 countries around the world.
# # #
Date posted: Jan 15, 2004