Posted by: janpierce | October 3, 2010

Bible Women Then and Now

   This is a picture of a Bible Woman in India probably taken in the early 1900’s.  Her job was to work under the guidance of a missionary wife or other mission leader taking hymns, Bible verses  and Bible stories out into Indian villages. These women often traveled two by two into nearby villages where they would visit each home, offer to pray for the sick,  and bring a message about Jesus and His love for each person. Sometimes the Bible women were illiterate and could only repeat the stories and verses they had  memorized. Even so they carried large Bibles with them to distinguish themselves from Hindu women who traveled in a similar fashion and were known for bringing Hindu ceremonies which sometimes involved sexual behavior. Bible women were paid very little and gave their entire lives to the ministry. They usually walked on foot for long hours to do their jobs. Sometimes they were widows and other times they dedicated themselves to their work, giving up marriage and family life. They still exist in India today and support outreaches to women and children through churches. Sometimes Bible women do basic health care including delivering babies and teaching basic health lessons. I met a young woman in her twenties living near Peddipalli in the Warangal District of A.P. who has proclaimed herself a modern-day Bible woman and who begins each day listening to direction from God as to where she should travel to share her stories about Jesus that day. She tells the stories from the Bible that powerfully impacted her when she was released from her bondage to Hindu life. As a little child she had been offered to a Hindu god in a ceremony to heal her brother and had suffered  a great deal as a result. She was given to fevers and times of mental illness due to her curse and people were afraid of her. When she was freed from that condition she was so overjoyed that she gladly gave the rest of her life to tell others about a loving God. She tells the story of the Good Shepherd who goes looking for the one lost sheep and other stories that highlight the difference between evil Hindu gods and her new loving Father. It’s a different world over there—very hard for us to understand, but that is just one reality of life in India among the poor.

In five weeks we return to India. I need to remind myself of the realities of life there as I prepare to re-enter a world that is now familiar, but not even remotely like the life I live here at home. I’ll have the chance to teach some young women who are new Christians how to read and study the Bible for themselves. They want to learn, but don’t know where to begin. I think of the dedication it must have taken for the Bible women to have walked long distances to tell about this new God who had such a different story than the ones they were taught in Hinduism. What made them willing to give their lives to this ministry for so little financial reward and with the sure knowledge that some of the people in the villages would turn them away or even harm them? The young Hindu girls I’ll teach in Allahabad have chosen Christ in spite of the fact that they may never be able to marry because of that choice. Or, they may be forced by their families to marry a Hindu man who will not allow them to openly worship Jesus. They’re willing to pay a high price for their decision. Maybe all Christian women should be Bible Women in the sense of laying it all on the line, telling our stories freely and being willing to live a life of service to others no matter the cost.

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