Over the past week the first cohort of the Women’s Leadership Initiative has visited sites where strong women are empowering other women to change their lives. It has not been an easy journey; heat and bugs and new food have conspired to test us all. I am so proud of the way our group has engaged all they encountered with interest, compassion, and receptivity. Thankfully, we have all stayed well!
This morning the cohort and professors departed from Bangkok and are wending their long way home today. (I do hope it is a good day since it lasts nearly two days!) Their lives will be marked by their experience here, and I pray they will be inspired by what they have witnessed. They have learned from women who have started remarkable ministries with prostitutes, children from hill tribes, and young women who have been sexually abused. They have had opportunity to converse with persons who work for human rights, facilitate justice ministries, and teach skills that keep women connected to tribal village culture without some of the inherent dangers of sexual predation.
One of the goals of the Women’s Leadership Initiative is to learn entrepreneurial skills. With vision, industry, and the supply of the Spirit, women can be transformative agents of healing and love. Through coaching, education, and professional development, these women will be instruments of grace in their congregations, communities, and far beyond. Their professors, especially Dr. Eileen Campbell-Reed and Dr. Sally D. Holt are sources of sustaining encouragement while modeling academic excellence.
No pilgrimage to Northern Thailand is complete without some time with God’s magnificent creatures, the elephants. We traveled an hour north of Chiang Mai to the Mae Sa elephant park where we fed them, were hugged and kissed by them, and saw them work and play. Most moving was observing them making lovely pictures, which prompted one of our learners to say to the professors: “If they can teach elephants to paint, you can teach us to do ministry.” Indeed, we are!
Tomorrow Holy week begins, and Christians around the world will seek to follow the deliberate movement of Jesus toward his ultimate purpose. His self-giving was without measure, and when we meet persons who are his disciples here, we catch a glimpse of what his life summons: joyful service among the least of these.
I will remain for a couple more days in Bangkok to complete some tasks and reflect on how we have seen God’s work in Thailand. This morning I am overflowing with gratitude for all we have experienced.
Molly T. Marshall
Central prepares creative leaders for diverse ministry contexts.