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Sisterhood of Faith: 365 Life-Changing Stories About Women Who Made a Difference

Released October 3, 2006, by Howard Books, a division of Simon and Schuster

Preface of Sisterhood of Faith: 365 Life-Changing Stories About Women Who Made a Difference

As I researched this book, I was inspired, intrigued, and humbled by the stories of women who have served God in spite of limitations, obstacles, and sometimes rejection. Although I had earned a master of arts in religion and had served as a director of Christian education for ten years, my background had not informed me of all that the gentle sex had accomplished in the name of Christ.

The idea for this book began germinating in the mid-1990s when I was invited to instruct a seminary course on women in ministry. As my students and I reflected on the challenges we had faced firsthand as women in ministry, the stories of other women who had done great things, often with little support, made our experiences seem less remarkable.

This book, the result of those discoveries, is meant to be read as a daily devotional, with time spent pondering the messages and responses drawn from the lives of those women.

I think of the women on these pages as big sisters and little sisters -- famous and ordinary women -- who have joined forces to build the kingdom of God. They represent all eras since the birth of the church and have served as bridge-builders between generations as they passed on their legacy of faith to natural and spiritual sons and daughters.

My main objective has been to let women know that opportunities for effective Christian service are limitless. By reading of how others have used their spiritual gifts -- in the church, in the home, in the workplace, on the mission field, on the airwaves, on the firing line -- women may discover options they never dreamed of. The women on these pages have been unstoppable. If they ran into roadblocks, they simply waved a hand and kept going -- either straight ahead or by embracing the detour.

I also wanted to encourage women, and men too, who have grown weary in ministry. Many on these pages have labored for decades with little reward. Some have faced resistance to their roles as women in leadership. Some faced danger as they took the message of freedom in Christ to women in countries where they were (or are) considered inferior to men. Many of the women in this book have faced seemingly insurmountable odds. They gave birth to and buried babies, often far from home. Some buried husbands and remained on the field to finish the work they had begun together. Some have done great things; other, small things that bring little recognition. Our personal burdens seem lighter when we read of sisters who have endured.

Finally, I wanted to shine the spotlight on women who have been hidden behind the scenes, many times behind their husbands. What do we know of Emma Moody or Idelette Calvin? What do we know of missionary wives raising families in jungle settings -- who also teach, nurse and confront the forces of evil? Many women have devoted their lives to Christian service yet have been overlooked by Christian biographers.

My criteria for including the women in this book was that, like Mary, who poured her precious perfume on the feet of Jesus, these women have poured out their lives in utter devotion to their Savior. They come from various theological backgrounds and cultures. Their interpretations of women's roles differ. But Protestant or Catholic, teachers or preachers, single or married, traditionalists or trendsetters, Victorian or postmodern -- they stand as role models of grace and dignity for us all. May their stories inspire us to serve God.

Shirley Brosius

Devotional readings from the book:

Day 63, Gertrude “Biddy” Hobbs Chambers (1883–1966)

Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31

HER SERVICE: Stenography and publishing

HER MESSAGE: No skill is too "secular" to be used for God’s glory.

HER STORY: Gertrude "Biddy" Hobbs Chambers compiled fifty books containing the sermons and teachings of her husband, Oswald Chambers, including My Utmost for His Highest, a Christian classic.

To free money for her siblings’ education, Gertrude, a native of England, quit school, taught herself shorthand, and learned to take dictation at the phenomenal rate of 250 words per minute. When Gertrude went to visit a friend in America, her mother asked Oswald, who was going to America on a preaching tour, to watch over her. He and Gertrude, whom he nicknamed Biddy, married in 1910.

Biddy took notes of Oswald’s sermons and his lectures at the Bible Training College, a London school he opened in 1911. During World War I, when Oswald volunteered as a chaplain in Egypt, Biddy took their young daughter, Kathleen, and went along. Biddy offered hospitality to scores of soldiers.

Oswald died after an appendectomy in 1917, and Biddy returned to England after the 1918 armistice. There, pen and notepad in hand, she found her calling. Without Biddy’s careful note-taking, transcription, and publishing, the life-changing words of Oswald Chambers might not have survived.

MY RESPONSE: What skill might I use for God?

Day 337, Sheila Walsh (1956–)

The good soil represents honest, good-hearted people who hear God’s message, cling to it, and steadily produce a huge harvest. Luke 8:15 NLT

HER SERVICE: Singing, speaking, and writing

HER MESSAGE: By sharing how we overcome struggles by God’s grace, we help other struggling women.

HER STORY: Sheila Walsh speaks of overcoming her struggle with depression at Women of Faith conferences. The talented musical artist has also written and contributed to several books.

Sheila grew up in Scotland, where her father died of a brain thrombosis when she was four. At age eleven she accepted Christ. After studying theology at London Bible College, Sheila worked as a musical evangelist with Youth for Christ, then hosted a show at the British Broadcasting Corporation. In 1986, with her career blossoming, she and her husband moved to Los Angeles. Her marriage ended six years later, the same year she was named co-host of The 700 Club, a Christian television show.

As Sheila worked thirteen-hour days and traveled to weekend engagements, she grew increasingly tired and dejected. Realizing she needed help, Sheila committed herself to the psychiatric ward of a hospital. She was diagnosed with clinical depression, the result of deep feelings of anger and shame, some stemming from the early loss of her father. In her book Honestly, Sheila shares how she had buried her feelings, hiding behind the persona of a successful woman. Now committed to living honestly before God and others, Sheila encourages other women to live honestly as well.

MY RESPONSE: Whom might I encourage by sharing a life story?

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