What Happens When Girls Drop Out of School?

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ABOUT: What happens when girls don't get the support and opportunities they need? This is the story of Amira in Egypt, but it's a story that repeats itself over and over across the regions where Tirzah partners work.


Read Daria + Hira's story from the Arab World here.

Read Daria + Hira's story from the Arab World here.

Reflections on the Tirzah Myanmar Conference

“We feel human again.”  These words, shared by one of the women at the Tirzah Myanmar Leadership Conference in this February, describe the feelings of many in Myanmar given the changes in leadership that their nation has experienced. 

How can a change in national leadership so deeply effect these women and their communities? Under the former military rule, there was a pastor who received regular threats from the military officers in his region. They would close down the church for two to three months and then services would slowly start back up again. This cycle repeated itself regularly. Once the new party came into power, the military officer in charge surprised the pastor by delivering him a large cake, along with the promise not to trouble the church again. 

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The women on Tirzah’s Myanmar leadership team have ministered together faithfully for the past 21 years.  They led during the days when being a Christian meant facing persecution.  And they continue to lead now, when doors are opening across the nation. 

Tirzah Myanmar’s leadership conference was our first international gathering to be held outside of the capital city. For women who’d traveled to the capital for earlier conferences, this represented an exciting change where they welcomed leaders from across the globe into their own region. 

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Eighty-two women from eight different cities spent two full days together; praising God, praying for their nation and communities, enjoying each other’s company, and receiving Biblically-based leadership messages. Speakers included Tirzah leaders from four different nations across the globe. Women took detailed notes in preparation for sharing the messages with women in their own communities.

It was exciting to see that the women ranged in age from fifteen to over seventy. A group of fifteen- to seventeen-year-olds sat together, laughing, making peace signs, writing careful notes and taking everything in – the next generation of powerful Burmese women! 

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One group of women came from the city of Lashio.  Representatives from this city had attended the Yangon leadership conference years ago and had been so excited about the ministry of Tirzah that they determined to start up a chapter in their own city. At the current conference a large group of women from Lashio attended – and they added to the celebration by wearing beautiful Tirzah uniforms that they had chosen!

 

Each time we are in Myanmar, we are moved by the capacity of these women leaders to live beautiful, courageous lives.  God has been at work within them over many challenging years.  The result is women who bear the fruit of godliness, kindness, humor, gentleness and a holy boldness that knows no barriers and that gives all to make Christ known.

I am extremely grateful for the chance to connect with these passionate, Christ-like leaders!

love,

Cheryl


 

 

The Top 10 Ways Serving Has Changed My Life, pt. II

5.  Serving gives me some peace of mind about how I’m spending my time on this earth. I read a book… Sorry, I can’t remember the title. (Can you still have pregnancy brain when your baby is 13?) Anyway, I read a book in which a pastor shared that in all his years, no one on their death bed has ever asked him to park their Lexus outside the hospital window so they can see it one more time before they go. At the end, we don’t care about that stuff. We care about our personal relationships, how well we served God, did our lives have meaning. We serve God by serving people who are in pain. That’s what Jesus did. That’s the legacy that lives on. Jesus  didn’t care about people’s piety. He cared about showing love to hurting people.

4.  Serving has helped me learn how to say no.  It’s so easy to get caught up in doing good things that we don’t have time/energy for the right things.  You can spend all your time trying to be the perfect room mom, the perfect whatever.  If that’s your call, knock yourself out but if not, if you’re just trying to be seen as good, you’ll end up exhausted with a long to do list. I have three things that I know God has asked me put my service into right now (besides the people in my life) — writing, worship planning and working to help bring healing to the lives of hurting women.  That’s it.  That’s the list.  Sure, some one off opportunities come up that I do because I’m part of a community,  but if I get asked to do something that’s going to be a huge time and energy suck and it doesn’t go into one of those areas,  I’m sorry, it’s a no.

3. Serving has given me a great optimism about people and God’s amazing capacity to heal.  I hear stories that exhibit the absolute very worst that people have to offer and yet I also see acts of kindness and mercy and gentleness and forgiveness that take my breath away.  I see the human capacity to have hope and God’s willingness to respond.  Serving leaves no room for cynicism.  Being a cynic is lazy and it’s insulting to God and to people who are doing everything they can to build their own lives or the lives of others.  In serving, I see healing is possible.

2.  I’ve made some truly amazing relationships through serving.  There was a point in my life when I found myself around people who dragged me down, who encouraged my own self absorption. You meet different people when you serve.  You meet people who put their caring into action or who need your care.  You'll meet people who inspire you.  For me, that can be the women in Tirzah's programs. How can you not fall in love with a 44-year-old-woman who is thrilled to be learning to read! Sometimes, it’s the Tirzah staff and leaders who are committed — I mean seriously committed and who are smart and shrewd and so loving and giving, it’s crazy. And sometimes it’s the people who come up to me with tears in their eyes, who write checks to Tirzah,  who encourage or who decide to travel with Tirzah —all because God has touched their hearts. Those interactions feed my soul.

1.  When I serve, I feel God near me.  Don’t get me wrong.  I believe God is with us all the time.  But I feel even more closely in tune with Him when I’m involved with justice issues.  He’s so close.  There are other times when I’m off on some tangent and I feel God giving me a polite blank stare.  You know the look.  I’m pretty sure it’s the same look I have on my face when my one of my kids is trying to explain the latest anime show or a new youtube channel.  It’s not that it’s bad, I just sorta don’t get it.  If you feel like God is distant from you,  He’s not.  He’s there and serving takes you into His happy place.  The place where He’s stoked, where He’s bubbling over with ideas and insights and jokes and warmth and meaning and surprises.  Which is a pretty awesome place to be.

. . . 

Looking for ways 6-10? Read the part I of this article here. 

. . . 

Casandra Morgan-Loyer Regional Leader for North America // Casandra is an Emmy-nominated writer who joined the staff of Tirzah in January 2014. Casandra loves all kinds of stories and believes in the power of the individual's story to inform and move people to action. Her personal mission is to help women and girls thrive, prosper, believe, hope, laugh uncontrollably and know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that they matter. She gets a huge thrill out of connecting people in North America with the justice issues that impact women and girls globally and she really, really doesn't like when people are mean to those who have less power. She lives in California with her very creative husband, Erik and their two children.

The Top 10 Ways Serving Has Changed My Life

10.  Serving has saved me from spending all my time obsessing over me and mine.  I admit it. I can be self absorbed.  I can spend copious amounts of time thinking about myself, my kids, my husband, my house. Should I buy this or that, do people like me, should I get cool sculpting on my butt? Serving rescues me from myself.

9.  Serving women through Tirzah has given me a completely different view of the world. So many women in the world have little to no control over their education, their bodies, how much income they can make, who or when they marry.  That doesn’t happen in a vacuum.  We all have a part in it.  I’ve decided to allow that to impact my life.  Whatever decisions have to be made in my politics, my spending, my choice of entertainment — I want to know is anyone made more vulnerable by my decision and am I signing up for anything that is doing harm to someone.

8.  Serving has helped me have more patience as a parent.  The people I serve have opinions, ideas, needs, hopes, experiences and part of serving them is respecting that.  Guess what? Turns out kids are people, too!  Tirzah has helped me gain a better understanding of what it means to love people (including my kids) as God has made them, not as I (in my infinite wisdom, not!) think they should be.

7.  Serving gives me permission to really enjoy the things that bring me happiness and restoration.  People often ask how I can enter into truly heartbreaking circumstances.  Part of the answer is that when I get the chance to release it and really have fun, I cut loose —whether it’s worship, storytelling, vacation, family time, spa days, playing tennis.  I’m grateful and have no guilt enjoying the things He gives me to keep my spirit light and energized.

6.  Serving has made me more brave.  When you see women who have endured so much but still found the courage to try to make their lives better, it’s a kick in the pants.  What the heck am I afraid of?  Failing?  Looking dumb?  Not having all the answers?  Serving helps me get over myself and go for it.

. . .

Stay tuned for Casandra's top 5 ways next week!

. . .

Casandra Morgan-Loyer Regional Leader for North America // Casandra is an Emmy-nominated writer who joined the staff of Tirzah in January 2014. Casandra loves all kinds of stories and believes in the power of the individual's story to inform and move people to action. Her personal mission is to help women and girls thrive, prosper, believe, hope, laugh uncontrollably and know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that they matter. She gets a huge thrill out of connecting people in North America with the justice issues that impact women and girls globally and she really, really doesn't like when people are mean to those who have less power. She lives in California with her very creative husband, Erik and their two children.

Does God Love Me Less Because I'm a Girl?

Jimmy Carter is the first president I remember being elected.  I was living in what was then West Germany because my dad was in the Army and that’s where we were stationed.  The thing I remember most about that election was all the talk about The Race. Who was ahead?  Who was going to win? I was a little kid and I thought the race was actually a foot race.  (It was an Olympic year.  Who can blame me for being confused?) I pictured Carter and Ford lined up,  wearing shorts and numbers, ready to sprint to the finish line.  Imagine my disappointment and eventual disinterest when I realized our new president was chosen by votes and not by foot speed.  

President Carter’s recent return to the news because of his fight with cancer brought his book,  A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence and Power, to mind.  Published in 2014, it looks at the way religion has impacted and continues to impact the justice issues that make the lives of many women and girls so difficult. Whether you agree or disagree with his politics, President Carter’s foundation, The Carter Center, has serious street cred for its commitment to improving the lives of women and girls.

“The relegation of women to an inferior or circumscribed status by many religious leaders is one of the primary reasons for the promotion and perpetuation of sexual abuse.  If potential male exploiters of women are led to believe that their victim is considered inferior or “different” even by God, they can presume that it must be permissible to take advantage of their superior male status. It is crucial that devout believers abandon the premise that their faith mandates sexual discrimination.” (19) Carter, Jimmy. A Call to Action:  Women, Religion, Violence and Power. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2014.

Wow.  That’s a powerful statement and one that goes to the core of the sincere faith and the deeply held beliefs of many.  Some loving and faithful Christians believe women are meant to be subordinate to men. Other loving and faithful Christians don’t believe that at all.

I’m in the crowd who believe God created women and men to be equals.  I know both sides find support for their arguments in scripture.  I’m not going to make all those arguments here but if you want to read more on the issue, there’s an excellent book called,  Why Not Women?. You can find it in the Resources section of our website. 

I grew up in a loving church.  Like a lot of churches, it was trying to sort these issues out.  On the one hand, women were allowed to preach but on the other hand, a woman who’d had a child out of wedlock wasn’t supposed to wear white at her wedding because she was no longer pure.  Even as a kid, I wondered why a man didn’t have to wear anything to indicate whether or not he was a virgin.  The double standard knocked my juvenile socks off.  It was my first moment of understanding that women didn’t play on a level field.

It’s often said, and I used to believe, that men and women are different but have equally important roles—and it just so happens that the man’s role is to be the decision maker.  I don’t believe that anymore.  Saying that someone is different but equal just doesn’t work —just like “separate but equal” was a fallacy.  It didn’t work in race relations and it doesn’t work in gender relations.  There are inevitable abuses— an inevitable descent into a system of the powerful and the powerless, those in control and those at the mercy of others.  Even if a woman is treated well by her father or her husband, should a person’s well being rest fully on how someone who has power over them decides to treat them?

Carter wrote these words about all the major religions of the world, including Christianity, a faith he has professed for decades:

“The truth is that male religious leaders have had - and still have - an option to interpret holy teachings either to exalt or subjugate women. They have, for their own selfish ends, overwhelmingly chosen the latter. Their continuing choice provides the foundation or justification for much of the pervasive persecution and abuse of women throughout the world,” from an article written by President Carter in 2009.

For me, it boils down to this—Do I believe the God I adore created one group of people to be dominated by another group of people?   Does He love me less?  Does He think I should have fewer rights, less free will to shape my future, less access to safety, food, healthcare, security, education because I was born a girl?  That’s not the God I love.  I can’t even begin to imagine that God.

. . . 

Casandra Morgan-Loyer Regional Leader for North America // Casandra is an Emmy-nominated writer who joined the staff of Tirzah in January 2014. Casandra loves all kinds of stories and believes in the power of the individual's story to inform and move people to action. Her personal mission is to help women and girls thrive, prosper, believe, hope, laugh uncontrollably and know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that they matter. She gets a huge thrill out of connecting people in North America with the justice issues that impact women and girls globally and she really, really doesn't like when people are mean to those who have less power. She lives in California with her very creative husband, Erik and their two children.

Women of Faith in History

To conclude Women's History Month, we wanted to share with you three more of our favorite stories of women of faith throughout history. We hope you are encouraged by these today! 

Thecla of Iconium:

During the history of the Church, we see God using many women to grow His kingdom. During the first century just years after Christ lived, Thecla of Iconium was born.  History tells us that she became a Christian after hearing the apostle Paul preach in her city.  The Bible records Paul's visit to her city in Acts 13:51.  But history gives us more information.  Thecla turned away from a life of wealth and ease to devote herself to Christ.  She suffered much for her faith.  Thecla did not give up running her race, even though it cost her greatly, and we don’t give up either.

There are two churches that were dedicated to Thecla.  And Gregorius, one of the church fathers, spoke of "Peter, Paul, James, Stephen, Luke, Andrew and Thecla as those who fought for the faith with fire and sword, beasts and tyrants."

Marcella and Macrina:

Much has been written about the early Church Fathers from the first centuries after Jesus’ life.  But there were also many active Church Mothers whose stories need to be told.  During this period, many women, such as Macrina and Marcella, were active in founding and sustaining religious homes where women were instructed in the faith and where they came together to serve those in need through hospitals and other services.  Other women, such as Paula, were active in copying Scripture so that others could read the word of God.  Women such as Hilda served as leaders of religious communities where both men and women received Bible training.

In 327AD a woman named Macrina was born into a family with a great history in the church.  Macrina dedicated her life to God's service.  Her brother, Gregory, said that Macrina carried the Psalms with her wherever she went - when she was getting up in the morning, when she was working or resting, while eating her meals and getting up from the table, when going to bed at night; she always carried the Psalms with her like a good traveling companion. (Christian History Institute, Issue #123)

Then there is Marcella;  a wealthy Roman woman who lived about 300 years after Christ’s death, who went against the norms for women of her time.  Although it was fashionable for wealthy Roman women to dress in very elegant clothes and spend hours on their faces and hair, she turned her palace in Rome into a Christian retreat center and began to wear a coarse brown dress to show that she was devoted to Christ, rather than to her own beauty. 

As other wealthy Roman women saw how Marcella lived, they too decided to adopt her style of dress and, along with Marcella, dedicated themselves to prayer, to studying the Bible, to singing the Psalms in Hebrew and to helping the poor. Marcella’s life is known, not for her wealth, but for her love of the Bible.  Marcella founded many religious homes for women who wanted to live a deeply Christian life.  She was a close friend of Jerome, the man who wrote the Latin translation of the Bible, called the Vulgate.  Marcella discipled a woman named Paula, who helped Jerome to copy his manuscripts and, in this way, began the careful preservation of the Bible for the next 1,000 years.

 

Candida Xu

In the 1600's, we find a woman named Candida Xu working very hard to spread the Gospel in China.  As an upper class woman in Chinese society, she was supposed to live a very secluded life.  But this did not stop her from doing the work the Lord called her to.  Candida used her influence with local officials to gain their good will toward the missionaries in this area.   She raised a private income, which she used to support these missionaries and to build almost forty churches.  Can you imagine – 40 churches?  I’m so glad that Candida is in the cloud of witnesses cheering us on!  She also gave the funds to publish Christian literature in the Chinese language.  

The missionaries called Candida, "the Apostle of China" and her faith and good works became known to those in the western world when one of these missionaries wrote her biography. (Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, edited by Gerald H. Anderson, pg 752)

 

 

Reflecting on International Women's Day in Eastern Europe

We had very nice and blessed evening with the sisters for woman's day!

All together, there were 57 of us ladies. One brother from the church cooked Hungarian goulash and some other men set the tables and served us dinner. We really felt honored.

One sister came to me after, saying how much this evening blessed her:

When my kids were in the school, each year there was a program prepared for us mothers in the school. It was the time when I enjoyed being a woman; I felt honored. Now, my kids are grown up, and for years nothing happens on the 8th of March. I am sitting home alone. When I heard about this evening, I was happy. Thank you for organizing it! 

We also had a pastor who preached from the Word how and why we women are important in God's kingdom. It was very encouraging and up-lifting.

Women's History Month: Perpetua + Felicity

In the second century of the church's history, Christians had carried the Gospel to North Africa and strong Christian churches were being planted.  The Roman emperor feared the spread of Christianity and made a law stopping Christians from teaching or converting people.  

Two of the first punished under this law were women named Perpetua and Felicitas (or Felicity).  Perpetua was born in North Africa. She was said to be beautiful, of noble birth, and well-educated.  When she and her maid servant, Felicitas converted to Christianity, they began to speak the gospel boldly.  No longer defined by master-servant relationship, they found solidarity in their sisterhood in Christ. 

Both were martyred for their faith in 203 AD. Perpetua was twenty-two-years-old and had a young child; Felicity was eight months pregnant, gave birth in prison just before her execution, and stowed her child with a Christian couple in Carthage. "Eyewitness accounts document that just before their death, the two women, now equals in Christ, embraced one another with a holy kiss," summarizes the Book of Common Prayer. 

Running the race cost Perpetua and Felicitas everything – even their own lives.  Let their witness encourage us to give our all as we run our race.  God used the death of these saints to bring growth to the church.  Many people were attracted to a faith that produced such courage in its followers.

 

 

We have this story largely because of Perpetua's diary, which she continued to keep in prison and which is one of the earliest known Christian texts. To read more of an early edition of this text and learn more, click here.

Tirzah 101

It's a new year, so we wanted to take the opportunity to introduce ourselves.

Hello! We are Tirzah International. It's nice to meet you!

There are three statements that are core to who we are and we'd love to share them with you.

This is our motto. If we can boil it down to a simple phrase, this is what we're about.

This is who comprises Tirzah International. If you are advocating for women around the world to have quality lives and overcome injustice against their gender, then you're on our team!

God made women capable, creative, innovative, and more! We are working in His kingdom as women become more fully who He designed them to be.

 

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