Ministry to clergy spouses is celebrating 25 years of supporting some of the most dedicated and deserving servants in the Adventist Church. It is my privilege to pay tribute to both the ministry and to the women who have given of their lives to grow it.
In the 1980s, Marie Spangler and Ellen Bresee had a vision for women who were married to pastors. They tenaciously brought the needs of this group before the General Conference administration, and Shepherdess International was born. These two were women on a mission, and they were blessed to see their dream come true.
In the 1990s, Shepherdess International matured into the Ministry to Clergy Families, and every division appointed an official regional leader for the ministry. On September 30, 1998, the position of General Conference director for this ministry was elevated to that of an associate secretary in the Ministerial Association.
Some women stand above the crowd when it comes to service, and I had the great joy of walking alongside them as they nurtured their division-wide departments into the strong ministries they are today.
The first I would like to honor is Denise Ratsara, who tirelessly served in two divisions: Africa-Indian Ocean and Southern Africa-Indian Ocean. No one else has her extensive record in such diverse demographics. Denise also helped launch the nursing scholarship program that has given medical aid in remote areas of Africa. Second, Hepzibah Kore from Southern Asia Division has nurtured her beautiful women, leading them into villages with projects that have given the gift of literacy to countless numbers. These two women have recently suffered tremendous pain, and yet their faith in God has not wavered. They are strong, godly women, and the results of their tireless labor will likely never be realized on this earth.
I must also mention Galina Stele from EuroAsia, Ellen Missah from Southern Asia-Pacific, Vasti Vianna and Evelyn Nagel from South America, and Helen Gulfan, who now serves in Southern Asia-Pacific. These women have planned major division-wide conventions and numerous educational and seminar events. They encouraged their women to form local organizations, providing spiritual and emotional support for women and children. They’ve traveled extensively to remote areas to make sure the farthest regions of their territories felt valued.
Evelyn Omana also comes to mind. Her contagious enthusiasm in the Inter-American Division has inspired her women and elevated pastors’ children to a valued status with their own events. Even after nearly dying from malaria, she kept on serving. Gloria Trotman continued Evelyn’s good work and added her own counseling experience.
Mrs. Nam began the ministry in the Northern Asia-Pacific Division with her most gracious personality and elegant manner. Sally Phoon, with her strong educational background, has served in two divisions and continues to teach, encourage, and motivate with her contagious smile.
I would also like to pay tribute to two women who have served at the General Conference: Shelly Lowe has worked tirelessly to ensure the office at headquarters was organized and well-managed and that deadlines were promptly met. Her Christian ways shine through in everything she does. Rae Lee Cooper was always available for instruction in health-related items and her famous exercise sessions. She has inspired so many of us to take better care of ourselves.
It is always a bit dangerous to list names because surely someone will not be mentioned and feel slighted. If that happens here, please know that your name is written down in a much more important place than The Journal—it is written in God’s hand.
Until He comes personally to take us to our heavenly homes, where there will be nothing but joy and light, happiness and laughter, it is my prayer that this anniversary brings each one of you the assurance that Jesus is ever there for you. He loves you more than any human can imagine and craves your love and attention to Him. He will never leave or forsake you, no matter what any other person says or does. He placed you in His ministry, and He cares for you.
So, dear ones, indulge yourself a bit. Celebrate these 25 years with a favorite dessert and a chat with a friend. Celebrate the fact that we are a unique sisterhood who support each other. Celebrate the fact that we have a hope to share. Celebrate the life God has given you to serve.
I am going to celebrate the 18 of these 25 years that God gave me with you!
Love and hugs to you all,