In her book, “Six Pairs of Sandals: Yesterday’s Footsteps and Today’s Women’s Ministry,” author and speaker Dr. Deborah Waterbury highlights six women in the bible who personified the qualities of leadership. She also addresses specific areas of need for women to minister to other women within every local church, something she feels has been greatly lacking.
“In the last 10 years of working with women, particularly women in local churches, it has been sad to see how many churches are abdicating the ministry of women within their confines,” says Dr. Waterbury, who founded Love Everlasting Ministries in 2007. “Often it’s a matter of methodology, but just as often it is a matter of scarcity. Too many women either feel they are spiritually inadequate or that they simply lack the gifts necessary to minister to one another in their own home churches. I designed the book so that the reader can read a biblical example of each of the six broad categories of women ministering to women (teaching, prayer, mentoring, service, ministry leader, and small group leader), surmise which of those women she is most like, and then give her a list of practical ways she can step out and begin ministering to the women in her church in that way.”
In addition to her ministry in the U.S., Dr. Waterbury has traveled each year to minister to women in Africa. She has witnessed the devastation of the AIDS epidemic up close, seeing thousands of children become orphans and thousands of women, with no skills, being left to care for their children. She has searched for a practical solution to the devastation, particularly in Malawi, now the second poorest country in the world. Her love for the people of Africa led her to seek more tangible ways to minister to the widows there. After years of prayer, a chance encounter led her to the answer.
“This summer, I had the occasion to meet a lovely woman from Kenya,” says Waterbury. “She began telling me of a ministry she was about to go and start in her home village outside of Nairobi. She was telling me of a tailoring school she wished to begin in her village for widows and destitute women, and I heard a voice in my head almost scream, ‘This is it! This is what I have for you to do for the women you love so much in Africa!’”
The result is the “Reap What You Sew” program – a dedicated training program to teach widows and under-privileged women the sewing trade with educators, tools, materials and supplies necessary to become successful business women in their own right. Students will attend a six-month program focusing on tailoring. They receive a sewing machine and supplies, as well as accounting and bookkeeping training. Classes are held five days a week at Agape Life International Church in Blantyre, Malawi. The students must maintain a 85% attendance record to stay in the program. For the first phase of “Reap What You Sew,” Waterbury hopes to raise over $35,000 by April 2017, which will guarantee at least nine women will be able to go through the program.
“I prayed for three years for God to tell me what to do, but He remained silent,” says Waterbury. “I’ve learned over the years that my Father’s silence doesn’t mean He isn’t listening. It means, ‘Wait.’ And so I waited. All the while, I kept ministering to my sisters in Malawi and Zimbabwe where they no longer call me Dr. Waterbury but Mama Deb. I love them and they know it. I didn’t know it at the time, but that was God’s plan all along. We were building trust and love and relationship, which are beautiful ground where the seeds of God’s work will grow.”
As with the biblical examples she writes about in the book, Dr. Waterbury hopes that by empowering these women with trade skills to better themselves, they will pay it forward to their communities for generations to come. And that ultimately, the gospel message they receive will bring light and revival to a decimated country. She also hopes her book will inspire women in American churches to find their own calling.
“It was the New Testament church, the Pauline church, that moved the Gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the known world, and that church was not a mega church,” says Waterbury. “The New Testament church was made up of small home churches. Those churches didn’t seek to get bigger; they sought to start other churches in other areas so that the Gospel was preached in new places. I believe women are the very heart of any church. When women minister to each other in their own churches, the result is healthy churches. Healthy churches are happy churches, and happy churches are attractive to a world that needs desperately to come inside. This is the Great Commission, and this is where we have to start.”
About Dr. Deborah Waterbury:Dr. Deborah Waterbury is the founder of Love Everlasting Ministries, and has authored twelve Bible studies. Dr. Waterbury travels extensively, both nationally and abroad, leading conferences and teaching seminars. She hosts a weekly podcast called “Windows of the Heart,” and spends a great deal of her time writing curriculum as well as allegorical novels, including her popular series, The Painted Window Trilogy. Dr. Waterbury holds a Masters in the Art of Teaching from Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Arizona, and acquired her Doctorate of Ministry in Biblical Expository Studies from Pillsbury Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri. She currently resides in Tucson, Arizona, with her husband, Jeff.