Thirty years ago – 3 July 1989 – we employed our first woman missionary. Julie Piner passed her probation and began salaried work at the Paget Centre.
Nearly 160 years ago, 1861, LCM was discussing employing women to work alongside men. The Mission debated at length whether to employ London’s Bible Women to work alongside missionaries.
At the time, Bible women – members of the London Female Bible and Domestic Mission – were appointed to give Bibles to the very poorest in London and to teach them to look after themselves and others.
In the debate, it was recognised that women had access to people and situations that men had not. Many were so ashamed of their homes that they would not allow a member of the clergy or a missionary to visit, but would open their doors to a woman. The discussion concluded that the two organisations would remain separate and cooperate.
That’s how it remained until the 1970s, when London City Mission started offering training and short-term mission opportunities to women. A decade later, the LCM Committee debated whether the time had come for women to serve as missionaries.
In 1989, the decision had been made, and in July the LCM Committee approved Julie Piner, the first female probationer.
Today a little over a third of people employed or training on the mission field – 32 of 93 – are women, many of them engaged in ministries that would be impossible for men.
Working With Women on the Margins
Laura Heffernan Works on the King's Cross Street Team
God calls us all to evangelise, to help the poor. As Christians it is just what we are meant to do – we’ve all been called to do this.
The women I work with are quite varied. There are women who have come off the street, are in refuge or rehab. Typically they live on local authority estates and can keep kids and hold down a job.
And then there’s the women who are sleeping rough, typically have addiction issues and are involved in prostitution. Everything day-to-day is how do they get their next fix, that side of things.
Others are asylum seekers trying to get refugee status, have been homeless in the UK for years and are just in a horrible situation.
We have clinical supervision as a team because we all really struggle with the question of what we are achieving. We ask, what is the point in it? We’re full-time missionaries, but sometimes we don’t even get to talk about God because people’s lives are so chaotic.
We do pray for them, but we know that the next day they will continue to be raped and beaten.
We really have to focus on the small things. Sometimes there are these really holy and anointed moments for the women, when God breaks through all the pain and anguish and shows what heavenly love is really like.
I see it also in people’s last days. As you can imagine, quite a lot of them die. And in their last days they are so ready to be with God.
There is something holy and incredible about people who live their lives on the margins, those that have been so abused their whole lives that they cannot even grasp what real love is. I know that one day they will be held more closely.