Generating a new crop of young dynamic women to help lead the Church
June 6, 2020
While there are many Presbyterian women who have made history throughout the years and deserve to be celebrated, the Presbyterian Mission Agency’s Women’s Leadership Development and Young Women’s Ministries is helping to generate a new crop of young dynamic women to lead the Church.
Virginia Wanjiru is one of those young women.
Wanjiru currently lives in Uganda and has been there for the past eight months as a Peace Corps volunteer. She attends Highland Presbyterian Church in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, which is located within the Presbytery of Donegal and the Synod of the Trinity. Her initial involvement with the Young Women’s Ministry came through her selection as a PC(USA) delegate for the United Nations’ 60th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in 2016 as well as attending the Ecumenical Advocacy Days in 2018 and 2019.
The lessons Wanjiru gained from those events remain with her to this day. “(The Rev.) Mark Koenig (formerly director of the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations) mentioned this to a group of PC(USA)-CSW women a few years back in regard to the issues concerning civil, marginalized and immigration rights,” she said. “‘Our work is not to be the voice for those who are not heard. Our work is to create a space for those who are silenced to finally express themselves and tell their stories.’”
“I’ve held on to this shared message for quite a while,” she said, “and I think of it often as I go about my work in the United States and currently as I work in Uganda. I have learned that there are stories that we ourselves cannot tell but can make room for those who need to be able to share.”
Wanjiru says another benefit of her participation in the leadership event was the opportunity to understand how the church can also be a space for advocacy.
“Prior to attending the events, my knowledge of church limited itself to my personal faith and fellowship with my church community on Sundays and through missionary work,” she said. “Through these events I learned of the broader perspective of the work that the PC(USA) does and how I could take a step further in being an active member of the church. I have found an interest in policy and activism. The Office of Public Witness has become one of my major interests and I would love to look into that area after my service in the Peace Corps.”
When asked how the training at the CSW and Ecumenical Advocacy Days helped her develop leadership skills, Wanjiru answered, “I have felt very empowered as a woman, and it was during these events that I found the encouragement to be confident within myself. To be an advocate for others as a woman, an immigrant, a person of color, I came to learn that my voice matters, and my voice has influence. The experiences I have for myself can be a witness to others. During the CSW60, I was constantly surrounded with women from all backgrounds who have the burning desire within themselves to change the world we live in — to change it for those who otherwise don’t get the ability to have platforms for advocacy. That inspired me to also feel that one more voice can be loud.”
Wanjiru has been able to transfer some of the information and the skills she acquired at the leadership events into the work she is currently doing as a Peace Corps volunteer in Uganda and says she has finds great value in all the trainings she’s attended. “The events I have attended have pushed me towards advocacy and in this way, I have found a passion for civil rights, immigrant rights, sustainable development and women’s rights,” said Wanjiru. “While other skills I acquired at the events may not be tangible, they are now a part of my personal belief system which I use on a daily basis to guide my decisions in the work that I do here.”
Wanjiru’s passion is health and medicine. She says she wants to serve others, to be compassionate to others, to be kind to others in challenging times — in times where we find ourselves most human and most vulnerable.
Gail Strange, Director of Church and Mid Council Communications, Presbyterian Mission Agency
Today’s Focus: Young Women’s Ministries
Let us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Let us pray:
Gracious Jesus, guide us in this time of challenge and change. Fill us with hope to live boldly into your divinely inspired future. Amen.