Note: This week our guest contributor is Annemarieke V. Ryskamp who has a passion for fostering mentorship among women. She herself leads a mentorship group.
I was born and raised in the Netherlands and was a teenager in the seventies. I attended a university in Utrecht. My family was like most families in Europe, not Christian at all. My dad was baptized as a baby, but the strictness of the elders of his church made his parents and himself reject the church with a vengeance.
My mom was from a completely non-Christian background, but she loved to read. When she was in her forties she read the Bible and became a believer. After her conversion to Christ, she encouraged me to join a student Bible study group. However, my problem was that I didn’t know a single Christian, apart from the Jehovah’s witnesses with whom my mother and brother and I had done Bible studies. We didn’t want to become Jehovah’s witnesses as the Holy Spirit had put in us discernment for the truth.
So my family was not against God, yet we definitely didn’t like anything church related. Through a friend of mine, I could finally contact a “Christian” who welcomed me in their Bible study group. I kept asking though why this group was not taking the Bible as God’s Word, because isn’t that the definition of a Christian is someone who believes the Bible to be the very Word of God? They told me I was a “fundamentalist.” I asked them what that meant. I didn’t consider myself a Christian, but ironically I found myself defending the trustworthiness of the Bible every week. I had to read major parts of the Bible for my studies (in medieval literature) and every week God used my just-read knowledge to counter their Bible weakening arguments. By God’s grace at the end of that year I was saved. I came to know Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.
The people in this group never invited me to come to their church, but I wanted to find a church where the gospel was preached faithfully, so I could learn more about my newfound faith. It took me two years to find a Bible believing church. Imagine my surprise when I found some members of that Bible study group in this church!
All this helps to explain my very hesitant attitude to the church as an organization. But God has been working on me ever since and the mentor group is one of his lessons for me.
Fast forward! 30 years later I found myself with my American husband and two children in West Michigan, attending a reformed church twice every Sunday. This shows the radical difference in church life in West Michigan as compared to that of the Netherlands.
After doing a counseling course with Dr. Jeff Doll in Hudsonville, I felt called to do something with what I had learned. After my desperate remark that the only thing I knew how to do was lead a Bible study (because I’m a teacher by profession), my son suggested I do just that.
God gently led me to realize that I should lead a group for women in our church, mentoring them according to the principles in Titus 2, as I had been when I was raising my children. I couldn’t believe that God was calling me to this kind of ministry, so I felt very reluctant. However, God orchestrated all the details. Two mentor groups formed and since I could only lead one, God also provided another leader.
God knew that my growing up in Europe would be useful, since I’ve been already exposed to issues that women, whom I am mentoring, are beginning to encounter. The secularization in Europe is about 30 years ahead of West Michigan. And that secularization is coming here, too, in Michigan. My friends in the Netherlands didn’t get married, but would live together. Or, when they got married, they would have 1 or 2 children and then get divorced. The children would grow up in child care facilities, because both parents needed to work. There was only contempt for the stay-at-home mother. Already my mom got her share of that. She raised me as quite the feminist. But I really wanted to raise my kids myself. Thankfully, my being among Christian friends and mentors, who were doing the same here in Michigan, encouraged me to raise my children myself.
Most of societal changes here are déjà vu for me. And as I look at where Europe is now, these societal changes are not good. The pressures on Christians in the US are mounting, leading to social persecution already. The pressures on women who want to stay home, take care of their children, and homeschool them, are feeling incredible pressure from society. It’s very difficult to consistently ignore the secular opinions in our environment and to keep going against the current. Therefore, we, as church women, under the leadership and protection of the men, need to stick together. This becomes more and more necessary as the bias against us is mounting.
Having been mentored myself and through leading a mentor group, I am convinced that God wants women in his church to help one another to stay true to his Word and be blessed by it. All of us Christian women need to encourage each other and gently steer our sisters back when they stray. We need to be there in times of sadness; we need to rejoice with them in times of joy. In short, we all need to be mentors to each other. God is working among women in many churches to start mentor groups. Let us be obedient to the Titus 2 mandate to mentor each other.
I pray that women mentor groups will raise awareness of the fact that all women need to be mentors. We go alongside our sisters and build each other up in Christ.
“It’s time to show those coming behind us the beauty of God’s truth and its sufficiency for the challenges of our day. I assure you, each time you’re obedient to this calling, you’ll be able to watch Him paint your life with bigger and bolder gospel colors than you ever imagined possible.” (Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth)