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Jen Wilkin: Two humble midwives were Israel’s first deliverers before Moses

Photo by Camille Grochowski

ANAHEIM, Calif. (BP) – The biblical book of Exodus is “having a little joke on Pharaoh,” in the words of noted author and Bible teacher Jen Wilkin.

“Daughters are of no concern to me,” she summarized Pharaoh’s reasoning in ordering midwives Shiphrah and Puah to kill all newborn Hebrew boys in Exodus 1:16. “It’s the men you’ve got to watch out for.”

“We understand that when we build community, we’re able to accomplish things otherwise me might not be able to,” Jen Wilkin to attendees of the SBC Women’s Gathering June 13. Photo by Camille Grochowski

But because of the midwives’ cunning, which Wilkin noted that God honored by giving them families of their own, Exodus 1:20 notes that the people “multiplied and became very numerous.”

Wilkin was among a lineup of speakers who exhorted women in “Persevering Peace,” the Women’s Session 9 a.m. June 13 in advance of the 2022 Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting at the Anaheim Marriott.

“Two women, who are backed by a whole network of other women who are committed to the same vision of thriving for the community of Israel, shook their fist and feared God more than they feared Pharaoh,” Wilkin said. “In the next chapter of Exodus, we find more female deliverers. We find Jochebed and Miriam making sure that the baby Moses passes safely through the waters of death to life on the other side. And then we find that Pharaoh’s own daughter is the means by which the one who will crush his head is brought into his own household.”

In advance of Wilkin’s address, women leaders shared personal stories of challenge, surrender and victory in the panel discussion “Abiding in Adversity,” moderated by Bible teacher and pastor’s wife Jacki C. King; and the panel “Rhythms of Resilience,” moderated by Women & Work founder Courtney Moore.

For Marshelle Jackson-Wilburn, a panelist on “Rhythms of Resilience,” victory came in learning to set boundaries, she said in sharing her story of clinical, spiritual and emotional burnout that hit her in 2018.

A wife and missionary in the San Francisco Bay area along with her husband and associational mission strategist Port Wilburn, she describes herself as a recovering workaholic who worked 60 hours a week before she hit a virtual wall.

“I say that because I’m not about to let the enemy use anything that I keep in the darkness as a weapon against me,” she said. “Working like crazy with the church plant, with the homeless shelter, with the churches and my five kids, and all of that, and tore my meniscus, my anterior and medial. … Was on crutches for six months, still kept going, working 60 hours a week and everything else.”

That was in 2017. She recovered, but kept going, reasoning that she was working for Jesus.

“I hit a wall, literally hit a wall November of 2018,” she said, “found out I was diagnosed with clinical, spiritual, emotional burnout and didn’t know what that meant, because I was so used to going, but was pretty much incapacitated for six months.”

In response, her autoimmune system suffered. “I’m allergic to almost everything now. I can’t eat it, as well as dealing with stress, anxiety and depression. And just frozen, and ashamed.”

She cried out to the Lord, she said, and in the midst of her healing God pointed out Scripture including Habakkuk 3:19 proclaiming the Lord as strength that enables Christians to ascend to new heights.

“That Scripture and Psalm 23 where it says, ‘He makes me like down in green pastures,’ had a whole other meaning to me,” she said. “Ultimately what that did though, was it made me come to terms with who I was, not what I was doing, but what I was being. … Because what I had to understand was in my own natural abilities, yes, I was very resilient. And God wired me that way. But, was I relying on Him for my resilience?”

Co-panelists Catherine Renfro, a writer and North American Mission Board church planter with husband Chris; and Alicia Wong, Gateway Seminary director of Women’s Program, shared personal battles and victories variously including panic, anxiety and the temptation to isolate from others.

Wilkin affirmed the panelists’ transparency, proclaiming women’s bravery is complementary with vulnerability.

“Because we understand physical vulnerability even into adulthood,” she said of women, “I think that it does something for us. I think it makes us look around and see the vulnerable with more top-of-mind awareness that sometimes our male counterparts miss. Not because they’re terrible, but because they have a different lived experience of the world.

“Because we understand vulnerability into adulthood,” she said, “we understand that strength is found in numbers, not found in isolation. … We understand that when we build community, we’re able to accomplish things otherwise me might not be able to.”

Comprising the Abiding in Adversity panel were Carla Arriola, church planter with husband Julio Arriola of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention; Macy English, wife of lead pastor J.T. English of Storyline Church in Arvada, Colo. and Hilda Kennedy, a business woman and wife of Brain Kennedy, senior pastor of Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Ontario.

The SBC Women’s Leadership Network, the SBC Pastors’ Wives and Women & Work sponsored the event.