Where Are Today's Brave Pioneer Women?

In the oil country of western North Dakota I met a brave woman pastor who is blazing a spiritual trail.

Barb Becker is one tough lady. Raised by alcoholic parents in a mining camp in Wyoming, she lived a rough life that included drugs and promiscuity. People continually told her she was good for nothing. She hated herself and became suicidal.

But in 1985, on the same day she planned to kill herself, she bought a little book called Power for Living for 25 cents at a second-hand store, read the Christian testimonies in it and prayed to receive Jesus as her Savior. She became so hungry to know God that she read the Bible straight through four times in three months and ended up getting baptized in the Holy Spirit.

"My prayer is that a whole new army of women pioneers will arise in this hour to win the lost, heal the broken and claim new territory for the Lord."

"I was the woman with seven devils," Becker says, comparing herself to Mary Magdalene in the Bible. Yet today Becker pastors Glory of the Lord Family Ministries, a growing charismatic church in Watford City, N.D.

It has not been an easy journey. In fact, when some church leaders suggested back in the 1990s that she should consider a pastoral position, she dismissed the thought. Despite the fact that she was one of the first women in western North Dakota to drive trucks for the oil industry, she did not feel qualified to be a pastor.

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But God challenged her attitudes in May 2000 when she attended a conference in Saskatchewan, Canada. A Nigerian pastor, Femi Ogunrinde, issued a call for people to come to the altar if they were not sure of their spiritual callings. As Becker stood at the stage with her eyes closed, she thought to herself: Lord I can't do this. I'm a woman.

Ogunrinde then said into the microphone: "Some of you are telling God you cannot fulfill your calling because you are a woman."

That got Becker's attention, but she continued her silent argument with God. Lord, I can't be a pastor. I haven't been to Bible college or seminary.

Ogunrinde then said, as if on cue: "Some of you have disqualified yourselves because you haven't been to Bible college or seminary."

Becker was starting to get emotional at this point. Her protest continued: But Lord, my husband is not where he should be with You.

The Nigerian preacher responded again from the stage: "Some of you have said you cannot be a leader because your husband is not serving God."

Becker was aware that God was doing painful surgery as He challenged every one of her lame excuses. But Lord, you know I can't do this in Watford City.

Ogunrinde challenged her again. "Some of you are saying, ‘Lord, I cannot serve you in this way because of the place where I live."

At that point Becker began sobbing. She let go and surrendered to the call. When she got back to her seat, a friend jabbed her with her elbow tauntingly and said: "Do you get it now?"

Becker was ordained in August 2001 and has pastored Glory of the Lord since then. But it hasn't been an easy job for a woman to lead a church in a conservative religious community. Some people have actually shunned her.

Rita Hovet, one of Becker's best friends and supporters, says some locals first castigated Becker as "the weird lady who used to drive a truck." And Hovet added: "Some people actually used to get on the other side of the street when they saw Barb coming."

I talked to Becker at length last week when I ministered in her church. She said Christians have told her she is "in rebellion," either because she teaches from the pulpit or because her husband isn't in ministry with her.

"They don't realize that I couldn't do what I do without my husband's full support," she says. Then, with a smile, she adds: "But really, I'm not mad at anybody."

When I heard how Becker surrendered to her calling at that altar in Western Canada, I couldn't help but imagine that there are many women today—all across this country—who have disqualified themselves for the same reasons Becker listed. I believe it is time for all of us to rip up our excuses.

The beautiful scenery I saw when I was in North Dakota last week reminded me that much of the American West was pioneered by courageous women who defied stereotypes and broke molds. When Congress passed the Homestead Act of 1862, which offered free land to people willing to settle it, many women accepted the offer (years before they could vote) and endured incredible hardship to carve out farms and ranches in arid areas.

A similar opportunity has opened for women today. The Holy Spirit beckons from Acts 2:17: " ‘And it shall be in the last days, God says, ‘That I will pour forth of My Spirit on all mankind; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy'" (NASB, emphasis added).

Some Bible scholars refer to this verse as "the Great Emancipation Proclamation" for women. Because of the miracle of Pentecost, gender barriers have been obliterated. In the age of the New Covenant, the Holy Spirit's anointing and supernatural gifts are available to all, regardless of race, age, economic status or gender.

We need thousands of Barb Beckers today. My prayer is that a whole new army of women pioneers will arise in this hour to win the lost, heal the broken and claim new territory for the Lord.


J. Lee Grady is contributing editor of Charisma. You can follow him on Twitter at leegrady. He is the author of 10 Lies the Church Tells Women (Charisma House).

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