• "...to bring good news to the poor... proclaim release to the captives... let the oppressed go free..."
  • (Luke 4:18-19)

    Executive Director Virginia Holmstrom Announces Retirement Plans

    Virginia R. Holmstrom has announced plans to retire on March 1, 2018, as executive director of American Baptist Women’s Ministries, having led the organization since August 2001.

    Virginia attended her first ABW circle meeting at Japanese Baptist Church, Seattle, Washington, where she was a member during her college years at Seattle Pacific College (now University). In 1980, as a young pastor’s wife in Vermillion, South Dakota, Virginia edited the newsletter for the American Baptist Women of South Dakota. She was elected to serve as the vice president of missions for the national ABW organization (1983-87), which awarded her the unique opportunity to attend the board meetings of National Ministries and International Ministries as an observer and to serve on the national committees that developed promotional materials for the America for Christ Offering and the World Fellowship Offering, now known as the World Mission Offering.

    In 1990, Virginia was hired by Educational Ministries to direct its office of public relations and communication. She represented Educational Ministries on the Biennial Program Committee and its staff advisory group, and returned once again to the work of the America for Christ Offering committee, this time as staff.

    Virginia earned her Masters of Theological Studies degree, with an emphasis on Old Testament studies, at Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary (now Palmer Seminary). The Board of Educational Ministries commissioned Virginia as a missionary.

    Virginia came full circle back to her roots with American Baptist Women’s Ministries when in August 2001 she accepted a call from ABWM to become its sixth executive director.

    Virginia has led American Baptist Women’s Ministries to recognize its unique mission and ministry with women and girls. She empowered its national board members to become conversant about sex trafficking and inspired the board to launch a mission and fundraising initiative: “Break the Chains: Modern Day Slavery in the 21st Century.” The 2007-2010 initiative raised over $500,000 for grants that helped begin ABCrelated ministries and projects dedicated to breaking the chains of sexual exploitation of women and children in the U.S. and around the world. The 3-year initiative provoked deeper reflection about the underlying reasons why women are trafficked. ABWM developed program materials to bring awareness to overwhelming realities that disempower women and girls worldwide, including poverty, unemployment, lack of education, cultural prejudice and misogyny, violence against women, deficient maternal health care, and more.

    ABWM began its Women and Girls Mission Fund in 2011 to have capacity to continue its grant program to partner with ministries that are creating projects that bring healing, wholeness and hope to women and girls. Today the Women and Girls Mission Fund is an umbrella fund for such grants, while additionally providing donors the options to empower American Baptist women/girls through leadership development; the AB GIRLS ministry; and its Refit ministry through American Baptist Home Mission Societies (ABHMS) and International Ministries (IM), a carryover mission support fund. Virginia noted the widespread support for the Women and Girls Mission Fund. “Local church women’s groups and region ABWM organizations raise funding, and there are ABC mission-minded congregations that give regularly to the Women and Girls Mission Fund. Closures and property sales of three ABC churches have significantly gifted the Fund as well.” She chuckles when remembering one unsolicited gift: “The day we received a generous contribution from the Reformed Church of America denomination, I knew the good word was getting out there!”

    In reflecting on the impact of her ministry with ABWM, Virginia feels good about her relentless work to empower the organization to claim its unique mission with women and girls. “We’re not our mothers’ mission society anymore. We can’t be; the world has changed. There truly is work to do—and it is a mission to which God has called us—to develop and lead ministries in our churches and regions that invite and disciple women and girls to know, love, and follow Jesus. From there, God is waiting to lead us onward, beginning in our neighborhoods, to bring healing, wholeness and hope that encourages and empowers women and girls to serve God.”

    Upon her retirement next March, Virginia says she is looking forward to ministries in new places—as a disciple of Jesus Christ and as a volunteer (with some extra time on her hands, maybe?)—to dismantle barriers and build bridges among all God’s people.

    Make a Donation in Virginia’s Honor
    Make a donation in Virginia’s honor to Leadership Development, part of our Women and Girls Mission Fund. This has been a key focus of Virginia’s ministry: empowering women and girls to enact their God-given gifts for leadership, bringing hope to a hurting world. During the ABC retirement celebration in early 2018, we'll surprise Virginia of the gifts sent to the Leadership Development Fund in her honor.

    Give online now
    , or send your tax-deductible gift by check payable to American Baptist Women's Ministries, marked as "LDF - in honor of Virginia", PO Box 851, Valley Forge, PA 19482-0851.

    Po Box 851 · Valley Forge, PA · 19482-0851
    (610) 768-2288 · info@abwministries.org