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The Seventh-day Adventist Church's Women's Ministries Department Scholarship Fund Committee meets for its semi-annual meeting to award scholarships on July 23 at the denomination's world headquarters. [photo: Ansel Oliver]
July 23, 2014 | Silver Spring, Maryland, United States | Ansel Oliver/ANN
A Nepali student named Sunita became on Wednesday the recipient of the one millionth dollar from a scholarship fund backed in part by the sale of women’s devotional books.
The one-millionth dollar was included in a $500 scholarship granted to Sunita during a meeting of the Women’s Ministries Scholarship Fund at the world church’s headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland.
The money will assist Sunita in paying for her tuition at India’s Spicer Adventist University, where she is majoring in education.
“By helping Sunita, we are strengthening our church in Nepal,” said Heather-Dawn Small, director of the world church’s Women’s Ministries department. “We’re wanting to strengthen the church worldwide by empowering women and supporting them in their higher education.”
Originally founded by the proceeds of an annual women’s devotional book, the fund over the years has awarded 2,164 scholarships to Adventist women attending universities in 124 countries. Department leaders say the fund has helped strengthen the Adventist Church worldwide, especially in developing countries.
Small praised the $1 million mark as “a big accomplishment” for Women’s Ministries.
“Education is one of our core focus points, and it’s the only department in the world church we know of that gives scholarships for women,” she said.
The fund began in 1993 from the royalties of what would become the department’s annual women’s devotional book. Its first recipient was May-Ellen Colon, who is now an assistant director with the Seventh-day Adventist world church’s Sabbath School and Personal Ministries department.
“It was an encouragement, an affirmation,” Colon said of her scholarship, the only one awarded that year. At the time, Colon was working on her doctorate in religious education. “It was great to be the first of a chain reaction that continues to this day. Hopefully the momentum will increase.”
The total value of scholarships has increased over the years, even as sales of the annual devotional book have declined in the past decade and the majority of funds now come from donors. The committee now awards annual scholarships totaling anywhere from $75,000 to $125,000, depending on available funds, said Women’s Ministries associate director Raquel Arrais.
Each of the Adventist Church’s 13 world divisions receives the same amount to award, and the number of scholarships and the amount vary locally, Arrais said. For example, the church in Myanmar awards more scholarships with smaller amounts because of the lower cost of living and tuition; but in South Korea only a few scholarships are awarded because of the higher cost.
The scholarship fund has recently focused on Nepal and a host of other countries, often with a special fund. These include Myanmar, Cambodia, Ukraine, India, Cameroon and South Sudan.
Arrais—who herself was a scholarship recipient in 1997—said there are numerous other church employees, missionaries and lay members who are former recipients, including the Women’s Ministries director of the West-Central African Division, and the Women’s Ministries director and the Health Ministries director of the Mongolia Mission.
The General Conference Women’s Ministries department dates back to 1898 when it was established by Sarepta M.I. Henry, but it fizzled out after her death two years later. The denomination’s Executive Committee re-established Women’s Ministries as a General Conference department in 1990, and the 1995 General Conference Session meeting voted Women’s Ministries as a full department throughout the denomination’s world divisions.
To donate or apply to the Women’s Ministries Scholarship Fund, visit adventistwomensministries.org.