When Sheryl Lackey Reeves (MACE, 2015) decided to attend seminary, her mom, Elsie Sue Wiley, wasn’t surprised. Sheryl’s mom (called Sue) always knew that God set apart her daughter for Christian leadership. Just before Sheryl began her studies at DTS, however, her mom was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). Soon, Sue could no longer stand on her own, and speaking became difficult. But as Sheryl shared her first-year seminary experiences with her, Sue could still smile and raise her hands to cheer her on. “Mom passed away at the end of my first year,” Sheryl says, “but I kept that image of her before me to encourage me to finish well.”
Sue’s encouragement will benefit future generations of women studying at DTS. Sheryl and her husband, Mark, learned from Sue to envision a legacy beyond their own lifetime. They want to extend her example by supporting other women whom God calls to leadership. So they worked with Dallas Seminary Foundation to create an upcoming scholarship.
The ESW Scholarship will support women in training to teach God’s Word and raise up disciples. The name of the scholarship has two meanings. “ESW” stands for Elsie Sue Wiley. But Sheryl explains its other meaning: Especially Strong Women, “because my mother was one.” Sheryl remembers the challenges of completing her seminary degree, but she affirms, “I did it, and so can future female students with the same desire to empower people with the truth of the gospel.”
When the ESW Scholarship launches, it will help support numerous Christian leaders. It will cheer on the same type of excellent studies and ministry already being accomplished by female students at DTS. Once in effect, it will encourage strengths currently developed and displayed, such as by the presenters at the “GodTalks: Women Teaching Truth” conference.
Dr. Sue Edwards, who worked closely with Sheryl while she was a student, leads the GodTalks events. These one-day events give students, like those the ESW Scholarship will help, an opportunity to present compelling teaching about God’s Word. They offer a model for raising women’s biblical literacy in the local church.
Edwards recalled the strengths exemplified by last year’s six presenters. The student Bible teachers included an international student who plans to teach the Scriptures in South America and help women grow spiritually; a wife and mother who earned a juris doctorate and then answered the call to teach the Bible; and a registered nurse who tended kids with cardiac defects, worked in orphan-care nonprofits, and now cares for women with unplanned pregnancies. Another six women will teach at the next GodTalks event on January 27, 2024.
One mother’s encouragement helped her daughter complete a degree and proclaim God’s Word. Now the light of Sue’s example and loving support will continue illuminating the way for more women to go and do likewise.
About the Contributors
Neil R. Coulter served as an ethnomusicology and arts consultant for twelve years in Papua New Guinea, with Wycliffe Bible Translators. He is now senior writer and editor at DTS. He and his wife, Joyce, have three sons.
Dr. Edwards’s heartbeat is to reinforce ministry partnerships between men and women, which strengthen church and parachurch organizations locally and worldwide. She has over forty years of experience in Bible teaching, educational ministries, leading ministry to women, retreat and conference speaking, training teams and teachers, overseeing staff, and writing curriculum. As former minister to women at her local church she experienced healthy men and women partnerships on staff, and her passion is to pass on what she has learned. She is the author of “The Discover Together Series”, currently providing thirteen inductive Bible studies for women (www.discovertogetherseries.com), co-author of five leadership books for women, and co-editor of “Invitation to Educational Ministry, Foundations of Transformative Christian Education.” Dr. Edwards’s research and teaching interests include coaching and instructing women to teach the Bible and organic mentoring. Married to David for forty-six years, she especially enjoys romping with their five grandchildren and their two west highland terriers.