Their works may seem small, falling in the realm of home-based Bible studies and worship services. But two female planters launching on-mission churches through Foursquare Multiply are certain God is involved.
“My call to full-time vocational ministry was incredibly unexpected and not something I pursued,” says Alyssa Fitzgerald, an assisting minister at New Song Community Church (Bismarck Foursquare Church) in Bismarck, N.D., now hosting biweekly Bible studies as a first step. “God chased me down. There aren’t words to describe what happened.”
An immigrant from India who came to the U.S. in 2016 for Ph.D. studies, Sheeba Dawood, Ph.D., knows that feeling. After she was filled with the Holy Spirit in 2011, others sought her out with prayer requests, followed by God leading her through different challenges. Sent by World Hope Worship Center (Salisbury Foursquare Church) in Salisbury, N.C., Sheeba launched Immanuel Ministries in her Greensboro home in 2020.
“What I’ve seen is I’m able to reach people who don’t have access to the Word of God,” says Sheeba, who is CEO and co-founder of a high tech company that seeks to remove harmful pathogens from water. “I work with engineers, and sometimes being with them, I feel God is using me and giving me access to people.”
The New Song mission in New Salem, N.D.—a town of 900 about 30 miles west of Bismarck—that Alyssa is launching is so new it doesn’t yet have a name. But after being saved, filled with the Holy Spirit and called to ministry two years after returning to her native North Dakota, she detects the Lord’s fingerprints all over the process.
Losing her life to salvage it
When Alyssa and her husband, Keith, moved back from Wisconsin in 2012, their marriage was shaky. So was her faith; raised in another denomination, she had adopted a legalistic view of God that left her struggling with depression, aimlessness and low self-esteem.
“We came to North Dakota to salvage our lives,” she explains. “When I first attended New Song in June 2013, I heard about a relationship with Jesus. I was 30 years old and had never heard about that. I pursued that and decided to make Jesus the center of my life.”
Over the next year she was baptized in water and with the Spirit, received her prayer language and got pregnant with her second child. In late 2014, she sensed God’s call to ministry and soon after joined the staff of New Song. Under Senior Pastor Kurt Chaffee, Alyssa has overseen worship, youth, Sunday services, outreach teams and extension campus efforts while preaching about half a dozen times a year. She deeply appreciates the opportunity.
“To be affirmed, especially by the spiritual authority of our church, feels great,” states Alyssa. “That helps give me the fuel to go after my calling.”
“What I’ve seen is I’m able to reach people who don’t have access to the Word of God. I work with engineers, and sometimes being with them, I feel God is using me and giving me access to people.” —Sheeba Dawood, church planter in Greensboro, N.C.
She and Keith have lived in New Salem for seven years. They have gained acceptance locally; when the pastor of the area’s largest church retired last November, members asked Alyssa to handle a funeral, a baby dedication and other pastoral duties.
At the moment, the mission’s Bible studies on alternate Tuesdays draw up to 10 people, with a launch date pending. Alyssa and her team are also involved in several missional activities, including food distribution, giving piano lessons and hosting an open gym. While this isn’t a neat and tidy picture, Alyssa says that, in her experience, not much God does fits in a comfortable frame.
“I have such a deep desire and love for New Salem; we love being part of this community,” Alyssa affirms. “Couple that with my love for Jesus and what He’s done for our family, and I just want to serve our community, no matter how God does that.”
Gaining confidence + Jesus followers
In Greensboro, 20 to 25 people gather at Sheeba and Samuel Dawoods’ home for prayer and a church service on Sundays, and Bible study on Wednesday nights. Reflecting its lockdown origins, some still participate online.
Several people have become followers of Jesus and been baptized the past three years, which helps instill confidence in Sheba’s calling. The granddaughter of a pastor, she has a burning desire to continue his ministry.
“Not many women in India are pastors, but there are congregations like Foursquare,” says Sheeba, who was inspired by Foursquare founder Aimee Semple McPherson’s female status. “I was waiting for the right opportunity. I always used to lead prayer groups, even at work.”
Although she has experienced resistance to female pastors in the U.S., Sheeba says the opposition she has faced doesn’t compare to those in India who have been martyred for their faith.
This background is one reason she is so appreciative of the guidance she receives through Foursquare Multiply. At the last cohort she attended in San Antonio, she learned that a number of other pastors had the same questions about their next steps in ministry.
“It was like God was talking to us there,” Sheeba says. “He was telling us what our next steps were, how we should lead, and what our focus must be. It kept validating that this is more and more about God’s grace.”
Interested in seeing how Foursquare Multiply can support, train and resource you for church planting? Visit FoursquareMultiply.com.