WMU annual meeting focuses on Jesusí transforming touchcomment (0)
June 28, 2012
The Story Lives On” — Woman’s Missionary Union’s 2012–13 theme — took life through stories of faith from behind prison bars, in lives of at-risk youth and through the work of missionaries and church planters nationally and internationally during the opening session of WMU’s June 17–18 meeting in New Orleans.
The theme focused on Jesus and His transforming touch, drawing from Acts 4:20, “As for us we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”
In a video filmed behind the prison fences of the McPherson Women’s Unit in Newport, Ark., three women shared how they had found hope and a life of purpose despite their circumstances through faith in Jesus Christ.
Introducing herself to the audience, North American Mission Board (NAMB) chaplain Stacey Smith told of her 60-year prison sentence after an early life of drugs and crime. While sitting in a jail cell reading Scripture she asked Jesus to come into her life. Released after 16 years for good behavior, Smith has returned to prison for the past five years to organize Bible studies and reach new believers. She urged others to consider prison ministry. “Prison is a missions field with a captive audience,” she said. “They hunger for the Word of God.”
Chuck Kelley, president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, told how The Story Lives On in the Louisiana State Correctional Institute in Angola. Known for its violence, Angola is the largest maximum security prison in the nation with 5,000 inmates, “many who will spend the rest of their days in prison and never walk out of there.”
The seminary began ministering there after the warden, Burl Cain, a Southern Baptist layman, became concerned about the spiritual condition of the men on death row. After starting Experiencing God studies for the men, he called the seminary for help.
Kelley and professors came to the prison with academic courses “to teach them how to be ministers and leaders.” The prisoners have enrolled in classes and graduated from the program. Among their class assignments was to lead Bible studies and start churches within their cell blocks.
Laurie Register, executive director of South Carolina WMU, told how the WMU’s Project HELP is transforming lives of at-risk and incarcerated youth within the South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice system.
For three decades an Acteens ministry flourished on the campus of the Willow Lane Program for Girls located in Columbia, she said. Now that effort has evolved into multiple ministries as local churches and World Changers have led Vacation Bible Schools, constructed and furnished a transitional house and chapel-activity center and prayerwalked throughout the campus.
WMU attendees also heard about the power of Jesus’ story from Annette Hall, a Southern Baptist representative who spoke about the impact of chronological Bible storying. Hall has worked for nearly 40 years with North African and Middle Eastern peoples.
“Two-thirds of the world’s people are oral communicators,” Hall said. “That means that they learn through stories or music, drama or poetry. ... If you hand them a book to read, they either can’t read it or they won’t read it.”
Also during the meeting, the Dellana O’Brien award, named in honor of the past WMU executive director, was given to Mycie Vue, president of the Minnesota-Wisconsin WMU. Vue is a Hmong immigrant whose family walked for six weeks to escape persecution in Laos.
Re-elected to serve another one-year term were Debby Akerman, national WMU president, and Alabama’s Rosalie Hunt, recording secretary. State WMU presidents were elected as vice presidents.
(Compiled from BP stories)