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WMU focuses on past, present, futurecomment (0)

June 19, 2014


WMU focuses on past, present, future

The weight of the work that lay before the 96 new missionaries seemed to touch the more than 2,000 people who filled the room at a rare joint commissioning service June 8 at the Baltimore Convention Center in Maryland.

The service also marked the start of the national Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) 2014 annual meeting celebrating the organization’s 125th anniversary. 

The last time International Mission Board (IMB) and North American Mission Board (NAMB) missionaries were commissioned in a joint service was 25 years ago at the WMU’s 100th anniversary, according to WMU.

In an emotional service marked by prayer and praise, the new missionaries were commissioned to serve as church planters, evangelism catalysts, collegiate ministers, refugee workers, chaplains and ministers to people groups in difficult areas of the world.

One couple, Charles, 71, and Jan C., 69, said after years of serving in various countries they will now work with South Asian refugees. “Why do we go? Why not retire and just take it easy?” Charles asked. “Because God’s called us, and we cannot say, ‘No,’” Jan answered. Charles agreed, “Missions is for life. Don’t let your age keep you from doing what God wants you to do.” 

IMB President Tom Elliff challenged the missionaries to spread the gospel with urgency. Pointing to Acts 18, NAMB President Kevin Ezell encouraged the missionaries and their families not to be afraid of their missions assignments. Frank Page, president and CEO of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, and Debby Akerman, WMU president, offered prayers for the missionaries. Native Praise, a musical group composed of Native Americans representing 15 tribes from Oklahoma, shared praise music in three languages. 

Using the theme “Go Forward,” the WMU annual meeting highlighted the missions organization’s past, present and future.

Rosalie Hunt, recording secretary for national WMU and former Alabama WMU president, portrayed Ann Baker Graves in a monologue to help portray WMU’s past. 

Graves, 1803–1878, is often called the “mother of WMU.” She inspired and motivated Baptist women in post-Civil War America to carry the torch of missions leadership and to organize, give, pray and go.

Hunt, dressed in a 19th century costume, said in character, “With God’s direction in my heart, I ... began gathering women together to pray and to provide funds so that the women of China could hear the message of salvation. We began with women of different denominations, primarily Baptist and Methodist, as we worked in close cooperation.” 

To celebrate WMU’s future, National Acteen Panelists shared about their call to missions and the importance of WMU in their lives.

One of the panelists, Claire Wells, a member of Eastern Hills Baptist Church, Montgomery, said a missionary who hosted Wells and her team on an international trip told her something that “stuck with her.” 

“(She) said if you don’t take what you learned here and take it back to wherever you are — then it’s pointless,” Wells said, referring to thinking of missions the same way overseas as in America.

Wells, who will attend Samford University in Birmingham in the fall, said she hopes to take that lesson with her and serve God wherever she goes.

Elizabeth Stanbrough, a member of First Baptist Church, Alexander City, also served as an Acteen panelist, as did Cassie Couch, of Kentucky, and Nayley Vallejo, of Texas.

Hunt said, “And how appropriate to be meeting in Baltimore, Annie Armstrong’s hometown, with the theme ‘Go Forward,’ a term coined by Annie herself.” Armstrong was the first national leader of WMU.

Annie Armstrong tour

More than 600 participants went on an Armstrong tour, visiting the first site of the national WMU, Armstrong’s home church, her first home and gravesite, among other locations. Others attended sessions “Telling Your WMU Story” and “Drawing Near — An Introduction to Project HELP.” 

Akerman told WMU leaders from across the nation that “God has led WMU to be ahead of the curve for 125 years ... lighting the way for missions education.”

“The WMU today ... is radically involving Christian believers of every age in the mission of God,” she said.

Hunt, who presented a second monologue featuring Alabama native Kathleen Moore Mallory, said the culmination of the WMU’s 125th year was a good opportunity to meet others who have the same mission. For Alabama Baptists, the meeting served as an encouragement and gave “(Alabama WMU) women a feeling of camaraderie and a sense that we’re not the only ones. ... We’re not a dying breed,” Hunt said.

(BP, TAB)

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