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Clayton receives award in honor of slain missionary Martha Myers

INDIANAPOLIS (BP)–Sara Ross Clayton, 78, of Douglas, Ga., was named the first recipient of the Dr. Martha Myers GA Alumnae of Distinction Award during WMU’s Annual Meeting and Missions Celebration June 13-14 in Indianapolis.

Clayton’s daughter, Joyce Clayton Morse, nominated her mother for the recognition and accepted the award on her mother’s behalf.

“My mother does not understand she has been extraordinary because she thinks it’s ordinary to be involved,” Morse said.

Established in 2003, the Dr. Martha Myers GA Alumnae of Distinction Award is awarded annually and honors a Girls in Action alumnae who exhibits a missions lifestyle, has dramatically influenced the lives of others through missions, ministry, and/or civic duty, and is a good role model for girls.

Like Myers, Clayton became involved in missions as a GA. Her missions involvement dates back to the early 1940s when she was a GA at College Avenue Baptist Church in Douglas, Ga., and sold hamburgers to raise money to attend GA camp. That was just the beginning of a life dedicated to serving others through missions.

As a young military wife and member of Green Acres Baptist Church in Smyrna, Ga., in the mid-1950s, Clayton led Sunbeams and GAs in addition to being actively involved in adult WMU groups and other church programs. In 1957 and 1958, she served as a GA leader at Harlandale Baptist Church in San Antonio, Texas, while her husband, Luke, was stationed at Brooks Air Force Base. While in Texas, she became involved in VBS and other ministries in low-income Hispanic communities.

From 1959-1965, she remained active in missions as she led GAs and worked in church and associational WMU activities at Southside Baptist Church in Savannah, Ga., and then at Congress Avenue Baptist Church in Austin, Texas.

In 1966, retirement took her family back to Douglas, Ga., where she rejoined College Avenue Baptist Church and became active in WMU and missions. She and her husband also taught couples in Sunday School and led leadership development classes.

In 1982, she was one of 30 charter members of Northside Baptist Church in Douglas, Ga., a church meant to create a platform for active missions endeavors. At the first official meeting held in a church member’s home, GA and RA meetings were held in the dining room and den.

Clayton continued to serve others as she led VBS, organized youth and adult missions trips, mentored young women and was involved in puppet ministry and outreach to senior adults. She was also an integral part of organizing and staffing parenting classes at church for several years in partnership with the Department of Family and Children Services. Women at risk for losing their children were taught parenting skills, self-esteem classes and crafts while church volunteers cared for their children.

Over the years, Clayton and her husband hosted countless international students, missionaries, revival speakers, state workers and pastors in their home. Morse said her mother “could do a seated dinner for 40 in a 1,500-square foot house and make it look easy and make you feel comfortable and welcome.”

In August 1991, Clayton suffered a stroke that left her unable to speak, read, write or use her right arm. Her right leg is paralyzed, leaving her wheelchair bound and unable to attend church. In 1993, her husband died of lung cancer.

And yet her missions legacy goes on to help and encourage others. According to her daughter, when a team leaves for Mexico for another ministry trip, Clayton makes sure toys, health supplies and food for the villagers are purchased with her money.

When it’s time for the Sacks of Socks ministry at the area children’s home, there are dozens of pairs of new socks she has directed someone to buy.

And she’s still involved in Senior’s Day Out. The team leaders come to see her after the meeting, bring the craft they made, and tell her all about the meeting and the ladies. Before they leave, she slips a twenty dollar bill to them to go in the money pouch for missions.

According to Morse, “Few ministries in our church from the youth trips to VBS to the prison ministry take place without her interest, giving and prayer.”

“We are pleased to present this award to Sara, who has obviously dedicated her life to reaching others with the love of Christ,” said Mitzi Gibbs Eaker, children’s ministry consultant for national WMU. “She has ministered to those around her with a loving heart, caring words and tender hands.”
For more information regarding Girls in Action or the Dr. Martha Myers GA Alumnae of Distinction Award, visit www.gafanclub.com, a new website for adult GA Friends and Alumnae InterNational. Nomination forms for the GA alumnae award are also available on the site; nominations for 2005 must be received by Jan. 15. For more information on Woman’s Missionary Union, visit www.wmu.com, or call (205) 991-8100.