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Leaders underscore WMU unity, vision for missions impact

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP)–A family or community bound together with a sense of unity and oneness is an awesome thing to behold or experience. Such was the Woman’s Missionary Union board meeting Jan. 10-13.

More than 200 people attended the sessions at Shocco Springs Baptist Conference Center in Talladega, Ala., including executive board members, both state and national WMU staff members, and staff from the International Mission Board and North American Mission Board. In addition, three field personnel serving with the IMB and one serving with NAMB shared testimonies about the faithfulness of God.

Before traveling to Shocco Springs, the meeting officially began on Saturday, Jan. 10, at WMU’s national headquarters in Birmingham, Ala., with a panel discussion featuring representatives of the mission boards. Answering questions related to the International Mission Board were Jerry Rankin, president; Larry Cox, vice president of the office of mobilization; and Wendy Norvelle, associate vice president for SBC relations. Representing the North American Mission Board were Robert E. (Bob) Reccord, president and CEO, and Nate Adams, vice president for mobilization and media. Questions for the panelists were framed to provide insight on the mission boards’ objectives and focus related to missions support and to discuss collaborative strategies for strengthening missions education and involvement.

While at Shocco Springs, Wanda S. Lee, executive director-treasurer of national WMU, encouraged everyone to “put aside any distractions that might separate us or keep us from allowing God to speak to the collective family known as WMU.” She continued, “Allow God to direct our thoughts and dreams around the one thing that holds us together after all these years — a passion for missions.”

Lee’s address focused on vision for the future of missions education and involvement through WMU. With the task at hand to shape strategies and initiatives to propel WMU into the future, Lee encouraged the attendees to be “strong and courageous” as she read Joshua 1:6-9. She concluded her message with words written by Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave the trail.”

“So what path is God calling us to forge today?” Lee asked. “What creative missions initiatives does He have waiting for us to take hold of that will make a significant difference in our world tomorrow?”

With the challenge issued, attendees divided into five different groups to seek God’s plans for WMU as they prayed, discussed various topics related to missions education, and committed once again to WMU’s missions purpose.

Following the day-long envisioning of WMU’s future, Janet Hoffman, national president of WMU, brought the spirit of unity that permeated the entire meeting full circle in her address during the final session on Tuesday morning. Healthy families and communities acknowledge personal differences but emphasize commonalities, Hoffman noted. With the purpose of fellowship, strength and belonging, healthy families, or communities, beget respect, trust, caring and love for one another as they worship, work and fellowship together.

“The challenge of this and every day is that we not be distracted by our diversity or diversions to the extent that we neglect the continual work necessary for maintaining oneness,” Hoffman said. “Oneness, or unity, is humanly impossible to achieve; but in Christ, oneness is possible because He breaks the barriers that may divide us and unites us under the banner of love.”

In other business, the executive board:

–renamed Nuestra Tarea, the premier Baptist missions magazine for Hispanic churches within the United States for almost 50 years. The name will change from Nuestra Tarea: Revista misionera bautista (Our Task: Baptist Missions Magazine) to Nuestra Tarea: Revista de misiones y ministerios (Our Task: Magazine of Missions and Ministries). The publication also will change from monthly to bimonthly beginning in the fall of 2004.

–approved a new program design for collegiate women to begin in August 2004.

–approved a recommendation for Children in Action, WMU’s missions organization for children in grades one through six, to adopt a new Scripture verse, a motto and a pledge to help members have a common identity and missions purpose. The Scripture verse is “I can do everything by the power of Christ. He gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13, NIrV). The approved motto is “Send me!” (Isaiah 6:8); and the new pledge is “As a member of Children in Action, I will pray for missions, give to missions, learn about missions, and do missions through the power of Christ.”

–approved the dates of Sept. 27-Oct. 1, 2006, for a national WMU event at Lifeway’s Ridgecrest Conference Center.

–approved the next National Acteens Convention (NAC) for the summer of 2007, with the place and date to be determined.