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Literacy video leads volunteer to life-changing commitment

INDIANAPOLIS (BP)–A literacy missions video shown at the national Woman’s Missionary Union annual meeting in 1992 had such a life-changing effect on Rebecca Carnell that she returned to Eubank, Ky., determined to do whatever it took to get involved personally in that ministry.

Twelve years later, during the Missions Celebration and National WMU Annual Meeting, June 13-14 in Indianapolis, Carnell was named the 2004 recipient of the Dellanna West O’Brien Award for Women’s Leadership Development.

Today she is a part-time literacy consultant with the Kentucky Baptist Convention, trained as an adult reading workshop leader who trains others to become a tutor. Carnell also serves as a Missions Service Corps volunteer.

“I said to the Lord, ‘Whatever you want me to do with the skill you have given me, I will do it,'” Carnell said after the video.

She expected to go home and continue to teach people to read one person at a time, probably for the rest of her life.

“And I still do that today,” she said. “But I did not know what else God would have for me to do. To see someone read — especially to read the Bible — for the first time in their life is such a joy. It changes their life.”

Carnell asked the meeting participants if their walk with the Lord would be the same without the Scriptures.

“People who cannot read the Bible, first they may not know the Lord, but even those who do don’t have the same relationship with our Father as we do who can read,” she said.

Carnell told the WMU audience that as a youth she had not been in Mission Friends, Girls in Action or Acteens. She said she has been a Baptist and a believer since she was 10 years old, but at 19 someone took her to a Young Baptist Women meeting.

“I was a young mother and my husband was in Vietnam. The only time I had to pray was when I washed dishes and sterilized bottles … and mixed formula,” she said. “So I posted the prayer calendar above my kitchen sink so I could pray while I was in the kitchen. That’s how I was introduced to missions.

“I am so glad because I have always remembered that even though I wasn’t surrendering to the Lord [in ministry] until I was almost 40 years old, I was always touched by missionaries and what they said and did and how God used them in their lives.”

Carnell said she knew God had plans for her using literacy as an evangelistic outreach and went home from the WMU meeting in 1992 asking questions at the association and state level about how she could serve.

She said she somehow found a brochure about Mission Service Corps that explained she could serve 20 hours a week for four months or longer as a volunteer. She did not need a seminary degree, which she said she still does not have today. She needed her church’s approval, three references, and to attend an orientation. With her church’s help, she was able to do all those things.

She was soon hired as a part-time literacy consultant.

“[For the past six years] God has let me serve Kentucky Baptists in that capacity, and it’s the best thing I have ever done in my life,” Carnell said. “I love it more than anything else I’ve ever done. It is a part-time position so the rest of the time I serve as an MSC volunteer, which gives me the support I need, not just prayers but financial.

“It’s an avenue of service for people like me who don’t have the credentials to be an appointed missionary but we still know God has called us to serve.”

    About the Author

  • Michael Chute