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Missions Innovators, ethnic emphasis adopted in WMU long-range planning

TALLADEGA, Ala. (BP)–The Woman’s Missionary Union executive board approved the report of a long-range planning committee during its Jan. 9-13 meeting, which, among other things, called for adopting the Missions Innovators program piloted in 1998 and expanding WMU’s work with ethnic and language groups.
The annual meeting was held at Shocco Springs Baptist Assembly in Talladega, Ala. Nearly 250 people attended the meeting, including executive board members, state WMU staff members, national WMU staff members, staff from the International and North American Mission boards and a team of international missionaries.
The committee, known as the Blueprint for the 21st Century Committee, was appointed by national WMU President Wanda Lee in February 1998. Committee members included Linda Clark, California; Ann Coffman, Florida; Irma Duke, North Carolina; Angela Kim, Texas; Pat North, Dakotas; Carolyn Porterfield, Texas; and June Whitlow and Delores Jackson, WMU, SBC. The committee met several times during the year and brought eight recommendations to the board.
Three recommendations called for Lee to name a committee to do further study. Topics to be addressed by the committees include revising WMU’s curriculum and product development process; developing relationships and partnerships with international Baptist women’s groups; and developing a more adequate system of measuring WMU involvement.
Another recommendation calls for piloting an intentional interim program in partnership with conventions without state WMU leadership. The other two recommendations relate to the organization’s marketing strategy and research and development process.
The Missions Innovators recommendation calls on national WMU to develop and implement an ongoing Missions Innovators training program. The training will equip individuals to work with churches in evaluating their missions involvement and discovering new ways to be on mission with God.
WMU, SBC, piloted Missions Innovators during 1998 in cooperation with state Baptist conventions and WMU organizations in Alabama, Texas and Virginia. A national WMU staff member was assigned to the each state where she worked with the leadership to develop and implement a plan to help churches increase their missions involvement. In each state, the Missions Innovator worked with individual churches and associations of varying size and context.
Sheryl Churchill was assigned to Virginia. She said building relationships with church members and staff is the key component of Missions Innovators.
“By building these relationships, it gave me the opportunity to hear the heart stories of why people see missions as important to their lives,” she said. “It also opened the door to seeing that there are churches with a strong missions tradition and those who are beginning to create their own missions traditions.”
Sylvia DeLoach was assigned to Texas and will continue to work with the project in 1999. Churchill has returned to national WMU staff, and Kathy Burns, the staff member assigned to Alabama, has accepted a position with the Mississippi WMU.
DeLoach said the most exciting aspect of the Texas field test was the response of church leaders to the challenge “to learn to listen and think in new ways.”
“What we learned from the field tests now makes it possible for Woman’s Missionary Union to try innovative approaches in many other states in 1999,” she explained. “I look forward not only to using what we learned in 1998, but also to learning even more this year about how to increase missions awareness and involvement in churches and associations across the country.”
For Beverly Miller, Alabama WMU executive director, the Missions Innovators plan recognizes “churches are at the center of global missions and have the gifts and resources to meet the needs in the world.”
“It also allows WMU to go to a church without selling a program or product,” she added. “It gives us the tools to help a church assess its gifts and abilities, and establish a vision and then find ways to live out that vision in the mission of God.”
In its recommendation on expanding work with ethnic and language churches, the long-range planning committee commended national WMU staff on its current work in this area, but said that efforts “must become a higher priority.”
With language and ethnic churches representing the fastest-growing segment in SBC life, the committee said WMU must “accelerate ethnic leadership development and partner with those leaders in the creation of contextually appropriate material.”
Rose Zamora, WMU ministry consultant with language audiences, said the introduction and approval of this recommendation “is an answer to prayer.”
“It is wonderful to know that WMU will have an impact in our world as we seek to encourage ethnics and African Americans to be radically involved in the mission of God,” she said. “It is so fulfilling to see strides being made to continue including ethnic and African American work as part of WMU’s service to further God’s kingdom.”
In other business, the executive board
— awarded $65,000 in Second Century Fund grants. The grants were given to support women’s work in eight countries, 15 states and Puerto Rico. Grants also were awarded to three special projects: the MK Re-entry Retreat, a retreat for Native American Women and the BWA Women’s Department.
— approved the components of the 2000-2002 Project HELP: Literacy. The project will encourage local church members to become involved in literacy missions through awareness, action and advocacy. The overseas component will enlist volunteers to teach English in Nepal with the Nepal Women’s Job Corps. The project will climax with a convocation Sept. 6-8, 2002.
The project also will encourage contributions to the Lillian Issacs Literacy Missions Endowment Fund, held by the WMU Foundation. Issacs was a home missionary in Alaska who greatly influenced the growth of literacy missions in Southern Baptist life. She is now retired and living in Tallahassee, Fla.
*Name changed for security concerns.

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