PHOENIX (BP) — “Defining Moments,” those dramatic, life-changing experiences that make an eternal difference in the hearts and minds of the Christian believer, were recounted and celebrated during the Monday sessions of the WMU Missions Celebration and Annual Meeting, held June 11-12 at the Renaissance Phoenix Downtown Hotel.
The 325 registered participants of the two-day meeting explored defining moments in the Bible and in the lives of missionaries, national WMU leaders, Acteens panelists and other SBC leaders.
The Monday sessions paralleled the Sunday opening theme examining “Defining Moments … Restored” and “Defining Moments … Released.”
“Often we make a mess of our lives and wonder if it can ever be fixed,” said Linda Cooper, WMU national president. “When Christ shows up, He restores us and give us new purposes.”
In the annual President’s Address, Cooper, a member of Forest Park Baptist Church in Bowling Green, Ky., shared the first of many defining moments in her life when as a 12-year-old in a revival service in a small country church she accepted Jesus as Savior.
These moments continued throughout her life as “God revealed a lost world to me,” she said “and led me to today where I represent an organization that is literally changing the world.”
Cooper recalled meeting Skeeter, a kitchen manager at a Nashville mission this past Spring. The former homeless man had been beaten and thrown over a bridge when he came through that ministry. There he “learned about grace and experienced God’s saving grace.”
And she recounted the story of the Rwandan woman who came to know Christ after she was freed from the bonds of sex trafficking by producing crafts through WMU’s WorldCrafts to earn a sustainable living.
Cooper, who was also elected to her third term as WMU president, reminded the women that they too are providing defining moments in the lives of men, women, boys and girls in WMU — “an experience that is changing people forever.”
Throughout the meeting, Southern Baptist missionaries serving throughout the world shared stories of restoration and release.
Ross and Dena Frierson have seen God’s redemptive hand through history while ministering to the Udmurt people of Russia. God’s plan for this previously unreached and unengaged people group can be traced back to a 2007 prayer emphasis “that I am sure some of you were a part of,” said Dena Frierson, referencing the 2007 Day of Prayer and Fasting for World Evangelization that focused on the Udmurt people group.
The Friersons, who began serving in Russia in 2009, helped plant churches in Udmurtia, located about 700 miles east of Moscow. “God is still at work around the world to accomplish His redemptive purpose for all of the people groups on the earth,” Dena Frierson said. The family will soon be serving in Wales.
North American Mission Board appointees Jacob and Jessica Dahl serve as church planters in Ellensburg, Wash., home to 11,000 college students at Central Washington University. In their church plant, the missionary couple has seen more than 103 persons baptized, 98 salvations and their core group of believers grow to 250.
As an International Mission Board worker in Thailand since 1992, Cheryl Derbyshire directs Thai Country Trim, a ministry that provides income for more than 200 rural village women who use their talents and gifts to produce WorldCraft products. As their handiwork is sold across the world, the women are being led to Christ and become leaders in their local churches.
Bringing a biblical message based on Luke 14:16-24, Gordon Fort, senior ambassador for the president of the International Mission Board, said the lost are waiting for invitations to join the feast and sit at the right hand of the Master.
“The invitation to this wedding feast is in your hand,” Fort said. “This is not just ‘a defining moment,’ this is ‘the defining moment.”
The 2017 Dellanna West O’Brien Award was presented to Becky Sumrall, executive director of Begin Anew, Christian Women’s Job Corps of Middle Tenn., in recognition of her work with CWJC as well as investment of her time in developing outstanding leadership skills in the women she works with.
The annual meeting concluded Monday night when nearly 700 persons viewed the movie “Mully,” and met the subject of the film, Charles Mulli, a Kenyan man who worked his way from abject poverty to great wealth, only to be called by God to return to poverty.
WorldCrafts is partnering with Mully Children’s Family (MCF) to help share the story of Mulli and expand WorldCrafts impact among impoverished artisan groups around the world.
The film begins as Mulli, the first born in a family of eight living in poverty in Kenya, was abandoned by his parents as they left in search of a better living. He grew up begging on the streets and became a Christian as a teenager.
When Mulli was 17, he walked more than 40 miles to Nairobi to seek employment. He found work and met his future wife Esther. He became a wealthy entrepreneur and respected community leader, and he and Esther had eight biological children.
In 1989, Mulli said, the Lord laid it on his heart to help other children living in poverty in Africa. He sold all his property and businesses in order to provide street children in Africa with shelter, medical care, education, and more.
Since then Charles and Esther Mulli have taken guardianship of more than 12,000 abandoned children.
The story was met with a standing ovation by those in attendance and an interview with the couple who shared how God had met every need.
The next WMU annual meeting is set for June 10-11 in Dallas, Texas.