News Articles

SBC DIGEST: WMU honors Cindy Vang; Union honors Ben Mandrell

Vang recognized for women’s leadership development

By Julie Walters/WMU

NEW ORLEANS (BP) – Cindy Vang of First Hmong Baptist Church in Coon Rapids, Minn., was honored with WMU’s top leadership award during the WMU Missions Adventure and Celebration on June 12 in New Orleans.

“What impresses me most about Cindy is that when God gives her a vision, she is not afraid to pursue it, even when she has no idea how it will happen,” wrote Joy Bolton, volunteer international WMU coordinator and retired executive director of Kentucky WMU, who nominated Vang for the award. “She prays, trusts God, and challenges others to join in … and people respond.”

Although their paths crossed when Vang served as president of Minnesota-Wisconsin WMU from 2016-2019, Bolton said it was during the COVID pandemic when Vang invited her to be a part of an online prayer group that their relationship grew.

Recognizing the need to stay connected during a time of isolation, Vang began a “Prayer Chat” group that continues to meet each Tuesday and includes women from across the United States, as well as Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, who share their stories and pray together.

“There is no doubt of Cindy’s global impact of encouraging women in their walk with the Lord,” Bolton said. “She encourages women to be on mission and prays for them. In Prayer Chat, we have learned of the mission work of several women in Laos and Thailand and prayed for them and also, through Cindy, sent resources to help them. The commitment of these women to travel to remote places, to help others by taking blankets and food and share the Gospel is inspiring. Cindy has played a vital role to encourage and help them.”

Betty Lynn Cadle, retired executive director of Minnesota-Wisconsin WMU, shared that one of the joys and most rewarding parts of her role was working with Hmong women in the churches there.

“When Cindy got involved in WMU leadership work, she hit the road running,” Cadle reflected. “Watching her lead others to participate in the ministries and projects God lays on her heart is an inspiration and a challenge. She works willingly and endlessly to put feet to whatever she believes needs to be done. Cindy evidences love for accomplishing the purposes of WMU—where she is, throughout the US, and overseas, too.”

Vang and others who serve with her on the leadership team of Minnesota-Wisconsin WMU have connected with women in Thailand and Laos to provide weekly training about WMU and become active missions leaders in the villages where they live.

Cindy Townsend, minister of women’s enrichment ministry and WMU at First Baptist Church in Jackson, Miss., first met Vang in 2016 at a WMU board meeting. In 2018, she participated on a mission trip Vang helped lead to Chiang Rai, Thailand. One of the outcomes of that trip was the formation of Hill Top Crafts, a WorldCrafts artisan group.

“Before Hill Top Crafts existed, it was just a dream in Cindy Vang’s heart,” Townsend shared. “I was there in Thailand when the Hmong women covered the floor of a big room with different styles of purses made from the Hmong signature material and invited us to choose our favorite purse.

“They learned how to sew and create their own style by watching videos on YouTube,” Townsend said. “We prayed that night this would be the beginning of a way for Hmong women to provide for their families in need. Today, Hilltop Crafts exists because Cindy challenged women to learn how to sew and do something productive for their children.”

The artisans employed at Hill Top Crafts send their much-needed income home to their families in small villages in Laos and Vietnam. They are provided with shelter, as well as leadership training and discipleship courses. Their work at Hill Top Crafts helps them build self-esteem, encourage self-confidence, and provides essential hands-on skills to be successful in life. The women donate a portion of their sales to provide food, clothing and shelter for orphans.

Vang’s influence in the area continued on a trip in 2019 to Laos and Thailand. Her team visited 10 churches in Laos and five in Thailand, gave away more than 300 eyeglasses, coordinated a Vacation Bible School in a Laos church, gave away 105 Bible story books to help churches read to children, and gave away solar lights to people so they could read God’s Word at night, among other missions endeavors. Vang is planning another trip to Thailand and Laos in 2024.

“Cindy is constantly asking God to give her visions of how to make the world better for her Hmong people,” Townsend said. “God has answered her prayers by giving her His vision and by providing His way for the dreams and visions to become a reality.”

The Dellanna West O’Brien Award for Women’s Leadership Development was established in 1999 to annually recognize a Baptist woman who demonstrates the ability to foster leadership in women and displays the potential to be leaders in the community and the world. The award includes a grant to help the recipient continue her development and ministry to others.

Union presents Lifeway’s Mandrell with Dodd Award

By Union University Staff

JACKSON, Tenn. (BP) – Union University presented Ben Mandrell, president and CEO of Lifeway Christian Resources, with its M.E. Dodd Denominational Service Award during a June 13 alumni dinner at the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in New Orleans.

The Dodd Award is the highest denominational service award Union gives. It is named for the man who was a 1904 Union graduate, served as president of the SBC and who was the father of today’s Cooperative Program, the method by which Southern Baptists pool their resources to fund their mission efforts.

(Left to right): Union University President Dub Oliver, Lifeway President Ben Mandrell and his wife Lynley.

The award, voted on by Union trustees, is given to a leader within the SBC who displays excellence and leadership in Southern Baptist life, as well as friendship and commitment to Union University. Past recipients include such leaders as Jimmy Draper, Adrian Rogers, R. Albert Mohler Jr., Steve Gaines, Paul Chitwood, Willie McLaurin, David S. Dockery and others.

“Ben Mandrell has provided visionary leadership to one of Southern Baptists’ most important ministries – LifeWay Christian Resources,” said Todd E. Brady, Union’s vice president for university ministries. “He has a servant’s heart and a gracious spirit, and Southern Baptists are grateful for his leadership.”

Mandrell was elected as Lifeway’s 10th president in 2019 after serving as pastor of Storyline Fellowship in Arvada, Colo. He previously served as pastor of Englewood Baptist Church in Jackson, Tenn., and as campus minister at Union.

A native of Tampico, Ill., Mandrell graduated from Anderson (Ind.) University in 1998. He also holds a Master of Divinity degree from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a Doctor of Ministry degree from Union. He and his wife, Lynley, have four children.

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