BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP) – From Alaska to Maine, nearly 200 missions leaders from across the country gathered on Missionary Ridge in Birmingham for WMU’s January board meeting Jan. 6-8.
Sandy Wisdom-Martin, executive director of national WMU, said often when you hear missions speakers, they tell you inspirational story after story of amazing ways they’ve seen God at work in their midst; people coming to Christ; masses being baptized; dancing on mountaintops of spiritual experiences.
But she then told a story of a missionary who served with IMB for 12 years who said when we hear those stories, we should rejoice; but for every mountaintop, there are usually weeks, months or many years leading up to that mountaintop when you are stuck in the valley. And those are years of prayer, and tears, and rejection, and hardship that have to be passed through in order to see the grace of God.
Wisdom-Martin compared this IMB missionary’s inspiring story to Adoniram Judson, famous missionary to Burma in the 1800s who didn’t have one convert until his seventh year.
“Adoniram’s son Edward once said, ‘If you succeed without suffering, it’s because others suffered before you. If you suffer without succeeding, it’s so others may succeed after you,’” Wisdom-Martin shared. “You have to get to the point where you believe Christ is enough. He is enough and He is worthy of every heartache and sacrifice.”
Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board, addressed the group Sunday morning saying, “Missions in the SBC would not be what it is if it were not for WMU and if it were not for Sandy Wisdom-Martin. We are very grateful for her and we are grateful for how you support our missionaries. They are overwhelmed with gratefulness when we tell them all that you do.”
Ezell preached an encouraging message about the urgency of sharing the Gospel.
“Time moves at a rapid pace and we have to make the most of our time, to live in the moment. You see that sense of urgency in the apostle Paul,” Ezell said, citing 1 Corinthians 16:5-9.
“Paul saw opposition as a reason to stay, not an excuse to leave,” Ezell said. “He was determined. Let’s not get discouraged. Let’s not get distracted. We are about the mission. When opposition comes, embrace it, but at the same time understand it and be faithful in the midst of it.”
International Mission Board President Paul Chitwood said during his report, “We at the IMB thank God for WMU. You are the unwavering advocates in prayers for our missionaries.”
In her address as national WMU president, Connie Dixon compared God’s love to a vast ocean.
“God’s love reaches every corner of our experience,” she said. “While it cannot be measured by any comprehensible standards, God wants us to know this ocean of love. Like describing an ocean, its total beauty cannot be understood until you see it for yourself. It is the same with God’s love. Until you actually experience it and possess the true peace with God, no one can describe its wonders to you.
“We as WMU need to show that kind of love to the world,” Dixon continued. “Our unwavering focus is making disciples of Jesus who live on mission as we seek to help every man, woman and child understand missions and their role in fulfilling the Great Commission.”
Veronica Stone, serving with IMB, and Osvaldo and Vanessa Lerma, serving with Send Relief along the Texas border, shared ways God is working in their lives and through their ministries.
Participants attended breakout sessions on a variety of topics from age-level missions discipleship to mental health to communication and leadership skills. Additional opportunities included a walk-through of areas of study in WMU curriculum for 2024-2025, a WorldCrafts shop, tours of the WMU building and artifacts, and health and wellness checks by Baptist Nursing Fellowship. The WMU Foundation hosted a silent auction and book sale that generated more than $1,300 in donations for the Missions Camping Endowment as well as a station where participants wrote notes of encouragement to WMU/WMU Foundation scholarship recipients.
WMU welcomed four new state WMU presidents to the executive board: Robin Barden, Alaska; Sandra Hughes, California; Denise Clymer, New Mexico; and Jackie Faughn, Texas. In addition, four presidents who will rotate off the executive board this spring as they complete their term were recognized for their faithful service: Carolyn Fountain, Louisiana; Jan Turner, Missouri; Deborah Taylor, North Carolina; and Cindy Burns, South Carolina.
During the executive session on Saturday night, the executive board heard updates from committees and approved a 2024 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering goal of $205 million and a 2025 Annie Armstrong Easter Offering goal of $78 million.
The next scheduled WMU board meeting will be June 1.