BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP) – Despite pandemic-related challenges in 2021, Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) ministries grew, and the Southern Baptist Convention auxiliary entered 2022 on strong footing, leaders heard at a meeting last month.
“In spite of everything, 2021 was a record-setting year,” said Sandy Wisdom-Martin, national WMU executive director/treasurer. “Our comprehensive international ministry touched 49 countries through WorldCrafts; Pure Water, Pure Love; Christian Women’s Job Corps; missions resource collaboration; international WMU; and partnership with the WMU Foundation through HEART Fund grant requests. From Bangladesh through Zambia, WMU provided compassion ministries and connection opportunities for our sisters around the world.”
The meeting joined executive board members and national and state leaders via Zoom Jan. 8-9 to hear updates and testimonies.
One major update is the possible future sale of the WMU’s building in Birmingham. After several downsizings in recent years and incorporating a remote work policy, WMU leadership has determined the 137,000-foot building that serves as WMU’s national headquarters is a larger footprint than needed. The property is on the market, and the replacement of a 37-year-old HVAC system across the complex is complete.
Wisdom-Martin also reported that donations to Pure Water, Pure Love enabled WMU to provide 1,372 water filters and replacements to International Mission Board personnel and missions teams during the 2020-21 fiscal year. In addition, WMU awarded nearly $400,000 in Pure Water, Pure Love global grants to supply clean water resources, and a full semi-truckload of water was sent to New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida.
Another record was set with HEART (Humanitarian Emergency Aid for Rebuilding Tomorrow) Fund grants. National WMU and the WMU Foundation established this fund in response to the tragic events of 9/11. To honor the 20-year anniversary, the WMU Foundation set a goal to grant 20 HEART Fund grants throughout 2021. A total of 25 HEART Fund grants were approved, distributing more than $256,000 – the largest total amount and total grants given in a single year in the history of the fund. Aid was provided following damage from tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires, floods, winter ice storms and volcanoes.
In a financial update, Wisdom-Martin reported that despite continued fluctuations in sales in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, WMU “was blessed to close out 2020 in the black” thanks to significant gifts, grants and donations, and a robust stock market. She added that closing the gap between sales and expenses continues to be a priority.
Partners in missions
Bob Cardinal, chair of the WMU Foundation board, presented a check from the Vision Fund to national WMU for $500,000, the largest single grant ever made from that fund.
Wisdom-Martin expressed gratitude for the gift and for sacrificial giving among Southern Baptist churches.
“The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering surpassed the goal and landed at $177.62 million,” she said, “and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering hit an all-time high of $66.5 million, and cumulative gifts passed $2 billion. In the midst of challenges, amazing things are happening.”
Paul Chitwood, president of the International Mission Board, brought greetings and a report via prepared video.
“IMB’s mission is to serve Southern Baptists in carrying out the Great Commission to make disciples of all nations,” Chitwood said. “Together, we get to be a part of the most important work in the entire universe and no group has been a more dedicated partner than Woman’s Missionary Union. The IMB isn’t the IMB without WMU. Hundreds of missionaries serving today can trace their call to missions back to WMU and we are so grateful.”
Chitwood closed saying that IMB needs the continued partnership of WMU. “We need leaders who keep the work of missionaries on the hearts of the churches,” he said, “those who teach the children to listen for the voice of God, those who raise support and then send generation after generation of workers to the harvest fields.”
Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board, also thanked WMU leaders via prepared video.
“The effort you put in at the national and state level, as well as each church-based WMU group, is making such an important impact,” Ezell said. “Of course, you also make a huge difference in the lives of our missionaries through your prayers, encouragement, and the tangible gifts that you provide for them literally all year round. The support you provide for our missionaries keeps them fueled and on the field in the places they are needed the most.”
In two of 23 different workshops offered in conjunction with the board meeting, participants heard testimonies from IMB field personnel Richard and Karen Lee in Tanzania and NAMB field personnel Bobby and LaKeisha Williams in New Orleans.
Connie Dixon, national WMU president, challenged participants to stay focused on Jesus.
“Storms are all around us,” Dixon said, “but storms aren’t new to WMU. There is a storm in the Bible we can learn so much from. In Matthew 14:22-33, we read about the disciples dealing with a storm. Jesus called out to them and told them not to be afraid.
“We must be willing,” Dixon continued, “just like our foremothers were, to get out of the boat … to do things differently, to take risks, to step out of our comfort zones. We need to dream and dream big, and fix our eyes on Jesus.”
Dixon welcomed the following new executive board members: Shirley Smith (Alabama), Laura Bramlett (Arkansas), Chris Conrades (Indiana), Deb Speas (Iowa), Vashti Jones (Kansas/Nebraska), Teresa Howard (New Mexico) and Janora Skeens (West Virginia). She also welcomed new WMU executive directors: Christine Gill (Louisiana), Cheryl Stahlman (Missouri), and Melissa Lamb (New Mexico).
Roetta Vaught (Kentucky) and Carla Bell (Montana), two board members who end their tenure in early 2022, were also recognized.
In other business, the executive board approved:
- The 2022 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering goal be set at $190,000,000.
- The 2023 Annie Armstrong Easter Offering goal be set at $70,000,000.
The next WMU board meeting is scheduled for June 3-4, 2022, via Zoom.