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WMU celebration launches ‘Live the Call’ emphasis

GREENSBORO, N.C. (BP)–God doesn’t always give everyone the same experience in the way He calls to service. He does, however, call everyone to “come and follow” and eventually “get out of the boat.”

Paige Chargois challenged more than 650 participants at Woman’s Missionary Union’s annual Missions Celebration to hear God’s call and walk with Jesus on the journey.

“I believe the Lord wants us to experience ‘with-ship,’” Chargois, a Christian speaker from Richmond, Va., said in the conference’s June 11 session, introducing the new two-year WMU emphasis, “Live the Call.”

“We are called not just to a task or a place,” Chargois said, “but God is calling you to Himself to experience ‘with-ship.’”

Instead of beginning the missions celebration with a typical worship service, participants experienced firsthand the three stages emphasized in “living the call” -– understand, embrace and live. Participants were led on an interactive prayer path emphasizing different stages of hearing and understanding God’s call. Missionaries were on site to share more about embracing and living the call in different parts of the world.

In a hands-on mission project, participants gathered items for three North Carolina projects. More than 530 hygiene kits went to a homeless shelter. About 120 backpacks were assembled with everything from towels to toothbrushes for children attending Angel Tree Camp. And women’s prison ministry will have 111 gift bags to distribute.

Mollie Jacobs of Pembroke, N.C., said preparing the packages was an example of what WMU is all about -– following God through service.

“There are times when people just don’t have the simple things or necessities,” Jacobs said as she filled a hygiene kit with soaps and deodorant. “WMU always has something to do with helping others. That’s what God wants us to do –- reach out.”

Jacqueline Draughon of Graceville, Fla., was honored as the third recipient of the Dr. Martha Myers GA Alumna of Distinction Award. Draughon began serving as a Girls in Action (GA) leader and later as a pastor’s wife, instructor and WMU director.

Established in 2003, the annual award honors a Girls in Action alumna who exhibits a missions lifestyle and has influenced the lives of others, especially young girls, through missions, ministry or civic duty. Now in her 80s, Draughon is still involved in GAs. Many girls from her mission groups have gone on to be missionaries as well as leaders in local churches.

Alma Hunt, former WMU executive director, was in attendance to see the award given. Wanda Lee, current executive director, said the 96-year-old Hunt personifies the new WMU “Live the Call” emphasis. “No one has lived the call more so than Dr. Alma Hunt,” Lee said.

Dramatist Jeff Smith took the challenge to “Live the Call” one step further by encouraging participants to “get out of the boat, now!” as they hear God’s voice.

Missionary speakers told stories of how they “stepped out of the boat” and what happens after that first step.

John and Terri Forrester, NAMB missionaries to Alaska, told of the difficulties of reaching their villages by snowmobile. John Forrester said people want churches, but not enough laborers have answered the call to come help in the planting process.

Archie and Caroline Jones, retired IMB missionaries to Chile, reminisced about their journey from their initial call to missions all the way through retirement.

Other IMB personnel told of how God is using nationals to plant His Word in the hearts of Pacific Rim people, via a message that is not a “Western” religion, but a Gospel that rings true for all tribes.

Donna Swarts, Mississippi WMU president, and a volunteer with the North American Mission Board disaster relief ministry, thanked everyone who helped in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Swarts, the only female “white hat” for the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief organization, told of her faith journey and encouraged others to join her.

“Faith without obedience is foolishness,” Smith told the audience. “The nature of the call is never more than you can handle. What is it that’s holding you back?”