ORLANDO, Fla. (BP)–Mission leaders from across the nation were challenged to live “Unhindered” during the first two sessions of the 2010 National WMU Missions Celebration and 122nd annual meeting of Woman’s Missionary Union June 13-14 in Orlando, Fla.
Under the “Unhindered” theme, based on Hebrews 12:1-2, keynote speaker Jennifer Kennedy Dean urged the opening session’s crowd to discard whatever keeps them from pointing others to Jesus Christ.
God wants His people to live like “elite athletes,” Dean said, “calling us … to get rid of anything in our lives that will cause drag.”
Dean is the author of the 2010-12 WMU emphasis book, “Life Unhindered! Five Keys to Walking in Freedom.”
“The reason that Christ has set us free,” Dean said, “the reason He is calling us to live lives unhindered, with nothing in our lives left to cause drag, is because there is a lost world out there.”
In her final presidential address, Kaye Miller of Little Rock, Ark., urged the mission leaders to a new beginning, not allowing “obstacles along the way to hinder what we do.”
She shared her passion for missions education, which she said will call a new generation to fill the empty shoes of missions leaders who had gone before them.
Miller, a child of missionary parents in Thailand, said WMU’s next focus, “Project Help: Human Exploitation,” is a personal issue for her. A childhood friend in Thailand vanished one day and Miller later saw her friend on the streets of Bangkok, “a shell of what she used to be.” The 11-year-old friend had been sold into prostitution and forced labor.
“You are men and women of influence,” Miller said. “You can make a difference in the next generation.”
Debby Akerman of Ocean View Baptist Church in Myrtle Beach., S.C. was elected president, succeeding Miller. The Massachusetts native has been involved in Woman’s Missionary Union on local, associational, state and national levels and in 2007 received the Dellana West O’Brien Award for Women’s Leadership Development.
Throughout the two sessions, testimonies were relayed of how the love of Christ is spreading through the work of missionaries around the globe. Two of the speakers shared how they are helping people break free of bondage and turn to Jesus -– whether young girls entangled in the web of sex-trafficking or those dying in AIDS-ravaged Swaziland, Africa.
Sharon Fields-McCormick, a North American Mission Board missionary, shared how God used her own story of being touched inappropriately on a school bus many years ago to fuel her passion for helping victims escape sex trafficking -– the fastest growing criminal industry in the world. On Monday, she led workshops teaching Southern Baptists how to become more involved in helping fight sex trafficking and rescue its victims.
Monica Allen, an International Mission Board missionary, shared how God enabled her to overcome doubts about living overseas. She and her husband Steve -– along with their two children -– share Christ among the people of Swaziland, where 40 percent of the people are infected with HIV.
“It’s a hurting nation … the urgency of the Gospel of Christ is real, and we’re seeing many lives changed,” Allen said. “We hear testimonies every week about how God is changing their life.”
Chaplain (Maj. Gen.) Douglas Carver, the U.S. Army’s chief of chaplains, said he was unhindered in worship and in the service of God.
Carver noted how he deals with a “stretched and stressed” military — seen in high rate of suicide, divorce and alcohol and drug abuse — and said he takes comfort in knowing he serves a God of provision.
In honor of the 10th anniversary of Wanda Lee’s leadership as executive director-treasurer of the WMU, the Joy Fund, which provides resources to underwrite the operations of the WMU, is being renamed the Wanda Lee Joy Fund, Miller announced.
In other presentations, Joy Cranford of Fort Mill, S.C., was awarded the Martha Myers GA Alumna of Distinction Award for her missions passions and mentoring of Girls in Action. Mary Lou Serratt of Amarillo, Texas, was named as the recipient of the 2010 Dellanna West O’Brien Award for Women’s Leadership Development.
Compiled by Barbara Denman, director of communications for the Florida Baptist Convention, with reporting by Alan James of the International Mission Board.