SAN ANTONIO (BP)–Woman’s Missionary Union celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Christian Women’s Job Corp during their Missions Celebration and Annual Meeting June 10-11 in San Antonio.
The meeting drew more than 600 attendees to the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center for sessions that included missionary speakers, worship and key awards for missions involvement.
In celebrating the job corp’s 10th anniversary, Wanda Lee, WMU executive director, led a question-and-answer interview with CWJC volunteers Evelyn Blount, Eileen Fox and Norma Fox and CWJC graduate Maria Diaz.
Officially organized in 1997, Christian Women’s Job Corp is a ministry that equips women facing a variety of circumstances develop life and job skills. The program involves Bible study, customized instruction and one-on-one mentoring to help participants move toward self-sufficiency.
Blount, WMU executive director from South Carolina who helped birth the program, recounted the need: “A handout wasn’t enough, they needed a hand up.”
Diaz told her story of needing to re-enter the job force but not having the necessary skills. She thanked WMU for the help she received through the CWJC to get a two-year degree and a fulltime job that also has become her ministry.
Currently 13,000-plus volunteers serve 2,134 participants at 168 sites across the country, now also including Christian Men’s Job Corp sites and Spanish-language ministries. Job corp training teams also been sent to Mexico, Moldova and Liberia.
Participants at the WMU gathering also celebrated the two largest offerings ever to international and North American missions. The 2006 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, with a $150 million goal, reached a final total of $150,178,098.06. Similarly, members of Southern Baptist churches gave a record $58,475,000 for the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering, surpassing the $56 million goal.
Newly elected North American Mission Board President Geoff Hammond credited WMU for its part in praying for and publicizing the annual offerings.
“I believe Southern Baptists still believe in missions,” Hammond said, adding, “I believe Southern Baptists still believe in missionaries.”
Also during the meeting, Robin Hoke of Midland, Texas, received the annual Dr. Martha Myers GA Alumna of Distinction Award.
Established in 2003, the award honors a Girls in Action alumna who exhibits a missions lifestyle and has had a key influence in the lives of others, especially young girls, through missions, ministry and/or civic duty. GAs is the WMU missions organization for girls in grades 1–6.
The award is named in honor of former GA and missionary Martha Myers who was killed in Yemen in 2002.
Hoke described the honor as an opportunity to teach future generations about missions education. “If receiving this award gives me the platform to speak to people and explain the value of teaching missions to children, then I am thrilled,” she said. “If we expect future generations to live out the Great Commission as adults, we must begin to teach them the concept when they are young. That is my heart, my calling, my passion for service.”
As a young wife and mother, becoming a GA leader seemed a natural fit for Hoke, whose mother and grandmother also had devoted many years of service to missions education through WMU. When Hoke was growing up in GAs, her mother was her GA director and she recalls her GA activities as some of her best childhood memories.
“My years in missions education as a GA helped me to know God, understand His plan for the world and discover my place in His plan,” Hoke said. “What [children] learn in missions education opens their eyes to see, their hearts to care and their hands to serve. Discipleship through missions education affects you eternally; which is why I say, once a GA, always a GA.”
Hoke volunteered as a GA leader in some capacity from 1980-92 and stepped up to GA director from 1992-2002 for First Baptist Church in Midland where she said it was a privilege to watch hundreds of girls grow into vibrant young ladies, ready and willing to make a difference in their world by living out the Great Commission. She moved from GA director to her church’s WMU director post in 2002.
Debby Akerman, a retired nurse from Myrtle Beach, S.C., received WMU’s Dellanna West O’Brien Award for Women’s Leadership Development. Established in 1998 on WMU’s 110th anniversary and named for former WMU Executive Director Dellanna O’Brien, the award recognizes Baptist women who demonstrate an ability to foster Christian leadership in other women, display the potential to be a leader in their community and the world, and excel in missions education.
Akerman is a past president of New England WMU and has served more than two decades as a Girls in Action leader first in New Hampshire and then in South Carolina, where she also now serves as WMU director at Ocean View Baptist Church in Myrtle Beach.
She has been an associational GA consultant, training women to lead GAs in their churches and associations, and has been a national conference leader.
In New Hampshire, she developed a weekly morning missions program at her church that connected women with such agencies as the Red Cross and Meals on Wheels. She also began a women’s Bible study in a housing complex for low-income seniors.
Since her move to Myrtle Beach, Akerman has begun a weekly Bible study at a local shelter for homeless women with substance abuse problems.
WMU also honored former WMU President Marjorie McCullough by renaming the GA Endowment as the Marjorie McCullough GA Endowment. McCullough, who died in 2006, served as national WMU president from 1986-91.
McCullough’s involvement with WMU began as a child in Louisiana in the Girl’s Auxiliary (now Girls in Action) and she was the WMU’s first GA director. McCullough also was a missionary in Nigeria, Ghana and Brazil.
Missionary speakers during the WMU gathering included Ginger Smith of the North American Mission Board, who shared about her work with “overlooked and ignored” people in Houston, where she serves as executive director of three mission centers.
Referencing the impoverished areas surrounding the centers, Smith admitted, “Jesus did not ask me to help them be rich, but to give them hope.” She has worked to foster hope among the homeless and children in the area who don’t have enough to eat at home.
“I constantly look for how to have a conversation that might lead them to an encounter with their Creator,” Smith said. “That’s why I do what I do.”
Dellanna O’Brien recounted serving alongside her husband Bill as an IMB missionary in Indonesia before moving to Richmond, Va., where he served as executive vice president of the then-Foreign Mission Board (now International Mission Board). Then, she served 10 years as WMU executive director/treasurer.
Though the couple formally retired, she said it “somehow never took.” They found themselves back in Indonesia, where they led Compassion Frisco, an effort to help in the rebuilding of Banda Aceh and the surrounding areas devastated by the December 2004 tsunami.
“What have we learned in these latter years?” O’Brien asked. “When you have a Commander and Chief who is constantly nudging, challenging, encouraging, supporting, equipping — and is aware and attentive to all your needs — retirement is not an option.”
Randy and Robin Covington, missionaries to Russia, shared about their call from Alaska to eventually serve small people groups in Russia — relatives of the Alaskan Eskimos and native peoples.
Robin Covington told of living in a one-room cabin (“about two-thirds the size of this platform”) in a village, constantly looking for ways to share the Gospel. Their story was featured in the recent Vacation Bible School curriculum “Artic Edge” from LifeWay Christian Resources.
“It’s a slow work, like plowing concrete,” she shared, thanking WMU for their faithfulness in prayer. “God answered your prayer,” she said, “and 20 young people were saved.”
Participants at the WMU Missions Celebration and Annual Meeting also:
— joined in the 300th anniversary celebration of Baptist associations in America, held June 10 at First Baptist Church in San Antonio.
— received an 1889 letter from legendary China missionary Lottie Moon to WMU leader Annie Armstrong urging that more missionaries be sent to work in China. The letter was a gift presented by the SBC’s International Mission Board. “I am holding on … at considerable risk of permanent injury to health. Yet I must not leave until others are here to take over the work,” Moon wrote. Today, Southern Baptists’ two major missions offerings are named for the women -– the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions.
— offered breakout sessions on a range of topics, including for the first time sessions taught in Spanish, with the assistance of the National Fellowship of Hispanic Baptist Churches under the leadership of their women’s ministry leader, Myrthala Aguerro.
Compiled by Art Toalston from reporting by Amy W. Richardson, Kay Adkins and Shannon Baker. For more information about the Christian Women’s Job Corp, email [email protected]. For more information about WMU or Girls in Action, visit www.wmu.com or call 205-991-8100.