PHOENIX (BP)–God’s call comes at different times in life, and it comes in different ways to each individual. During the 2003 National Woman’s Missionary Union annual meeting and Missions Celebration in Phoenix June 15-16, God’s people shared testimonies of how they answered His call.
First was Todd, an International Mission Board worker to an unreached people group of the Last Frontier. He said he initially answered God’s call to go and tell the people of the Middle East about the Gospel for seven years and then answered another call to return to the United States and “mobilize the next generation” as a missionary candidate consultant.
After 9/11, Todd heard God’s call again, and now he is working among the Muslims of Southeast Asia.
Then there was Brenda Ladun, an evening news anchor from Birmingham, Ala., who answered God’s call to fight breast cancer and live to glorify Him.
“God gave me every single thing I needed to carry me through,” she said.
Ladun said her mother always told her to be careful what she prayed for because she might get it. Two and a half years ago, she prayed for God to reveal to her something more He wanted her to do in life besides being a wife, a mother of three small children, an anchorwoman and a Sunday School teacher. About a month later she was diagnosed with cancer.
Armed with Bible verses and prayer, Ladun fought various stages of cancer. She underwent a double mastectomy and she lost her hair. Fear of the trial, she said, is actually worse than going through it because God goes with His children through everything.
“When you pray for God to use you as His vessel, hold on for the ride,” said Ladun, author of “Getting Better, Not Bitter.” She said after her cancer was discovered and God walked her through it, her role at the news station changed. After sharing her story on air, she began getting calls from people who had been diagnosed with cancer and were afraid of fighting it. They wanted to know how she did it, and the door to share her faith was opened.
Sandy Wisdom-Martin from Springfield, Ill., answered God’s call to go on a short-term mission trip to Ghana with WMU’s International Initiatives program. A group of 15 women worked in conjunction with Habitat for Humanity to build houses for the people of Ghana in the worst of conditions. They carried 36-pound bricks and lifted them above their heads in what was challenging but rewarding work.
“Only what is done for the Kingdom will last,” she said.
Lucy Driggers answered God’s call when she graduated from college and was in a hurry to complete some seminary courses and head off to the mission field. Instead of running off, she said she heeded God’s call to stay in the States and wait for her future husband to graduate from seminary and then go to Equatorial Guinea.
“God’s call is really pretty amazing. It causes us to do things that the world, and sometimes our own families, will say is absolutely crazy,” Driggers said. “Sometimes God calls us to do things that make no sense at all, but it’s His call that keeps us there when things aren’t going like we think they should, and He sustains us through all of those times.”
After almost seven years in Equatorial Guinea, Driggers and her husband began to serve on a regional leadership team for West Africa. From there they moved to Richmond, Va., and serve as associates for West Africa in the IMB’s home office.
FAMILIES ON MISSION
Debra Berry, ministry consultant for African American audiences for WMU, said only what people do for Christ will last. She noted Mary of Bethany’s call to proclaim her extravagant love for Jesus by pouring her perfume on his feet, despite those who would criticize her. She also said God has a way of calling the unlikely ones, like Deborah who in Judges 5 was called to be a torch on the battlefield. Berry said WMU members are called to be a spiritual compass for the world.
Berry also spoke about God’s history of calling families to be on mission. He called Abraham and Sarah first, and he continues to call families today, she said. Even families of the Bible had imperfections, but God used them anyway. Timothy was the result of a family of faith. A mother and grandmother of great conviction laid his firm foundation, Berry reminded listeners.
Wanda Lee, executive director/treasurer of the national WMU, introduced several who had testimonies about answering God’s call.
Sharing her own recollection of the importance of Mission Friends, a missions organization for preschoolers, she recalled how she broke the news to her 5-year-old daughter many years ago that the family would be moving to an island off Venezuela for a missionary assignment.
Lee’s daughter, Allison, had become quite comfortable in her environment at the church where her father was pastor in the United States, and Lee was concerned about how devastated her daughter might be at the prospect of moving away. But when she started to tell Allison about where they would be moving, the child interrupted her mother to share with her all she knew of the missionary life. Lee realized Miss Ruth, a Mission Friends leader, had prepared Allison’s heart.
“A child can understand that God loves them as soon as they can understand anything — because of WMU,” Lee said.
GOD’S VARIOUS CALLINGS
Janet Hoffman answered God’s call to be president of WMU. In her address, she noted three types of calls that come from God. Using the example of how she recalls the three voices and names her mother used to call her as a young girl, she said sometimes God calls us because He has a surprise for us, sometimes He calls us because He has a job for us to do, and sometimes He calls us to be responsible.
God called Samuel, Paul and Moses when they were at different ages, Hoffman said. Samuel was a young child, Paul was an active adult in the prime of life, and Moses was an 80-year-old man.
“God’s call comes at every stage of life,” she said. “We are never so young that He is not calling, and we are never too old for His call.”
These men were also called in different ways. Samuel was called with a whisper while he was sleeping, Paul was called with a great vision causing temporary blindness, and Moses was tending sheep when he encountered the amazing phenomenon of the burning bush, Hoffman said.
“God still speaks in many ways: in the words of a song, in the pages of His Word, in the voice of a pastor, in the eyes of a friend, the example of a mentor, in a sunset, in a baby’s birth, in tragedy sometimes and at times in triumph,” Hoffman said.
God calls at different places, too, she said. Samuel was in his bedroom when God called, Paul was on a business trip, and Moses was in the pasture. God’s call still comes at different places — at church, at work, at a conference, at the lakeside, in a hospital room, here or there, alone or in a crowd, God may call. And all these differences help us to understand that God’s call is unique, Hoffman said. The similarities tell us that God’s call is personal.
God’s call is inclusive; no one is left out, she said. God’s call is also empowered. He will never ask people to do something without empowering them to do it.
“There is no task before you so great as the power behind you,” Hoffman said. God’s call is also demanding, she said. With the call comes the responsibility to obey.
For 115 years, members of WMU have answered the call to pray, to give sacrificially, to go far or near to share God’s love through personal service and witnessing, and to provide missions education so the next generation learned of God’s call.
TRIBUTE TO MISSIONARIES
The WMU meeting ended with a tribute to three missionaries who answered God’s call to give the ultimate sacrifice and with the testimony of a fourth who was called to live and tell about it.
A gunman who walked into the hospital where they worked in Jibla, Yemen killed IMB workers William Koehn of Kansas, Martha Myers of Alabama and Kathleen Gariety of Wisconsin Dec. 30. A fourth worker, Don Caswell of Texas, was wounded.
Caswell spoke about the day a gunman entered the hospital, where he was working in the pharmacy. He said in the few seconds when the gunman confronted him God reminded him of some important truths. First, God was in control. He is a sovereign God, and He knew what He was doing that day, Caswell said. Caswell was also reminded that the storms of life are the times when we can draw closer to God and He will draw closer to us.
“When the man came into the pharmacy to shoot, it was like God just wrapped His arms around me, like He was right there behind me,” Caswell said. “He took away all the fear, the anxiety. All those feelings were taken away and He gave me a feeling of peace and of comfort. Even though I knew the guy was going to shoot, God gave me that assurance and that comfort.”
Caswell referenced Hebrews 13:5-6, which says, “‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?'”
Caswell said while he and his family were at the Missionary Learning Center near Richmond, Va., before their assignment to Yemen, God gave them Galatians 2:20, about being crucified with Christ, as their verse. Caswell said surrender is something that must be done each day, not just once. And the decision to surrender will be tested, he said, but God’s grace is sufficient.
Teri Caswell, Don’s wife, told WMU that she did not want to go to Yemen, especially with two young boys and certainly not right after the USS Cole attack. But God led her to Luke 5, where Jesus said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets” (Luke 5:4-5).
God told Teri that she had always swam in shallow water; she had gone on short-term mission trips to Russia and Africa, but that was no longer enough. God was calling her to the deep water of Yemen, she said. And she went, “because He said so.”
After her husband was shot and they came back to the United States to recover, God called them again to Yemen, she said.
“The Lord has not finished talking to us as we’re seeking Him,” she said. She shared how Luke 6 describes loving your enemies.
“Even sinners love those who love them,” Teri said. “Even Yemenies love those who love them. Even Muslims love those who love them.”
In yet another answer to God’s call, the Caswells plan to return to Yemen in August. “God will be there, and He will walk us through,” Teri said.
In other WMU news:
— Hoffman, of Farmerville, La., was re-elected to a fourth term as national WMU president. Yolanda Calderon of Modesto, Calif., was re-elected to a fourth term as recording secretary.
— During the meeting $2,585 was raised in an offering for the WMU International Initiatives Fund, an operating fund to help WMU members meet needs around the world through such avenues as Habitat International projects, relating with women in specific people groups and ministering during the Olympics in Greece.
— $2,678 was raised for the Vision Fund, which provides funding for all WMU ministries.
— The National Acteens Convention is scheduled for July 29-Aug. 1 in Nashville, Tenn.