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WMU honors outgoing president, hears from Carrie McDonnall

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Janet Hoffman, in her final year as president of Woman’s Missionary Union, welcomed more than 1,200 women to WMU’s June 19-20 Missions Celebration and Annual Meeting.

Hoffman encouraged the gathering at First Baptist Church in Nashville to follow this year’s theme: “Pass on the Passion.”

Hoffman, 69, was honored during the opening day’s sessions with gifts: a plaque; a Bible from Broadman & Holman, the trade books division of LifeWay Christian Resources; and a reception for her dedication to WMU.

In her presidential address, Hoffman encouraged the women to pass on the passion of WMU by mentoring other women; teaching children about missions; and continuing missions education at all levels in the local church.

“Any passion is always only one generation away from extinction,” Hoffman said. “By the same token, that same passion is always only one generation away from expansive explosion, so long as we pass on the passion.”

Kaye Miller, 51, of Little Rock, Ark., was elected to succeed Hoffman during the business session on June 20.

Carrie McDonnall, a Southern Baptist International Mission Board worker, told WMU participants she has been “recovering physically and learning how to live with grief” since she was critically injured in a March 2004 attack in northern Iraq in which her husband, David, and three other IMB workers — Larry and Jean Elliott and Karen Watson — were killed.

“This past year He has been showing Himself faithful,” McDonnall said, encouraging those who have known suffering to “rely on God and to focus on Him. You can trust Him.”

McDonnall and the others were attacked with automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades in their vehicle while researching needs for humanitarian aid projects in northern Iraq. Carrie was airlifted in critical condition to a hospital in Germany. The assailants remain unidentified.

Over the past year, McDonnall said she has had opportunities to share what she has learned in different places across the country, in addition to meeting a lot of people and hearing of what God is doing in their lives.

“David and I left for Iraq because we desired to see God exalted in the lives of the Iraqi people. We desired to see our God glorified,” she said. “It wasn’t because of some great missionary calling that we went. We were simply two children who remembered what brokenness felt like and remembered that feeling of grace in Jesus. And we wanted to share that in a land that did not know Him.”

McDonnall told participants she brought greetings from friends and co-workers around the world as “many of them are on that nameless and faceless side of your prayer list that you so diligently pour your heart out for each day.”

Linda Leather of First Baptist’s Next Door Ministry shared how God gave women in her church a passion for the downtown-based ministry.

“God began breaking our hearts for the women transitioning out of incarceration,” Leather said. “We decided to pick them up from the last door they came through out of the jail and help them through a structured living program.

“We realized these women are just like us. We exist because we believe in wholeness; hope in any situation; and [a sense of] community learned through respect, encouragement and faith.”

Eighteen graduates from the NextDoor program introduced themselves and gave one-word descriptions of who they were before and after the ministry.

The six-week program, operated in conjunction with WMU’s Christian Women’s Job Corps, includes parenting and life skills classes, counseling by professionals, Bible studies and 30-hour workweeks.

The graduates received a standing ovation from the crowd as they left the stage area, some with tears streaming down their faces.

“The passion we feel lives on through the women who come through our program,” said Becky Sumrall, First Baptist’s CWJC leader.

Each session contained a “Following Christ” Bible study based on the 2005-06 WMU emphasis book, “I Have Called You Friends: New Testament Images That Challenge Us to Live as Christ Followers.” Led by the book’s author, Fisher Humphries, professor of theology at Samford University’s Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Ala., the initial sessions explored the biblical images of Christians as disciples, or learners; soldiers; and pilgrims on a journey toward a definite destination.

At the close of the morning session on June 19, 109 North American and International Mission Board missionaries introduced themselves and stood in the aisles of the church while Hoffman prayed over them.

“It’s always a highlight of the year getting to know who the missionaries are,” said Kathy Scott, a Girls In Action leader from St. Louis. “Getting to hear their names and see their faces is such an inspiration.”

Between sessions, participants could attend a variety of breakout sessions, including a “Whole in One” miniature golf course designed as an interactive experience to connect women with the range of WMU resources.

An offering was taken during the June 19 evening session for the WMU Foundation in celebration of its 10-year anniversary. Donations will be divided between WMU’s Vision Fund and other foundation causes.

“How do we pass on the passion?” Hoffman asked before the offering. “One way is by giving.”

National Acteens Panelists who shared their testimonies at this year’s meeting included Dani Westerman, daughter of Neal and Carmen Westerman of Dickson, Tenn.; Abby Baldridge, daughter of David and Cyndee Baldridge of Stephensville, Texas; and Allison Henderson, daughter of Denise and David Henderson of New Port Richey, Fla.
With reporting by Shannon Baker & Michael Chute.

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  • Kelli Cottrell