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WMU initiates new pilot project, discusses work with mission boards

TALLADEGA, Ala. (BP)–Woman’s Missionary Union
executive board commissioned the organization’s first
“Missions Innovators” and discussed the future relationship
between WMU and Southern Baptists’ mission boards during
their annual January meeting.
The meeting was held Jan. 10-14 at Shocco Springs
Baptist Assembly, Talladega, Ala. Along with WMU executive
board members, the meeting also included national WMU staff,
state WMU staff, 10 international missionaries and a number
of other guests.
Three staff members of the national WMU were
commissioned as the first Missions Innovators, a program WMU
is piloting during 1998 in partnership with Baptist state
conventions in Alabama, Texas and Virginia. The goal of the
project is to work one-on-one with churches and associations
to develop and expand their missions involvement.
The three innovators and their assigned states are
Kathy Burns, Alabama, previously a WMU preschool consultant;
Sheryl Churchill, Virginia, previously a WMU leadership
consultant; and Sylvia DeLoach, Texas, previously a
children’s consultant. Each will serve for one year in their
respective states.
“There are many things that Missions Innovators can and
will be, but we don’t know what they are yet,” acknowledged
Wanda Lee, WMU national president and chair of the WMU
executive board.
“My hope is that they will discover not only new models
for how all our churches can catch a new vision for
missions, but identify new resources that WMU can produce to
help them meet their needs,” Lee said. “I also hope they
will be able to come back with a training module that will
enable us to say to any director of missions, pastor or
other minister who wants to do new and creative things in
missions, ‘We have a training plan for you.'”
Lee also referenced the innovators in her annual
address to the board, in which she compared the Christian
life to that of an eagle. She explained that as a baby eagle
grows, its mother begins to remove the things from the nest
that makes it comfortable. She does this so the baby will
get out of the nest and learn to fly, the very thing God
created it to do.
Like the young eagle, she noted, “We are about to send
them (innovators) out of the nest into the unknown.” And
like the eagle who learns to fly, this may very well be the
next step that launches us into the 21st century in ways we
cannot even imagine at this time.”
Calling the group to undergird the women with prayer,
Lee concluded, “God has created all of us with the potential
of being like the eagle. We can help make that happen for
this team if we will faithfully ask God to guide them where
he wants them to go this year and give them the strength and
wisdom to hear and follow his voice.”
The relationship between WMU and Southern Baptists’ two
mission boards was a common theme in the addresses of WMU
Executive Director Dellanna O’Brien, International Mission
Board President Jerry Rankin and North America Mission Board
President Bob Reccord.
Historically, WMU has had a close working relationship
with the two mission boards, including a coordinating group
that jointly planned curriculum emphases and the promotion
of the national missions offerings. With the restructuring
of the Southern Baptist Convention, nothing has been
developed to replace these formal avenues of planning.
During her address, O’Brien acknowledged the new
situation had created “tension” for WMU leaders, but noted
they had not “waited idly nor do we have plans to relinquish
the original God-ordained purpose for which WMU was
organized almost 110 years ago. Yet, we have cooperated so
long that we hardly know how not to do so.”
As the direction of the two boards has taken form in
recent weeks, she said, “It does appear that we have a place
in the work of both mission boards, in the mission offerings
promotion and in missions education. Leadership of both
mission boards have stated their intention to partner with
However, she noted, the relationship will be different
than in the past. “We must be aware that we are not the sole
partner … nor are we equal partners since we serve at
their discretion.” But, she assured the board, “We will
negotiate for our place … and learn to operate in a more
ambiguous atmosphere than we have known in the recent past.”
Rankin agreed with O’Brien. “We can’t look to the past
to see what relationships will be in the future,” he told
the WMU board. “Maybe one of the things that continues to
bog us down is the way things used to be and holding on to
that … while at the same time the convention is changing,
our country is changing, our churches are changing (and) our
visions and strategies are changing.
“Let’s come together and with a joint vision explore
where God wants us to go and where he wants us to be
together,” Rankin said. “That is as much your role as it is
mine — not for me to define what that role and relationship
will be. I want you to hear an openness and commitment to do
Reccord also assured WMU leaders NAMB leadership wants
to maintain a close working relationship between the two
agencies. “Although things are in process and we don’t have
all the answers yet, I do not want to walk into the future
without WMU,” he said.
Nate Adams, NAMB’s vice president of media and
missions education, echoed Reccord’s commitment to WMU. “You
are one of our most important partners. Some of the most
important things we do, we do with you — the Annie
Armstrong Offering and missions education,” Adams said.
In other business, the WMU executive board:
— awarded $65,000 in Second Century Fund grants to
three international and 21 domestic projects.
— awarded the Jessica Powell Loftis Scholarship for
Acteens to Lisa Mae Duncan of Liberty, Ky., and Katherine
Anne McSwain of Gastonia, N.C. Each young woman will receive
a $1,000 scholarship.
— approved sponsoring a women’s event in 1999 that
will seek to unify and inspire Christian women to heightened
involvement in God’s redemptive purpose.
— endorsed the American Bible Society’s 1999 Year of
the Bible program. ABS hopes to give 45 million individuals
a copy of the New Testament during the year. The program
will focus on the major cities in the nation and involve
volunteers in distribution. The goal is to involve the
individual who receives the New Testament in daily Bible
*Name changed for security concerns.

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  • Tanya Dawson*