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WMU members challenged to pay price of peace making

SALT LAKE CITY (BP)–Bringing God’s peace to a world in turmoil requires an intimate relationship with Jesus, significant personal sacrifice and reconciliation with our enemies and those despised by the world, Woman’s Missionary Union members were told during their annual national meeting June 7-8 in Salt Lake City.
Almost 1,200 women assembled in the Salt Palace Convention Center under a “Peace Builders” theme for two days of WMU business, missionary testimonies, inspirational music and messages challenging them to take the peace of Christ beyond the walls of their churches into a lost and hurting world.
Building peace begins with prayer, Minette Drumwright, former prayer consultant for the Southern Baptist International Mission Board, said. She showed the assembly how to use prayerwalking — a technique of praying for an area while walking through it.
In each of the meeting’s five sessions, Drumwright and WMU staff members joined visiting missionaries in prayerwalks on the floor of the convention center, asking participants to join them in prayer for those missionaries and the people to whom they minister.
Stan and Marlene Lee, international missionaries to Rwanda, were among nine missionaries who testified to God’s power to bring peace to the people and communities where they serve.
Though they live in a country that has become a byword for senseless violence, Stan Lee told the assembly they cherish the privilege of pouring out their lives so Rwandans have an opportunity to find reconciliation and healing in the love of Christ.
“The world doesn’t know that Rwanda was the scene of the greatest movement of God’s spirit in this century, the great East African Revival that began in the late 1930s and spread to all the countries of the Great Lakes region,” he said. “Our missionary team members are literally staking their lives on the fact that God is going to do it again, and we plan to be there with faithful Rwandan brothers and sisters when he does.”
Peace in Rwanda and the rest of the world will not come, however, until Christians stand in prayer against the dark spiritual forces that keep people in turmoil, Marlene Lee added.
The warfare that continues in Rwanda is more spiritual than physical because of two tribal gods that have fomented hatred and violence between Rwanda’s Tutsis and Hutus for 400 years, she said. And Rwanda is not alone in its captivity to evil spirits, she said.
“Satan is walking all over you here in the United States, and you are letting him,” she said. “You need to learn about spiritual warfare and bind Satan and his demons that rule this nation, as well as bind them throughout the world.”
Southern Baptist efforts to build peace around the world have been enhanced with a new sense of partnership between the convention’s two mission boards, the women were told. Robert Reccord, president of Southern Baptists’ North American Mission Board, and Jerry Rankin, president of the International Mission Board, made a joint appearance to emphasize the alliance that is emerging between the two agencies.
Record numbers of new missionaries, short-term volunteers and missions offerings are lifting Southern Baptists to a new level of participation in God’s mission of bringing a lost world back to himself, they said.
The two presidents said working on the cutting edge of missions depends on the agencies’ — and Southern Baptists’ — willingness to change.
“The world is changing,” Rankin declared, “and we must keep pace with the changes in the world if we want to stay on the cutting edge of missions.
“God is breaking down the barriers to sharing the gospel in the Last Frontier,” he said, referring to the areas of the world where there has been limited access to the gospel. “Our challenge is to stay in touch with what God is doing. Unfortunately, he is moving more rapidly than we are responding.”
Reccord said Southern Baptists need to embrace change to enable the denomination to “reach the people who need to know Christ.”
Embracing change will also mean that we will “have the courage to stop what doesn’t work. The changes in our society mean that what was used to reach my generation will not be the same as what it will take to reach the current generation. We must accept that we cannot do it all in one style or with one method.”
The “Peace Builders” theme centered on WMU’s 1998-2000 Project HELP: Violence. The two-year emphasis will challenge Southern Baptists to pray; to discover the causes and consequences of violence; and to become peacemakers in their communities through one-time, short-term and ongoing ministry projects. WMU also will recruit teams of volunteers to go into Bosnia to help rebuild the nation devastated by war, working in partnership with Southern Baptist personnel there.
In her address, Dellanna O’Brien, WMU executive director-treasurer, challenged her listeners to become peace builders through Project HELP: Violence.
Outlining the epidemic of violence in the United States, O’Brien said, “Through Project HELP: Violence, we will seek to alleviate the tragic effects of this epidemic here in the U.S. I invite you — challenge you — to find your own role for service in the Project HELP emphasis.”
O’Brien said to be a peacemaker will take a commitment of time, intentionality and the grace of God. “What could it mean to the kingdom of God — and to our nation and the world in general — if we, with intentional effort and through the grace of God, truly committed to be his peace builders?
O’Brien also offered a resolution on peacemaking that the women unanimously approved.
The resolution calls for WMU members to “pledge ourselves to take practical steps to overcome and do away with these evils that strike at the very core of what it means to be a human, created in the image of God, and persons for whom Christ died,” … to “commit ourselves to a full range of peace building efforts… that could alleviate the suffering of victims of racial and religious persecution.”
Wanda Lee, WMU national president, called on her listeners to become involved “in waging peace as some wage war. This decision is an individual one and, once it is made, will enable us to take a stand and make a difference in our community and world.”
Beverly Scott, president of the North America Baptist Women’s Union, also challenged the women and men present to be peacemakers.
“We become peace builders out of the self assurance that God is in control,” Scott, an American Baptist pastor’s wife from Orange, N.J., said. “God’s peace is something we share — not what we keep to ourselves.”
God can create peace even in the most impossible circumstances, said Brian Bakke, who ministers on the staff of Uptown Baptist Church, an inner-city congregation in Chicago.
In one of five theme interpretations he delivered during the meeting, Bakke said being peacemakers meant his family moved into an inner-city neighborhood at a time when other whites were moving out. Christians who want to be peacemakers will have to sacrifice some comfort, some dollars and maybe even relocate, he explained. It requires being willing to take a stand and be vilified by unbelievers and to rub shoulders with people who are vilified by the world.
That theme was echoed Monday evening when noted author and speaker Tony Campolo delivered the meeting’s keynote address.
Campolo, a professor at Eastern College, St. Davids, Pa., told the assembly that bringing God’s peace to a world in turmoil requires a close relationship with Jesus, significant personal sacrifice and reconciliation with our enemies and those despised by the world.
“We are to be peacemakers, and peacemaking begins with an intimate relationship with Jesus,” Campolo said. “That relationship changes everything.”
Campolo explained how God used encounters with other people — a stranger on an airplane, a repulsive bum on the street and a homosexual teenager he went to school with — to teach him that being a peacemaker means embracing the outcasts of this world.
“Peace is being reconciled to those who are shut out. Peace is seeing others as sacramental, even your enemies, and thus being rendered incapable of harming them. Peace is living in harmony with the world Jesus created. Peace is being cleansed of the hostility and darkness of our souls.
“There are a lot of risks in being a peacemaker,” he continued. “It means they will say terrible things about you. It means you are going to be disinvited to speak — believe me, I know. It means people will cut off giving to your ministry. But when life is over, it’s better to have people standing around your grave saying, ‘He stood for the things that make for peace.'”
Women attending the meeting also heard messages from Fermin Whittaker, executive director-treasurer of the California Southern Baptist Convention; Brad Lartigue, a resort missionary in Yellowstone National Park; and Gale Hartley, an evangelist and church planter in Bosnia.
In a Saturday business session prior to the meeting, the WMU executive board approved revising the 1999 Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American missions goal from $42 million to $45 million. They also adopted a $5 million challenge goal for the offering. The increased goal is in anticipation that the 1998 receipts to AAEO will surpass the $42 million goal since that goal was almost reached in 1997.
The executive board also set the 1999 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for international missions goal at $115 million and the 2000 AAEO goal at $47 million with a challenge goal of $55 million.
The 1,190 participants registered at the meeting gave more than $5,300 for the WMU Second Century Fund, an endowment established during WMU’s 1988 centennial to fund missions projects in the United States and around the world. The $65,000 in grants approved in January for projects this year will be paid from interest generated by the $2 million endowment.
Participants also unanimously re-elected their two national officers: President Wanda Lee of Columbus, Ga., and Recording Secretary Janet Hoffman of Bernice, La.

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  • Mark Kelly