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WMU missions discipleship highlighted to messengers

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP) — WMU Executive Director Sandy Wisdom-Martin welcomed the Southern Baptist Convention June 12 to Birmingham, Ala., where the national missions organization is headquartered.

“This has been our home for the past 98 years, but for the entire history of our organization, we’ve stayed focused on our assigned task,” Wisdom-Martin said. “Our mandate is making disciples of Jesus who live on mission. This is what we do.”

She said WMU accomplishes this mission in three ways: by providing missions discipleship for every age level, developing leaders, and engaging in compassion ministries.

As one example, Linda Cooper, president of national WMU, conducted a brief interview with Perry Hancock, president and CEO of Louisiana Baptist Children’s Home, and his wife Tonya who began and lead a Christian Women’s Job Corps (CWJC) site on the campus of the children’s home in Monroe, La.

When asked what led them to start a CWJC site, Perry Hancock said, “Northeast Louisiana has a high rate of domestic violence which creates homelessness for children and their mothers. The Lord led us to start a transitional living ministry for these families. We knew that the moms needed more than just a place to live; they needed life skills and job skills. Many of them had never completed their high school education. All of them needed a strong relationship with the Lord if they were going to be successful.

“When we looked at our options, CWJC was the perfect solution for meeting those needs.”

This CWJC site also recently became a WorldCrafts artisan group as part of the fair-trade ministry of WMU that partners with impoverished artisan groups around the world to help transform lives by providing sustainable income and sharing eternal hope.

Tonya Hancock told of a CWJC participant who “walked into our class homeless and hungry but with a strong desire to earn her high school equivalency [credential]. We were able to help her with temporary housing and food as she began her journey with us. She quickly became very interested in Bible study and prayer time each morning.

“We asked her if she would like to become one of our WorldCrafts artisans and she quickly accepted,” Tonya Hancock continued. “A short time after, she called me to tell me she had asked Christ into her heart and was a new person. On July 11, she will walk across the stage to receive her high school equivalency. She now has hope and a future.”

Wisdom-Martin invited Claudia Johnson, director of WMU’s Christian Women’s Leadership Center and a former International Mission Board missionary, to share that, in WMU, “we are intentional in our quest to be lifelong learners to make a bigger impact on the Kingdom.”

“We put leadership courses online,” Johnson said, “because we believe that today’s Christian women have a unique opportunity to lead this next generation of women and our nation back to God. We’ve had course participants from all over the world. One of our Hmong Americans living in a closed country shared how the courses are equipping her to serve more effectively for His purposes. We want to encourage all the women here today to join the Know Your Neighbor Leadership Challenge, which begins in August.” More information may be found at clwcleaders.com.

Along with compassion ministries and leadership development opportunities, Wisdom-Martin said WMU may be “best known” for missions discipleship for every age.

Leading preschoolers in Mission Friends in her own church, she said, “From the earliest stages of life, WMU provides the building blocks of faith and an awareness of God’s love for all people.”

Wisdom-Martin then welcomed Cindy Townsend, who directs the work of missions groups at First Baptist Church in Jackson, Miss., to speak to the importance of missions discipleship.

“Missions discipleship for all ages is often referred to as the DNA of our church,” Townsend said, “because it reminds every generation to obey Jesus’ words to go, His heart to love, and His call to be on mission every day.”

Members of Girls in Action and Royal Ambassadors from First Baptist in Jackson were joined on stage by those from First Baptist Church in Alexander City, Ala., to share a routine they learned to the song, “Start a Fire.”

Cooper closed the report with an invitation to Southern Baptists to visit national WMU at 100 Missionary Ridge while in Birmingham.: “Join us as we seek to honor our missions legacy and generations past while energizing and engaging the generations ahead in our missions purpose.”