BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP)–Nations of the world were represented by nearly 30 missionaries during an international dinner that kicked off the mid-January Woman’s Missionary Union board meeting at Shocco Springs Baptist Conference Center in Talladega, Ala.
The missionaries’ collective service totaled 637 years of carrying the Gospel around the world through the Southern Baptist International Mission Board. From Nigeria to Hong Kong to Brazil, one after another shared inspiring stories of how God worked during their years of service.
Patsy Davis, director of the Baptist World Alliance’s women’s department and a former missionary, told the missionaries, many of whom have retired from the field, “God may change your field of service, but not your calling,” as many in the audience nodded in agreement.
More than 200 people attended the annual board meeting, including executive board members, both state and national WMU staff members and staff from the North American Mission Board.
Building on WMU’s heart for missions, much of the time was devoted to the future of mission education in today’s world, new missions initiatives and the development of long-range goals to engage more Christians in service to grow the Kingdom.
During her report, Executive Director/Treasurer Wanda S. Lee shared progress on WMU’s goals for 2010. In January 2005, following more than a year of research, meetings, discussions and prayer, WMU’s Vision 2010 Task Force, reflecting a cross-section of state and national WMU leaders, brought recommendations for what WMU should look like by 2010, which were embraced by executive board members as God’s vision for the organization. Among the goals are intergenerational approaches to involve families in missions, the development of an international volunteer leadership corps and opportunities for online and distance learning.
A panel of five state WMU executive directors presented reports on disaster relief and rebuilding along the Gulf Coast following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The state leaders — Kay Cassibry of Mississippi; Cindy Goodwin, Florida; Candace McIntosh, Alabama; Carolyn Porterfield, Texas; and Cindy Townsend, Louisiana -– recounted stories of God’s faithfulness and how WMU contributed to disaster relief efforts.
In response to needs that arise quickly such as natural disasters, WMU’s Volunteer Connection now has On-Call missions teams capable of going to areas of need to undertake short-term relief efforts. WMU Volunteer Connection specialist Kristy Carr recapped for board members highlights from On-Call ministry teams projects to date.
Initiatives such as On-Call undergird WMU’s two-pronged approach to capturing the attention of today’s generation for missions involvement: church-based learning experiences and personal opportunities to serve in hands-on missions experiences.
Other reports from age-level missions education teams during the Jan. 14-17 sessions highlighted Mission Friends, WMU’s missions organization for preschoolers, which will celebrate 110 years in 2006, and plans for Blume, the national convention for Acteens and other teenage girls, July 10–13, 2007, in Kansas City, Mo.
Reports also were presented from New Hope Publishers, the trade publishing arm of WMU, and WorldCrafts, WMU’s ministry that imports 340 handcrafts from 27 different countries.
North American Mission Board representative Debbie Howeth led during several devotional times. She and her husband, Dave, serve in Helena, Mont., where he is the director of missions and church planting strategist for the Treasure State Baptist Association and she serves as the administrative assistant for the association. Carol Baker, an associate in NAMB’s partnership events unit, also led in a devotional.
In other business, the executive board:
— approved a national missions event Oct. 17–20, 2007, at Immanuel Baptist Church in Little Rock, Ark.
— approved a Training Effective Leaders (TEL) conferences March 6–9, 2008, at First Baptist Church, Rio Rancho, N.M., and Feb. 19–22, 2009, at Shocco Springs in Alabama.
— approved the Sisters Who Care event site scheduled for Sept. 21–23, 2007, be coordinated with the North American Baptist Women’s Union meeting slated for Arlington, Va., Sept. 19–22. The board approved the cancellation of the Sisters Who Care event scheduled for Sept. 22–24 of this year.
— approved the theme of “Live the Call: Beyond the Walls” for Project HELP: Poverty 2006–2008. The purpose of Project HELP: Poverty is to lead believers to share the hope of Christ by engaging in face-to-face ministry with people in poverty. Board members approved local, national and international action plans in addition to the Scripture verse: “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue bit with actions and in truth” (1 John 3:17–18 NIV).