NEW ORLEANS (BP) – Abiding in Christ brings abundant hope, said WMU leaders at the 2023 Woman’s Missionary Union Missions Celebration and Annual Meeting. Held June 11-12 at the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary campus, this year’s theme was “Hope in Christ,” based on Romans 12:12.
Sandy Wisdom-Martin, executive director-treasurer of national WMU, shared examples of what happens when God’s faithful abide in Christ.
“June saw something in a young woman who was fearful in speaking with others. June taught her to lean in and depend on the Lord. And for the past 35 years, Beth has taught WMU workshops and written articles and mentored others,” said Martin, of First Baptist Church, Shelby, Ala.
“Barbara has abided in Christ her entire life. She is 91 years old, lives in assisted living, and her husband has dementia. And every afternoon, while he naps, she makes bookmarks that she sends to missionaries that she reads about in ‘Missions Mosaic’ magazine.”
Martin added, “Because Lydia chose to abide in Christ by witnessing to others as she died of AIDS, sharing, obeying God and challenging Uganda’s youth to sexual purity, Uganda’s president witnessed the impact on the youth and credited the program for the nation’s 66 percent reduction in HIV.
“The course of an entire nation changed because a Christ-follower abided in Christ. When people abide in Christ, other lives are transformed. If you want others to experience abundant hope, then you need to abide in Christ.”
Hope isn’t found in “finances, degrees, abilities, or things that don’t really count,” said Connie Dixon, president of national WMU. “We must put our hope in Christ and in Christ alone.”
The WMU had hope 135 years ago when the organization formed, said Dixon, of First Baptist Church, Elida, N.M., noting since its beginnings, the missions-supporting organization has raised more than $7.2 billion to reach the world for Christ.
“Be as bold as our foremothers,” she told the attendees. “We need to study their experiences and methods … and apply Christ to the needs of the world.”
“Abiding in Christ will make you look good,” said Kay Bennett, recently retired NAMB Send Relief missionary, who shared her testimony of 35 years of ministry service to trafficked, unhoused, and addicted individuals at the Baptist Friendship House and the Brantley Center in New Orleans.
Admitting she could do nothing without God, Bennett stressed the importance of having a “sanctuary” where people can hear from God. Those listening times have informed her entire ministry and have had ripple effects, she said, pointing to when a church group came to the Friendship House in 2021 and were trained how to recognize human trafficking.
The team returned on another trip to New Orleans and were doing ministry at a local laundromat, when a girl ran to the bathroom. The team feared she was being trafficked and called the Friendship House. Bennett later learned another trafficker had shot and killed her trafficker the night before. As Bennett and the young teenager exited the building, the team lined up for her like a sports team, putting on full display their abundant hope in Christ.
“That church was abiding in Christ, or they wouldn’t have recognized or helped the trafficked victim,” Bennett said.
Natalie Nation, who has served the past two years as an IMB journeyman and is transitioning into a career appointment, shared how God gave her abundant hope as a young woman and competitive swimmer in college in Hawaii. Nation injured her back and had to stop swimming, which caused her to feel a loss of identity, she said. She took notice of the peace and joy her Christian friends experienced and soon connected with them and with Jesus.
After three years of ministering in Hawaii, Nation accepted a call to Tokyo, Japan, where 39 million people, less than 1 percent of whom are Christians, live. Nation described the overwhelming hopelessness and darkness and trains crammed with people who do not know God. She related how she started praying for the people on the crowded trains, picturing each of them worshipping around God’s throne in their Japanese language.
“God has brought many people into my life that I can share my story of hope … [it’s been] a journey with a lot of tears and laughter and really good Japanese food!” Nation said.
This year’s celebration featured testimonies about hope from former WMU officers paired on stage with this year’s teen Acteens panelists.
Liz Encinia, executive director-treasurer of Kentucky WMU, shared the hope she has found in Christ, despite the depression she is prone to face. “Having an abundance,” which she defined as “more than you need,” seems too good to be true, she said. “Brokenness causes a chasm in this understanding … but we know Jesus, and He is our living hope, and His hope is eternal.”
Linda Cooper, national WMU president emerita and current Kentucky WMU president, shared how God provided hope through her education and career as a dental hygienist and how she uses her practice to share hope with her patients. She felt a call to missions, ultimately getting involved in WMU leadership on the state and national levels.
Dorothy Sample, national WMU president emerita from Flint, Mich., said she “has been on the road for a long time” and has seen God’s faithfulness over and over. Abundant hope, she says, is having a mindset of focusing on the positive …even when things seem impossible. It means, “relaxing in God and trusting in Him to make things happen.”
It was a recent tornado in Little Rock, Ark., that showed Kaye Miller the abundant hope of Christ. The tornado left massive damage in the neighborhoods surrounding her church, but the church was untouched, said Miller, national WMU president emerita from Little Rock. Miller had the opportunity to minister a young woman who handed over to her a wet, 2-week-old baby. Devastated by the loss of everything in her life, the new mother fell to the ground crying. Later, after being ministered to, the mom said, “You have shown me what hope looks like.” Miller urged, “Be that difference-maker that shows others what abundant hope looks like.”
The 2023 National Acteens Panel included Leslie Almonte of Primera Iglesia Bautista Hispana de Passaic, Passaic, New Jersey; Destiny MacCarthy of Eastern Hills Baptist Church, Montgomery, Alabama; Alyssa McMillon of Dudley Shoals Baptist Church, Granite Falls, North Carolina; Isavela Montanez Ojeda of Freeman Heights Baptist Church, Garland, Texas; and Hannah Rickman of Retama Park Baptist Church, Kingsville, Texas.
The young ladies boldly shared their hope in Christ, in the face of health issues, identity crises, and family dynamics. Each shared Bible passages, which encouraged them in their faith.
During an afternoon break, participants toured the seminary campus, which features an IMB Center, NAMB Center, and the Museum of the Bible and Archaeology. Nation and Bennett shared more about their missions experiences.
Earlier in the day, attendees also enjoyed a worship service at Franklin Avenue Baptist Church, where they heard from Pastor Fred Luter and guest speaker, Willie McLaurin, interim CEO and president of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, followed by a Cajun meal at the New Orleans Seminary’s recently renovated Landrum Leavell Dining Hall.
In other business, Connie Dixon was reelected as president, and Shirley McDonald of Greens Creek Baptist Church, Dublin, Texas, was reelected recording secretary. Christine Gill, women’s missions and ministry strategist, Louisiana WMU, and Carolyn Fountain, president, Louisiana WMU, hosted a prayer time for missionaries using the verses in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. Cecile Dagohoy, a physician from the Philippines who now serves in Houston, Texas, led worship.
During their second day, WMU will hold a retirement reception for David George, president of the WMU Foundation, after 21 years of faithful service. George offered his last call to attendees to support the WMU Vision Fund (wmufoundation.com/vision) and introduced Peggy Darby, president-elect of the WMU Foundation. Darby, who prayed over the offering said she was honored to be the first female president of the WMU Foundation. “I want you to know I am a grown-up GA and Acteen.”
WMU will also present the 2023 Dellanna West O’Brien Leadership Award for Women’s Leadership Development through WMU.