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WMU underscores families as part of missions initiatives

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP)–New missions initiatives that include an emphasis on families were highlighted during Woman’s Missionary Union’s Jan. 15-18 board meeting at Shocco Springs Baptist Conference Center in Talladega, Ala.

More than 200 people were in attendance, including executive board members, both state and national WMU staff members and staff from the International and North American Mission boards.

During her opening report on Jan. 15, Wanda S. Lee, executive director-treasurer of national WMU, underscored families as a gift from God to treasure. “Families make it possible for us to be the Christ followers we have been called to be,” Lee said. “As we begin our work this weekend, let’s not lose sight of how much God values family and how he is choosing to use the WMU family to further His Kingdom’s work through each of us.”

Much of the meeting was devoted to discussion of long-range goals and a framework of how to best grow His Kingdom by further engaging Christians in service.

In 2003, national WMU President Janet Hoffman selected a cross-section of state and national WMU leaders with various responsibilities to collectively “dream God’s dream” for the future of WMU. Known as the Vision 2010 task force, the group was charged with painting the broad strokes of the picture of WMU by the year 2010. They did so during the course of more than a year of research, meetings, discussions and prayer.

Leading up to the January meeting, Melanie Hart, president of Pennsylvania-South Jersey WMU, shared a weekly prayer focus to encourage board members to truly seek God’s direction for WMU’s future. A portion of one read, “We [WMU] are very diverse in our backgrounds, talents, gifts, skills, viewpoints, churches, and conventions. The great thing about our diversity is that God can use every bit of what we are and join it together to accomplish His vision.”

On Jan. 17, the WMU executive board approved the Vision 2010 recommendations as “God’s vision” for the organization, which includes intergenerational approaches to involve families in missions and a focus on multicultural resources for emerging and expanding audiences, among other areas for growth.

While new initiatives will be implemented over the next several years, WMU remains focused on its purpose, which is to assist all Southern Baptist churches in developing and implementing a comprehensive strategy for missions. WMU resources are designed to equip followers of Christ with a keen understanding of the depth of God’s love for all people and to encourage them to passionately serve others in His name.

WMU will continue with a 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.

In addition to Hart, Members of the 2010 task force were Evelyn Blount, executive director of South Carolina WMU; Jan High, leadership development consultant and training specialist, North Carolina WMU; Kaye Miller, president of Arkansas WMU; Barbara Owen, consultant for preschool, children and special audiences, Alabama WMU; Sandy Wisdom-Martin, executive director of Illinois WMU; and Wanda Lee, Carol Causey and Sylvia DeLoach of the national WMU staff.

With gratitude for her contributions to the Vision 2010 report and five years of outstanding leadership as national WMU president, Lee presented Hoffman with a complimentary trip to Birmingham, England, as part of a tour in July of this year, sponsored by WMU and the WMU Foundation.

“You have represented us well in every situation and we can never thank you enough for your leadership,” Lee said. “Through it all, God has used you to lead us with grace and dignity and help keep us focused on our purpose — missions. We want you to represent us as you did so beautifully in Korea this past summer when the world comes together to worship and celebrate the goodness of being a part of the worldwide Baptist family.”

Hoffman focused on the importance of relationships and prayer in her final January board meeting address as national WMU president.

“Relationships and prayer are God’s way of making His dream come true, of making His redemptive purpose and radical vision into reality,” she said. “The best leadership always grows out of relationships. And lest we forget, a servant leader’s relationship with Christ-followers should be more like a shepherd to his sheep than like a cowboy driving his cattle. No wonder the phrase ‘one another’ is so prevalent in the New Testament.”

Hoffman continued, “Nothing builds meaningful and lasting relationships like prayer … for prayer releases God’s power and transforms hearts and minds and attitudes and lives forever.”

After highlighting some significant milestones in WMU’s history, Hoffman asserted that the best years of WMU are just ahead, “so long as we never stop dreaming God’s dream.” In her closing comments, she challenged, “With renewed commitment to our missions purpose, God’s vision, loving relationships with one another and with others, and undergirding all we do with prayer, let us rejoice in the privilege of serving Christ, that we may receive a smile from the Master.”

Sprinkled throughout the meeting, field personnel from the International and North American Mission boards offered devotionals and inspiring accounts of how they have witnessed God at work in their lives and in their ministries.

Featured North American missionaries were Grace McGraw, who directs an after-school tutoring and GED program with her husband, John, to inner-city children through M-Power Ministries in Birmingham, Ala., and Jamae Smith, who ministers along with her husband, Troy, to people in Portland, Ore., with alcohol, drug or other addictions through SAFE (Setting Addicts Free Eternally). The McGraws and the Smiths have been selected as featured missionaries during the Week of Prayer for the 2005 North American Missions Emphasis, March 6–13.

From the International Mission Board, two representatives to southern Asia also provided moving accounts of how God is working in the wake of the Dec. 26 earthquake and tsunami.

In addition, Nate Adams, vice president of mobilization and media for the North American Mission Board, and Wendy Norvelle, associate vice president for SBC relations for the International Mission Board, outlined the Acts 1:8 Challenge, a joint effort of both boards to further involve churches in missions.

In other business, the executive board:

— approved Caroline Jones as missions innovator for national WMU. Jones previously served as consultant for national WMU’s multicultural resource team. She replaces Sylvia DeLoach who retired Jan. 31.

— approved the dates of Sept. 23–25, 2005, Sept. 22–24, 2006; and Sept. 21–23, 2007, for national events for Sisters Who Care, an expression of Women on Mission. The event in 2005 will be held in Birmingham, Ala.; the location for the 2006 and 2007 events is yet to be determined.

— approved Missions Interchange as the name for WMU’s approach for involving collegiate women in missions. WMU’s website for collegiate women interested in missions, www.missionsinterchange.com, launched in August 2004.

— approved the dates of Feb. 15–18, 2007, and Feb. 7–10, 2008, for the Training Effective Leaders (TEL) conference to be held at Shocco Springs. TEL conferences also will be offered in the western part of the United States, but the dates and locations are yet to be determined.

— approved the next National Acteens Convention (NAC) to be held July 10–13, 2007, in Kansas City, Mo.

— approved the scheduling of WMU annual meeting business sessions in 2006 at LifeWay’s Ridgecrest Conference Center during the national Discover the Joy of Missions event, Sept. 27–Oct. 1, 2006.