‘Christmas checks’ a testament of WMU’s lifetime missions commitment
By David Dawson
Baptist and Reflector
The folder is filled with thank you cards and letters that Anderson has received from retired IMB missionaries and their children.
Every note is an expression of gratitude for the money WMU sends out each Christmas to retired missionaries from Tennessee, and to the college-aged “MKs” (short for missionary kids) who are going to school in the states.
The college students receive a check for $150, and the retired missionaries receive a check for $50. This year, 91 checks have been sent to former missionaries, and 31 checks have gone out to college students.
The Christmas-check ministry is made possible through funds given to the Golden Offering for Tennessee Missions.
Through the years, Anderson said she has been amazed by the feedback WMU has received for the ministry.
“It’s incredible to see the amount of thank you notes that come back from the retired missionaries,” said Anderson. “They write us to say they really appreciate us for remembering them in this way. And while they are grateful for the gift, so many of them say, ‘we are most thankful for your prayer support while we served on the field.’ ”
Although the retired missionaries obviously appreciate the gift, the Christmas checks might mean even more to the college students.
Charlotte Payne — a senior at Belmont, and the daughter of former IMB missionaries Scott and Valerie Payne — said she remembers the first time she received the gift from WMU.
“It was a bit of a surprise my freshman year,” Charlotte said. “I have an older brother, so maybe I had heard about it before, but it hadn’t really registered with me. So, it was definitely a pleasant surprise.”
In some cases, the unexpected checks are an answer to prayer.
Anderson remembers one instance, in particular, when a college-aged MK had been saving up her money to buy text books for the upcoming semester.
However, the student felt God was leading her to give her book money to the Lottie Moon Christmas offering. The student was very conflicted about it, Anderson recalled. “She told me that she said, ‘But Lord, I need this money for books!’ ”
But the student had been on the missions field with her parents, and had seen how the Lord provided for their needs.
So, she followed her heart and gave her book money to the Lottie Moon offering.
The very next day, to her complete surprise, she received the check from WMU.
“She wrote us a letter and said, ‘thank you for reminding me how the Lord takes care of us when we are faithful to obey His call,’ ” said Anderson.
Anderson said WMU encourages the missionaries to use the money “on something personal or something fun.” But many of them simply can’t bring themselves to do that.
“So many of the retired missionaries will take the money and use it on ministries that they are currently doing,” said Anderson. “It really shows their servant hearts.”
Payne, whose parents served as missionaries in Thailand, said she will always hold a special place in her heart for WMU — not just because of the Christmas money, of course, but for the support WMU has given her all through the years.
“WMU ladies are so sweet,” she said. “It’s so nice to know that they are recognizing the MKs, in general. And more than that, it’s so great that they recognize that coming back to America is actually the harder part.
“I think a lot of people think, ‘wow, it must be hard to live in Asia.’ But in my case, that was the easy part; that was home,” she said. “The hard part was coming back here to something new. So it’s really sweet of WMU to recognize that. They send us little care packages or little notes to say ‘We are praying for you.’ I feel very blessed by that.”
Payne’s mom, Valerie, said the Christmas checks are a reminder that WMU continues to pray, support and remember the missionaries who are not currently serving.
“It’s so neat to see that they still think of us, even though we have taken the VRI (Voluntary Retirement Incentive) and are no longer on the missions field,” said Valerie. “It means a lot that they remember us, and want to do something special for those of us who are from Tennessee.”
Anderson noted that many years ago, Tennessee WMU would send Christmas checks to currently-serving missionaries, as well as retired missionaries and MKs. But when budget adjustments became necessary, WMU had to take a look at that tradition.
It was the current missionaries, Anderson said, who ultimately made the call: “They said, ‘if we can no longer give to all three groups, let’s make sure the retired missionaries and the MKs are the ones who receive the money.’ And I was so impressed by that.”
Valerie Payne said WMU’s involvement in the life of her family certainly hasn’t been limited to Christmas time.
“In the 18 years that we were career missionaries, we were always hearing from WMU,” she said, “and hearing how they were praying for us.”