WMU event returns to in-person format after two-year halt
By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
GATLINBURG — After being one of the first casualties of COVID-19 in 2020, the annual Missions Get-Together in Gatlinburg sponsored by Tennessee Woman’s Missionary Union returned two years later with a bang.
Though the lingering effects of COVID may have hindered attendance, the April 1-3 event still drew 760 participants, program personnel, volunteers and exhibitors.
Vickie Anderson, executive director-treasurer of Tennessee WMU, was pleased with the first Get-Together held in-person since COVID caused the cancelation of the 2020 events two weeks before it was to be held. COVID also caused last year’s Get-Together to be held virtually, she added.
“Although our attendance wasn’t up to pre-COVID numbers, we had a great group, eager to be back together,” she said. “The joy was contagious as ladies began arriving and it grew throughout the weekend,” Anderson continued. “They were excited to see old friends and to make new friends. They were eager to learn about, give to, pray for and do missions through the different program elements of Missions Get-Together.”
Through the event ministry project, participants brought more than 15,000 items and $2,660 in gift cards and cash that will be used to minister to refugee families across the state and international students working in the Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge resort ministries area, Anderson said.
Ministries slated to receive the donations include: Refugee Memphis, Nashville World Partnership Outreach, Knox County Association of Baptists, Hearts for Internationals in Pigeon Forge and Smoky Mountain Resort Ministries in Gatlinburg.
Attendees also gave $7,867 (as of April 19) to the event missions offering. Ninety percent of the total will help with the construction of Legacy Hall that is part of the Youth Village Project at Linden Valley Baptist Conference Center and 10 percent will go to the Tennessee N Touch Endowment that benefits Tennessee WMU. The endowment also received $6,386 from the silent auction and “Bee” Relentless Endowment Booth, sponsored by the Tennessee WMU endowment promotion team.
The conference program centered around the theme, “Relentless Faith,” taken from Hebrews 10:39. Anderson said a planning team of 25 women developed the theme in 2021 after studying the book of Hebrews. “We thought about where we had been the past two years, where we might be going in the days ahead and what we might need for that journey,” she said.
Donna Gaines, wife of Steve Gaines, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church, Cordova, and a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, served as keynote speaker. Mrs. Gaines is a Bible teacher, the author of four books and founder of Arise2Read, a partnership of evangelical churches and businesses with local school districts to help break the generational poverty cycle through evangelism and literacy.
Gaines exhorted the women to be prayer warriors. “Prayer is the vehicle from which His will comes from heaven to earth,” she said. Gaines challenges the women to “spend time at His feet. He will show you what He wants you to do. If you’re in His will, He will confirm it.”
Matt and Darlene Tullos, a husband-and-wife ministry team from Murfreesboro, also shared the theme through story telling and drama. Tullos serves as special assistant to the executive director of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board.
Music throughout the weekend was led by Scott Shepherd, worship and music specialist for the TBMB. Along with a worship team comprised of Iris Shepherd of Henry, Scott Williams of Lenoir City, Hannah Mathis of Mount Juliet and Will Kwasigroh of Jackson.
Participants also had the opportunity to meet and visit with Southern Baptist International Mission Board missionaries and attend a number of breakout sessions dealing with topics such as grief, doubt, reaching refugees in Tennessee, prejudice, aging parents and more.
Anderson observed that Missions Get-Together is not just for those who attend. “Tennessee Baptist women attend Get-Together to worship, hear testimonies of what God is doing around the work, discover ways they can be on mission serving others and sharing Christ and more,” she noted.
“They take what they experience at Missions Get-Together back to their churches to inspire and challenge other women,” Anderson continued.
“Cozy,” “the best ever” and “wonderful” are all words that WMU President Yolanda Heuser of Lantana Road Baptist Church, Crossville, heard to describe Get-Together.
“It was a very well planned, thought out and attended event,” she said. She praised the worship sessions. “I thought each worship time was outstanding and could not see how the next one could compare, and then the next one seemed to be better than the last,” Heuser observed.
“It was, without a doubt, my favorite Missions Get-Together,” she added.
During the annual business session of Tennessee Woman’s Missionary Union, Heuser was re-elected president. Due to COVID, Heuser was elected during the annual meeting that was moved to Cookeville since it could not be held in conjunction with the Get-Together.
Heuser noted that being reelected means “serving alongside a group of women that love you without knowing you because they have first been loved by their Savior and Lord. When you experience that kind of love, it makes you want to love everyone and share the good news about Jesus, the ultimate lover of our souls,” she said.
Heuser said that WMU is about making disciples who make disciples. “I like to think of us (WMU) as the great multipliers, whether that is going and serving ourselves or raising funds so that others may go,” she said.
In addition to Heuser, WMU officers for 2022-23 are Sheila Hall, First Baptist Church, Maynardville, East vice president; Ramona Hicks, Hampton’s Crossroads Baptist Church,
Cookeville, Middle vice president; and Sandy Louden, McRae’s Chapel Outdoorsman Baptist Church, Big Sandy, West vice president.
Linda Rader of Green Hill Baptist Church, Murfreesboro, was elected recording secretary. B&R