WMU event maintains message, purpose at new spot
BRENTWOOD — More than 600 women from 132 churches attended this year’s Woman’s Missionary Union Missions Get-Together, held for the first time at Brentwood Baptist Church on March 23-25. The annual event traditionally has been held in Gatlinburg.
With a theme of “Overflowing Hope,” women heard from missionaries, worshiped the Lord and connected with friends old and new over the three-day conference.
Lebanon author Mary Wiley taught four lessons on the theme verse Romans 15:13: Practicing the Resurrection, Practicing the Presence of God, Practicing the Posture of Surrender and Practicing the Generosity of God.
“I think it’s just something that gets hearts ready for the Lord to come,” said Tonya Fields of Keely Mill Baptist Church in Dyer, who has attended Get-Together 10 times.
Elizabeth Childs of Crossway Baptist Church in Murfreesboro said she had been attending since the early 1990s. “You learn so much every time you come,” she said. “You see old friends that you haven’t seen.”
Vickie Anderson, executive director for Tennessee WMU said that while the event lost some participants due to the location change, the more central location meant many women could attend for the first time.
Sandy Louden, WMU vice president for West Tennessee, brought several ladies from the Western District Baptist Association who were attending for the first time.
“It’s just a good thing to refresh and rejuvenate,” she said.
Among the conference’s first-time attendees was Betty Cress of Beulah Baptist Church in Kingsport, who was elated to meet national WMU Executive Director Sandy Wisdom-Martin.
Cress and Wisdom-Martin had connected when Cress was raising money for a well in Puerto Rico.
Cress also brought two women from Wisconsin to attend the event. Kathy Fredrick from Sheboygan and Robin Hess from Clintonville met Cress through a partnership between the Holston Baptist Association in East Tennessee and the Bay Lakes Baptist Association in Wisconsin.
Fredrick and Hess said that they have a Get-Together for the Minnesota and Wisconsin WMU, but it is much smaller due to the lack of Southern Baptist churches in the region.
Both said they enjoyed the breakout sessions on how to reach Gen Z and Gen Alpha.
“We can’t draw them in if we can’t relate,” said Fredrick. “Instead of having the barrier, (the speaker) taught ways to connect with them.”
Breakout sessions were divided into five categories: missionary breakouts, missions awareness and involvement opportunity breakouts, personal spiritual development breakouts, leading well breakouts and mental health and soul care breakouts.
While missionaries presented in breakout sessions and general sessions, there were also missionaries in attendance.
Mackey Hooper, Crossway Baptist Church, Murfreesboro, has been a missionary to India for 15 years and lived in the country for five years.
“There was enough diversity in the training sessions to address the mental and spiritual needs of anyone involved in mission work of any kind,” she said. “The worship sessions were powerful and directed our attention to Jesus.”
At a breakout session on prayer, Hooper met Michaelle Buford, Bellevue Baptist Church, Cordova. Buford is a retired IMB missionary who served in the Philippines for 30 years.
“You all are all about missions, and that’s what I’m about, and even though I’m retired, I love being a part of that,” she said. “You may retire from the IMB, but you don’t retire from the Lord’s work.”
Buford also commented on the more central location that takes hours off the drive for West Tennessee attendees like herself.
“I love where we’re at,” she said. “I’m hoping that we can meet here again next year.”
By the end of the weekend, attendees had raised $5,271 through the silent auction which went to the Tennessee WMU Touch Tomorrow Today Endowment and $8,709.79 through the offering.
A matching gift doubled the offering amount to $17,418.18.
Ten percent of the offering went to the endowment that benefits national WMU and Tennessee WMU, and 90 percent went to Linden Valley Conference Center for a Legacy Hall meeting space in their new cabin village.
Attendees also brought 77,000 items, $300 cash and $1,725 in gift cards for Men and Women ’s Christian Job Corps, a ministry that provides a Christian environment where men and women can gain job skills for employment.
Items included 281 Bibles, 2,354 servings of snacks and 2,754 pens.
Ramona Hicks from Hampton’s Crossroads Baptist Church, Cookeville, was elected to a second term as Tennessee WMU president.
Linda Rader from Green Hill Baptist Church, Arrington, was elected to a second term as recording secretary.
Sheila Hall from First Baptist Church, Maynardville; Kim Griffin from The River Church, Sparta; and Sandy Louden from McRae’s Chapel Outdoorsman Baptist Church in Springville were elected to their fourth, second and third terms as regional vice presidents.
Tracey Gholson from Brook Hollow Baptist Church in Nashville, Jean Warren from Love Fellowship Baptist Church in Chattanooga and Becky Jackman from First Baptist Church, Gallaway were elected as Tennessee WMU Executive Board members from 2023-2027.
For Anderson, despite all the changes, the event was a success.
“We want women attending the Missions Get-Together to experience personal growth, engage in meaningful worship, discover missions and ministry opportunities and enjoy the fellowship of other Christian women,” said Anderson. “From what we observed and heard, those things happened.”
Ministry assistant Jacki Holleman and volunteer coordinator Brenda Harris said they had received positive feedback from women attending the Get-Together.
“Some mentioned that they were initially disappointed about not being in Gatlinburg but that they loved it at Brentwood,” Harris said.
Harris also mentioned the blessing of Wisdom-Martin being at the event.
“Her giftedness in communication and the depth of her love for the Lord and the work of WMU was evident in all she said and did,” she said.
Anderson said the Lord surprised her with how smoothly the event went despite the many changes.
“I’m always humbled when He does far more than we ask for,” she said. B&R