BIRMINGHAM — From Alaska to Maine, nearly 200 missions leaders from across the country gathered Jan. 6-8 on Missionary Ridge in Birmingham for Woman Missionary Union’s January board meeting.
Vickie Anderson, executive director of Tennessee WMU, cited the national meeting as one of her highlights each year. “From hearing testimonies, updates and inspirational stories from missionaries, national WMU and SBC entity leaders to connecting with friends and co-laborers, this time together encourages, inspires and motivates me,” she said.
Tennessee WMU president Ramona Hicks, a member of Hampton’s Crossroads in Cookeville, noted it was a joy to be with other state WMU presidents and share their hearts with each other.
“I am always blessed by hearing the testimonies of Southern Baptist missionaries on how the Lord is working in their lives and on their mission fields,” she added.
Sandy Wisdom-Martin, executive director of national WMU, said often when you hear mission speakers, they tell you inspirational story after story of amazing ways they’ve seen God at work in their midst; people coming to Christ; masses being baptized; dancing on mountaintops of spiritual experiences.
But she then told a story a missionary who served with IMB for 12 years who said when we hear those stories, we should rejoice; but for every mountaintop, there are usually weeks, months or many years leading up to that mountaintop when you are stuck in the valley. And those are years of prayer, and tears, and rejection, and hardship that have to be passed through in order to see the grace of God.
Wisdom-Martin compared this IMB missionary’s inspiring story to Adoniram Judson, famous missionary to Burma in the 1800s who didn’t have one convert until his seventh year.
“Adoniram’s son Edward once said, ‘If you succeed without suffering, it’s because others suffered before you. If you suffer without succeeding, it’s so others may succeed after you,’” Wisdom-Martin shared. “You have to get to the point where you believe Christ is enough. He is enough and He is worthy of every heartache and sacrifice.”
Hicks expressed her appreciation for Wisdom-Martin. “She is such a loving person and it is always a delight to be with her and see her love for the Lord and her desire to bring the lost to Christ around the world.”
Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board, addressed the group Sunday morning and stated, “Missions in the SBC would not be what it is if it were not for WMU and if it were not for Sandy Wisdom-Martin. We are very grateful for her and we are grateful for how you support our missionaries. They are overwhelmed with gratefulness when we tell them all that you do.”
Paul Chitwood, president of the International Mission Board, said during his report, “We at the IMB thank God for WMU. You are the unwaveringly advocates in prayers for our missionaries.”
During her address, national WMU President Connie Dixon compared God’s love to a vast ocean, saying it is long, deep, wide, and high.
“God’s love reaches every corner of our experience,” she said. “While it cannot be measured by any comprehensible standards, God wants us to know this ocean of love. Like describing an ocean, its total beauty cannot be understood until you see it for yourself. It is the same with God’s love. Until you actually experience it and possess the true peace with God, no one can describe its wonders to you.
“We as WMU need to show that kind of love to the world,” Dixon continued. “Our unwavering focus is making disciples of Jesus who live on mission as we seek to help every man, woman and child understand missions and their role in fulfilling the Great Commission.”
Veronica Stone serving with IMB and Osvaldo and Vanessa Lerma serving with Send Relief along the Texas border shared ways God is working in their lives and through their ministries.
Participants attended breakout sessions on a variety of topics from age-level missions discipleship to mental health to communication and leadership skills. B&R — B&R editor Lonnie Wilkey contributed to this article.