By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
CROSSVILLE — While many current members of Tennessee Woman’s Missionary Union grew up in churches that provided missions education for children, that was not the case for Yolanda Heuser of Crossville, the 31st president of Tennessee WMU.
Heuser grew up in another denomination. “While I did not grow up in missions education, quite the opposite, I do believe that my childhood did play a big part in my strong draw to missions; in that I want everyone to know it is about Jesus. (It’s) not about us and what we think or have been taught we have to offer,” she said.
Heuser shared that as an adult she realized “that it wasn’t what I could do or how I could earn my way to heaven, but was about what He did on the cross and that grace was what I needed. It was then that I accepted Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior.
She eventually joined Lantana Road Baptist Church in Crossville and became involved in missions. She currently is the church’s GA coordinator and teaches GAs. In addition, she joined the church’s staff last September as missions director after serving on the church’s missions planning team for 11 years.
Heuser became involved with Tennessee WMU 13 years ago and has served in various capacities, including service on the Executive Board for 11 years and two years as Middle Tennessee vice president.
Despite her involvement, Heuser had no aspirations to seek the presidency of Tennessee WMU. In fact, her reaction when first approached was just the opposite. “The first time someone said you will be the next president, I said no way. I did, however, begin to pray about it,” she said.
Heuser noted that she and her husband prayed about it for several months before she received a call from the nominating committee in December of 2019, asking if she would allow her nomination as Tennessee WMU president at the 2020 annual meeting in Gatlinburg.
“One night as we were praying, God brought to my mind very clearly, ‘what if … for such a time as this.’ I shared this with my husband, and when the chairperson of the nominating committee called, she informed me that the committee all felt ‘for such a time as this’ you have been chosen to be nominated for president.
“When she said the exact words God had placed on my mind, to say it took my breath away would be an understatement.”
Then COVID-19 hit and the annual meeting was canceled, allowing doubt to move in, she recalled. Another seven months passed and more doubts and more and more praying, she continued. When the call came, and I had struggled with all the what if’s, God made it abundantly clear at our annual association meeting that I was to go forward and accept this position.”
Missions is important
“I believe He made it very clear. We are to go into all the world, not just our city, or state, and not just overseas, but to intentionally go into all the world, whether it be by physically going or giving support to help someone go. We are to go in whatever capacity God has called each of us to be on missions,” she affirmed.
Because of her background, missions is extremely personal for Heuser. “I know firsthand what it means to be misguided, whether that is through misunderstanding of what I thought was being taught or simply by false teachings.
“I want to do my part in helping all that I can know the truth and the freedom of grace. I believe what Jesus said when He said the harvest is white, but the laborers are few. We must do our part in spreading the good news of Jesus and His amazing grace.”
The role of WMU
Heuser believes strongly that Woman’s Missionary Union still has a vital role to play in the denomination. Over 133 years, WMU has raised billions of dollars for missions and missionaries, she said.
“When you hear each week the needs of missionaries serving on the field, through missions education in the church, it opens the eyes and the heart to see that truly the fields are white and it encourages people to engage in missions.
“If you do not hear the stories of our missionaries and how God is using them to be His hands and feet, how does the church know of the needs, or the vast amount of lostness? When you have missions education in the church it is a vehicle in which to incorporate mission projects involving your church family to serve, to give and to pray.
“I believe missions is not outdated nor is Woman’s Missionary Union.
Heuser shared her journey with involvement in Girls in Action (GAs). “The night I was asked to teach GAs for the first time, I had no idea what a GA was or what I was doing. Seventeen years later, I can tell you that I have had the honor to teach hundreds of girls. The changes I have seen over the years are unbelievable. The thoughts and the situations that the children face today is shocking,” she said.
She noted that she has heard firsthand a 6-year-old child speak of suicide and has seen children who have been homeless, without a mother or father, hungry and more.
“Through WMU programs such as Mission Friends, GAs and Royal Ambassadors (RAs), I have seen firsthand the changes that teaching the Bible, missions education and simply loving these children has made in their lives. I am thankful WMU and its programs have given me the opportunity to do this.”
As Heuser begins her first term as president of Golden Offering for Tennessee Missions, she said: “The Golden Offering is to Tennessee what the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering is to international missions and missionaries and what the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering is to North American Missions and missionaries. The GOTM is vital to the work of our home state missions and missionaries.”
Heuser pledged to support the Golden Offering via education and example. “I want to come alongside churches and connect them with mission opportunities and show how vital GOTM is to their home state,” she said.
Statistics showing that one out of 10 of Generation Z will become a Christian “are unacceptable,” she stressed. “Change must take place and that begins with me and you.” B&R