WMU event features fellowship, worship, wisdom
By David Dawson
Baptist and Reflector
GATLINBURG — Many tourists travel to Gatlinburg with hopes of relaxing and rejuvenating. But for those who attend WMU’s Get-Together and Connection, the goal is much deeper: To become re-energized spiritually.
The three-day event, which was held April 5-7 at the Gatlinburg Convention Center, featured the theme “Unshakable Pursuit,” and presented attendees with ideas and plans on how to be strong in the Lord, even amid the turmoil and challenges that life so often presents.
“Everything that was offered — the worship sessions, conferences and the mission fair — focused on encouraging and equipping participants in the Unshakable Pursuit to know God more, show His love unconditionally, and make disciples who make disciples,” said Vickie Anderson, executive director of Tennessee Woman’s Missionary Union.
This year’s event included 1,500 total attendees — 1,113 for Get-Together, 294 for Connection and 150 program personnel, volunteers and exhibitors — who were presented with a weekend of worship, praise and wisdom.
Jennifer Christensen was the featured speaker at Get-Together, with worship music led by the praise group, Evidence. Grace Thornton was the worship leader for Connection, with music from Tim and Becca Wildsmith, the worship leaders from Nashville First Baptist Church.
Although it is only a three-day conference, Anderson hopes that Get-Together and Connection has a 365-day impact on the lives of the attendees.
“Now we look forward to one of the most exciting parts of the event — seeing how the participants respond in the days, weeks and months ahead to what they heard the Lord say to them during Get-Together and Connection, said Anderson.
Many of the attendees didn’t wait until they got home to start putting things into action.
After attending a session on prayerwalking, a group of 129 ladies — out of the 187 who attended the session — went to downtown Gatlinburg to prayerwalk and share the gospel.
The attendees also helped share the gospel through their generosity, with more than $5,300 being given for the Tennessee N Touch Endowment through the annual offering, Silent Auction and other efforts of the Endowment Promotion Team. Also, more than $8,900 was given for the renovation of the Tennessee library at the national WMU building in Birmingham.
Loyalists and newcomers
Many of the ladies at this year’s Get-Together and Connection were continuing a time-honored tradition of attending the event, including some who have attended all — or least almost all — of the 43 years that the conference has been held in East Tennessee.
For others, of course, this year’s conference was a brand new experience.
Heather Henderson, who came with a group from Walter Hill First Baptist Church, was among the first-time attendees.
“I’ve been impressed with all the friendliness, and the classes are very interesting,” said Henderson. “I would definitely come again.”
Michelle Miller, a member of Stones River Baptist, Smyrna, has been attending Get-Together and Connection since 2013. She said she always looks forward to the worship services, and hearing “the women speakers and what they are doing for the Lord.”
Miller said she enjoys learning “what we can do to spread God’s Word in our community and around the world.”
Jo An Law, a member of Brentwood Baptist Church, Brentwood, said she did not know much about the WMU when she was a child — “I did not grow up in a Baptist church, I’m a Methodist transplant,” she said with a smile — but is now so thankful to be involved.
“I love coming to Get-Together,” she said. “The speakers are just beyond special. And anything that has to do with missions, that’s what Christ calls us to do. It’s just awesome to go and spread the Word to different cultures.”
Behind the scenes
Tennessee WMU adult missions and ministry specialist Denise Bronaugh celebrated a milestone at this year’s conference. It marked the 15th year that she has served as Get-Together coordinator.
Bronaugh has developed many close bonds and friendships during her involvement with the event, and said she is blessed by the impact that Get-Together and Connection makes in the lives of women from all across the state and beyond.
“I love seeing so many like-minded women come together,” she said. “They are always eager to learn new ways to be on mission. … These ladies are the “worker bees” of the church. If you have a message to get out, these are the women to tell.”
Bronaugh noted that Get-Together, which has been held in East Tennessee for 43 years, is an anticipated custom for many of the ladies.
“For some, this event is the trip of the year,” she said. “It’s a great bonding time with other women from the same church. … For many, it is a tradition and they wouldn’t miss it!”
This year’s Get Together and Connection ministry project benefited refugee ministries across the state.
Attendees to the event brought washcloths, toiletry items, toilet paper and feminine hygiene products to be given to refugees. A total of 22,818 items were collected plus $385.00 in cash and gift cards.
At the forefront
WMU has a rich legacy in Baptist history, having served as an immeasurable support system for Baptist missions for more than 100 years.
Joyce Doyle, who serves as WMU director at First Baptist Church, Milan, said there is a simple reason that WMU has had such longevity and productiveness.
“You can call on us and you can depend on us,” said Doyle, who attended Get-Together with a group of a dozen ladies from FBC, Milan. “We are very committed.”
Doyle noted that WMU’s focus has never changed, and she said she doesn’t think it ever will.
“We’re all about missions: in our Jerusalem, our Samaria and the uttermost parts of the Earth,” she said.
Doyle noted that WMU is a vibrant ministry at her church, with 35 active members. She excitedly named a long list of activities that WMU organizes and/or supports, including Christian Women’s Job Corp, National Day of Prayer, Wrapped with Love, Fall Festival and many more. Her church’s WMU also hosts a graduate luncheon, and provides scholarships to students who are selected by the group.
And the list doesn’t stop there, Doyle noted.
“WMU is active in any project that our church has,” she said with a smile.
The tradition of attending Get-Together and Connection also applies to Kevin Jarrell, a member of Pleasant View First Baptist and a LifeWay employee.
He is in charge of the audio/video unit at Get-Together and Connection, and this year marked his 31st year at the conference.
Jarrell said he is blessed to see the large group of ladies come together each year to worship and grow.
“The consistencies of the numbers that continue to come — and the commitment — is amazing,” he said.
Jarrell said the spirit of worship permeates throughout the conference. “They’re into it,” he said. “They are here to be filled.”
Break it out
This year’s lineup of breakout conferences included an exciting list of speakers and seminars.
“The attendees love the breakout conferences,” said Bronaugh. “I think it’s one of the things that makes our event unique. A participant can customize her weekend by choosing the breakout conferences that are relevant to them.”
See the full list of breakout sessions in box to the right.
They said it
Here are just a few of the comments/notes that the attendees told WMU leadership:
- “This (event) gives a new or fresh perspective on missions and my part of it.”
- “It is encouraging. I always learn a new or more relevant way to help share the love of Christ.”
- “It is one of the most inspirational events I’ve ever attended!”
- “I love it! It’s a time of renewing and refreshing in the Lord.”
- “It energizes and inspires me to work for Christ!”
Breakout Sessions, Leaders
Abiding in Christ: Persevering in Prayer, led by Susan Lafferty;
- Developing a Plan to Stand, led by Courtney Veasey;
- Equipping Yourself to Know God, led by Amy Bufkin;
- Finding Peace in a Violent World, led by Tony Rankin;
- Forever Number Two, led by Ann Davenport and Carolyn Outland;
- Foster Love for Foster Care, led by Jennifer Gash & Kelly Campbell;
- Go therefore…, led by David Evans;
- Made for More, led by Ashley Anderton;
- Missions with Momentum, led by Grace Thornton;
- One Foot in Front of the Other, led by Trish Pierson;
- Restoring Love When Everything is Broken, led by Tony Rankin;
- Southeast Asia: A Certain Kind of War Still Raging!, led by Ken & Diane Hanks;
- Stepping Toward the Refugee and International with Love, led by Trent DeLoach;
- The Only Way Out is Through, led by Tony Rankin;
- Unshakable Pursuit in the World of Islam, led by Shiree;
- Unshakable Pursuit in West Africa, led by Jeremy & Rachel Hollie;
- Unshaken by Life’s Storms, led by Natalee Barbier;
- What is Baptist Nursing Fellowship?, led by Charolette Rock;
- What’s Up with Student Missions?, led by Heather Keller & Zachariah Seanor;
- Why Women Need an Estate Plan, led by Bill Gruenewald;
- Worship through Creative Movement, led by Savannah Payne;
The following individuals were elected to serve as Tennessee WMU officers in 2019-2020 during the Annual Meeting of the Tennessee Woman’s Missionary Union on April 6, 2019. The meeting was held during the annual Get-Together and Connection event.
President: Martha Pitts
Memphis; Germantown Baptist Church; Mid-South Association; (4th year)
Recording Secretary: Charlyene Couey
Nashville; Judson Baptist Church; Nashville Association; (3rd year)
East – Sheila Hall
Luttrell; Maynardville First Baptist; Northern Association; (1st year)
Middle – Colleen Richardson
Livingston; Livingston First Baptist Church; Riverside Association; (2nd year)
West – Jeanette West
Memphis; Kingdom Center Ministries; Mid-South Association; (2nd year)
Regional Promotion Directors
Northeast – Glenda Roach
Rutledge; Blue Springs Baptist; Grainger Association; (4th year)
East – Bobby Turner
Knoxville; First Baptist Lenoir City; Loudon County Association; (4th year)
Southeast – Judy Luck
Athens; Etowah Baptist; McMinn-Meigs Association; (1st year)
North Central – OPEN
Central – Phyllis Cobb
Springfield; Rock Springs Baptist; Robertson County Association; (1st year)
South Central – Linda Robbins
Lawrenceburg; Bethlehem Baptist; Indian Creek Association; (4th year)
Northwest – Rhonda Poore
Kenton; Kenton First Baptist; Gibson County Association; (4th year)
Southwest – Diane Sorrell
Covington; Liberty Baptist; Big Hatchie Association; (1st year)
*2019 Nominating Committee
Elected November 2018 by Tennessee WMU Executive Board: Colleen Richardson – Chair, Sheilah Spangler, Tina Williams, Delores Coffey
Appointed by Tennessee WMU President, Martha Pitts: At Large members Christy Skelton, Linda Rader, Karen Whittaker; Past President: Carol Pharris
Vickie Anderson, Executive Director-Treasurer, ex-officio member