FIRST-PERSON: Missions' enormity: long, deep, wide

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP)--To many who knew her, Ethlene Boone Cox was considered one of the most beautiful and most articulate leaders of Woman's Missionary Union. Born in 1890 in Tennessee, she quickly rose to prominence in Baptist life. At the age of 35, she was elected to the national WMU office of president. Her love for missions and her deep devotion to prayer made her a respected leader and endeared her to the women of the churches.

As a much sought after speaker, she became known for encouraging believers to live the Christlike life. Her commitment to and knowledge of missions inspired everyone who heard her.

In one of her addresses, she expressed her understanding of the word "missions."

"Missions is a long word," she said. "It reaches from creation to eternity.... Missions is a deep word because it extends from the depths of the heart of God to the heart of man. Missions is a wide word. It includes the uttermost part of the earth...."

What does the word missions mean to you? When you try to explain missions, are you able to capture God's heart for all the peoples of the world? Can you give examples in Scripture that demonstrate God's desire to draw people to himself?

Finding a natural way to communicate the missionary message of the Bible is a challenge for many of us. We see God at work in the life of people like Abraham who experienced God's call to follow him to an unknown place. We hear God's words when he declares his promise to bless Abraham and his family so that they in turn may help others know who God is. God's promise is carried on through the lives of Isaac and Jacob and so many others throughout the pages of the Old Testament.

As we move to the New Testament, we see God at work in the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah. Joseph and Mary acknowledged the will of God through the birth of Jesus, the Savior. Jesus lived a life of servanthood, verbally sharing God's message, but also touching, healing, feeding hurting people.

God's promise is fully revealed in the sacrifice of his only Son on the cross so a lost world might finally come to know who God is. The missionary message of the Bible continues from Genesis through the closing pages of Revelation.

No wonder Ethlene Cox said missions is a long word, a deep word and a wide word. It is God's heart expressed through the lives of his people throughout all generations.

As we share the message of missions during the Week of Prayer for International Missions (Dec. 2-9) and every month of the year, try to capture the enormity of missions and, at the same time, discover your place in God's plan for reaching the nations.


Lee is WMU's executive director.

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