Record attendance, awards, testimonies highlight WMU meeting
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--A record 1,354 people, including 115 international and North American missionaries, attended the 117th annual Missions Celebration and Annual Meeting of Woman's Missionary Union June 19-20 at the historic First Baptist Church in downtown Nashville, Tenn.
Nancy Fountain Harrell of Dublin, Ga., was named the second recipient of the Dr. Martha Myers GA Alumnae of Distinction Award. Harrell is a GA leader at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Dublin, Ga., where she is also the chairperson for Women on Mission and a former WMU director. She and her husband also lead a Children in Action group as well as other church and community ministries.
This year's Dellanna West O'Brien Leadership Award was awarded to Linda Leather of the Next Door ministry, a transitional housing ministry for women leaving prison.
The Myers award, established in 2003, is named after Martha Myers, a former medical missionary in Yemen who was murdered while on the field. It recognizes a Girls in Action alumna who exhibits a missions lifestyle; has dramatically influenced the lives of others through missions, ministry and/or civic duty; and is a good role model for girls.
This O'Brien award, named for the former executive director/treasurer who served from 1989-99, recognizes Baptist women who demonstrate an ability to foster Christian leadership in other women, display the potential to be a leader in their community and the world, and excel in missions education.
Participants at the WMU meeting toured the facilities of the Next Door ministry and the associated Christian Women's Job Corps of Nashville, both of which are housed in the Downtown Ministry Center of First Baptist.
As a ministry project, WMU participants collected Wal-Mart gift cards in the amount of $1,245 to help the ministries purchase needed supplies.
They also gave a separate offering of $7,345.81 in honor of the WMU Foundation's 10th anniversary, to be shared equally between the WMU Vision Fund and various foundation efforts.
Wanda Lee, WMU executive director/treasurer, interviewed WMU staff members Jean Cullin who shared about WMU's Volunteer Connection partnerships in France, Croatia and Moldova, and Kristy Carr, who shared about Angel Tree Camps for children of incarcerated parents and Pure Water, Pure Love projects in Mexico, Indonesia and Sudan.
Featured missionary speakers from the International Mission Board included Tom and Anna King, who serve university students in Paris, France; Rebekah Naylor, who has been a surgeon in India at the Bangalore Baptist Hospital for 30-plus years; and the Fort family, led by Giles and Wana Ann Fort, with their sons Gordon, David and Gregg, who all have ties to mission service in Africa.
"This is the second time in 20 years that we have been all together," Gordon Fort, who currently serves as the IMB's vice president for overseas operations, said as he pointed to the 16 family members on the stage. He noted that a missionary's greatest sacrifice isn't the things of the world; "it's the sacrifice of families."
Newly elected WMU President Kaye Miller accepted three "tangible gifts" from WMU's outgoing president, Janet Hoffman: a biography of Fannie E.S. Heck (the WMU president who served more than 20 years at the turn of the 20th century), originally given as a gift to Dorothy Sample in 1981 by the North Carolina WMU to be passed on to succeeding presidents; a ring designed by a retired missionary nurse that has been passed on through WMU presidents since Marjorie McCullough, who served during the 100th year anniversary of the WMU; and the gavel used since 1991 to symbolize the presidency.
"May God lead through you as you pass on your passion for His mission," Hoffman told Miller. "I pray these wonderful people will support you with their prayers as they have supported me."
Miller, a member of Immanuel Baptist Church in Little Rock, Ark., is believed to be the first former MK (missionary kid) to serve as WMU president. Her father, Harlan Willis, who closed this year's annual meeting in prayer, served in Thailand as a medical missionary.
"As we go forward into the future together, I will commit to you not to serve to the best of my abilities -- because my own abilities would fall far too short -- but to strive to allow God to use me in a way that would bring honor to His Kingdom," Miller said.
Fisher Humphreys, professor of divinity at Samford University's Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Ala., concluded his "Following Christ" Bible studies based on the 2005-06 WMU emphasis book he wrote, "I Have Called You Friends: New Testament Images That Challenge Us to Live as Christ Followers." Humphreys' last two sessions explored the biblical images of Christians as priests who offer sacrifices of their lives, praise and service to the poor, and as guests who can enjoy God's generous hospitality through a life of gratitude.
National Acteens Panelists who shared their testimonies in the concluding sessions included Kami Miinch, daughter of Dwane and Diane Minnch of Millersville, Mo.; Martha Sicking, daughter of Dan and Nina Sicking of Bay City, Texas; and Caitlin Early, daughter of Mike and Debbie Early of Fort Payne, Ala.
Future WMU meetings include the "Discover the Joy of Missions" WMU Conference, Sept. 28-30, and Missions Weekender, Sept. 30-Oct. 2, at LifeWay's Ridgecrest Conference Center in North Carolina and the "Live the Call" Missions Celebration and Annual Meeting 2006, June 11-12, 2006, in Greensboro, N.C.
With reporting by Kelli Cottrell.