Ministers' wives focus on influential joy
PHOENIX (BP)--Even when she contracted malaria during a mission trip to Africa, and even after learning her brother was killed instantly in a biking accident, Anne Wright was able to experience "influential joy."
Wright, wife of SBC President Bryant Wright, spoke to a sold-out crowd of more than 800 during the Southern Baptist Ministers' Wives Conference, underscoring the promise of Psalm 16:11, which says, in part: "You will fill me with joy in your presence."
"As we allow God to speak to us and to permeate our attitude through time alone with Him, He gives us this joy," Wright said at the June 14 gathering during the SBC annual meeting in Phoenix. "The overflow of the joy found in His presence spills over to our areas of influence -- our homes, churches and communities -- whether we realize it or not."
Pointing to gift purses at the tables for each attendee, Wright, the conference president, said the ornamental flowers on the purses represent joy in the darkness.
"Even in the pain and grief in the darkness, there is joy," Wright said.
Lisa Harper, former director of Focus on the Family's national women's ministry, delivered the main address, saying joy is rooted in gratitude.
She noted how gratitude for grace helps one's orthopraxy, meaning "how we reflect the joy of the Gospel," to match one's orthodoxy, meaning "what we believe to be true about who God is and how much He loves us."
Pointing to the Luke 17 story of the 10 lepers healed by Jesus, Harper noted that the Samaritan, who was physically and socially disfigured, expressed thanksgiving to Jesus for healing him.
"When was the last time that you rushed back to Jesus to say, 'Thank You'?" Harper asked. "Our roots sink deep in the soil of gratitude."
Harper shared an illustration about how her stepfather John dramatically became a Christian after surviving two life-threatening strokes. Two months later, he took a turn for the worst and slipped into a coma.
A popular conference speaker, Harper traveled from Sacramento, Calif., where she was ministering, to her stepfather's home in Orlando, Fla., to pay her last respects. Upon the announcement of her arrival, John awoke from his coma, gestured for her to come close and held her in his arms.
"I love you, Lisa," she recalled him saying.
Acknowledging God not only saved her stepfather but had given her this time of closure, Harper said she was "undone" in her gratitude.
"Only that kind of gratitude, reflected in joy, will do that in your family," she said.
During the gathering, which featured special music by Grammy-nominated Dove Award-winning artist Kim Hill, Wright announced the assignment of Kathy Litton as national director of ministry to pastors' wives with the North American Mission Board. Litton, wife of Ed Litton, pastor of First Baptist Church North Mobile in Saraland, Ala., will be working with NAMB's leadership development team in the area of support and encouragement for ministers' wives.
Wright also recognized Nancy Sullivan, wife of John Sullivan, executive director of the Florida Baptist Convention, who has raised more than $300,000 for the Ministers' Wives Endowment Trust Fund, which enables the luncheon to be affordable for every minister's wife.
Officers for next year's luncheon in New Orleans, with the theme "The Hidden Person of the Heart," based on 1 Peter 3:3-4, are Janet Wicker, wife of Hayes Wicker, pastor of First Baptist Church in Naples, Fla., president; Martha Bailey, wife of Waylon Bailey, pastor of First Baptist Church in Covington, La., vice president; Lynette Ezell, wife of NAMB President Kevin Ezell, recording secretary-treasurer; and Sherry Blankenship, wife of Dwight Blankenship, pastor of Parkway Baptist Church in St. Louis, correspondence secretary.
Next year's featured speaker for the June 19 luncheon is Mary Kassian, an award-winning author, national speaker for "True Women" conferences and a professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. She has published numerous books, Bible studies and videos, including "In My Father's House: Finding Your Heart's True Home," "The Feminist Mistake," and "Girls Gone Wise."
Held on Tuesday during the SBC annual meeting, the luncheon is open to all wives of ministers -- pastors, staff members, chaplains, missionaries and denominational workers.
Shannon Baker is a national correspondent for BaptistLIFE, www.baptistlife.com, newsjournal of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware. Designated contributions to the SBC Ministers' Wives Endowment may be sent to the Office of the Executive Director, Florida Baptist Convention, 1230 Hendricks Ave., Jacksonville, FL 32207. Tickets for next year's luncheon will be available through LifeWay Christian Resources' website, www.lifeway.com.