FIRST-PERSON: What's your altitude for missions?
EDITOR'S NOTE: Feb. 11-17 is Focus on WMU week in the Southern Baptist Convention.
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP) -- According to an insect identification database, 647 types of bugs and insects are found here in Alabama. Some downright scare me. I looked at images of each until I located the entry most resembling the flying insect I watched from a chair on my back deck.
I believe it was a common whitetail skimmer dragonfly that captured my attention. I can't be totally sure since there are 5,000 species of dragonflies. I'm comfortable with that guess since the common whitetail is prevalent in North America.
The behavior of the dragonfly drew my interest. It dipped below the top of the deck railings. Then it kept circling inside the deck over and over again because it thought it was trapped by the rails. Only by gaining altitude could it break free from perceived captivity.
Watching the dragonfly provided a good lesson. Often we are caught in a continuous loop, unable to rise above self-imposed limitations. Gaining altitude would enable us to see a larger picture and view things in new and different ways.
Nearly 131 years ago, 32 delegates from 12 states endeavored to gain a new perspective and caught a vision for how God wanted to work in their midst. Woman's Missionary Union was birthed. We treasure our rich missions heritage and our passion and purpose of making disciples of Jesus who live on mission.
This focus of WMU is driven by being:
-- Biblically-rooted: Scripture guides us in knowing God, His ways, His character, His mission, His redemptive acts and His purpose for the church.
-- Missions-focused: Jesus commissioned His disciples to proclaim good news, disciple people of all nations and teach them to live out the truths He taught.
-- Church-based: Jesus gave the church authority to act on His behalf. Teaching all ages prepares the church to fulfill His mission.
-- World-aware: God is always at work among all peoples, and we join Him where we discern He is calling us.
-- Denominationally-supportive: No one church can do alone what many churches can do together. Our voluntary cooperation extends the missions reach of a local church.
So how does WMU help make disciples of Jesus who live on mission?
Week in and week out, faithful volunteers lead thousands of precious preschoolers and children in missions discipleship, teaching them of God's love for the world. Many churches use our Mission Friends, GA, RA and CA programs as outreach to welcome unchurched children in their communities.
Through nearly 200 Christian Women's Job Corps/Christian Men's Job Corps sites across the country, approximately 4,360 participants gained life and job skills in a Christian context and 351 participants made professions of faith in 2017.*
Since 1996, we have worked to develop sustainable, fair-trade businesses among impoverished people around the world through WorldCrafts. Working with nearly 60 artisan groups in more than 20 countries, we bring their products to market and provide income with dignity. Our artisan groups seek to meet the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of their workers.
WMU has given more than $1 million through Pure Water, Pure Love grants to supply clean water resources to those in need, in addition to supporting missions personnel with water filters. In 2018 alone, 1,380 water filters were provided to International Mission Board personnel and missions teams.
Giving sacrificially is part of our DNA. One hundred years ago, WMU pledged $15 million for the Southern Baptist Convention's 75 Million Campaign and met their goal. Today, we celebrate the second-highest offering total in the 129-year history of the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions. In 2017*, WMU helped raise $158.9 million to support IMB missionaries around the globe.
In 2018, WMU helped raise $61 million -- the highest total in the offering's history -- through the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for missions work in North America. All of the funds raised through this offering go directly to the North American Mission Board to support field personnel, supplying nearly half of their total annual revenue.
As you Focus on WMU this week, check your surroundings. Adjust your sights by gaining altitude. As Fannie Exile Scudder Heck said in her final official words to WMU in 1915, "Endeavor to see the needs of the world from God's standpoint."
How can this be accomplished? Strive to enter the presence of God on a regular basis. Surrender your entire life to God. Seek the Father through prayer and study of His Word. Be open to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Obediently pursue His will with passion. Make disciples of Jesus who live on mission.
*2018 statistics are not yet available.