WMU celebrates with 131 missions, learning activities

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP) -- Nathan Bailey, 14, enjoyed the knot-tying the most, and his 12-year-old sister Naomi had fun learning the Hawaiian hula dance.

Photo by Van Payne
The brother and sister from Winterville (Ga.) First Baptist Church were among the more than 850 people at the Woman's Missionary Union headquarters Monday, June 10. There, they decided among more than 131 mission and learning activities, which correlated with WMU's 131st anniversary.

Nathan and Naomi joined in the WMU activities because their mother Jennifer Bailey wanted them to experience missions learning and a love of missions like she grew up with at church.

Nathan noted, "I learned a lot of mission things ... and the history of the Baptist church and evangelizing. I learned about missions in the activities and not from the pages of a notebook." For Naomi, the Hawaiian Hula taught her movements that said, "Jesus loves me." "The teacher used a lot of moves to worship the one true God," she added.

Some of the other mission projects featured packing and stuffing items into boxes and backpacks. Families packed 500 hygiene relief kits for Baptist Global Response (BGR) and meals for children in need for the Florida Baptist Children's Home in Jacksonville, Fla., with its campaign called "One More Child." Others made cards for backpacks to be given out by the New Orleans Baptist Friendship House.

The Underground Church experience with the Arkansas WMU led participants down different routes through the WMU building into the basement. There, attendees experienced a lifelike simulation of an underground church in a restricted country.

“The Underground Church experience was something I had never experienced before,” said Kathy Sheldon, member of Wrightsboro Baptist Church in Peach Bottom, Pa. “We were challenged with all our senses, from walking to the location, being in the dark, the police pounding on the door, the noise of the boiler, the worship time with music, prayers, a new believer, Lord’s Supper, and being scared and blessed at the same time. We are so privileged and also challenged to pray continually for the persecuted church. I was also reminded to pray for the dreams of nonbelievers, Jesus speaks to them.”

In addition to the knot-tying, other activities geared to church children's groups included baking Lottie Moon cookies and painting rice bowls, which are used for traditional Greek food, as a learning tool about refugees with IMB missionaries.

Photo by Van Payne
Breakout sessions on Monday featured the "Refugee Experience" with IMB staff, "The Persecuted Church" with retiring missionaries Nik and Ruth Ripken, and "Ministering in Minneapolis" with NAMB church planters Philip and Jummai Nache.

Julie Walters, WMU Communications manager, noted this year's event in Birmingham provided "the perfect opportunity to welcome all ages to national WMU."

"We planned 131 activities ... in recognition of 131 years of missions through WMU," Walters said. "With the goal of appealing to more ages and different learning styles, we planned a variety of experiences that included ... much more. Some options are just plain fun."

Walters credited the vision behind this year's event to Sandy Wisdom-Martin, WMU executive director-treasurer.

Wisdom-Martin noted, "We knew it was going to be huge to have people to come to Birmingham."

"Women for years across the states have invested in this place," she said. "We wanted in a fun way to welcome them home. In May we had our 131st anniversary.... We decided it might be fun to have 131 activities on the campus, ... and to think of 131 things… It's not the place, it's what the place represents -- our connection to share the Gospel around the world … and to tread where the giants have tread."

EDITOR'S NOTE: New details from the event were added to this story June 13 after it was originally posted.

Marcia Knox is the editorial assistant for Baptist Press.
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