Girls & boys gain 'world hearts' in mission education
GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. (BP) -- For these Girls in Action, learning about global missions from GA leader Rosalie Hunt is a definite perk; in fact, she literally wrote the book on the history of Woman's Missionary Union.
Hunt is the author of WMU's 125th anniversary history, "We've a Story to Tell: 125 Years of WMU" as well as historical narratives about such legendary missions leaders as Fannie E.S. Heck, Ann Hasseltine Judson and Hephzibah Jenkins Townsend.
She brings that same missions passion and commitment to her grade school GAs who gather each Wednesday evening for missions education and activities at First Baptist Church in Guntersville.
"I so much want these girls to have a world heart, a worldview and know that America is not the center of the universe and that they can be part of God's plan," she emphasized. "You don't have to be 29 years old. You can be part of God's plan when you're 9 years old, and He can speak to you then and keep speaking to you."
The Royal Ambassadors at First Baptist are in good hands as well. Jackie Hester, an assistant principal at Central School in Madison County, is a former Alabama Acteens Panelist. Her love of missions was nurtured during her years as a GA and Acteen, and she wanted to pass along that missions legacy to her son and other boys in the congregation and community.
Rosalie and Jackie work closely with a team of other GA and RA leaders in the church to help their students both learn about and get personally involved in missions.
"I like how I get to help people that don't have a lot of stuff," fourth-grader Ella Kate Smith said. She said her GA experience has helped her understand "how important it is to learn about God and tell other people about it."
Ella Kate's sister Caroline, who is entering the seventh grade, said she enjoys "doing all the projects that we get to do" as well as "meeting all these missionaries that come and get to talk to us."
As the girls hear firsthand from visiting missionaries, Caroline added, "We've gotten to learn about what they do and the risks that they might take to be a missionary in foreign countries" while sharing the Gospel of Christ around the world.
Among the GAs' hands-on projects: connecting with girls their own age or a few years older at Light of Hope Learning Center in Bangladesh. The center is a day shelter that provides impoverished girls education, life skills, health care and moral training. The girls at Light of Hope also create products that are marketed through National WMU's WorldCrafts fair-trade ministry.
After studying about the girls in Bangladesh, the GAs in Guntersville wanted to find practical ways to help them. They decided to organize a bake sell to raise money for a sewing machine for the center.
Inviting church members to make donations to purchase the baked goods, Hunt said, "By the time we finished, we ended up with $4,700 so we got a bunch of sewing machines for them."
"I think they're realizing they can actually make a difference," Hunt said, "and just because the needs are so vast doesn't mean there aren't individual needs that they can meet."
Perry Rose Stewart, a sixth-grade GA, readily agreed. Summing up her GA experience, she said, "I've learned more about God and I've got to see how other people live in other countries and how I can make a difference in their lives."
Equipping future church leaders
On the RA front, Hester and other leaders seek to encourage a similar level of missions awareness and involvement. Their RA chapter has taken the lead in organizing an annual chili cook-off to raise funds for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions and has added a soup cook-off to benefit the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions.
"Part of being an RA is learning how to be a leader and follow that leadership role and that's what we promote for our boys," Hester said. RA leaders strive to help the boys "feel a purpose and be connected to our church," she said. "We want them to be leaders."
Equipping next-generation missions leaders also is a top priority for Hunt. Noting that she would love for some of her GAs to eventually answer God's call to career missions, she recounted her own commitment to a life of missions service more than seven decades ago.
"I felt God's call to missions when I was 9 years old -- perfect GA age," she said. "So I wanted that for the children in this church.... That's when the Lord speaks to children, when they're young, when their hearts are tender."
Affirming her personal motivation for nurturing a love of missions in her young GAs, Hunt added, "I really hope to instill a vision in another generation so they will pass it on."