How does one explain to women who sing and dance their praise to God what we do in our state WMU meetings? Talk about a different atmosphere!
The theme of the East African Baptist Women’s Union meeting is “Walking with God.” The first message today was on walking with integrity. Then Linda and I were asked to speak. Linda explained the missions focus areas of WMU work. I shared how Kentucky WMU works with the Kentucky Baptist Convention and discussed the importance of accountability with missions offerings. We urged the women to promote their offerings by telling missions stories of what happens because people pray and give. We also explained our process with setting the goal and allocations for the Eliza Broadus Offering and things we’ve learned about receiving and utilizing missions offerings. Our presentations were very practical in nature and were well received.
After such serious presentations, the fun began. Each national group had been encouraged to wear national dress, including WMU outfits. There were quite a few dressed in fabrics with their Baptist Women’s Union logo. Each national group danced and sang around the room, then did a special presentation for the group. Some presentations were musical. Two were skits.
Though there are 11 countries in the East Africa region, only three countries are represented at this conference – Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania. Tanzania only had a few at the last two East Africa BWU conferences, so the decision to bring the conference to Tanzania was with the prayer that hosting the meeting would help strengthen their work. Over half of the participants at this conference are from Tanzania, so we certainly hope that when the meeting is in another country next time, that the Tanzanian women will want to attend after experiencing this gathering.
The afternoon session included a presentation on the structure of Baptist work and of the Baptist Women’s Union. I was reminded that countries where Baptist work is not strong appreciate connections with other Baptists. The presenter pointed out how each country has a Baptist Convention or Baptist Union. The conventions relate to one another through regional groups (such as East Africa), and then through a continental union (such as the All Africa Baptist Union). The importance of the Baptist World Alliance was stressed.
The president of the East African Baptist Women’s Union shared how she came to be elected and then was told to do the work with no resources. She shared how God has provided and brought the women together for two conferences since she was elected. They hope to have another for East Africa in 2011 and then participate in the African Baptist Women’s Union meeting in 2012. They are very excited that South Africa will host the next BWA meeting in 2015.
Later in the afternoon, the women broke into discussion groups. There were groups for single mothers, married women, single women, and older women. Each group had a facilitator and questions to discuss. The day ended with a trade show. Many of the Baptist women’s groups make handcrafts to raise money for their work. Linda and I did our part!
I am proud that WMU has stood with our sisters around the world. Each November, when we observe the Baptist Women’s World Day of Prayer, we are saying to other Baptist women that they matter to us. The trips that I’ve made this year to Korea, Indonesia, and now Tanzania are not typical missions trips. Rather, they are for the purpose of encouraging our Baptist sisters to keep up the good work and to let them know that someone else appreciates the sacrifices that are making for the gospel.
Are these trips worth the time and expense? Absolutely. Our five-year relationship with Korea was a great encouragement to them. My trip to Indonesia opened doors for strengthening ties with WMU. And here in Tanzania, our visit in 2008 encouraged the women to regroup after not meeting for a number of years. They met in the summer of 2008, again in 2009, and now are hosting this event for the East African Baptist Women’s Union. This represents significant progress!
Please pray for Baptist women around the world. Pray for the vision and encouragement they need to keep serving in missions. Likewise, pray for WMU in Kentucky and beyond to completely committed to the call and mission of God.
Correction: In an earlier post, I said that ladies arrived by bus from Nigeria. This was incorrect – the ladies on the bus were from Uganda and Kenya.