GA Autographs

As we celebrate the 100th birthday of GA this year,  I have pulled out my GA memorabilia and reflected on the powerful influence of Girls Auxiliary, now Girls in Action, on my life.  In GA I memorized scripture, created missions displays, learned to present a program, and began praying for missionaries.  I learned my geography as we found the countries where the missionaries served.  For one of my Forward Steps, I wrote a paper for my notebook on “Why I Am a Tither.”  That lesson has certainly stayed with me!

autograph book-page-001Among my special GA items are two GA autograph books. Looking through them reveals signatures obtained at camp and in my GA group. There are the typical signatures and crazy notes from other girls.   The last signature I got said “try not to talk so much (if you can).”  But the pages also contain autographs of people who have been significant in missions and the Southern Baptist Convention.  My parents made it a point to take me to association, state, and national WMU and SBC meetings.  I grew up going to events where I heard and met leaders who had an influence on me, though I did not realize how great an influence until much later.  I also met some political leaders along the way.

Some of the signatures in my two autograph books include:
Alma Oates, Brazil
Katharine Bryan (who later became the executive director of Tennessee WMU)
Cathleen Lewis, Alabama GA Director
Mary Essie Stephens, Alabama WMU Director
Mrs. Albert J. Smith, President, Alabama WMU
Barbara Mefford, missionary to the Choctaw Indians
George C. Wallace, Governor of Alabama
Baker J. Cauthen, President, Foreign Mission Board
H. S. Sauls, Association Missionary, Mobile Baptist Association
Davis Thompson, Argentina
Courts Redford, President, Home Mission Board
M. Wendell Belew, Home Mission Board
Marvel Iglesias, San Blas
Mrs. Willie Johnson, Alaska
B. Frank Belvin, missionary to the Apache, Kiowa, Creek and Seminole Indians, Oklahoma
Edgar M. Arendall, Pastor, Dawson Memorial Baptist Church
Mrs. C. S. Cadewallader, Jr., Guatemala
Anis Shorrosh, Jordan
Dewey Merritt, Nigeria
James L. Sullivan, President, Baptist Sunday School Board
Georgia Mae Ogburn, Chile
V.O. McMillan, Japan
autographs Hunt-Fling-MathisZelma Foster, Philippines
Kathryn E. Carpenter, WMU Director, Louisiana
Charles M. Lowry, Louisiana Baptist Convention
Barbara Elder, WMU
Mrs. C. E. Conrad, President, Louisiana WMU
Mrs. R. L. Mathis, President, WMU, SBC (1956-63, 1969-75)
Mrs. Robert Fling, President, WMU, SBC (1963-69)
Alma Hunt, Executive Director, WMU, SBC (1948-74)

You can tell from the list that my early years were spent in Alabama.  We moved back to New Orleans when I was in high school.  A special memory for me was serving as a page at the national WMU meeting in New Orleans in 1969 where I sat on the platform between Alma Hunt and Claude Rhea.   My parents were friends with the Rhea’s and I can remember Dr. Rhea telling me he could see my dad in the audience.  To prepare for that session, my mother gave me very specific lessons for sitting on the platform.  Who knew how important that lesson would be!

I share these memories to encourage you to take children and youth to missions events. Take them to meetings that are supposed to be for adults and let them take it all in.  You may be preparing the next missionary or convention leader.  Young people absorb far more than we realize!

EBO at Work: Portable baptistry for Victory Baptist Church, Shelbyville

This EBO story means a great deal to me personally because it is not about just any ministry, but one led by a young man ordained to the gospel ministry at my church, Clayvillage Baptist Church.  It is also a story which began many years ago with a clothing ministry started by the Albright Baptist Women (now Women on Mission, and the group of which I am a member) at First Baptist Church, Shelbyville.

Eventually the clothing closet was located at Henderson House, a mission of First Baptist, Shelbyville.  Henderson House operated a storefront ministry for many years, reaching people who live in downtown Shelbyville.  Through hot meals, clothing, GED classes, and other ministries, the mission met needs and shared the gospel.

Several years ago the congregation of Henderson House constituted into Victory Baptist Church. In November 2012, they called Marc Webb as pastor.  Marc is the son of Coy and Cathy Webb. You know Coy’s name as our state Disaster Relief Director.  At Clayvillage we watched as Marc finished college, prayed for him through some health problems, and were proud of him when he surrendered to the ministry and began seminary.

After his call to Victory, Marc began leading the congregation to do more in missions.  This year their Annie Armstrong Easter Offering goal was $200 and they gave $900!  He also saw a need to be able to baptize people more readily than having to schedule a time with another church.  Victory applied for an Eliza Broadus Offering grant to help them purchase a portable baptistry.

DSCN2444Victory received the portable baptistry in April and the congregation is excited about having their own baptistry.  Thank you Kentucky Baptists, for helping a small congregation, extend their ministry, including the ability to baptize new believers!

WMU History – from a Kentucky perspective!

Happy birthday, WMU!  On May 14, 1888, the Executive Committee of Woman’s Mission Societies, Auxiliary to the Southern Baptist Convention, was formed in Richmond, Virginia.  Renamed Woman’s Missionary Union in 1890, WMU has a distinguished history and bright future as succeeding generations identify with the purpose and passion of WMU leaders and members across the years.  In my Happy 125th Birthday blog, I recounted some history about our founding.  The following takes a look at WMU history from a Kentucky perspective and was first shared in the Western Recorder and at the national WMU meeting which met in Louisville in 2009.

Early Kentucky WMU History
Kentucky Woman’s Missionary Union traces its beginnings back to 1878 when the Foreign Mission Board called for the formation of state Central Committees to give guidance to the emerging missionary societies being formed in many churches.  Before a national organization of missionary societies was even a dream, six women from Louisville were asked to form the Kentucky Central Committee in 1878.

Those six women made their first report in 1880.  In just two years they had secured the name of every Baptist church and its pastor in the state of Kentucky, as well as the names of Baptist women.  They wrote letters and enlisted others across the state to help in organizing more missionary societies.

In 1882, the Kentucky Central Committee started a publication called the Heathen Helper which helped to shape the future of WMU.  Even though published in Louisville, the paper’s influence was felt throughout the Southern Baptist Convention.  Agnes Osborne, Corresponding Secretary of the Kentucky Central Committee, served as editor. She wrote to each of the other 13 Central Committees and invited them to send items for publication.  The eight pages of the monthly paper were filled with reports, news, editorials, and life sketches from other lands.  Fannie E.S. Heck said that it had become “the voice of the scattered [missionary] societies.”

In 1885 a second publication, The Baptist Basket, was also started in Louisville.  This publication was published monthly to encourage giving.  An excerpt from the April 1893 issue describes WMU work, including the giving of ten cents monthly by the members for missions.  This description concludes: “Southern Baptist women, thus at work, would give one million dollars for missions annually.”  No one would have ever dreamed of the millions that would one day be given for missions because of the influence of these missions publications.

SallieRochesterFordAnother significant connection to Kentucky that many do not know is the importance of a meeting held in Louisville one year before the founding of national WMU.  In 1887 when the meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention was held at Broadway Baptist Church, the women met at the Broadway Methodist Church.  Presiding over the meeting was Mrs. Sallie Rochester Ford, a Kentucky native who was convinced that Southern Baptist women had a right to organize and that, if united, could raise more money for the struggling mission boards.

Many women came to the meeting in Louisville hoping that some sort of southwide organization would be formed.  At this historic gathering the women decided that it would be best to wait a year, believing that for the organization to receive the sanction of the SBC and be in good standing among the women, it ought to be voted upon by delegates from each state.  So, though Richmond always gets the credit, the real decision to organize national WMU was made in Louisville in May 1887 and carried out the next year.

The work of WMU in Kentucky was led by the Central Committee until 1903 when Kentucky WMU as we know it today was organized at the First Baptist Church of Winchester. At that time, Eliza Broadus recommended that a separate president of Kentucky WMU be elected. Mrs. B.F. Proctor of Bowling Green was elected as the first state president.  A Constitution and By-laws were adopted the following year.

Influence of Kentucky WMU
Since that time, Kentucky WMU has played a vital role in the development of WMU work as well as SBC cooperative giving. When the 75 Million Campaign, predecessor of the Cooperative Program, was proposed, national WMU accepted $15 million as its part of the goal. Kentucky WMU “loaned” our Executive Director, Mrs. Janie Cree Bose, to WMU, SBC for four months to help with the field work.  Though the effort fell short of its goal, both Kentucky WMU and national WMU exceeded their commitments to the campaign.

Kentucky WMU led the effort to establish a Religious Training School for young women after opening a home in 1904 for young women attending seminary. After much debate, WMU, SBC agreed to take on the school and opened it as the WMU Training School in October 1907. The vision was “of a fully equipped school for young women, equal to the best and under the control and direction of the Baptist women of the south.” A new building, known affectionately as “House Beautiful,” was erected in 1917 and still stands today as the home of Metro United Way. WMUTS later moved to a site next to Southern Seminary and eventually became the Carver School of Missions and Social Work.

ElizaThe most familiar name in Kentucky WMU history is Eliza Broadus. A contemporary of Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong, Miss Broadus served Kentucky Baptists and Kentucky WMU with distinction for 50 years. Daughter of Dr. John A. Broadus, president of Southern Seminary, she was a member of the missionary society of Walnut Street Baptist Church and was a charter member of the Kentucky Central Committee in 1878.  In 1888, when national WMU was formed, Eliza was elected as Vice-President from Kentucky and served in this role until 1920 when the state WMU president was assigned this responsibility.  Miss Broadus led Kentucky WMU to establish an annual offering for state missions in 1913 and Kentucky WMU named the offering in her honor in 1975.  We are celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Eliza Broadus Offering this year!

Kentucky WMU Today
Kentucky WMU is strong partner of the Kentucky Baptist Convention and is perceived as vital to any state missions endeavor.  Kentucky WMU has elected officers and an Executive Board which give oversight to our work. The Eliza Broadus Offering continues to provide significant funding for Kentucky mission with offering allocations being set by the Kentucky WMU Executive Board in a cooperative spirit with the KBC.  There has been great rejoicing across Kentucky as the offering has grown and new ministries funded.

WMU 125th Ribbon_RGBThe work of the state office, housed in the Kentucky Baptist Convention building in Louisville, is carried out by a staff of nine. Kentucky WMU helps churches and associations to reach Kentucky and the world for Christ by providing missions education resources, events, consultation, ministry opportunities and other services.

Join us in celebrating 125 years of WMU!  And remember – it’s never too late to start WMU.  WMU will strengthen the entire church, increase giving, raise the level of missions involvement, and provide prayer support for the church and missions around the world.  Join us – 125 years strong and still going!

Happy 125th Birthday, WMU!

WMU 125th Ribbon_RGBOn May 14 we celebrate 125 years of WMU – Woman’s Missionary Union.  The women who began this organization were passionate about a lost world and what they could do to support missions.  At a time like this, it would be easy to romanticize the early days and perhaps wish for days gone by.  I have enjoyed wearing my GA, Girls Auxiliary, regalia during this celebration. This is the period of WMU history that influenced me the most. There are times I wish for GAs like it used to be and have been thrilled to see the return of some classic GA items. But lest we be tempted to wish for earlier days, let me remind you of some of our history.*

After each state had begun a Central Committee to encourage the development of missionary societies and raise money for missions, the women began to gather each year during the Southern Baptist Convention. They were deliberate in their decision to begin a national organization. The first national women’s meeting was in 1883 but it was not until 1888 that they came ready to vote. A core of 32 delegates met in Richmond, Virginia with about 100 Virginia WMU women also in attendance, who had come to watch history being made.

The women met on Friday, May 11.  There were impassioned speeches urging the start of a national organization. Fannie Davis of Texas said, “This movement is not about ‘women’s rights,’ though we have our rights, the highest of which is the right for service.” Annie Armstrong wanted them to take the vote, fearing that there would not be time to work out all of the details.  Others were concerned that the Southern Baptist Convention express its opinion before they voted.  In a spirit of compromise, the vote was delayed until Monday, May 14 while a committee was appointed to work out all the plans for the organization.

Thus on Saturday the women crowded into the balcony where the men were meeting to hear the report on Convention improvements brought by F.M. Ellis. The lengthy report covered many issues including systematic giving. There was “a mild mention of women’s work” through the encouragement of missionary circles and children’s bands (groups). The mission boards were instructed to keep separate accounts to show the women’s contributions, and the women were invited to make annual reports to the mission boards through their Central Committees. After much debate, the report passed

It is reported that there was much doom saying by some about the start of a women’s organization. One account says that a Kentuckian said of this vote by the convention, “You can’t overthrow Paul and Paul said ‘If you vote for this organization, God only knows what the women will do.  Nobody on the face of this earth will be able to manage them, and they will be in danger of wrecking the whole business.”

However, when the women reconvened on Monday, May 14, they felt that the Convention had said, “Do as you please, only send us your money.”  Little has changed in 125 years.  We still lead our own work and the Southern Baptist Convention is still glad to receive our money!

But we know it has been much more than that.  WMU quickly realized the need for a systematic plan of prayer support for missionaries and developed the missionary prayer calendar.  They realized the need to teach our children and began Young Women’s Auxiliary in 1907, the same year that national WMU assumed operation of the WMU Training School in Louisville.  WMU began Royal Ambassadors in 1908 and Girls Auxiliary in 1913.  WMU recognized the importance of personal involvement in missions and began promoting Personal Service, now known as mission action.

By 1913, Fannie E.S. Heck had begun to articulate the work of WMU through the Union Ideals:

  • growth of Christian womanhood through individual and united prayer and study of God’s Word
  • a larger intellectual life through mission study
  • the enlistment of all Southern Baptist women in mission service
  • systematic monthly contributions given in sums commensurate with one’s real ability and the demands of the world’s needs
  • direct service rendered by members of the societies for the salvation of their own neighbors
  • the care of missionaries children
  • the recognition of the responsibility for the missions training of young women and children
  • the training of young women for special service in the home church and in the home and foreign mission fields in the Woman’s Missionary Union Training School

While the wording has been revised and we’ve used terms such as aims, tasks, and now objectives, the basic purpose and work of WMU has never changed in 125 years.

When WMU began in 1888, the preamble to the WMU Constitution began:

We, the women of the churches connected with the Southern Baptist Convention, desirous of stimulating the missionary spirit and the grace of giving among the women and children of the churches, and aiding in collecting funds for missionary purposes, to be disbursed by the Boards of the Southern Baptist Convention, and disclaiming all intention of independent action, organize…

The organization has not always been understood.  In fact in the Tenth Annual report of the Kentucky Central Committee dated May 1891, Eliza Broadus wrote:

“Objectors to our work often ask why we are not willing to work with our fathers and brothers, but want what we do reported separately. We answer that we do work with them. We insist on our women giving as they have always done, to the regular collections of the church, and that what we give in our societies must be that much extra, given often as the fruit of self-denial, of special exertions, or as a thank-offering for special mercies. To such gifts, our brethren will surely not object, if they only understand our position.”

On this 125th anniversary, we must not camp out in the past, but rather honor the past by continuing the work of WMU.  On this anniversary it is fitting that we acknowledge and express appreciation for the efforts of faithful women across the years, women who believed in the purpose of WMU and led the work in church after church and in associations across our nation. We honor them by continuing to serve until Jesus comes.  At times it is discouraging, as the population grows and hostilities towards believers increase.  But we have read the end of the Book.  The Revelation was given to John to tell us that hard times would come but that we are to be faithful witnesses until that day.

From time to time I receive calls from leaders who are discouraged. The calls that grieve me the most are from leaders who face opposition from within their own churches.  Yet, there is a lesson from The Insanity of God that we must not miss: It is always possible to obey Christ’s call to make disciples. Every believer – in every place – is always free to make that choice….The question is never, “Am I free to do that?”  Rather, the question is “Will I be obedient?” Believers in the world of persecution have already decided their answer to that crucial question.

With or without the support of others, every one of us is free to pray for missions, support missions, engage in mission action and witnessing, learn about missions, grow spiritually towards a missions lifestyle, and support the work of the church and denomination. It is simply a matter of obedience.” 

In the immortal rallying cry of Annie Armstrong, may we “Go Forward!”


*Historical information drawn from A Century to Celebrate by Catherine Allen.