On June 14-15, the national WMU Missions Celebration and Annual Meeting will take place at First Baptist Church, Grove City, Ohio. A part of this celebration will include a time to say thank you to our outgoing national president, Debby Akerman. We have been blessed by Debby’s five years of service, including her participation in two Kentucky WMU Annual Meetings in 2012 and 2015.
Debby has traveled extensively as our president. She offers wise counsel and encouragement. She leads by example, including serving as a Girls in Action leader in her church in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Her writings have challenged us to live surrendered to the Lord, to wait on His perfect timing, and to trust in His love for us.
In our recent Annual Meeting, I asked Debby to share reflections on her experiences as president and to help us look to the future. In reflecting on her five years as president, Debby shared that she has experienced three WMU emphases in these 5 years. “I began with Unhindered. How appropriate for a new national president. God did some pretty amazing unhindering in me … emptying me of everyday things and loosening my grip on local responsibilities so I could fully embrace this call of God. As I began to travel with my new responsibilities, I heard statements like these “My mother was in WMU. ” “I once was an RA.” “I grew up in GA but somehow I disconnected.”
Now I hear more of these statements…. “My wife is a WMU leader” “My children are in GA and RA.” “My church is starting WMU”. And…. I love this from a pastor…. He said to a search committee. “My daughter is an Acteen and if you don’t have Acteens I cannot accept your call to be your pastor.” Men and Women and pastors across our country have been increasingly unhindered to embrace WMU and our mission purposes.
“The Story Lives On” emphasis…. didn’t you all love that?.…..What great times of celebration…two full years of celebrating. I remember in Houston ….Joy dressed in full GA regalia leading us in the star ideals at the National WMU Missions celebration and Jon Auten leading the RA Pledge. And all of you who attended, remembering your heritage and renewing your commitment to WMU as your then state president, Linda carried the torch light in promise to God to be fervent in the work of Kentucky WMU.
Our grand finale celebration in Baltimore was indeed grand…. Only God could have worked out the plan for the Southern Baptist Convention and WMU to be in Miss Annie Armstrong territory to celebrate and to tour the city and see the early days of WMU history through her eyes.|
In the midst of celebrating our 125th anniversary God began to say…. This is good…. But you cannot linger in the celebration nor rest on your laurels. Where will you lead WMU next? Are you seeking My next for WMU? As I pondered those questions …. More thoughts surfaced. If all in WMU were fully surrendered, WMU would be growing in every church. If all in our churches were more willing to sacrifice, CP, LMCO, and AAEO would surpass every goal. If all Christians were more willing to serve, we would see all our churches overflowing with new believers and there would be no unreached unengaged peoples left in the world.
From many questions and much praying by the group gathered to discern God’s direction……”All For You… Surrender, Sacrifice, Serve” emerged. I have been in 12 states since this emphasis began. This emphasis is strengthening the resolve of many who recommitted to WMU during our 125th celebration. This emphasis is causing women who have spent their entire adult life in WMU, now weeping with new resolve to live a missions lifestyle, saying this topic… this surrender to God’s call on their life for missions through WMU had dwindled and that this emphasis was a wakeup call from God. It is causing women to step back into WMU, to step out and do missions, and to say to God “All For You” |
Other areas of reflection have come to my mind. First… Renewal…. WMU is being identified again by our Southern Baptist entities and by our churches as fully relevant for today. Many of our leaders are rekindling what they learned in their formative years as MFs, GAs, RAs and Acteens and now supporting the work of WMU. Second … Resurgence…. There is a revival of interest in WMU by our young missionaries. As they seek connections with multiple churches, it is WMU they are finding to be their best support. They ask us more questions and want to be part of WMU in their states and in other countries. Third …. Resources… Our writers and curriculum specialists at WMU are excellent, the best anywhere…. I hear only strong words of appreciation for the resources WMU presents for missions learning.
At our National WMU board meeting this past January I spoke of decreasing subscriptions for our resources…. Even for our wonderful Missions Mosaic. Every member of the National WMU board and all the state Executive directors agreed we could not let this continue. We ask you all to be Missions Mosiac advocates; a Mission Mosiac for every woman in WMU and ………..the WMU resource in the hand of every GA and RA and MF and Acteen. Will you be that advocate for WMU resources? Thank you!
Debby’s sister, Melissa Fitzwater, serves with her husband John (Fitz) as Kentucky Mission Service Corps missionaries with Loaves and Fishes Ministry in Lynch. So we expect that we will continue to see Debby in Kentucky from time to time.
The national meeting is fairly close for us this year and I am looking for a strong Kentucky contingent to be present. There will be a reception for Debby on Sunday afternoon. Pray for Debby as she presides at this meeting and concludes her term as president. Give thanks for her ministry among us. I hope to see you in Columbus.