Finding Sandy – Reflections on a spiritual journey

In 2003, the movie “Finding Nemo” was a big hit with children and adults, too. It was the fanciful story of a timid clownfish who set out to find his son who had been captured in a fishing net and taken to Sydney, Australia. I thought of the title in reflecting on the journey of the past six months as a search committee, with myself as chair, sought a new executive director for National Woman’s Missionary Union.

Sandra_Wisdom-Martin croppedWhile the work of the committee will forever be confidential, I can now reflect on the spiritual journey and would share a few thoughts related to “Finding Sandy.” I am thrilled at the calling of Sandra Wisdom-Martin, executive director of WMU of Texas, as our new leader. She brings a wealth of experience, having also served in Arkansas as a state WMU staff member and as WMU director in Illinois. Sandy is beloved in every place she has served and is known as an able administrator, wonderful public speaker, and visionary leader. She has been affirmed by WMU and state convention leaders alike.

The search for Sandy was, above all, a spiritual journey. We began our work with Bible study on the selection of leaders in both the Old and New Testaments. (In a future blog, I will share a synopsis of our Bible study on selecting leaders.) We prayed often during our meetings. One of our team members regularly sent the rest of us prayer prompts–scriptures and other material to guide us in praying. We fasted periodically as we came to points of decision, seeking to know the Lord’s will above all.

Scripture affirms that “the Lord is with you when you are with Him. If you seek Him, He will be found by you” (2 Chronicles 15:2 HCSB). In the process of seeking Sandy, we first and foremost sought the Lord. Long before we asked for names of candidates, we sought the Lord.

There was a process which included a candidate profile, prayer, receiving and reviewing resumes, prayer, interviewing, prayer, and other steps. Above all, we prayed and God answered. Indeed, we can testify that when we seek the Lord, we always find Him.

We asked the WMU family to join us in prayer each day at 3:20 p.m. as we prayed and believed Ephesians 3:20-21 for our search: “Now to Him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us–to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

God is faithful. He indeed has done more than we could ask or imagine in every detail of “finding Sandy.” He has worked out details small and large. There are so many details that came together that I can hardly recount them. Meeting dates were one detail. For our first meeting, I gave the committee only one date–and they all were able to come. When it came time for the full board to meeting, we gave them only one date and they were able to come! If you’ve ever tried to work out calendars with a group of people on short notice, you know what a challenge it can be. These were miracles!

For each member of the search committee, the process was deeply spiritual. While we employed good business practices in screening, interviewing, etc., we were, above all, seeking the one that the Lord had chosen for us. God was faithful. We sought Him first, and in finding Him we also found Sandy.

The life lesson for me is to remember that “the Lord is with you when you are with Him.” No matter what we face, what decision we need to make, what direction we are seeking, what problem needs to be solved, the place to begin is by seeking the Lord.

Please be in prayer for Sandy as she is wrapping things up in Texas and preparing to transition to her new role with National WMU. Pray for our outgoing exec, Wanda Lee, as she concludes her work and prepares to make the transition with Sandy. Pray for Sandy’s family as they move. Pray for the national WMU staff as they prepare to welcome a new leader. And pray for outcomes to be felt around the world because of Sandy’s leadership with WMU. When WMU does our work well, more people are engaged in praying, giving, and doing missions–and those are outcomes that have eternal impact for the Kingdom of God.

Kentucky Changers – Still.Changing.Lives

imageKentucky Changers has wrapped up another successful summer of projects working in four locations this summer. Denise Gardner, Jon Auten and I were privileged to join Peggy Murphy and a host of wonderful volunteers as students and adults joined together to minister. Students were reminded often that we had come to do more than build decks, paint, roof, and other repairs. Instead, we had come to share Jesus and grow in our own faith walk.

imageAnd indeed lives were changed, including many of the student participants. Each day, students stopped for lunch and had a devotional which often included a testimony from a student or adult leader. Each evening, after a full day of working on houses, students returned to the school for supper and an evening worship time. In the evening worship, the gospel was clearly presented and students were challenged to accept Christ if they had never done so. During the four weeks, there were 17 salvation decisions, 14 rededications, and 20 who expressed a call to ministry. Many more left as stronger believers, understanding what hands-on missions is all about.
An important aspect of Kentucky Changers is teaching students to share their faith. Students spent time on Sunday afternoon learning how to share the plan of salvation using a “colors of faith” bracelet. They also wrote out their personal testimonies, which is a great way to build confidence in sharing your faith.

For many of the students, learning to share their faith was the highlight of the Kentucky Changers experience as evidenced in this email:

imageDear Peggy, My name is Sydney Amos and I am a member of Valley View Baptist Church youth group in Vine Grove, KY. I was at Changers a few weeks ago with my youth group, which was my third year at Changers. I’m just writing this E-mail to let you know how much I love the salvation bracelets that we used as a tool to share the gospel this year. These bracelets provided me with so many opportunities to share the gospel on and off the job site! They are great to share God’s Word and love with people of all ages, but they are especially great to share with children! I must have given out at least 10 bracelets that week, sharing the meaning of them while I was at it! Not only were they great for the people you give them to, they also helped me to be more confident in sharing God’s word. My youth group and I love them so much that we are ordering a bunch of them and we are going to  start passing them out at my school this upcoming year! Thank you so much for providing us new ways to share and for all the amazing things that you do for and with Kentucky Changers! See you next year! God bless you.

Our thanks to all of the volunteers who served as chaperones, project coordinators, construction coordinators, crew chiefs, assistants, runners, cooks, shower trailer workers, tool trailer coordinator, nurse, and the myriad of other tasks. Some of our volunteers served with us all four weeks! We also want to thank the college and high school students who served on the Ministry Team as Peggy’s assistants. These students do an awesome job with all the behind the scenes tasks. A big shout out to the pastors and music leaders who led in worship each evening and visited job sites during the day to talk with students.

imageWe are grateful to Peggy Murphy who serves as Kentucky Changers Coordinator. She was honored at the last homeowner celebration service with a quilt made from Kentucky Changers t-shirts.

Still.Changing.Lives!  Kentucky WMU helps churches learn, pray, give, go, and send missionaries, including these student missionaries we call Kentucky Changers.


Excel as a WMU leader!

A new church year is about to start! Families will return from vacation and schools will welcome students back from the summer break. The start of a new school year brings a new year for missions emphasis in your church!

Excel logoKentucky WMU challenges WMU leaders to Excel – to understand and be radically involved in the mission of God as we learn, pray, give, go and send! Prepare for the new year in WMU by attending one of our three Excel conferences. Choose the date and/or location that works best for you!

2016 dates and locations:
– July 23, Reidland Baptist Church, Paducah
– August 20,  Hickory Grove Baptist Church, Independence
– September 10, Bethlehem Baptist Church, Louisville

Excel post card front At each Excel we will introduce the new 2016-18 WMU emphasis, By All Means. There will be conferences for age-level organization leaders as well as WMU directors and other churchwide officers. We will also offer a variety of special interest conferences in the afternoon. Some will be an hour long, and others will be short 25 minute rotations. During the two hours in the afternoon, you can mix and match according to your interests.

Excel post card back croppedPlease register by the deadline of the Excel event you plan to attend to ensure that we have materials ready for you! Participants will receive a WMU Year Book and lunch in addition to conference handouts.

As you come to Excel, the new theme challenges us as Christ followers to seek new opportunities to show Christ’s love to the lost. What are we determined to do for the Kingdom “By All Means”?  The Setting Goals article in the new WMU Year Book asks some probing questions:
IMG_2845Am I willing to spend time planning and conducting a missions event for children?
Am I willing to teach children weekly to be involved in missions?
Am I willing to spend time each day in prayer for missionaries?
Am I willing to give above the tithe for missions offerings?
Am I willing to serve in the “Samaria” of my community?
Am I willing to befriend people from other nations?

These and other questions make us think. Will By All Means simply be a slogan or will it be a heartfelt commitment? Join us at Excel, confirm your commitment, and get inspired for a new year of missions!

Registration is open and available online!