From Generation to Generation

From a distance I watched the generational change of Kentucky WMU as displayed at the 2019 Annual Meeting. The event had a different feel. The way things were done were fresh and appropriate for a new day. The heritage was honored even as the style changed. It was both exhilarating and a little painful because I was not in the middle of it all.

I was eager to watch the proceedings via Livestream. Though my heart ached to be there, I cheered from my den and posted supportive words on Facebook. This was our new leader’s event and I needed to let it be hers. I congratuate Liz Encinia, Roetta Vaught, and the Kentucky WMU staff on a wonderful celebration of missions.

When I retired, I could have dropped off the grid and I did think about it briefly. I could have deleted social media, focused on family, and stayed out of sight. But after watching other leadership transitions, I knew that I needed to find the balance between stepping aside and yet still being around to encourage from the sidelines.

Fannie E.S. Heck was an early president of Woman’s Missionary Union. Had she not died at age 53, she likely would have served for many more years. She and the women of her day founded this organization and kept creating new avenues for missions involvement. In her final address to the Union, written from her hospital bed in 1915, Heck said, “Plan not for the year but for the years. Think long thoughts.”

As WMU became stronger and more organized, we created manuals explaining how to do the work. One of the early ones was called “Telling You How.”  Somewhere along the way, we forgot the why. Thus, when new generations have come along, leaders have often been upset when the how was changed, rather than celebrating the generational shift of leadership to achieve the why.

The why of WMU has not changed since we were founded in 1888. In each generation we find new ways to state our why and new approaches to carry it out. I am now old enough to remember the leaders of my childhood, to have been a leader, and now to be cheering for a new generation of leaders. That’s a long look backwards so that I can embrace the forward look and think long thoughts.

HThe WMU mandate and what motivates us have recently been restated. They point to our why. The why of WMU, our mandate, is making disciples of Jesus who live on mission.  The things that motivate our work include that we are
– Biblically-rooted
– Missions-focused
– Church-based
– World-aware
– Denominationally-supportive

When we unpack each motive, it helps us to understand the why so that each generation can dream the dream and discover the approaches that will help them fulfill the mandate of Jesus, the Great Commission.

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