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.

Mighty little boxes

In the early days of WMU, a popular method of saving money for missions by many missionary groups was the use of small wooden or cardboard banks called Mite Boxes.  Named after the story of the Widow’s Mite (Mark 12:41-43), the women used them to save for missions.  The boxes were sealed and once coins were saved, the money was kept in the mite box until Mite Box Day.  On that day, the women would bring their boxes to be opened and counted for missions.  Thousands of dollars were raised by missions groups, making these boxes known as the Mighty Mite Boxes.

In “The Missionary Mite Box,” a brochure prepared many years ago by the Woman’s Foreign Missionary Society, it said of the mite box:
 What is it?  A simple paper box.
– What is it intended to hold?  Offerings from grateful hearts.
– Why are the contents always of value?  They are offered willingly unto the Lord.
– How shall we use the mite box?  Keep one for your own use…let it be a constant reminder of the daily, ordinary blessings of your life.  Put one where friendly eyes can see it; let it remind them of duty and privilege. Treat it as a sacred thing (this feeling will grow upon you).  Encourage children to use it, and be ready to answer their questions about it.

We don’t call them mite boxes anymore, but the importance of saving for missions is still important. New banks are now available from WMU and everything the women taught their children years ago is still needed today. Our children need to learn the importance of missions around the world and how they can help.

The missions banks from WMU have been redesigned and can be used to help children save for missions offerings and other missions projects. They are sold in bundles of 10 from

Missions Banks from Product number W198103. $10.99 for ten banks.

Godly women from the Bible

Several years ago I was asked by a young adult who was helping with Kentucky Changers about what the Bible said about the characteristics of a godly woman. At that time in his life journey, he was truly seeking to know these characteristics as he considered his future. I asked him to give me a day to think about it. The next day, I shared some examples of godly women from the Bible with his group at Kentucky Changers.

In this Women’s History Month, I thought about what I shared and found a file copy. In honor of some women of the Bible, I share with you.

Proverbs 31 Woman – The verses of this chapter are the sayings of Lemuel, “an oracle his mother taught him.” Right there, we have a mom teaching her son what a godly woman is like. Here we find that she was a hard worker, a good business woman, respected, made her husband look good, wise, and practical.

Deborah – Her story is found in Judges 4-5. She was a judge, leader, and also a singer.

Huldah – See both 2 Kings 22:14-20 and 2 Chronicles 34:22-28. Huldah was a woman who remained faithful to the Lord when evil kings ruled. Eventually, under Josiah, there was a return to the Lord and the temple was repaired. When the Book of the Law was found and read to the king, the priests wen to Huldah to learn what it meant.

Sheerah – Mentioned in 1 Chronicles 7:24 as a builder, Sheerah built three towns: Lower Beth Horon, Upper Beth Horon, and Uzzen Sheerah.

Mary – Luke 2:26-48. Her story is woven throughout the gospels, but her mention here is for her obedience to the Lord’s will. Mary was a woman of deep faith.

Elizabeth – Luke 2:39-45, 56. Elizabeth was a woman who was sensitive to the Lord and mentored Mary.

Women followers of Jesus – Luke 8:1-3. The group included Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna, and many others. Luke notes that these women supported the ministry of Jesus out of their own means. (This means they raised money for missions. I like to think of them as the first WMU!)

Lydia – Acts 16:13-15, 40. This businesswoman not only believed in God and responded to Paul’s preaching, but also practiced hospitality by opening her home to Paul and Silas and other believers.

Priscilla – Mentioned in Acts 18 as a tentmaker with her husband, Aquila. Later in the chapter we see that she was also a teacher when she and Aquila invited Apollos to their home and explained the gospel to him more adequately. In Romans 16:3, she is mentioned first (Priscilla and Aquila) in Paul’s greeting to them as fellow workers in Christ Jesus.

Lois and Eunice – 2 Timothy 1:5. This grandmother and mother passed on their faith in God to Timothy.

Romans 16 women – This chapter of greetings mentions a number of women who were significant in Paul’s ministry. Included in the list are Phoebe, Mary, Tryphina, Tryposa, Persis, and Rufus’ mother (not named). These women are cited for their contributions and work for the Lord.

There are certainly other women in scripture, but these are some that I admire. And for the record, the young man who asked the question has since found a godly woman and will be married soon.

Bless the Rest

Summerville Baptist Church has as its emphasis this year to “Bless the Rest.” Drawn from God’s promise to Abraham that he would be blessed to be a blessing, our pastor has been preaching about ways that we as a congregation can be a blessing to our community.

Over the weekend, I visited a friend in the nursing home. Her mobility is limited and she needs a good bit of care. Yet in our conversation I encouraged her to consider how she could be a blessing to the staff and other residents. This was a surprise to her. I explained that I worked my way through seminary in a nursing home as a nurse’s aide. There were patients who were difficult and there were those that blessed me. I wanted her to be one who was a blessing.

How can we bless the rest in this kind of situation? Remember that the staff includes many people. Administrators, secretaries, financial officers, dietary staff, nurses, nurses’ aides, physical therapists, activities directors, housekeeping staff, maintenance personnel, and others work in the nursing home. There are also volunteers who do a variety of tasks.

As a patient, it would be easy to be think “These people are here to serve me.” While that is true, such an attitude will not enhance relationships. The attitude, “Things are difficult for me right now, but I want to bless the rest,” will go a long way.

Whether you are the patient or a family member, you can bless the rest. When staff come to clean, deliver a meal, give medicine, or provide another service, be sure to thank them. Ask about their families. If they seem tired, take note and try to encourage them just by caring.  If you are a family member, bring treats from time to time. Leave appreciation notes.

As a patient or family member, pray for those who serve. Ask them about prayer requests and tell them that you are praying for them. If possible, pray for them right on the spot. Speak often about your faith and how the Lord sustains you in difficult times. Share the gospel. Leave gospel tracts in the room.

Yes, no matter the circumstances, we can bless the rest. These suggestions for blessing others at a nursing home can be applied in many other situations. As a parent or student, you can bless the teachers and staff at school. You can bless the rest at work. You can bless the rest by being a good neighbor. The list goes on.

Let’s bless the rest!

Supporting WMU

When I saw the Baptist Press headline “WMU Foundation: $512,354 to support national WMU work,” I knew what the next blog would be. There has been stirring in my heart a message about supporting WMU. I believe it is vital for us to intentionally support National WMU.

I grew up in WMU and have been influenced by WMU’s determination to make disciples of Jesus who live on mission. As I became aware of how the work of WMU was funded, I knew that National WMU received no Cooperative Program support or dollars from the missions offerings, but instead funded the work through the sales of missions literature. But there is more to the story.

A quick look at A Century to Celebrate by Catherine Allen reminded me that from the time WMU incorporated, they knew they would need funds for literature and communications. “They agreed on three principles: they would receive no missions money, but have the women send it directly to the mission boards for expenditure; the officers would receive no pay; and its expenses would be paid by the mission boards.”

“For more than 66 years the process of WMU funding was commonly known as ‘recalling.’ WMU officers would incur or estimate expenses, then ‘recall’ from the mission boards the amount they wished. Always this was done with reluctance and self-sacrifice, for the women wanted as much money as possible to go to the missions fields” said Allen.

The “recall” system was changed as WMU increasingly supported her work through literature sales and earnings from reserves. In 1995, the WMU Foundation was established and has become a significant partner in channeling financial support to WMU. This is more important than ever before.

In an era when publishing has experienced radical change, WMU has struggled to sell enough literature to fund the national office. This is both a symptom of changing times in our churches and in the distribution of information. People today want to find information and resources at no cost on the internet. However, even to give away information on the web, there are production costs which must be funded, This is why advertising is so important in many apps and web platforms.

When I have attended meetings with other WMU leaders, we have discussed these challenges. We understand that putting “free” information on the web has costs, and that WMU would love to provide missions resources to churches at no charge. But without a “recall” system, and because National WMU purposely does not receive Cooperative Program funds, this is not possible. This is where you and I come in.

We need to step up and fund National WMU work. There are several ways.

Purchase WMU literature, WorldCrafts, and other products produced by WMU. Keep your subscriptions current. Don’t be among those who say, “I used to subscribe.” You may be too busy to read every word of Missions Mosaic, but subscribe anyway. This is our flagship magazine and your subscription matters. Give gifts from WorldCrafts that are not only beautiful but provide hope for a better life and share Jesus who gives us hope for eternity.

Give to support WMU ministries through the WMU Foundation. Gifts for various ministries of WMU were among the $512,234 given recently. You can support an hour of ministry by giving $34 to the Vision Fund. You can support missions education for preschoolers by giving to the Dixon Endowment for Mission Friends. You can support leadership development through gifts to a number of endowments. See the Funds and Endowments List and pick one! You can also choose a Touch Tomorrow Today endowment which divides distributions between National WMU and WMU in your state.

Plan a gift to WMU from your estate. All of us will die. We must decide now, however, where our assets will go if we want to have a say in the distribution. Much of the $512,234 came from earnings on endowments. You may want to establish an endowment with WMU, but you can also specify a dollar amount or percentage to go to an existing endowment. Your wishes must be in writing through a will. Do not assume that your family knows you would want this. Put it in writing. The WMU Foundation can assist you with Planned Giving.

Memorial gifts are a great way to honor people who love WMU and missions. Give to a WMU endowment at their passing. Or purchase a brick for the Walk of Faith. 100% of your Walk of Faith gift goes to operational needs of WMU. And let your family know where you would like memorial gifts sent when you die. Again, don’t assume they know. Put it in writing and let them know your wishes. Gifts to support WMU are a great way to honor and be honored.

The National WMU Office is important to all of us. It guides our work together and is the hub for WMU work across the country. WMU has a mandate to fulfill and keeping our home office strong and able to provide the resources we need is vital.

Join me today in supporting WMU!

Women in God’s Mission

“Women have advanced God’s mission throughout history and around the world. But women often face particular obstacles in ministry. What do we need to know about how women thrive?” So begins the InterVarsity Press web introduction to a new book by Dr. Mary Lederleitner, Women in God’s Mission: Accepting the Invitation to Serve and Lead.

This fascinating book tells stories of respected women leaders from around the world. It is an honest look at the styles, passions, and challenges faced by women in leadership. Over 90 women in approximately 30 nations were interviewed for this project. While their identities have been protected, the stories are universal. Lederleitner explores how the leadership of women is different, how women connect, and how they persevere.

Women in God’s Mission tells of women who have experienced a call from God, often a very unexpected call to leadership. There is much in the way of practical leadership wisdom that the women of this book share and that I appreciated deeply. Many of the women interviewed lead ministries that are often to “the least of these.” Ministries to people who are homeless, poor, trafficking victims, in need of health care, education, and much more have been led by women to the glory of God. This is cause for celebration.

Of particular note to me was the gracious way many women leaders have chosen to respond to gender bias. Lederleitner says. “In my research I have been astounded by this: when women encountering difficult gender hurdles choose forgiveness over bitterness, God finds ways around the hurdles and often gives them more influence than if the original door they had sought had been open to them.”

Women in God’s Mission was a Christmas gift and has prompted me to reflect on nearly 30 years of denominational service. While I have been blessed with good relationships in my leadership roles, the book is a reminder that there are still challenging issues at times. As I have wrestled with a response to the book and the issue of gender bias, it seems to me that the roadblocks women have encountered are actually tools God has used to direct us to meet needs that otherwise would be overlooked. The body of Christ must have every member functioning well to accomplish all that He wants to do. This includes women in leadership and missions.

I am grateful to Woman’s Missionary Union for encouraging and training women, including me. I am grateful for the lessons learned and the affirmation that I received to follow God’s calling on my life. I am grateful that WMU helps women reach out and meet needs around the world. There are many who will never hear the gospel unless a woman bears the message. There are children who will never be taught what it means to be part of the mission of God unless women teach them. There are missionaries who will miss out on prayer and financial support unless women step up. Even in the ministry of Jesus, the financial support of women was noted. (See Luke 8:1-3.)

Women in God’s Mission is a worthwhile read for both men and women. Readers may not agree with all of the roles and examples of women in leadership cited, but regardless, will be challenged to think about important issues. May this book open doors for dialogue that we might more faithfully serve Christ’s mission, bringing many sons and daughters to faith around the world.

Women in God’s Mission
Published by InterVarsity Press, 2018