Executive Director Blog

Shifting Gears

My husband tore a tendon in his shoulder. He cannot drive his six-speed car, so we’ve switched vehicles. It’s been nearly three decades since I drove a car with a manual transmission. I was a bit nervous, wondering if I would be able to manage the clutch. After a few excursions, I fell back into the rhythm of shifting gears. The experience has reminded me of key leadership principles.

Focus on WMU is this month. As you bring attention to the programs and ministries of WMU, take a moment and focus on your own missions influence. Often plans are made at the beginning of the church year and WMU leaders are on automatic cruise control by midyear. Take time to assess missions progress. Do you need to speed up and shift to another gear to implement a new initiative? You may need to consider reducing speed and downshift to spend more time emphasizing a particular missions strategy of your congregation. You must be flexible to shift gears as needed.

Break from Routine

Mornings came early in seminary. I had to be at the cafeteria by 5:30 a.m. to work my shift. I also babysat, cleaned houses, and fulfilled National Guard duties. Between classes and odd jobs, there was little study time and practically no down time whatsoever. Class attendance was expected. Chapel attendance was optional. I hope you will not judge me too harshly, but sometimes I would skip chapel in favor of the $.99 all you can eat biscuits and gravy at a local restaurant. I will say I was not the only seminarian occasionally feasting on downhome cooking rather than the Word during the chapel hour.

Yet one chapel comes to mind as I think about the New Year. The chaplain spoke during this particular service. Our campus had signs posted that read, "Please walk on the grass but don't make paths." I can't remember the specific Bible text he used, but the chaplain said we should pay attention to the grass signs and apply the principle to our lives.

Prayer and Giving Dovetail

My earliest Christmas memories revolve around church life. I remember spending hours practicing lines for Christmas pageants. All children were in the productions. I don’t recall it being optional. Afterward we would exchange gifts in our small country church. Before leaving, my dad would lead the congregation to sing “Away in a Manger.” The number of words and verses would depend on the status of our Lottie Moon Christmas Offering goal. Hopefully by our Christmas celebration, the target would be met. Christmas lights poking through a homemade wooden board lit up the song.

The best was yet to come. Everyone was given a brown paper lunch sack filled with goodness on his or her way out the door. The gift bag always contained a handful of peanuts, a few old-fashioned creams, an orange, and some hard candy. The Baptist Sunday School Board may have produced literature about how to pack the treats, because many my age remember receiving the same gift bags at their churches.

18 Thanksgivings and Counting

I carry the images of November 25, 1999, in my heart. Our court date was May 25 earlier in the same year. I recall the date well because it was my 35th birthday. When panic started to rise in my chest, I would remind myself that my name was on the missionary prayer calendar. Southern Baptists around the globe would be praying for me and my family. I still remember overwhelming feelings of relief when the judge brought down his gavel and rendered the verdict. However, the decision would not be final until November 25, Thanksgiving Day.

Family traveled to east Tennessee for our traditional Thanksgiving gathering. Every reunion is unique and filled with wonderful reasons to celebrate shared experiences. Back then roosters at the homestead would herald the day long before sunrise. On that occasion, I did not mind. It seemed they wanted to launch the festivities. As roosters began crowing, I felt the profound significance of the day.

Set Free to Share

In the heart of Rome is a sacred place few know about. Millions will be within steps of this ancient treasure as they walk to the Roman Forum or Colosseum. We had the museum to ourselves the day we went. Our small group politely looked at the archeology artifacts for what we considered an appropriate amount of time. I found myself anxious to put my feet where he had been. Someone finally asked, “Will we get to see the actual prison?” The museum official said, “Yes, I will escort you below.”

We exited the main floor of the museum down modern metal stairs placed above the hewn rock steps built by the Romans 20 centuries ago. The reality of what the Apostle Paul experienced during his imprisonment came to life before my eyes. It was vivid and painful. On the first level underground, we saw where prisoners were dropped through a hole in the rock floor into their cell.

Mully Children's Family offers hope

Charles Mully with rescued children in Kenya

It’s one thing to hear about it, but quite another to experience firsthand. Poverty-stricken parents making the gut-wrenching decision to give their child away. What could be worse than walking away from your child? I can think of two things: watching your child die of hunger or seeing him or her sold into human trafficking so he or she can be fed.

My colleague witnessed the drama unfold in real time as overwhelming pain gripped the hearts of parents when they handed their child over to Mully Children’s Family (MCF), a place they knew their child would be cared for and not exploited, making it the only viable option with their lack of resources.

Men and WMU

This month, my husband and I celebrate our 25th anniversary. Frank proposed to me on top of the Burger King boat on the Mississippi River with a ring bought from a pawnshop. Did I mention we were seminary students at the time? That boat was destroyed when she broke loose during the flood of 1993 and hit a bridge in St. Louis. I lost the ring while packing school supplies during a WMU event in Nashville, Tennessee. It just slipped right off. Some lucky first grader got to show his mother new crayons, scissors, glue, and a cool ring he found in the bag.

The boat and ring are gone. The marriage remains. We went to Branson one year when our daughter was young. We bought new wedding rings and went outside the jewelry shop where our daughter put the rings on our fingers and pronounced us husband and wife (again).

I think back over 25 years and the sacrifices my husband made. He did not protest when I wanted us to get married at GA camp or when I asked a WMU colleague to plan our honeymoon. Our trip had to be shorter than intended because I needed to be back for the first Mississippi River Ministry convocation.

Sandy's Desk: Cultivating a Missions Lifestyle

Someone once asked me, “How do you cultivate a missions lifestyle in young believers?” I answered the question with examples from my life. It started when I was in Acteens. The Girls in Action leader of my church asked if I wanted to help her with GAs. Then I was given opportunities for leadership through state missions camps and state Acteens Activators teams.

In college, the associational WMU council invited me to join its team. We traveled for hours together to state training events. I taught missions discipleship conferences in the association. I was awful. They loved and encouraged me anyway. When I felt God’s call on my life and made the decision to go to seminary, my associational WMU director used her own money to drive me to visit the campus two states away.

Do you get the picture? Missions leaders taught me. They loved me. They accepted me. They gave me responsibilities. They let me fail and learn. They poured their lives into mine. We have to love, nurture, bless, and turn our young people loose for God to do what He wants through their lives.

Buy Two Tents: A Christian response to disasters

My WMU friend Betty was working a feeding unit in response to wildfires one year. Officials came to the line to tell another volunteer who was working with her that they did all they could but the wildfires took his home. Other volunteers took up $200 to give him. The man lost everything. Instead of spending the money on himself, the gentleman took the money and bought gift cards to give away at the shelter.

Others found out he had lost his home and gave more money. This time, he decided to go ahead and buy something for himself. He lost his home and his chicken coop, but he still had a few chickens. He told Betty, in almost an apologetic tone, “With the money, I bought two tents—one for me to live in and one for a family at the shelter. And I hope it is OK that I bought some feed for my chickens.”

What a beautiful picture of what it means to be a loving Christian. Committed Christ followers love God and love others as much or more as they love themselves. Through WMU, we seek to nurture that kind of attitude of sacrifice and generosity. Always buy two tents. Take care of your family, absolutely. Yet be ready to help as others have needs.

The Value of SBC's Cooperative Program

As Southern Baptists, we have one thing that unites us. At our core is the passion to take the gospel of Christ to those who have never heard. We work together toward that common goal. As a child and young adult, my heart was sealed for missions. I am a product of the Cooperative Program (CP).

The CP is Southern Baptists’ unified plan of giving through which cooperating Southern Baptist churches give a percentage of their undesignated receipts in support of their respective state convention and the Southern Baptist Convention missions and ministries.

Nearly 40 years ago, my tiny Southern Baptist church participated in a World Missions Conference (later called On Mission Celebrations). That was my first opportunity to be up close and personal with missionaries. More than 70 percent of your national CP dollars are at work in the United States and around the world supporting missionaries.

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