Executive Director Blog

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.

Celebrating 20 Years of Christian Women's Job Corps

Flo speaking to CWJC partcipants

After hearing the diagnosis, she asked the doctor, “How long do I have to live?” The doctor said, “Two months, maybe three.” That was more than 50 months ago. Flo (pictured at right) intends to minister in Christ’s name through Christian Women’s Job Corps (CWJC) until she draws her dying breath.

“Looking at women who came in broken and left whole, I knew this was where I was meant to be,” Flo said. “I thank God every day for the gift of love. I fell in love with them and knew this was where I could make a difference; I felt like this was my purpose.”

She added, “How awesome it is to enjoy what your purpose is—ministering and sharing the good news of Jesus Christ.”

In Sorrow and in Joy

Easter offers open doors to share the message of hope found in Christ

The day before my daughter’s fourth birthday, we buried her two-year-old cousin. I watched my family try to cope at the funeral. When my brother carried the tiny casket from the church, I thought my heart would break in half. It is not right for parents and grandparents to bury children. From the words of the minister, I took comfort. He told us Oakley was in the presence of the Father. He reminded us of the pain Oakley endured every day of his life, and since his death, Oakley has been pain-free. I took strength from the words spoken by the minister at the funeral as he shared from the Bible. Those words of comfort sustained my family during a very difficult time.

I am reminded of the story of Jairus and his daughter in the fifth chapter of Mark. Can you imagine Jairus’s pain as he pleaded with Jesus while his daughter lay seriously ill at home in bed? He, like any parent, would do anything for his child. There is no worse pain on this earth than watching a child suffer and die. Then Jairus’s tears of sorrow were replaced by tears of joy as Jesus raised the child from the dead. Can you imagine the hugging and sobbing that took place in Jairus’s home that day?

The Faith Still Stands

My friends Diana and John Lewis served faithfully as your North American Mission Board (NAMB) missionaries. John was a palliative care chaplain. Diana served as a church and community ministries missionary. They were featured week of prayer missionaries in the spring of 2007. Diana remembers vividly the very day millions prayed for them. John had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Hospital tests on that day would reveal the extensive cancer that would take John’s life three short months later.

Are You Willing to Follow Where He Leads?

As I read the words, my eyes began to tear. The Prayer Patterns focus in Missions Mosaic was on Moses. Judith Edwards wrote, "‘Burning bush’ experiences come without warning and often in ways that are indescribable in human words. Any encounter with God causes us to examine where we have been and what may lie ahead, but ‘burning bush’ encounters are those that catch us by surprise, take our breath away because of their inexplicable wonder, and sometimes leave us asking, ‘God! Are you sure?’”

That sums up my journey to national WMU. In a way, that sums up my entire life. I am the daughter of a coal miner and foundry worker and have been caught by surprise time and time again. Repeatedly I have asked, “God! Are you sure?”

A friend sent me a book by Alton Lee Webb. In Go Outside, he writes, “So, if you feel completely called and completely inadequate at the same time, you are in the perfect place to get up, get out, and change the world.”1 I do feel completely called and utterly inadequate.

Pray About Everything

I’m using Mark Bethea’s book, 30 Days of Hope for Peaceful Living, as part of my devotional material for January. The topic of Day Five is Prescriptive Prayer. Mark writes, “Paul declares that if we are not to be anxious about anything, then we pray about everything. If we mix prayer with rejoicing and add thanksgiving, we have a recipe for living free from our anxious tendencies.” Later he outlines the exact prescription for dealing with anxiety and living with the peace of God.

 

We pray.

We pray about everything.

 

What a great reminder as we begin 2017. As we try to discern God’s future for us, let’s pray. Let’s pray about everything. When friends, family members, and colleagues have hurts both large and small, let’s pray. Let’s pray about everything. When we are overwhelmed by our list of tasks to accomplish, let’s pray. Let’s pray about everything.

WMU Matters

Preparing this month’s column has been challenging since I realized it would be my last as your executive director. After 12 columns a year for 16 years and numerous other writing assignments including four years as president, I suspect I have written more than 125,000 words for Missions Mosaic alone. Each month I’ve tried to convey my heart for missions, my love for WMU, and my personal belief that what we do through WMU for spreading the truth of God’s Word and His love for all people matters. I believe it not only matters but also is a critical part of the future of missions and our denomination. Without our shared missions commitment, we have little left to bind us together as Southern Baptists; without our missions purpose, we have little reason to exist as WMU.

Reversing a Trend

Millennials are leaving the church. Nearly 6 in 10 (59 percent) young people who grow up in Christian churches end up walking away, and the unchurched segment among Millennials has increased in the last decade from 44 percent to 52 percent, mirroring a larger cultural trend away from churchgoing in America.

This was the headline of an article published by the Barna Group on its website on April 6, 2016.1 The article lists several reasons why Millennials, those in their 20s and early 30s today, are leaving church. Among those listed were things that took them away from church when they were youth: sports leagues, extracurricular activities through school, and a lack of significant church relationships. Gone are the days when a young person found social interaction primarily at church through weekend youth retreats, game nights, and Bible study on Sunday morning. The occasional attender in their youth who did not develop a growing faith will find it hard to connect once they leave for college.

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