Executive Director Blog

Trust During Transition

Several years ago, former national WMU president Janet Hoffman sent me a little book by Robert J. Morgan entitled The Red Sea Rules: Ten God-Given Strategies for Difficult Times. Recently when I was preparing a devotion for a group of denominational leaders, I noticed the caption at the bottom of the front cover of the book: “The same God who led you in will lead you out.” Wow! What an important truth for me as I prepare to hand over the leadership of WMU to a new leader in the coming months.

I have prayed to know how to end well and transition well with all things in good order as the new leader arrives. This statement prompted me to pause and remember the journey God led me through as He called me to serve 16 years ago. I was reluctant, scared, and uncertain of my abilities to lead, but God ultimately demonstrated for me a most valuable lesson: whatever He called me to do He would be right there going ahead of me, with me, and coming behind me to make all things work for His good. I have seen Him do just that over and over during my years of service.

Reflections on Leadership

In 2001 at the end of my first year as executive director for national WMU, I wrote an article for our magazines about my experience after one year in office. It had been a year of great change for me personally—job changes for my husband and me, a move that required selling and buying a house, helping both our children graduate from higher education experiences, and a wedding for our daughter. What a first year on the job! And that list doesn’t include all the changes at national WMU as it embraced me as its new leader.
 
As I reflect upon 16 years of service in this role, it is interesting to note each “lesson learned” I identified in the 2001 article I still believe to be true today. So what were my reflections on leadership at the end of year one?
 
1. You can never overcommunicate your message.
2. Relationships are paramount for success.
3. Leadership means serving others by enabling them to serve.
4. Listen, listen, listen, and then you have the right to speak.
5. Most of all, in our weakness, God is most clearly seen and His will accomplished.

On the Same Frequency

Over the past several months, national WMU staff members have engaged in conversation with many different groups, seeking input on our current curriculum for children and students. Through surveys, Facebook, and a face-to-face think tank with state leaders, we are beginning to address some of the things we heard. First and foremost, we were thrilled to hear that churches using our materials find they are of high quality, provide the missions focus needed in our churches in an age-appropriate way, and are valued. However, we were also grateful to receive some great suggestions for ways we can improve the content and delivery. We are now in the process of determining how to implement as many of the ideas as possible. This will be an exciting year as we develop new and improved resources to assist you with missions learning in your churches.
 

An Opportunity to Gather

During 2015, national WMU was involved in five different regional and/or national training events. We heard great missionary testimonies, experienced wonderful conferences that challenged our thinking about missions in our churches, and found encouragement in just being together. We committed to a comprehensive year of equipping leaders for missions in these unique events while we prepared to launch a full online, on-demand leadership training program. Many of you have taken one of the courses on ChristianLeaderLearning.com and have shared your enthusiasm for this new approach to missions learning. Others of you may be engaging in your first course. Our goal is to provide just the right training needed to lead with confidence and enthusiasm. I hope you will give this new approach a try soon if you have not already.
 

A Shared Love for North American Missions

I love the WMU building! When you walk in the front door, you know immediately who we are and why we exist. You are greeted with a beautifully crafted bronze replica of the world, and farther down the hallway you see a mural with the faces of the peoples of the world. All around you are artifacts emulating the culture and diversity of our world.

Many of our artifacts are gifts from missionaries and friends of missions who served as partners with WMU. One of those is the North American Mission Board (NAMB). Begun in 1845 as the Board of Domestic Missions and later the Home Mission Board, NAMB shared with WMU a love for missionaries serving in our nation and its surrounding territories.

We recently received some very special gifts from NAMB. One is the armoire belonging to Annie Armstrong, a welcomed addition to our Annie Armstrong collection. The other item is the desk of former secretary of the Home Mission Board Isaac Tichenor. Receiving this gift prompted me to dig a little deeper into the life of this great Southern Baptist leader.

Start Something New

I love wandering through bookstores when I have free time. While I have a Kindle and a tablet for reading when I fly on airplanes, I really prefer a real book. I love the feel and smell of a new book and the comfort it brings as my mind is transported wherever the book takes me.

I especially love missionary biographies like Both Feet In by Bud Fray and A Thousand Times Yes by Wana Ann Fort. Books like these provide deeper insight into the life and calling of missionaries and inspire us to lead and participate in missions with passion as well as knowledge. Their stories challenge us to commit our very best to the calling God has given us to live a missional life.

No Turning Back

Both Feet In Book Cover

In his book Both Feet In, retired missionary Dr. Bud Fray references an old African proverb that says: “Only a fool tests the depth of the water with both feet.” It’s like testing the temperature of the pool water before you jump in; we stick our toe in first and if it’s too cold we have the option of pulling back. Once we jump in with both feet we are committed . . . and we better know how to swim!

After serving 28 years among the people of Zimbabwe and South Africa, Bud and his wife, Jane, know firsthand what the African people mean by this proverb. The African peoples’ life experiences taught them to tread cautiously before committing to something. They worshipped many different gods and held many beliefs that were contrary to the gospel. So when confronted with the truths of the Bible, they hesitated to commit to the one true God of Scripture. Carefully and wisely, missionaries like Bud taught them to weigh all the consequences and then, when they were ready and totally committed to Jesus’ teaching, put both feet in, knowing there is no turning back.

Our Proactive Response Matters

The first week in December is a special time with the International Mission Study, prayer experiences during the Week of Prayer for International Missions, and giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering as highlights of the Christmas season for many of us.

This year, however, comes with a note of sadness. For the first time in many years, missionaries over the age of 50 with five years’ experience are being asked to consider voluntary retirement due to a financial shortage at the International Mission Board. This situation did not happen overnight. I’ve read many explanations and possible solutions such as a special offering or increased Cooperative Program giving so we can avoid bringing missionaries home. While both suggestions are good, it’s too late; retirement offers have been made and missionaries are making their decisions. The problem has existed for too long to find a quick solution. Ironically, the conclusion of the missionaries’ service will happen during December, the time we are all praying in earnest for them and the people they serve. It certainly adds a new dimension to our praying this year.

An Opportunity to Develop

Develop WMU online training

Author John Maxwell wrote, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” I believe this is so true. In recent months, I have written From Missionary Ridge articles about 2015 being a year to focus on equipping missions leaders in the church. Through events in the Midwest and western regions and during the WMU Missions Celebration and Annual Meeting this past June in Ohio, much attention was given through conferences to help missions leaders feel confident in their role of leading small groups of children, youth, or adults. The success of any program or event rises and falls on the quality of leadership that guides the effort. WMU has been blessed throughout our history with wonderful, enthusiastic leaders who make missions and missionaries come alive in the hearts and minds of those they lead, thus keeping the missions passion alive from generation to generation.

Little Becomes Much

WorldCrafts Blessed Hope Artisan Group

“It’s the little things that count!” This familiar saying is one we have all heard many times. We often think only the big gifts, the great acts of kindness, are what count in life, when in reality it’s the little things that give us the most joy. I love a large bouquet of flowers, for instance, but the single bloom presented by a grandchild grinning from ear to ear as he delivers it? Well, that means so much more.

At national WMU®, we spend many hours creating missions education resources, editing New Hope® books, and supporting artisan groups through WorldCraftsSM. There are so many details required for each magazine, book, or craft to become a reality and arrive at your home. If we are not careful, we can get lost in the magnitude of the project and miss the joy of the little ways God uses it to bless someone else.

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