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In the Bag

A number of years ago, my husband took a new pastorate. I was quite saddened to learn that there was no missions organization in the church and determined that I would seek to change that.

Shortly after settling in, I mailed a plain brown lunch sack to each woman who actively attended the church. Inside it was an invitation to a women’s get-together at the church with instructions to put something in the bag that represented her and bring it with her to the meeting.

As the women gathered, we shared what was in our bags. Some women brought an item from a favorite collection. Some brought items representing their hobbies. One woman brought a favorite recipe. One woman brought pictures of her grandchildren. Another brought a book she was reading. One after another, the women showed what they’d brought and told their story. We oohed and aahed . . . and had fun learning about each other.

Lead from Your Strengths

Delores does not like being in the limelight and prefers to work behind the scenes. Evelyn delights in speaking from the platform. Donna has never met a stranger and is very outgoing. Kay’s quiet demeanor and gentleness are well respected by those who have been blessed to know her. Sandy is creative and thinks outside the box. Dawn appreciates her strong missions heritage.

What do these women have in common? They are all strong WMU leaders. I have had the privilege of working alongside each of them.

Perhaps the greatest leadership truth I’ve ever learned came from this collective group. They have taught me that there is not just one way to lead. In fact, there are as many different styles of leadership as there are leaders—because no two leaders lead exactly the same way.

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Gather around the Campfire

Judy grew up in a large family. Her parents had 7 daughters, adopted 2 sons, and provided a home for 53 foster children over the years, 5 of whom stayed with them until high school graduation. Judy remembers that they all had chores to do and claims she was an amazing dishwasher, partly due to lots of practice since the counters were often full of dirty dishes. She mostly wore hand-me-downs that were often the wrong size or worn out or both. She often felt awkward in group settings, but she also says life was good in that large Christian family where love abounded.

When she was 9 years old, Judy, who by then was a tomboy nicknamed “Bugs” because of her fascination with insects, went to missions camp for the first time. She considered it a great privilege to be there and a life-changing experience. Some of the camp highlights for Judy were singing silly camp songs, learning new ways to pray, developing friendships (some that have lasted a lifetime), growing spiritually, and being enthralled with the missionaries who shared their stories. As a result, Judy developed a love for missions that she now instills in others.

Report More than Numbers

I like the number 3. In fact, I like it so much that when my husband asked me to marry him, I asked him for 3 good reasons why I should. Fortunately he had 3 good reasons and we’ve been happily married 33 years. We also are the parents of 3 children.

Did I mention I like the number 3? Therefore I’m going to give you 3 good reasons why reporting what your WMU has accomplished in the past year is important. Notice I said what, not how many. While it’s certainly OK to tell how many people were involved, reporting is more than that. It’s sharing the stories of what your WMU did and how lives were changed as a result.

Let’s enthusiastically report to our churches what has been accomplished through WMU this past year for 3 good reasons.

Wherever He Leads I’ll Go

For many of us, the title of this blog brings to mind the title of one of the wonderful hymns of our faith. It is one of my favorites.

I must confess that as much as I love singing this beautiful hymn, I have to be very aware of the words—“Wherever He leads I’ll go.” You see, I’m a planner and an administrator. While these can be great traits, they can also be stumbling blocks. I have to ask, “Are these your plans, Lord, or mine?” Ouch!

As I reflect on the emphasis, All for You, I’m continually challenged to surrender, sacrifice, and serve:

• surrender completely by denying self;

• sacrifice willingly by taking up my cross;

• serve intentionally by following Christ into my community, state, and world.

“Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me’” (Mark 8:34 NIV).

Give for His Glory

I want to introduce you to Anna. She and her family live in Moldova, a former Soviet country located between Romania and Ukraine.

Anna and her husband, Oleg, are farmers. They are believers and attend a small village church.

Several years ago, I was privileged to be in their church. Through WMU’s partnership with Moldova, I was there for the annual women’s conference, which was held in the capital city of Kishinev. Because the capital city is a few hours drive for Anna and others from her village, they were unable to attend the conference, so we brought the conference to them. It was an incredible time of worship, prayer, and fellowship among these believers. Anna and Oleg were so gracious to us. In fact, after the conference in their church, we were all packing up to leave when they told us that they had prepared a feast for us. In a side room, we all sat down to a wonderful meal, but more importantly, we shared our blessings with one another. We sang in both English and Russian the hymns of our faith. It is an experience I will never forget. As a small token of our appreciation for their hospitality, I gave Oleg a gift.

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Work as a Team

While my husband, James, and I were in Alaska, we had the opportunity to go dog sledding one afternoon. It was one of the highlights of our trip. James and I took turns helping the musher steer the team of dogs. Actually the musher was in control the entire time; he just wanted us to think that we were helping.

During the dog sledding adventure, a portion of our time was spent visiting the kennel where the 45 Alaskan huskies are kept. All these dogs run in the famous Iditarod sled race each year in Alaska. These are very well-trained dogs.

The musher, Darius, began telling us all about the race. He has been a musher for 15 years and has participated in the Iditarod for many years.

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Observe the Need, Meet the Need

The phone rings.

My grandmother is on the other end. I’m always happy to hear from her even though I see her and my grandfather several times a month. My mother is working at a new job following her college graduation. I’m proud of my mom; I’m saddened by my parent’s divorce; and I’m confused by the current situation in which we find ourselves.

My grandmother tells me to go to the kitchen, look in the refrigerator and kitchen cabinets, and tell her exactly what I see. I immediately do as she instructs. I tell her the contents of the refrigerator and cabinets. This task takes me less than 3 minutes.

I remember this situation and conversation with my grandmother as if it were yesterday. But this conversation occurred more than 30 years ago. That same day, while my mother was still working, my grandparents delivered sacks and sacks of groceries. My brothers, sister, and I were elated! We had not seen that many groceries in our house in a very long time.

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Grow One by One

I’ll never forget my first invitation to be a part of my church’s Women on Mission group. I was a young mother at the time and remember picking up my daughter from the nursery one Sunday following the worship service. Once our family returned home and I was going through the diaper bag, I noticed a diaper in the bag that did not belong to my daughter. Someone had written on the diaper just as you would write out an invitation to a party or gathering. The invitation was to the Women on Mission meeting for the following night.

I had wanted to get involved with that group and having that very unique invitation was just what I needed. I became a part of that missions group and never looked back.

Confront When Necessary

So the question is “What is the most important thing you have learned about confrontation as a leader?” The answer is that it is necessary.

I don’t know of anyone who enjoys confrontation. In fact, I can name many who avoid it like the plague. Why? Confronting someone is never comfortable. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. As a leader, I sometimes find myself in a situation in which confrontation is necessary, but it doesn’t need to be mean-spirited.

In John 15, we are commanded to love one another just as Christ has loved us. Confronting someone in love is what we are to do. What I find more times than not is that once I confront someone and really listen to what he or she has to say, I learn that there has been a misunderstanding or there is more to the situation that merits seeing another perspective. The situation is oftentimes not nearly as difficult as I might think it is as I play it out in my mind.

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