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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.

Losing Your First Love to Good Things

I’m guilty. While it may not appear that way to the world, I know it in my heart. You can go to church, pray, tithe, and even serve and still be guilty of losing your First Love, of placing Jesus second in your life.

When it happens to me, it doesn’t happen overnight or with conspicuous things like sinful relationships, drugs, or alcohol. It happens with good things.

The first time I noticed it was in college. I went to a Christian college, was dating a Christian guy, and was a good student—all good things but things that took God’s place in my life. God brought it to my attention, and I had to reprioritize. I had to make sure I was spending time with Him each day and listening to His will for my life.

The second time I noticed it was as a young mother. I was taking good care of my 2 precious boys, but I wasn’t giving God quality time in my life.

What good things in your life may be causing you to lose your First Love? Work? Travel? Family? Reevaluate your life today and make sure Jesus is still in first place. 

Study. Pray. Give.

When I first moved to Texas more than 35 years ago, our associational WMU met annually at the Hispanic church in our association for the Baptist Women’s World Day of Prayer. The Hispanic women organized the program and hosted the event.

A typical Baptist covered-dish dinner preceded the prayer program. It was always a highlight of the year as we enjoyed the fellowship of women from other churches and the delicious food.

Now we don’t have an associational WMU and only a few churches still have Women on Mission or Adults on Mission groups. But our women still meet annually for the Day of Prayer. Several churches take turns organizing the program and hosting the event. The covered-dish dinner and fellowship with women from other churches in our association has continued.

We always make our invitation churchwide, inviting Women on Mission and other women not involved in Women on Mission to attend. This has been successful with more women attending, especially when we host the meeting at our church. We include as many women as possible to help lead worship and present some of the testimonies.

Finding Your First Love

When the grievous realization swept over me, I cried like a child.

All the puzzle pieces seemed to magnetically come together. That person I loved so much who just couldn’t seem to forgive me had become an idol in my life. Their forgiveness had become too important, all-consuming. Their lack of love and forgiveness could reduce me to tears in an instant and had left God in the shadows.

Why?

That person’s forgiveness would make me feel loved.

That person’s forgiveness would relieve me.

That person’s forgiveness would somehow save me.

Somewhere along the way, I had taken God, my First Love, off my heart’s pedestal and replaced Him with another—an idol.

And with that realization, freedom swept over me.

God reclaimed His proper place, as my heart made way. And I ran into His arms because He first loved me and His love is enough.

Shelli Littleton lives in Royse City, Texas, and blogs at ShelliLittleton.blogspot.com.

How to Start and Grow a myMISSION Group

Let’s face it. Young women are not lining up to join a missions group. Some may have never even been in a missions group or ever thought about actually joining together with other young women who share their missions passion.

You can change that. Here are some tips for starting a group and keeping it interesting.

My First Love

We had landed. Our new family of three, after flying over 20 hours around the world, had arrived in Madagascar. It was a bit emotional for me looking out the tiny plane window. This was our new home and even from my limited view it appeared very different than I had imagined.

As ridiculous as it may sound, somehow I thought that hundreds of nationals would be standing there to greet us overwhelmed with gratitude that we had come to share the Good News with them. Surprisingly, this was not the case. Within the first 24 hours on the ground, I came to the stark realization that I was not able to communicate enough to purchase water...much less share the gospel presentation.

I recall standing in the bathroom, staring into the mirror, and totally losing it. Seventy-two hours in and I had already completely lost sight of my first Love. I had the innate ability to have somehow made this calling all about me and not about Him in a simple plane ride across the ocean. It was in that moment that I knew I could go no further. This life was not about me; this calling not even possible without Him. My focus had to change.

Share His Love and Make It Personal

Missions projects should involve personal contact when possible. It is easy to send a gift or money, but it is more difficult to meet people on their home turf. Sometimes they would rather have the opportunity to sit down and talk than anything we can give them. They need to feel they are worthy to be loved and know someone cares enough to spend time with them. This personal contact gives you the opportunity to share Jesus and tell them what He means to you.

Before you plan your missions project, call ahead to ensure all mission sites welcome visitors. Some in the group may prefer to go in pairs. Emphasize the personal touch.

Before You Go

Write the missions activities on small strips of paper and pin them to a bulletin board.
Pray for God’s direction as these community missionaries choose their missions field from the bulletin board.
Allow $10 to spend on each mission. The money can be used to buy food, small gifts, or other necessities.
Provide Bibles, tracts, and flyers about your church.
Answer questions, give directions, and set a time to return to the meeting place for debriefing.

As You Go

Are You Keeping Score?

It is safe to say that on any given topic not everyone will agree with you. Even as moms there are plenty of topics that can stir up mixed emotions, but as children of God we should not let these differences cause divisiveness among us. When we allow our flesh and focus to be of the world we can become so obsessed with “fixing it” and “having that person see our side” that before we know it our eyes are off of God and we are in dangerous territory. We are now the one “calling the shots” and essentially telling God, “I’ve got this covered.” I have been guilty of this before and the outcome was “no bueno” (not good).

Not too long ago my heart was deeply saddened and frustrated by another person close to me. At first, I was so focused on the issue I had no room to forgive or extend love to that person. God convicted my heart of this selfish, self-righteous attitude.  He made it very clear to me that He loved that individual and me just the same. Whether or not that person would ever rectify the hurts was not for me to keep track of. What I was called to do involved praying for that person and forgiving her even when she had not asked for forgiveness.

Enemy Feels Like a Strong Word

Love your enemy. A phrase heard so often in the church, yet one producing a wrestling match in our souls.

Who is our enemy?

And maybe we don’t use traditional words, like, “Oh, John Smith, he is my enemy.”

But it slips into our lives more subtly. The people who annoy us, so we dodge them when we pass them in the office hallway. Or the conversations you avoid because you are tired of the same conversation, where the same debate comes up—because you two will never see eye to eye.

Or sometimes it’s deeper. The people who have hurt us. Physically, emotionally, or spiritually. People who to society are justified in receiving our distrust and disengagement.

70 x 7 times. 

He had hurt me.

He had hurt people I loved.

And I felt justified in my anger, hurt, and frustration.

Until God told me it was time to start praying and let this go. It was time to loosen my rights and my view of justice and surrender it to the Almighty. 

Honestly, the prayers started out as “please fix him in this way” kind of prayers. You know the kind I am talking about . . . because you have probably prayed them before too.

Bonding Together

Our church is a collection of people from various backgrounds. Several people have no biblical background or come from a different belief system. Others have attended traditional churches but are willing to help grow a young church. What is amazing about this small group is the older women.

Our women have bonded and gracefully share love and acceptance with everyone else. Newcomers are quickly adopted into the group. Each new woman is embraced (literally and figuratively) and taken under the wings of the group.

These women are neighbors who desire to reach out and love even more neighbors.

Sick beds are visited, funerals attended, meals offered, and outings embraced. The women thrive on helping others’ projects like collecting food, sharing hobbies, hosting baby showers, and knitting and crocheting for nursing home residents.

Christian fellowship causes these women to rely on and support each other. They adore having a missions project and the chance to work together. Common life experiences and age group cement them together and provide understanding, compassion, and support.

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