:: 04/21/2014 - 7:26am ::

Imagine for a moment what it would be like in prison. Now imagine what it would be like if your 4-year-old daughter was also stuck behind prison walls with you.

In Bangladesh, that’s a reality. The children imprisoned with their mothers until age 6 face an uncertain future. Once they turn 6, where do they go? Perhaps a relative will take them in, but what if that’s not possible? Some may be forced into the streets to beg or work for food and shelter. Even worse, some may fall victim to human traffickers.

If we don’t pray for these women and their children, who will? Jesus has compassion for all His children. 

Shanon Brower is a wife and mother of 2 children. She is a member of Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church in Forest City, North Carolina.

:: 04/14/2014 - 7:28am ::

About 20 girls, neatly dressed in purple school uniforms, sat in tight rows in the small classroom, but 1 in particular captured my attention.

Zareen’s* brilliant smile and bright eyes conveyed intelligence and curiosity. She jumped at the chance to practice some of the English phrases the girls had learned at the Light of Life Center with the American visitors.

Like most of her classmates, Zareen lives in 1 of the many slum areas dotting Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital city. She, her parents, and an older sister share a tiny 1-room shack made from corrugated tin. It contains 2 beds and their meager possessions.

Zareen could become a teacher or an engineer, but falling victim to human trafficking is far more likely. Traffickers prey on the poor and marginalized. Bright and beautiful Zareen makes an easy target.

As many as 15,000 women and children are trafficked from Bangladesh to India each year for the sexual industry or forced labor. The Center is working to lower the risk of trafficking and increase future opportunities for girls like Zareen. What can you do to make a difference?

*Name changed.

Author and speaker Kathy Howard helps women live an unshakeable faith for life. Find out more at KathyHoward.org.

:: 04/07/2014 - 10:48am ::

The statistics are overwhelming. An estimated 5 million children work in dangerous conditions in Bangladesh, a land where 41% of people are living on less than $1 per day. In this crowded South Asian nation where 99% don’t know Jesus, what can 1 woman do?

On February 16, God answered that question. Actually He showed me what 7 women could do when they submit to His calling. My team of women headed to a land where the needs are great and the women and children are some of the most beaten down, weary souls on the planet.

We had come to support the work of the Light of Hope Learning Center, a ministry established to provide education, food, hygiene, and Christian teaching to vulnerable girls and their mothers. Nine days of serving at the center and in the surrounding slums and villages and the local prison opened our eyes to what “vulnerable” looks like. Poverty, inequality, and lack of education leave Bangladeshi girls susceptible to violence, human trafficking, and hard lives.

What can 1 woman do? One woman can’t save a nation, but she can introduce the nation to the Savior Who rescues the world from sin. One woman can share Jesus, and God will do the rest.

Editor’s Note: Over the next 2 weeks, read about the experiences of 2 other members of the Bangladesh team as they took action against human exploitation.

Kimberly Sowell is a popular author and speaker inspiring women to live surrendered to Christ. Visit KimberlySowell.com.

:: 03/31/2014 - 7:26am ::

My WMU story began when I overhead a teenage friend talking about her YWA (Young Woman’s Auxiliary) meeting in excited tones. I asked her what the meeting was about, and she said it was a group of teenagers in her church who met together, fellowshipped, and learned about missionaries and mission work. She invited me to come and bring friends, so since I had my driver’s license, I took my sister, picked up some friends, and drove over to the meeting. We all loved what they were doing and learning, so we sent off for the study material we needed and asked one of our mothers to be our leader, and we have never looked back.

Soon we realized the women in the church needed to organize also, so I called to find out when the associational WMU meeting would be held. We attended and invited the WMU director to our church to teach us how to become a full-fledged church organization. My dear mother and I, along with 4 or 5 other women, met to organize, and we soon realized we needed to organize a group for toddlers and children. We now had all the age levels: Mission Friends®, GA, YWA, and Baptist Women. So many young people like me who had begun in YWA wanted their own group, so we organized Baptist Young Women.

We have had some wonderful leaders who taught Mission Friends, GA, and YWA the experiential way (dressing as various missionary types, as in nurses, farmers, doctors, preachers/evangelists, etc.). They would cook or bring foods related to the country being studied, conduct mission fairs, etc. We learned about our WMU heritage and the brave women and men who began to reach out beyond our borders more than 200 years ago: Adoniram and Ann Judson, Lottie Moon, etc.

God allowed me to led YWA and then Acteens® for about 20 years as well as do pinch-hitting for GA one year and Mission Friends for a short time. When we began Baptist Young Women in the ’70s, I served as president of that group for a while. Neither my mother nor I would have ever dreamed that one day, God would call on me to serve on the executive board of our state WMU and then as assistant secretary, secretary, second vice-president, first vice-president, and finally North Carolina WMU president. I was privileged to serve for 2 years before my own limitations caused me to have to resign.

Our church and state now has a sound heritage of missions. Recognizing that missions is a biblical mandate given by none other than our Lord Jesus Christ, I must say I have grown more as a Christian through WMU than anything else our church and association does because WMU® trains mission leaders.

Delores A. Thomas served as president of North Carolina WMU from 2009 until 2011.

:: 03/24/2014 - 9:07am ::

“We’ve had a group at First Baptist since 1904,” said Betty Watts, WMU director at the Pascagoula, Mississippi, church. With homebound members and 6 groups (called “circles”), there are currently close to 100 members involved.

The well-organized program incorporates the 6 objectives of WMU®. At their first-Tuesday general meeting, members share Missions Mosaic’s Prayer Patterns, have a speaker, discuss special missions emphases and projects, and give reports. The second week sees circles meeting individually. The third week, dozens gather for Hemmed in Prayer.

This project “is a source of enjoyment for all involved,” said Nelda Broom, Women on Mission® director. “Many younger people do not live near relatives, and it gives both generations a chance to learn from each other.”

Annually the leaders select mission projects and circles carry them out. Hands-on work includes prayerwalking the schools and bringing gifts to teachers, helping with Vacation Bible School, and interacting with the community during local events. Support ventures such as providing cakes for a nearby port ministry, feeding the community college Baptist Student Union, and supporting a local crisis pregnancy center impact countless lives. Other outreaches take place seasonally.

From saving egg money to support an orphan in 1904 to being advocates for 2014’s pressing issues, the Pascagoula church’s WMU is a good role model indeed. 

South Mississippi writer Ann Maniscalco loves to learn about, participate in, and write about mission adventures.

:: 03/17/2014 - 7:51am ::

The whirring sergers and battery-operated shears weren’t the only “well-oiled machines” present at Pascagoula, Mississippi’s First Baptist Church recently. The Hemmed in Prayer ministry could be described thus as well.

The WMU group, comprised of members of various churches and denominations, gathers monthly to sew simple garments for children for a multifaceted Baptist outreach in Honduras and Guatemala. The group began sewing for a Baptist center in Louisiana in 2008; evolved and expanded; and in 2013 alone, lovingly stitched more than 11,000 items.

On this particular day, only about half of the 33 women participating were sewing but all were vitally involved. While some cut fabric, others ironed; a trio organized and bagged finished sets, and a kitchen crew prepared a tasty lunch.

Several young moms gathered at 1 table, along with an older woman who’d taught them to sew. While their children were cared for, the women visited together while offering their handiwork to the Lord.

Looking at photos of some of the recipients, 1 volunteer said, “When you think of a little girl who’s never had a new dress and she opens her bag, it’s very rewarding.”

South Mississippi writer Ann Maniscalco loves to learn about, participate in, and write about mission adventures.

:: 03/10/2014 - 11:45am ::

She knew about physical thirst; daily, it drove her to the community well to draw water. But on this particular day, the Samaritan woman had a deeper thirst—a spiritual one—quenched by the “living water” (John 4:10). As she believed, her spiritual cup was filled to overflowing, spilling onto others in her community.

In Splash the Living Water, author Esther Burroughs invites us to experience the thrill of being a channel for the “rivers of living water” (John 7:38). Sharing personal encounters she’s experienced over the years, Burroughs challenges readers to look for opportunities to “splash” Jesus’ love on others.

From the far reaches of the globe to the house across the street, the Lord has used this available servant to impact countless lives. Seeking to be a bubbling fountain of God’s grace, she’s seen instances she previously would have considered interruptions or mundane daily encounters become divine appointments, with amazing results!

Being an effective witness isn’t about “a memorized presentation; it is about a personal relationship,” Burroughs pointed out. It can involve “simply talking about the Lord and His reality in our everyday living." 

South Mississippi writer Ann Maniscalco loves to learn about, participate in, and write about mission adventures.

:: 03/03/2014 - 1:00pm ::

An Advent devotional book I came across this past Christmas contains this gem by Pastor Bill Hybels, and it’s been percolating in my mind ever since: “The manger is a symbol of what can happen when Jesus Christ resides inside us. The ordinary suddenly becomes extraordinary.”

Ordinary. Would you describe yourself that way? If so, wonderful! Just as a mundane feeding trough cradled the Prince of Peace, a humble heart provides a base from which He can touch and transform others.

It matters not whether you’re well educated, witty, rich, creative, or influential in the community or workplace (actually most believers don’t fit such categories, according to 1 Corinthians 1:26–29).

Consider the ordinariness of the following: a young boy’s small lunch (John 6:5–13), a destitute widow’s meager offering (Mark 12:41–44), a slave girl’s 2-sentence testimony (2 Kings 5:1–14), a jug of water (John 2:6–10).

Indeed God’s empowerment makes the ordinary extraordinary. “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13). Don’t underestimate what your gifts can become as you share His love!

South Mississippi writer Ann Maniscalco loves to learn about, participate in, and write about mission adventures.

:: 02/25/2014 - 9:34am ::

There are old western TV shows rerun on some channels each day. Most of those old westerns involve cruel bullying in the old West and are difficult to watch.

Why have people always felt the need to bully each other? Why doesn’t love prevail over the negative emotions that drive people to bully others? Our pastor’s answer: “Because we live in a fallen world,” and this is true but I’m inclined to dig deeper, to wonder how one human being can stand to mistreat another. We see it everywhere: in schools, in the workplace, on the Internet, and even in the church.

What darkness lies within a person’s heart, leading him or her to bully others? How many of us are bullying others without realizing it? We truly need to pray for God to reveal to us any way, shape, or form in which we may be bullying someone. Why? We cannot give all for Jesus if any kind of darkness is lurking in our heart. We cannot be representatives for Christ if we bully others. Christ did not bully and neither should we.

Bullying is 1 of the 6 issues of human exploitation that WMU® has focused on through Project HELPSM. 

Keneta Wolfenbarger has experienced bullying in multiple areas of her life and doesn’t want to do the same to others.

:: 02/17/2014 - 9:01am ::

One day, missionary Callie Beauchamp* was telling me she had learned all sorts of ways to cook and foods to cook when serving in East Asia. When she mentioned bread bowls, I became totally fascinated, my ears perking up like a dog’s ears when it smells a treat.

Callie and her husband used Western food to entertain, and that gave them ample opportunities to share the gospel. Imagine being able to share the true meaning of Christmas with 15–20 East Asian college students by teaching them (in their language) to make a chocolate cake.

Even the taxi drivers in East Asia asked Callie questions like “Have you ever eaten rice?” or “Can you use chopsticks?” or “Do you eat steak with red wine every day?” Misconceptions can be a perfect opening to talk with someone, get to know him or her, and ask your own questions.

Whether it’s dumplings or chocolate cake, Callie knows how to cook for Jesus! And you don’t even have to cook to spread the gospel—write Scripture on the recipe cards you share with others!

*Name changed.

Keneta Wolfenbarger challenges all Southern Baptists to find ways of sharing the gospel through the use of food and recipes.

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