125 Years of Stories

The year 2013 is a special one in the life of WMU. In June, we will begin a yearlong celebration of our 125th anniversary! What began with a small group of women following God’s call to be missions advocates in the late 1800s is now a powerful force for missions causes. These early women—who were not allowed to vote in public elections, had limited opportunities for meaningful employment, and little discretion over the use of family resources—found a way to rally the church for missions by setting a personal example of sacrificial giving. Women of great faith and a deep understanding of how much God loved all the people of the world advanced a vision of radical missions involvement and missionary support through what became known as WMU.

I began my WMU journey as a young pastor’s wife learning the ropes of church life and discovering where to use my gifts in service. My first job in the church was leading a small group of teenage girls in Acteens®. It was the beginning of God working in my life, opening my eyes and heart to a world about which I knew very little. I quickly recognized (and I suspect others did as well) that my nursing skills did not qualify me to teach teenagers. WMU provided the help I needed in the context of missions. It was a gradual awareness at first, but I began to realize God doesn’t just use preachers and missionaries in His work; He uses ordinary people like me and yes, even teenage girls. The more we ventured out into our community on missions projects, the greater our understanding of the needs around us and our personal role in the Great Commission.

In reflection, I can see how God used these missions experiences to lead me to service as a career missionary, as president of Georgia WMU, national president, and now as executive director of national WMU. As I began my service as executive director in 2000, I sensed God was bringing all of my past experiences, along with my professional career in nursing, into a significant moment in my journey. My story, one that seemed so small and insignificant, was being enriched through WMU in ways I could never have imagined.

As you reflect on your WMU story, where did it begin? Who introduced you to missions? At what point did you begin to understand God could use you to make a difference in the world? Your personal story is connected to the stories of so many others across generations who have been involved in missions through WMU. This shared commitment shaped our foundation and continues to shape our future today.

As we celebrate 125 years of missions commitment this year, let’s remember we have been called to challenge people and churches to reach those who need to know His story and provide opportunities for His people to be involved in telling the story. As we remain faithful to His calling I can only imagine how God will use WMU in the next 125 years!

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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!

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