LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Larry Martin remembers the bad roads and the hearts of a group of Southern Baptist women who helped change — and essentially save — his life.
Growing up in rural Kentucky, Martin remembers the WMU women who drove 40 miles each day for two weeks to take him to Vacation Bible School. During those two weeks, Martin gave his life to Christ.
Martin, now a consultant with the Kentucky Baptist Convention, shared his story during the June 21 opening session of this year’s WMU annual meeting at St. Matthews Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky.
More than 800 WMU women attended the Sunday night session, which focused on lives changed in Kentucky and Appalachia. This year’s theme is “Change a life. Change the world.”
“Joyce and I both have this lifelong debt of gratitude to WMU,” Martin said. “And during the 19 years that we were serving in North American missions away from Kentucky, we always counted on the prayers of (WMU). Those prayers were what carried us during all of that time.”
Martin was one example of how touching one life for Christ can impact others — and even the world. In the fall of 2010, Martin, who has a passion for horses, will be working with an outreach ministry during the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky. The event is expected to bring in more than a million people from around the world to the state.
Bill Mackey, executive director of the Kentucky convention, thanked WMU for its partnership with the state in reaching international students for Christ.
Of about 250,000 college students in Kentucky, about 8,000 of them are international students, Mackey said. Through some of Kentucky Baptists’ church plants, many are coming to Christ.
Each year about 1,700 of the collegians go on short-term mission projects — during which many of them surrender their lives to missions both internationally and nationally, Mackey also noted.
“WMU is our partner … and we thank God for that,” he said. “We’re grateful for all (WMU does) in prayer support of missions and support financially.
“Missions is alive and well in Kentucky, and we thank God for that,” Mackey said.
Ministry to Appalachia
For the past 10 years, WMU has partnered with 11 state conventions and the North American Mission Board to impact the physical and spiritual needs of Appalachia, which covers parts of Kentucky in stretching along the Appalachian Mountains from southern New York to northern Mississippi.
“We cannot do what we do without the WMU,” said NAMB missionary Bill Barker, director of Appalachian Regional Ministry. “You’ve made a difference in lives all across Appalachia.”
Recalling how WMU has sent school supplies as well as hygiene packets and other needed items into Appalachia, Barker said, “As fast as we could haul them out, you hauled them in.”
Spiritual needs were met as well. Barker recalled how one woman accepted Christ after expressing thanks for receiving simple things that most people take for granted.
“You made an impact in her life,” he said. “She was open to hear the gospel. You made an eternal difference in her life.”
“One life can change the world,” said Kaye Miller, president of WMU, told the crowd. Opportunities to impact lives are everywhere, she said Miller.
“What about where you live?” Miller asked. “In your backyard? In your Jerusalem? How are you changing lives through love in your neighborhood?”
Miller shared how she was able to share her faith while pulling weeds in her yard with her neighbor — a Muslim woman.
The woman and her family eventually moved back to their home country. Miller said she doesn’t know if the woman made a decision for Christ. Nevertheless, she said, “I’m so grateful for that opportunity and to share seeds.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Hendricks is a writer for the International Mission Board.)