About 370 Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) members, leaders and supporters celebrated outgoing National WMU President Debby Akerman, heard from missionaries and even had the chance to kiss a llama during the first day of the WMU Missions Celebration and Annual Meeting, June 14-15.
The celebration was held at First Baptist Church of Grove City, prior to the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, June 16-17, in Columbus, Ohio.
In her opening address, Akerman welcomed attendees and spoke of the year’s theme, “All for You,” based on Mark 8:34.
“This call of Jesus is an all-or-nothing call; it is a lay-it-all-on-the-line call, a call to surrender, to sacrifice and to serve,” Akerman said.
‘Both feet in’
Wanda Lee, executive director of national WMU, said the missionaries “are the primary reason we are here. We are here to know more about their work and how we may partner with our missionaries around the world as they share the gospel.”
Photo by Matt Miller
Acteen Victoria Hernandez presents Debby Akerman, president of the Woman’s Missionary Union for the past five years, a gift for her service to the WMU during a session June 15 of the WMU annual meeting and Mission Celebration at First Baptist Church Grove City, Ohio. Akerman will step down as president after this year.
Marion G. “Bud” Fray, retired International Mission Board missionary, served in Zimbabwe and South Africa for 28 years. He – along with former missionary and author Kim Davis – wrote the WMU emphasis book for the year, Both Feet In: A Journey to Surrender, Sacrifice, and Service.
“When you ask if there are missions heroes we can look up to today and learn from, Dr. Bud Fray and his wife Jane rise to the top,” Lee said.
Fray shared a story from his time in Zimbabwe when he met a man named Mandebvu. Through the death of Mandebvu’s brother, Fray was able to minister to him and present the gospel. Mandebvu came to know the Lord.
About a year later, Fray had started a new church. Mandebvu and his family hiked three miles to church even amid torrential rains, crossing swelling rivers. Fray told Mandebvu that he did not have to bring his family across the river during the rains. It was too deep, Fray insisted.
“My pastor, my teacher, there is no such thing as too deep or too far,” Mandebvu told him. “When I came to Jesus, I came both feet in. No questions asked, no water too deep, no too far to church.”
Fray said, “His love for Jesus was as pure as freshly-driven snow … What an idiom of commitment that I am ‘all His.’”
Five faithful years
Lee then recognized Akerman for her commitment to the Lord, and celebrated Akerman’s five years as national WMU president. Her term ends at the conclusion of this year’s meeting. The new president will be announced June 15.
Photo by Matt Miller
Anna Mary Byrdwell of Kentucky pets one of the Good News Llamas at the Woman’s Missionary Union annual meeting and Missions Celebration at the First Baptist Church in Grove City, Ohio.
“She’s been an articulate speaker of biblical truths, a staunch supporter of all things missions through WMU, and I think one of Debby’s greatest contributions may lie in her ability to build relationships with people across all venues of life,” Lee said. “She’s represented us well with spiritual wisdom and insight that only touches the surface of her own personal walk with the Lord.”
Lee presented Akerman a gift to help her remember the hard work and hours spent in writing her stories and sharing her biblical understanding: framed covers of her two books, Hold On and Secrets to Surrender.
After the afternoon session, attendees were invited to meet and greet Akerman and her family – her husband, daughter, sister and brother – at a reception in her honor.
During this interactive option time, Fray also signed copies of his book. Outside the church, The Good News Llamas ministry of southern Ohio had two llamas available to visit and to “kiss” (hold a cookie in one’s mouth for the llama to take). The ministry shares the gospel through their llama farm and taking the animals to events.
All on mission
During the evening session, Terry Dorsett, executive director of the Baptist Convention of New England, shared stories about wholehearted surrender. Previously, Dorsett and his wife Kay served as North American Mission Board (NAMB) church planting missionaries in Vermont.
It was there Dorsett met his greatest challenge – driving one winter day, his family was hit head-on by a drunk driver. His son was badly injured. Although after months his family healed physically, Dorsett could not forgive the driver, Barbara. “Even missionaries can get angry and bitter,” he said.
But the Lord began to deal with his lack of forgiveness. Dorsett committed to forgive and share God’s love with her. When released from prison, Barbara asked Dorsett to tell her more about Jesus. She repented of her sins and gave her life to Jesus.
Although Dorsett no longer works for NAMB, “that does not mean that my wife and I have stopped being missionaries. You see, our missionary calling came from God, and it remains…. We’re all supposed to be on mission as missionaries regardless of how we get our paycheck.”
In other news:
Three of the six National Acteens Panelists shared testimonies of how God impacted their lives through Acteens: Haley Harrison of Charlotte, N.C.; Hydiatu Konneh of Louisville, Ky.; and Ashley Johns of Katy, Texas. Each panelist received a $1,000 scholarship from the WMU Foundation.
Arlene Miller of Crofton, Ky., received the 2015 Dellanna West O’Brien Leadership Award.
WMU celebrated the 20th anniversary of the WMU Foundation. Lee presented the foundation president David George two gifts: a plaque of appreciation and a check for $2,020. The arrangement of the numbers is significant, Lee said – the first 20 for the vision set before WMU 20 years ago, and the second 20 for the vision George is casting for the future.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Laura Fielding is an IMB writer.)