Risk takers. Courageous. Servants. Teachers. Encouragers.
These were just a few words used to describe the women who make up Woman’s Missionary Union of North Carolina (WMU-NC) during its dedication service Sept. 28 in Raleigh.
“God has worked mightily over the years” through the WMU, said Jesse Croom, a retired pastor from First Baptist Church of Ahoskie.
The WMU-NC, which moved into its new offices in April, drew more than 400 visitors to an open house weekend. They came by cars, vans and buses to tour the offices and get a sneak-peek into the inner workings of a long-standing, mission support organization.
Croom shared the story of Abram moving his family to an unknown place and the difficulties they encountered on their journey.
“Abram was a risk taker,” Croom said, calling the leaders of the WMU-NC risk takers. “He belonged to the company of the daring. God’s purpose caught him and sent him forth. He knew God and was willing to obey.”
Croom said WMU-NC’s first leader, Fannie Heck, was also a risk taker. She left the comfort of her church — First Baptist Church, Raleigh — to cross over the tracks “to minister to children and their families.”
Croom called that ministry “the first heartbeat” of WMU-NC.
Croom said the first part of WMU-NC’s history was much like the tent-dwellers of Abram’s day. They had offices in houses and Biblical Recorder offices before moving into the Baptist State Convention (BSC) offices, which they shared for 60 years. WMU staff resigned as BSC staff in 2007 to move into separate quarters.
Croom said risk takers sometimes face discouragement.
“Stodgy men think risk takers are foolish. Godly risk takers go on in spite of uncertainity,” he said. With God leading her and surrounding her, “she is satisfied that her direction is right.”
God’s warning to Abram’s naysayers should be taken to heart, he said.
“Those that wish to curse WMU need to heed the warning,” Croom said. “God said to Abram, ‘The one who curses you I will curse.’”
Other speakers included Milton A. Hollifield Jr., who brought greetings as executive director-treasurer of the BSC.
“I’ve always believed that WMU holds a formative place in training people for missions,” Hollifield said. “The current stability of our sending power would not have come to pass without Woman’s Missionary Union. May God bless you and preserve the witness of the gospel both here and to the ends of the earth. To God be all the glory for all He will continue to do in and through you.”
Roy Smith, former executive director-treasurer of the BSC, said the event “marks a new day” for WMU-NC.
WMU has long been a source of education, encouragement and fund-raising about and for missions, he said. The passion for missions is the reason for WMU’s success.
Larry Hovis, coordinator of Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina, said one of his earliest memories was of being a Royal Ambassador, a boy’s mission education program begun by WMU 100 years ago.
Hovis said he grew up in a church where women organized the RAs, and he attributed the success of many churches to the women who served faithfully.
Ruby Fulbright, executive director-treasurer of WMU-NC, praised God for His blessings.
“Woman’s Missionary Union of North Carolina is overwhelmed with praise for the Father,” Fulbright said, “humbled by the gift of friends.”
Asked why so many men were on the program, Fulbright said it was a reminder that “there are always a few good men who have backed” WMU.
Fulbright said she and the rest of the WMU-NC staff “renew our commitment to loving God.”
Tony Cartledge, associate professor of Old Testament at Campbell University, said he was honored to be part of the service “because of the organization this service is about. Thank you for women of spiritual vision, of deep commitment, of great courage,” he said in the closing prayer.
After the dedication service, Allen Harker, a member of Immanuel Baptist Church in Greenville, said he hoped “one day the (Baptist) State Convention could reconcile with the WMU. If there be a prayer I have, it would be that.”
Harker, whose wife, Chris, serves on the WMU-NC executive board, respects the work of women throughout the years.
“Women have a vital role as equally as men in the church,” he said.