ORLANDO, Fla. — Participants
at the 122nd annual meeting of national Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) elected
a new president, listened to Sudan’s ambassador, honored Kaye Miller’s five
years as WMU president, and heard missions challenges June 13-14 in Orlando.
Debby Akerman of Ocean View
Baptist Church of Myrtle Beach, S.C., was unanimously elected WMU president to
succeed Miller. A native of Massachusetts, she has led Girls in Action
organizations in her church since 1982 and served as WMU director many years.
Akerman served as WMU
president for the Baptist Convention of New England from 1993-97.
In 2007, she
received the Dellanna West O’Brien Award for Women’s Leadership Development.
Akerman, a nurse for 30
years, and her husband, Brad, share a ministry leading Bible studies at Street
Reach, a mission in Myrtle Beach that ministers to the homeless and people
struggling with drug and alcohol addiction.
Akec Khoc, Sudan’s
ambassador to the United States, requested prayer for an African nation torn
apart by civil war.
“Those in the north and
south are trying to bring results through the barrel of a gun,” Khoc said. “But
healing can come only through prayer to God. … We are appealing to you to pray
to our Heavenly Father for the people of Sudan. Only through him can we find
peace. … Pray that north and south can agree on peace and unity and partnership.”
Ken Welborn, North American
Mission Board missionary to the United Nations, noted Sudan’s civil war has
resulted in genocide. The fight is over oil, he said, but Christians in Sudan
are fighting for their homeland. A fragile peace accord had been reached, but
current tensions threaten to break it, he reported. Welborn urged the women to
join Sudanese Christians in 40 days of prayer, Dec. 1-Jan. 9, for peace in
In her last address as WMU
president, Miller followed the program theme, “Unhindered,” based on Hebrews
12:1, speaking of facing challenges in God’s strength despite hindrances.
Miller, a member of Immanuel
Baptist Church of Little Rock, Ark., said while growing up as a missionary kid
in Thailand, she learned many things try to hinder the work of missionaries on
She recalled how her
childhood Thai friend, Sombon, suddenly quit attending school.
vanished,” Miller said.
Years later, Miller saw her in Bangkok.
“Because there was no money
in her family, she had been sold into prostitution … Her father, an opiate
addict, sold her services from the time she was about 11 years old,” Miller
explained. “My heart broke, partly because I felt guilty for not being able to
find her earlier, and for all that she had been through. She looked old and
used. She was just a shell of who she used to be. … I never saw her again.”
In November, Miller received
a letter from Sombon.
“After I saw her, something
had stirred in her soul and she knew she had to get out of the life she was
living. A Southern Baptist missionary woman who felt called to minister to
these trapped women often came by her club to talk with her, … to share about
Jesus,” Miller said, noting that missionary felt called to missions as a GA.
“Sombon escaped from the
life of prostitution to a life in Jesus Christ and was able to make a life for
herself and her family. She was redeemed in Christ. … Sombon is now teaching
young girls that they too can be all they can be through Jesus Christ.”
Human exploitation “is not
just happening on the other side of the world,” Miller said. “Right where you
live, young girls are being trafficked for prostitution or some form of
She encouraged the WMU
annual meeting participants to open their eyes and hearts, learn about the
issues and seek out ways to help.
Reflecting on her term as
WMU president, Miller said: “These have been five incredible years of serving
the Lord through Woman’s Missionary Union. There have been many hindrances
along the way, but the Lord continues to have his hand upon WMU and continues
to guide and greatly bless us as we continue to be radically involved in his
mission to reach the world.
“I pray the fire for
missions never goes out, never dims as you serve our risen Lord.”
Noting Wanda Lee has
completed 10 years as WMU executive director, Miller told the assembly WMU is
renaming its Joy Fund — which meets pressing current needs and secures the
organization’s financial future through the WMU Foundation — as the Wanda Lee
In his first public address
after being elected president of the Southern Baptist Executive Committee,
Frank Page challenged participants at the WMU annual meeting to guard against
Citing Luke 13:1-9, he shared the parable of the fig tree and said
the sin of uselessness is paralyzing Southern Baptist churches.
While God has a plan, Satan
also has a plan — to move Christians from their initial excitement over
salvation to becoming useless, like the fig tree that did not bear fruit, to
being a negative influence in the church, he said.
“It is a satanic strategy to
destroy the Great Commission work in the church,” Page asserted. “But the
reality of grace is that Jesus is interceding on our behalf … to give us another chance, another
opportunity to do what he called us to do in the first place.”
Major General Doug Carver,
Army chief of chaplains, addressed how he remains unhindered as he carries the
Great Commission “in a somewhat restricted environment.”
Carver said he feels total
freedom in Christ, “unhindered, uninhibited and unrestrained.”
Noting 300,000 soldiers are
deployed, many in harms way, he said everywhere troops are “there are chaplains
bringing the presence of God.”
Soldiers “are stretched and stressed” in a
“destructive environment” that sometimes results in suicide, divorce, and
alcohol and drug abuse, he said.
Chaplains play a unique
pastoral position, Carver said, supporting the U.S. Constitution with “close
attention” to the First Amendment, allowing exercise of total freedom of
worship for all religions, while they “look for ways to share the hope we have
A missionary couple who
serves in South Asia and cannot be identified for security reasons, told of the
billion and a half spiritually lost people in South Asia. They shared stories
of movements of God among Hindu and Muslim people groups, and they asked WMU to
pray that Muslims “will have a holy curiosity about the Bible and about Jesus.”
Author Jennifer Kennedy Dean
challenged her audience to put aside any hindrances to Christian service, just
like elite athletes do what is necessary to give themselves an advantage in a
“They shave themselves from
head to foot and diet so they don’t have any lumps causing drag, and they will
wear clothing that pokes in anything that might stick out and create wind resistance.
That’s how it is with us,” she said. “Let us do the same thing they do. Lay
aside anything that hinders.”
Monica Allen, a missionary
in Swaziland, described her call and of the needs of that African nation.
40 percent of our adult population has AIDS,” she said. “We may become the
first nation to wipe itself out through the AIDS epidemic.”
Sharon Fields-McCormick, a
NAMB missionary, addressed the commercial sexual exploitation of children in
the United States. Painting descriptive word pictures of the tragedies each
girl endures, she challenged WMU to do more to bring justice to these children.
Mary Lou Serratt of
Amarillo, Texas, received the 2010 Dellanna West O’Brien Award for Women’s
Leadership Development. Serratt has served in church, associational and state
WMU leadership, including serving as vice president of Texas WMU and a
volunteer multiethnic consultant.
She has been involved with Laotian,
Vietnamese, Cambodian, Sudanese, Burundian, Iranian, Iraqi, Korean, Liberian,
Burmese Chin and Karen people through First Baptist Church in Amarillo.
Joy Cranford, a member of
First Baptist Church of Fort Mill, S.C., received the Martha Myers GA Alumna of
Distinction Award, given annually to recognize a GA alumna who influences the
lives of others for Christ and serves as a positive role model for girls.
Cranford has served as GA
leader and director in her church, GA director for the York Baptist Association
and GA consultant for South Carolina WMU. She served on the first advisory
council for the Christian Women’s Job Corps of York County, S.C., during the
pilot year and was one of the first to serve as a mentor. She remained an
active volunteer in the CWJC ministry all 13 years of its existence in the
Angela Kim of Houston and
Lee reported growth in missions education among Korean Baptist churches in the
In 2007, national WMU and Texas WMU partnered for a special,
three-year project to provide Korean-English bilingual missions curriculum for
preschoolers and children.
With these materials, the Korean leadership team,
comprised of Korean pastors’ wives across the United States and led by Kim,
began missions education in more than 10 percent of Korean churches in the
first year of publishing.
“WMU has long embraced the
importance of equipping and involving every church of every language and ethnic
group in the Great Commission,” Lee said.