WMU speakers tell of ways they ‘Proclaim’
Shannon Baker, Baptist Press
June 14, 2011

WMU speakers tell of ways they ‘Proclaim’

WMU speakers tell of ways they ‘Proclaim’
Shannon Baker, Baptist Press
June 14, 2011

PHOENIX – Missions leaders from

across the nation “proclaimed” the freedom and Good News of Jesus Christ during

the first two sessions of the 2011 National Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU)

Missions Celebration and Annual Meeting in Phoenix.

“Proclaim!” was the theme for this year’s June 12-13 celebration based on Luke

4:18–19: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to

proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the

prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to

proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (NIV).

Tom Elliff, the International Mission Board’s (IMB) new president, and Kevin Ezell,

president of the North American Mission Board (NAMB), brought greetings during the

sessions at the Wyndham Phoenix Hotel.

Elliff used nine words to express his sentiments to WMU: “Thank you,” “We need

you” and “Can I help you?”

He urged the 350 WMU attendees to encourage their church leaders to join the

IMB in launching an initiative at the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC)

annual meeting to reach the 3,800 presently unengaged people groups in the


Ezell presented Wanda Lee, WMU executive director/treasurer, with an oversized

Royal Ambassador race car to commemorate the transfer of responsibility for RAs

back to WMU.

“We love RAs. They were born out of our hearts and … now is the perfect time

to welcome them back home,” Lee said.

BP photo

Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board (NAMB), presents Royal Ambassadors and Challengers patches to Wanda Lee, executive director/treasurer of the Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU),

symbolizing the transfer of the missionary programs from NAMB to the

WMU. The transfer took place June 13 during the 2011 National WMU

Missions Celebration and Annual Meeting at the Wyndham Hotel in Phoenix,


Representing NAMB, missionaries Louis Spears and Jan Lows shared about

“proclaiming freedom in Arizona.”

Spears, a church planting strategist missionary with the Valley Rim Baptist

Association in Mesa, shared about his focus on starting “tactical” churches,

one of which he launched in Seyenna Vistas Mobile Home Park. This setting is one

of 37 local properties where Spears hopes to start new works.

“If multi-housing communities were villages, we would be sending missionaries

to them,” Spears noted, adding that 1.5 million Phoenix-area residents live in

multi-housing units. He presently has two interns who have moved into one such


Lows, a MSC (Mission Service Corps)

missionary serving as director of Life Among the Nations, the international

student ministry at Arizona State

University, interviewed a Chinese

student who became a Christian while studying at ASU. A double Ph.D. candidate,

the student now seeks a career that will enable him to share the Gospel in his

atheist-heavy homeland.

“God is interested in the migration patterns of His people,” Lows said,

explaining her intentional effort to “train the scholars and students with the

Gospel and send them back,” where they can make a difference.

Representing the IMB, Don and Diane Combs, missionaries to European peoples,

shared about outreach in Sochi, Russia,

during the upcoming 2014 Winter Olympics and Para-Olympics

(www.engagesochi.org). Ministry partners Mark and Kellye Hook joined them in

urging participants to pray and bring teams and resources to the strategic


In her first presidential address, national WMU President Debby Ackerman of

Myrtle Beach., S.C., interpreted this year’s theme, “Proclaim!” noting that

“from Genesis to Revelation one hears the distinct sounds of holy proclamation

emanating from God’s Word.”

Ackerman noted, “From beginning to end, God’s eternal purpose runs through the

Scriptures … proclaiming the name of our Lord and His eternal Gospel to all

peoples of the earth.”

Likewise, “God has purposed WMU to equip our churches to be on mission, to

educate… and to be intentional supporters for our more than 10,000

missionaries. Our missions purpose has not changed in our 125 years,” Ackerman

said, adding nonetheless, “We need to lessen entertainment venues and increase

involvement in God’s Great Commission! And WMU does this so well!”

Jean Roberson, WMU adult resources team leader/ministry consultant, addressed

“Proclaiming Freedom in Our Communities through Christian Women’s Job

Corps/Christian Men’s Job Corps.”

“To be known is to be loved, and to be loved is to be known. What a perfect

picture of CWJC/CMJC,” she said, emphasizing that though job and life skills

are important, the ministry’s greatest influence is Bible study and

relationships – “being known and knowing.”

Roberson introduced Ginger Smith, executive director of the Mission Centers of

Houston, who recounted how God is setting people free in Houston through three

questions that she has asked every day for the past year: 1) What if we

believed God? 2) What if we really loved people? 3) What if we served others –

even if we didn’t want to or wanted instead to teach them a lesson?

Sharing that she often felt “more freedom on the streets than in church,” the

inner-city minister acknowledged that answering these questions has changed her

practice of doing things “for” people to doing things “with” them, empowering

them and teaching them ownership.

Exploring human exploitation, the current focus of WMU’s Project HELP, Smith

noted examples about the human exploitation prevalent in the Houston

area: cantinas offer “beer with a girl” for $13; a homeless man sells girls for


Rather than rescuing victims, Smith focuses on prevention programs that educate

children how to protect themselves, how to communicate when things don’t feel

right around them, and how to respect one another.

“These children are seen as disposable. We have to do something,” Smith said.

In a missions focus segment, Gordon Fort, vice president of the IMB’s office

of global strategy, facilitated a discussion of current mission issues as the

two SBC mission boards cooperate to reach

all peoples of the world. Fort, a missionary kid born in Zimbabwe

to missionary parents and a former missionary in Botswana,

countered rumors that the two boards were merging, but did stress that they are

working together in unprecedented ways to reach people throughout the world.

“When we failed to take the Gospel to the people groups, God brought them to

us,” Fort said, explaining that IMB and NAMB missionaries work stateside and

internationally to reach the same people groups.

Participating with him were Lows; the Combses, who partner with a pastor whose

work is among Russians in Boston, Mass.;

Jason Williams* from California,

and Jeremy and Kimberly*, who serve as missionaries to Middle Eastern peoples.

Also during the meeting, WMU:

  • reelected Ackerman to a second term as president, and Rosalie Hunt of

    Guntersville, Ala., to a third term as national WMU recording secretary.

  • introduced “Live Sent: You Are a Letter,” the 2011–12 WMU Emphasis Book

    published by WMU’s New Hope Publishers, written by Jason Dukes, pastor of

    Westpoint Church in Windermere, Fla., and New Hope’s new Web-based resource,


(EDITOR’S NOTE – *Names changed due to the sensitive nature of their work.

Shannon Baker is the national correspondent for Baptist Life, newsjournal of

the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware.)