“The sacrifices of the missionary calling are not in the conveniences of life but I’ve often heard my parents say the greatest sacrifice of the missionary calling is family,” said Gordon Fort, senior vice president of the office of prayer mobilization and training for the International Mission Board (IMB).
Fort remembers growing up in what was then Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). His parents would pull out the prayer list at the end of a meal to pray for the missionaries who had birthdays that day.
“The group I always knew was taking my name to the throne of God was WMU” or Woman’s Missionary Union, said Fort, missionary kid turned missionary. “WMU was doing missions before missions was cool.”
Fort, along with Phyllis Elvington and Edna Ellison, both of South Carolina, were the main speakers during WMU-NC’s Missions Extravaganza April 17-18 at Ardmore Baptist Church in Winston-Salem.
BR photo by Dianna L. Cagle
Phyllis Elvington, left, leads a prayer for new officers and regional representatives for the Woman’s Missionary Union of North Carolina. See photo gallery.
Fort remembers his mother being notified by telegraph that her mother had died. By the time the family received notice, her mother was dead and buried.
“She had to wait for three more years for her stateside furlough to go to the cemetery [in Louisiana] and grieve the death of her mother,” he said.
Fort’s father received a telegram telling him his youngest brother had a brain tumor.
“I had never seen my father cry,” he said. “He sat in [a] rocking chair and just rocked with the tears streaming down his face because he knew he wouldn’t be there in the last days of his brother’s life.”
Fort asked the more than 800 women if the God who would provide in their time of desperation wasn’t also “the One who can ask of you anything?”
Speakers stressed the theme “All For You: Surrender – Sacrifice – Serve.” Music was provided by various groups and individuals from Ardmore Baptist under the leadership of David Fitzgerald, the church’s minister of worship, music and arts.
Ellison, author and WMU leader, told the ladies that God is good “in everything we do.” She scoffs at the idea that God is too hard to understand. “God is too good for us to understand,” she stressed.
National Acteen panelists from North Carolina also shared with participants. Haley Harrison and Kiara Curry are members at University Hills Baptist Church in Charlotte.
Both girls stressed the opportunities offered them because they are Acteens.
Curry said her fellow Acteens keep her accountable and provide encouragement.
“I feel as though I’m ready to take on the world one teen girl at a time,” Curry said.
Harrison said being part of Acteens has taught her to witness “in both word and deed” and showing believers and unbelievers the love of Christ.
“Acteens gives you close fellowship with other teen girls that you might not have otherwise,” Harrison said.
Elvington’s message focused on the word “all.”
“I don’t think we get it,” she said. “I think most of us are really fans of Christ not followers of Christ, because it doesn’t cost you anything to be a fan of Christ, … but it’s going to cost you everything to be a follower of Christ.”
She challenged the ladies about their families and their finances.
“As a Christian your foundation is Jesus,” she said. “As a Christian marriage your foundation is Jesus. You need to pray for your spouse every day.”
She also said women need to pray with their husbands every day. The same practice should be carried out with the children too: pray for them and with them.
“Children don’t learn how to pray in Sunday School,” she said. “They learn how to pray at home.”
During the 124th annual meeting’s business session Ruby Fulbright, former executive director-treasurer, presented Dorothy Barham her Heritage Award, which had been announced in February.
“If I could choose only two words to describe Dorothy they would be prayer and missions,” Fulbright said of the Lillington Baptist Church member. “The prayer that burdens Dorothy’s heart and keeps her on her knees is her prayer for those who are lost.”
The women approved a reduced budget of $955,694. WMU-NC’s 2014 budget was $991, 387, and the 2013 budget was more than $1.3 million. While the group did finish 2014 in the black, Mary Ellen Bowman, chairwoman of the finance committee, said that was because the group has not filled the position of executive director-treasurer.
“We can only pinch so many pennies [before] we begin to take the heart” of the organization, Bowman said. “There’s nowhere else to cut. The solution is [to] give more.”
WMU-NC receipts were down 6 percent last year and 17 percent over the last two years.
Tana Hartsell, former president, is acting executive director-treasurer. WMU-NC presented a monetary gift in her honor to the Good Shepherd Children’s Home in Guatemala, which was established by the Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina in partnership with WMU-NC and N.C. Baptist Men. WMU-NC also presented Hartsell with a personalized throw with the WMU logo on one side and a photo of Hartsell with her name and years of service as president on the other side.
Participants at the meeting approved a proposal from Hartsell to move the meeting dates from April 8-9 to March 11-13 in 2016. The meeting will be held at Ridgecrest Conference Center in Black Mountain.
WMU-NC added about 50 new groups – Children in Action, Acteens, Girls in Action, Royal Ambassadors, Women on Mission, etc. – during the last year. Hartsell stressed the Great Commission and the importance of joining God where He is working
“Missions education remains at the foundation” of WMU-NC, Hartsell said.
Participants took an offering of $5052.62 to go towards Project Help: PTSD, aiding in helping people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Women also gave $325 to the Heck-Jones Offering and $340 towards operating cash for WMU-NC.
“It’s not easy to find someone who cares or who is willing to listen,” said Wanda Croom, a WMU leader and member of Dobson First Baptist Church, who shared about her and husband’s struggle with PTSD.
A Vietnam veteran, Dobson’s husband has struggled with PTSD long before PTSD was recognized. “Some days he’s just anxious for no apparent reason,” she said. “Project help … gives us hope.”
Participants voted on new officers and regional representatives for the Executive Board: Dee Dee Moody, president (First Baptist Church, Salisbury); Deborah Taylor, vice president (Great Marsh Baptist Church, Saint Pauls); Mary Ellen Bowman, vice president of development (First Baptist Church, Wilmington); Barbara Hill, recording secretary (Fairview Baptist Church, Statesville); Beth McDonald, assistant recording secretary (McDonald Baptist Church, Rockingham); Jeanette Walters, Region 2 (Love Memorial Baptist Church, Goldsboro); Tammy Weeks, Region 3 (Piney Grove Baptist Church, Faison); Dorothy Barham, Region 4 (Lillington Baptist Church, Lillington); Irma Duke, Region 4 (Baptist Fellowship of Angier); Judy Pettigrew, Region 9 (Waynesville First Baptist Church); and Debbie Hooper, Region 10 (Scotts Creek Baptist Church, Sylva). Regional representatives serve three-year terms.