Even before the convention started in New Orleans, Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) was celebrating 135 years of ministry. They marked the anniversary with stories of a believer’s hope in Christ and heard from SBC missionaries at WMU’s annual Missions Celebration held at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
Before the meetings began Sandy Wisdom-Martin, WMU executive director-treasurer, penned a column about the auxiliary’s importance to SBC missions over the last 135 years. She shared that it was just 32 delegates from 12 states who first “endeavored to gain a new perspective and caught a vision for how God wanted to work in their midst.”
Since then, she wrote, “the WMU offering bearing Annie Armstrong’s name has brought more than $2 billion for missions efforts in North America.” Its sister offering named after missionary Lottie Moon has raised more than $5.2 billion international missions.
Wisdom-Martin noted in 1919 when the Southern Baptists’ $75 Million Campaign, predecessor to the Cooperative Program (CP), was founded, the WMU “committed to raise $15 million.” They were the only SBC entity that met their goal. In 1925, WMU would be a “founding force” behind the inception of the CP which is still the SBC’s primary funding channel for missionaries today.
Bringing us to 2023 she wrote, “WMU further supports field personnel with water filters through our Pure Water, Pure Love ministry; scholarships for missionary kids (MKs); free missions discipleship resources; and more.”
‘Hope in Christ’
The WMU’s Annual Meeting theme was based on Romans 12:12. Hope isn’t found in “finances, degrees, abilities, or things that don’t really count,” said Connie Dixon, president of national WMU. “We must put our hope in Christ and in Christ alone.”
“Be as bold as our foremothers,” she told the attendees. “We need to study their experiences and methods…and apply Christ to the needs of the world.”
“Abiding in Christ will make you look good,” said Kay Bennett, recently retired NAMB Send Relief missionary, who shared her testimony of 35 years of ministry service to trafficked, unhoused, and addicted individuals at the Baptist Friendship House and the Brantley Center in New Orleans.
Admitting she could do nothing without God, Bennett stressed the importance of having a “sanctuary” where people can hear from God. Those listening times have informed her entire ministry and have had ripple effects, she said, pointing to when a church group came to Friendship House in 2021 and were trained how to recognize human trafficking.
In the WMU report to the convention, Wisdom-Martin and Dixon told stories of “360-degree” discipleship. Dixon spoke of Hannah who was called by God to be a missionary one night a mission camp. “Hannah said she was not very excited because she thought missionaries ate bugs and slept on the ground,” Dixon said. “Hannah has done both.”
Hannah and her family went on to serve as IMB missionaries in sub-Saharan African. Dixon said Hannah told her, “Through it all WMU has…provided for us, demonstrated their love for us, and prayed for us.”
Wisdom-Martin told the messengers from local churches, “We make disciples of Jesus who live on mission,” she said. “That’s what we do. That’s all we do. And it is our joy to do it in concert, in partnership, with you.”
–Lisa Misner, with additional reporting from TAB Media and Baptist Press