By Vicki Brown
Word&Way News Writer
One of the most rewarding missionary experiences is to see how God used ordinary service to build His work in His time. Lucy Wagner of Independence saw some of the fruits of her missionary labor when she recently returned to Korea to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Korean Woman's Missionary Union.
But whenever Wagner talks about the meeting which drew 660 participants, she points to the sacrifices and labor Korean women gave to develop a strong missions organization and personal lifestyle.
"It was a wonderful privilege to be there in that meeting," she said.
With the theme "Looking unto Jesus," the 50th anniversary meeting celebrated the sacrifices the women had made throughout the years to provide training, to build a WMU home and to fund their own missionaries.
Wagner said the pageantry of women representing 62 Korean Baptist associations and the dignitaries who honored the anniversary overwhelmed her. But she was struck by the missionary zeal represented as well.
Today 465 Korean missionaries serve in 46 countries around the world, Wagner explained. "To see their [attendees'] joy in seeing their missionaries was wonderful," she said. "I think that's [supporting missionaries] what has added so much excitement to Korean WMU."
Wagner noted that several past presidents and other leaders of the Korean organization attended the anniversary.
"The only person who was present at the organization meeting in l954 and who attended the 50th anniversary meeting was Mrs. Ho Sun Pang. She served as president from ident from 1959-1964 and again from 1966-69. She was also served as an officer from the time of the 1954 organization meeting. She is now 92 years old," Wagner explained.
"I was next in line of service and served as associate general secretary, later called associate executive director, from 1957-1992."
The longtime missionary assisted WMU almost by accident. A few Korean women approached her shortly after she completed language training. "They said they needed a missionary," Wagner said. After praying for God's direction, she and her colleagues agreed that she should be the designated missionary to women.
Barbara Popp of Jackson, who accompanied Wagner on the 12-day trip that started two days before Easter, described Wagner's reunion with Korean nationals as an "I-Love-Lucy time," referring to the old television series.
"It was a joy to see the people that Lucy had had such an impact on," Popp said. "They came up to her and hugged her and loved her.
"On Easter Sunday, one gentleman who walked with a limp came in. It turned out that he had been an RA [Royal Ambassador] whom Lucy had worked with. He was now a Supreme Court judge."
Popp said she also was impressed with Korean WMU members. "They have great leadership skills…. Many have seminary degrees," she said. "They were warm, hospitable and they know how to sacrifice. They practice sacrificial giving and gracious giving."
Prayer and attention to Bible study take center stage with the women as well. "They are serious pray-ers, with impressive praying," Popp said. "Everybody brings a Bible, and everybody brings a notebook and takes notes on the pastor's sermon."
The longtime Missouri WMU member was moved when meeting attendees gathered for prayer in front of a banner bearing the WMU slogan "Laborers Together with God."
"We held hands and prayed …and I thought about them and about us – Korean, Thailand, English singing together – and I had a little glimpse of how we will be in heaven," she said.
She noted that the women have been given an opportunity to help start WMU organizations among Koreans living in China. "They can go in to help Koreans because [Koreans] are a minority group in China. It's legal for them to help," Popp said.
Reminiscing about Korean WMU's past, Wagner described how members sacrificed to give $10,000 to cover the cost of hosting a meeting of Asian Baptist women in 1978. "They didn't use all $10,000, so they decided to give to the Asian Baptist Union," she explained. "From that time on, they [Korean WMU] were able to be self-supporting."
Challenged to find space for their work from the organization's beginning in 1954, WMU members gave to a building fund. They completed their new building in 1990.
Although the anniversary was the impetus for the trip, Wagner prayed for a group from a church she helped start years ago. The church began with four people. Now the congregation of 1,700 was ready to embark on a mission trip to a former Eastern European country.