PHOENIX (BP)—Missions leaders from across the nation proclaimed the good news of Jesus Christ during the 2011 National Woman’s Missionary Union missions celebration and annual meeting in Phoenix.
“Proclaim!” was the theme for the 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, president of the International Mission Board, used nine words to express his sentiments to WMU: “Thank you,” “We need you” and “Can I help you?”
He urged the women in attendance to encourage their church leaders to join the IMB in launching an initiative at the SBC annual meeting to present the gospel to the 3,800 presently unengaged people groups in the world.
Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board, gave Wanda Lee, WMU executive director/treasurer, an oversized Royal Ambassador racecar to commemorate the transfer of responsibility for the boys’ missions organization 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.
NAMB missionaries Louis Spears and Jan Lows talked about “proclaiming freedom in Arizona.” Spears, a church planting strategist missionary with the Valley Rim Baptist Association in Mesa, described 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.
Lows, who serves with Mission Service Corps 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.
Don and Diane Combs, IMB missionaries to European peoples, told about outreach in Sochi, Russia, during the upcoming 2014 Winter Olympics and Para-Olympics. Ministry partners Mark and Kellye Hook joined them in urging participants to pray and bring teams and resources to the strategic effort.
National WMU President Debby Ackerman of Myrtle Beach., S.C., interpreted the annual meeting theme: “From Genesis to Revelation one hears the distinct sounds of holy proclamation emanating from God’s word. … 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.”
God has given WMU responsiblity to equip churches to be on mission, to educate and to be intentional supporters of missionaries, she added.
Ginger Smith, executive director of the Mission Centers of Houston, recounted how God is setting people free in Houston through three questions that she has asked every day for the past year: What if we believed God? What if we really loved people? What if we served others—even if we didn’t want to or wanted instead to teach them a lesson?
Acknowledging 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 $10.
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 he stressed 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.
Also during the meeting, WMU re-elected Ackerman to a second term as president, and Rosalie Hunt of Guntersville, Ala., to a third term as national WMU recording secretary.