SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Jean Roberson of national Woman’s Missionary Union shared from the past to point members of Missouri WMU to service now and in the future.
Roberson, a national ministry consultant, is director of the organization’s Christian Women’s Job Corps® and International Initiatives. She also is leader of the adult team.
Speaking at the Missouri WMU Missions Celebration and annual meeting April 4-5, she pointed to past WMU executives such as Annie Armstrong and Fannie Heck.
Armstrong, for whom the Southern Baptist Convention’s North American mission offering is named, had challenged women in 1888. They had done a good job of raising money for missions, “but have we done our best?” she asked.
Roberson wondered aloud if the women of 1888 knew what they were doing. Could they have imagined that today the two mission offerings — the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions — would help sustain mission activity today?
Fannie Heck, WMU president from 1892-94 and a founder of the WMU Training School (now Carver School of Missions and Social Work) at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, told women of her day to “think long thoughts.” Roberson asked listeners to wonder if Heck’s “long thoughts” might have imagined today’s WMU job corps. In 2012, 16,000 volunteers in sites across the country worked with people in poverty and saw four to five salvations at each CWJC site.
Armstrong had encouraged women of the late 1880s to “go forward.” Roberson challenged attendees to “think long thoughts” and “go forward” as they follow WMU’s core values to continue to develop ministries to reach the world.
“Though our methods change…the core stays the same,” she said.
Drawing from Matthew 5:14-16, Roberson shared her mother’s story — how, as a child, she had lived in poverty with an alcoholic father who suffered with what was then called “shell shock.”
A Sunday School teacher at First Baptist Church in Vicksburg, Miss., had taken the congregation’s commitment to heart to minister to poor sections of the city. One Sunday, she rocked the little girl, holding her close and repeatedly whispering, “God loves you.”
“That woman understood that if it was a church commitment, it had to be her personal commitment,” Roberson said.
That was the first time Roberson’s mother truly understood the depth of God’s love. If God could see beyond the outward appearance, then she wanted that God’s love, Roberson added. And her mom became committed to the faith foundation that Sunday School teacher helped build in her.
Jesus gave the example of dealing with people “one person at a time, one moment at a time,” Roberson said.
She challenged listeners to “be like that Sunday School teacher…. Be committed to the moments…. The gospel of Christ is most powerful in the small things…and in those…God’s power is unleashed,” she said.
She challenged attendees to physically touch others, to give of their time and to pray.
Members and guests at the Missions Celebration also heard from international and state missionaries. Missouri WMU also conducted business at its 90th annual meeting, including naming Veda Locke, retired Foreign (now International) Mission Board missionary as Emeritus Missionary of the Year.