Early arrivals to Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Heartland’s recent Celebration of Excellence may have already known Nell Lockhart’s purpose as she carefully double-checked each table and all last-minute details for the fete. She had volunteered to head the local arrangements for the affair held on the Missouri Baptist University campus in St. Louis.
But what many attendees may not have known is Lockhart’s opportunity to serve was an answer to a two-year-long prayer.
Lockhart began volunteering as a high schooler when she and her sister signed up to wrap blood bottles with an American Red Cross unit in Birmingham, Ala. She stuck with the Red Cross and was tagged to represent the organization at a national meeting while a college student.
Continuing her volunteer efforts throughout her career and marriage, Nell began assisting through the Women’s Auxiliary at Missouri Baptist Medical Center in St. Louis in 1961 after her husband, Jim, became head of chaplaincy at the facility. Both she and Jim continued to volunteer there after Jim retired.
But when her husband passed away just after Christmas six years ago, Lockhart wasn’t sure what God wanted her to do.
Then a friend invited Nell and a few others to her home to discuss ministry to widows in their church, Kirkwood Baptist. The discussion resulted in starting an active widows’ group that ministers in a variety of ways, including with Global Women, a not-for-profit organization that helps women find resources they need.
Lockhart was a Global Women board member for six years, and the church hosted a GW international meeting a few years ago.
The Kirkwood group, Widows Might, makes or helps purchase items for women overseas. Though Lockhart has not been able to accompany Global Women on an overseas trip, she said she gives and prays a lot for the efforts.
Although she had been active with the group, she started praying and asking God for another ministry outlet “because I hadn’t really found my niche,” she said.
As part of volunteer and career efforts, Nell had learned a great deal about meeting and convention planning and preparation. She also belongs to Meeting Professionals International, an organization that provides development and other benefits for meeting planners.
She had handled preparation for a CBF Heartland General Assembly in the past, even providing the requested aroma of fresh bread in the church sanctuary. So she was delighted when CBF Heartland Coordinator Harold Phillips asked her to handle details for the Celebration of Excellence event.
She hopes her service will include many more event planning opportunities. “I just feel that what God has given me, I had better use…. It makes me happy, makes me feel good,” Nell said.
Regardless of the form it takes, she wants to continue serving as long as she is able to do so. “I’m the recipient of just having a great life through volunteering,” she said. “My love is Global Women and CBF.
“I just depend on [God]…for strength…. [Volunteering] is my calling.”