I freely admit I’m a history nerd. I love slipping into the library at national WMU late at night or early in the morning to find nuggets of history previously unknown to me. Of special interest is what happened one hundred years ago. Minutes from the thirty-first annual meeting of WMU held in Atlanta, Georgia, showed WMU cooperated in the SBC $75 Million Campaign and committed to raise $15 million. Each state had a campaign director; 838 associations and 14,491 churches had WMU campaign organizers. Spoiler alert, we surpassed our goal five years later.
In the previous year, 1918, WMU introduced the Calendar of Prayer asking participants to intercede on behalf of our missionaries on home and foreign mission fields. The bit of history I had never gleaned before was an organized plan for something called Emergency Women. These women would give to meet emergency needs of the mission boards.
In researching, I came across a delightful letter entitled “A Message to Our Women” by J. F. Love, corresponding secretary of the Foreign Mission Board. Love wrote:
I greet the women . . . with a glad heart. After years of distress under the burden of debt the Foreign Mission Board has at last been relieved of its burden. The Missionaries on all the fields have been notified and have taken new heart for their work.
To the women . . . we extend heartiest and most grateful thanks and offer most cordial congratulations. Never have they shown finer spirit, been more heroic and practiced greater self-denial than in the campaign which has just closed. It is an honor worthwhile to have been found true and loyal at the time when world conditions are laying new duties upon the soldiers of Christ.
The women . . . have broken all their splendid records and it is by their help that Southern Baptists have for the first time contributed more than $1 million in twelve months to Foreign Missions. The fine cooperation which the women have given the Foreign Mission Board and their liberality to the work are all the pledge we ask of their support for the future. With the feeling of profoundest gratitude, I thank God for you, my sisters, and pray that His rich blessings may attend you during the year upon which you have entered and give you the larger achievements upon which you have set your devoted hearts.
It was that true and loyal spirit that compelled WMU members to give sacrificially above and beyond normal offerings time and time again to rescue the boards and even the Southern Baptist Convention from debt. It was that true and loyal spirit which caused WMU to establish the Home Mission Board’s Church Building Loan Fund. It was because of that true and loyal spirit WMU opened the Margaret Home for the children of missionaries and started the Margaret Fund, providing scholarships for missionary children. It was that true and loyal spirit propelling WMU to begin an annuity fund for missionaries and work tirelessly with the Southern Baptist Convention to launch and promote the Cooperative Program.
I want you to know that true and loyal spirit still resides in the heart of WMU. Our mandate is to make disciples of Jesus who live on mission. We are biblically-rooted, missions-focused, church-based, world-aware, and denominationally-supportive. No one church can do alone what many churches can do together. Our voluntary cooperation extends the missions reach of the local church.
His mission is our passion. As Southern Baptists, we are a missionary people. WMU today is just as devoted to our mission boards and our missionaries. We provide missions discipleship for every age level so people can hear and respond to God’s call to go to the ends of the earth. We provide water filtration units and systems for every IMB missionary so they can have access to clean water while they share the Living Water. We maintain a database of more than five hundred missionary homes across the United States, providing a place of respite when missionaries are stateside. We help support more than two thousand artisans globally, giving our missions personnel a platform to share real hope. We have nearly two hundred Christian Women’s Job Corps and Christian Men’s Job Corps sites, helping people develop life and job skills in a Christian context.
Although we do not receive Cooperative Program funds, we believe in the CP. We believe in our boards and agencies and entities and institutions. We believe in our conventions and associations and Baptist children’s homes. And we believe we can do more together. That’s why you will see us engaging in partnership projects all across our denomination.
We are helping Baptist children’s homes and associations complete water projects worldwide. We are working with NAMB missionaries to begin WorldCrafts ministries to give work with dignity to the impoverished people they serve. We are dedicated to telling the stories of God’s work through our associations, conventions, and mission boards. We are engaged in mobilizing people to be on mission through ministries like Baptist Nursing Fellowship and much more. We are passionate about calling Baptists to generosity and helping people develop spiritually toward a missions lifestyle.
I want you to know what J. F. Love said of WMU 101 years ago is accurate today. We are true and loyal helpers to our denomination, committed to making Christ known among the nations. Annie Armstrong once said, “What has been done for the glory of God will be steadfast as the stars.” May all we say and do bring honor to God.
Sandy Wisdom-Martin is executive director-treasurer of national WMU and is a member of Wilsonville Baptist Church in Wilsonville, Alabama.