by Sandy Wisdom-Martin, Executive Director of National Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU)
Note: Week of Prayer for Baptist Associations is October 20–27, 2019.
I suppose he had to be the first denominational celebrity I ever met, though I did not know it at the time. I heard whispers in the halls of our tiny country church when I was a child: “Mr. Whitmer is here today.” Mr. Whitmer was our associational missionary, as the role was called then. He would usually visit our church twice a year.
God uses others to shape and mold us, and my story is incomplete if I leave out the role of the association in my spiritual and leadership formation. Here are some examples:
The association sponsored an On Mission Celebration. I had the opportunity to meet my very first missionary—a man from one of the Baptist centers in New Orleans. It left an imprint on my heart.
The association sponsored activities for youth, and the three to four youths from my tiny church had the opportunity to be a part of something bigger.
- A woman from my association took me on my very first missions trip.
- When I went to college, our association was very active in campus ministry. I was involved in ministry to internationals. At Christmas, we blessed internationals with hundreds of cookies because of the association.
- My first formal Bible study class was sponsored by the association in cooperation with one of our seminaries, and from it I learned to systematically study God’s Word.
- As a college student, my association gave me leadership roles. I had the opportunity to rub shoulders with great people of our faith. They poured into me. They let me teach conferences for the association. I was horrible. They encouraged me as I grew and developed.
- My associational WMU director and her husband used their own resources and took me across three states to visit a seminary campus.
- And when I left for seminary, my association surprised me with the gift of a garment bag and a love offering of $270. Do you have any idea how huge it was for the daughter of a coal miner and a foundry worker to receive $270 as a tangible expression of love and support? I haven’t used the garment bag in more than two decades, but I can’t bear to part with it because of what it represents.
- My association believed in me and God’s call on my life. Now you see why my story cannot be told without including God’s work through the association . . . and that was just through my youth and college years.
WMU’s mandate is to make disciples of Jesus who live on mission. We want people learning about, praying for, supporting, and doing missions through Baptist associations. We’ve given grants to support global water projects through Baptist associations and sponsored national associational missions projects. Many associations partner with WMU in Christian Women’s Job Corps and Christian Men’s Job Corps ministries. We help support leadership development for associational leaders.
In addition, this year we will feature the work of the association as a stand-alone unit in our curriculum. In October, all of our materials will promote the Week of Prayer for Associational Missions, October 20–27, 2019, and feature the ministries of the Warren Association of Baptists in Kentucky. In partnership with Baptist associations, we can do exponentially more for the Kingdom.
Father, I am incredibly grateful for associational mission strategists and their team members who invest in the lives of countless others like me. May You bless the work of their hands and encourage them on the journey.
Sandy Wisdom-Martin is the Executive Director of the National Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU)