By Sherry Kughn
Special to The Alabama Baptist
Anne Powers was an impressionable young mother of a small daughter when she and her husband, Orbie, returned home after his World War II military service. Back in Anniston, Powers met a doctor’s wife at the church she attended, Parker Memorial Baptist Church, and her eyes were opened to a new perspective on missions that has lasted 75 years.
“Flora Woodruff was a wonderful person,” said Powers who on June 15 turned 100 years. “She was on fire to help missionaries through Woman’s Missionary Union. I got interested through her.”
That fiery torch passed to Powers who has carried it forward many decades after Woodruff’s passing. Lottie Moon, an early missionary to China, and Annie Armstrong, one of the founders of WMU, became well known in Powers’ household.
Powers, who was born in 1922, often hosted in her home one of the 10 groups that met regularly and were part of the 100-member WMU group who met monthly at the church building. Under Woodruff’s leadership they learned about the missionaries, their families and their hardships. They prayed, raised money and regularly contributed to WMU, a practice that Powers has never stopped, even as she had two more daughters. Today she still meets monthly with a WMU group called Women on Missions.
In addition she spends two hours a week as part of a rotating group of volunteers who pray from a special room set up at Parker Memorial. As sunlight streams through a stained glass window there, hardly an hour passes without someone coming in to pray for the people whose names are written on cards kept updated by the church staff. When the church kept a house for missionaries on furlough, Powers helped ensure the missionary house remained well furnished and in good repair. She often entertained missionaries in her home and remembers those who retired to Anniston and became close friends.
These days, Powers still can be found at Parker Memorial on Sunday mornings, sitting on a front pew with family members. She has a lively personality and stays engaged with fellow Christians who are decades younger than herself. She attends fellowships and special events.
Her faithfulness to God has consumed much of her time throughout her life. When asked what other interests she has had, she recounts more activities involving the church: She taught Sunday School for 60 years, 22 of them as a teacher who taught other teachers, and she volunteered with Anniston’s Interfaith Ministries for about 16 years on its executive committee and raised money to care for the city’s needy residents. Also, she sang for years with the church’s Sounds of Joy group that visited nursing facilities.
“I guess my life has always been involved with the church,” she said.
Helping troubled youth
Powers was interested in her community, too. She was a member of a women’s civic group that helped establish what has become Coosa Valley Youth Services. Today, it covers an 11-county area and since the mid-1970s has provided alternative sentences and treatments for hundreds of troubled teens. During a past interview, Powers recalled the horror of seeing incarcerated teenagers sitting on the concrete floor of a jail cell with nothing to do. The women’s civic group secured mattresses and a television for the troubled teens. Powers worked with a local judge to secure a building and continue improvement the services offered to the young people.
Orbie and Anne Powers contributed money on a regular basis to WMU. She told how she once received a windfall and sent $2,500 to a village in India for the construction of a water well. Another time, she paid for water to be piped into an overseas missionary’s house. Powers, now a widow, still contributes to WMU.
Orbie lived to be 88 years old. He struggled with a chronic disease that affected his leg muscles. Two of their three daughters have the same disease. Years ago, one of Powers’ granddaughters was killed in a car wreck, and one of her daughters died from natural causes a short time ago.
During those difficult events, Powers’ church members returned to her some of the same words of encouragement and prayers she had given to them. Her faith in Christ also gave her the hope and strength she needed to press forward.
‘None more faithful’
Powers’ empathy for missionaries remains strong. She studies her WMU’s missions magazine for adults, “Missions Mosaic” each month and imagines herself in the shoes of the missionaries whose stories are in the magazine’s pages. She prays about each of them.
“Missionaries are just like us,” Powers said. “They get sick, they go through surgeries, they have hard times. Sometimes they die.”
She thanks God for those who spread the gospel overseas and in the U.S., like Diane Smith, a Mission Service Corps volunteer serving the needy in Anniston. Smith is often on Powers’ prayer list, as are chaplains and volunteers in various missions roles.
What began 75 years ago through the influence of another missions-minded woman will continue, Powers said, because she looks forward to being in heaven and meeting, among others, the missionaries she has prayed for throughout the years.
“I have [ministered to] people who have been older than her, but none more faithful and active in their longevity,” said Mack Amis, pastor of Parker Memorial. “For her, she is steady. Even through COVID, she never stopped coming to services. She is a pillar. You could live five lifetimes and never encounter anyone like her.”