WMU encourages everyone to honor their missions heroes through bricks on Walk of Faith

WMU encourages everyone to honor their missions heroes through bricks on Walk of Faith

By Grace Thornton
The Alabama Baptist

It’s been about 40 years since Sandy Wisdom-Martin got to know Ruth King in the small town of Marissa, Illinois.

But she’ll never lose the mental image of the small lady protecting her from snarling dogs as they walked around town inviting people to church.

“I was afraid of dogs,” said Wisdom-Martin, who was a teenager then.

But even though that memory stuck, something else stuck with her even more.

“As we walked around town, she taught me how to witness,” said Wisdom-Martin, now executive director/treasurer of national Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU). “She became a role model for me. She taught me about missions, and as a teenager, my worldview changed completely because of her. She showed me that there was a world beyond my tiny rural community.”

Because of that impact, Wisdom-Martin honored King with a brick that will be placed in WMU’s new Walk of Faith garden. The Walk of Faith, to be built on New Hope Mountain in Birmingham where the WMU headquarters is located, will honor missions heroes past and present.

“I am who I am today because faithful Christ followers poured their lives into mine. One of those people was Ruth King,” Wisdom-Martin said. “She invested countless hours nurturing and discipling me. The brick is a simple way to express appreciation to her.”

Supporting ministry

One-hundred percent of the funds from the bricks will go to the Wanda Lee Joy Fund to meet WMU’s operational needs.

David George, president of WMU Foundation, said the walk will support the ministry of WMU into the future and honor the unsung missions heroes and mentors that have impacted so many.

“It’s in the DNA of people within WMU to want to honor the people who got them involved,” he said. “Talk to people who are involved in WMU and they will all point to someone who saw something in them when they were little girls and young women and got them involved. What a great way to honor that tradition.”

George bought the first brick himself, in honor of his mother, Jackie George; wife, Allyson; and daughter, Katelyn.

His mother roped him into being a Girls in Action Scepter Bearer for coronation ceremonies when he was a young boy. Through her leadership, he got his first exposure to missions. His wife’s love of children prompted her to go on missions trips and encourage him to do more. And his daughter has encouraged him toward sacrificial generosity to help others.

Missions heroes

“All three have influenced me and shaped my life,” he said.

Anyone interested in honoring missions heroes in their lives can order bricks through the WMU Foundation. The bricks come in a large and small size and will be part of the walkway in the garden.

And for churches or associational groups who would like to promote the bricks at larger gatherings, boxes are available for use as an informational display about the bricks.

So far, WMU Foundation has sold 101 bricks, raising nearly $33,000 for WMU. There’s no end date to the project — as long as people would like to buy them, WMU Foundation will continue to lay them in the Walk of Faith.

Wisdom-Martin said the bricks are a “tangible reminder” for her of the difference one person can make in the life of another.

“If you are grateful for what someone else did for you, take time to honor them,” she said.

Claudia Johnson, leadership consultant for WMU’s Christian Women’s Leadership Center, said that for her, that person is her grandmother, Susie Mae Towry.

For years, Towry’s Bible stayed mostly in the bathroom, lying open to that day’s reading, pages held in place by a list of missionary names. Johnson never forgot that sight.

“She was a preacher’s wife and prayed daily for missionaries,” Johnson said. “She loved the work of WMU and loved God’s word. I know that it was her prayers that really got me through all my high school years. She was just a real woman of God.”

And because of her active influence on her granddaughter — and her inherent influence through the way she raised Johnson’s mother, Nancy Towry Wall — Johnson became one of those missionaries on that prayer list. After Johnson finished school, she went first to Africa as a journeyman, then to Thailand with her husband, serving a total of 28 years with the International Mission Board.

Family legacy

“I know my grandmother’s prayers and influence made a difference in my life,” she said. “You couldn’t find a sweeter person, and the gift of having a family legacy of being in church and being in the Word — I recognize what a gift that is.”