By Carrie Brown McWhorter
The Alabama Baptist
Sweet home, Alabama, where the skies are so blue. Sweet home, Alabama, Lord, I’m coming home pursuing you.”
With a bit of creativity National Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) president Linda Cooper introduced the theme “Pursue” as she welcomed more than 1,000 participants to WMU’s 2019 Missions Celebration and Annual Meeting on June 9 at The Church at Brook Hills, Birmingham.
“While we are together I pray you will experience a time of renewal and encouragement … reuniting with your WMU family members,” Cooper said. “God is doing amazing things throughout the world and you are a big part of it.”
The meeting sessions included music, creative dance, missions challenges, personal testimonies and times of prayer.
Ruth Ripken, who along with her husband, Nik, spent 35 years serving in countries where persecution of Christians was common, led the WMU tradition of praying for missionaries on their birthdays.
Nik Ripken, author of two books on the global persecuted church and founder of Nik Ripken Ministries, closed the meeting with a challenge to the Church.
“Where the Church exists, He expects and commands us to pursue others for Him just as He has pursued us.
“Everywhere we see thousands of young men and women giving their lives in wars around the world are places where the Church has failed to take the gospel for 2,000 years,” Ripken said.
Matthew 28 tells us to go, he said, but fear is Satan’s No. 1 tool.
“In the midst of fear we can choose to trust and we can choose obedience to our Savior,” he said.
Those attending the WMU meeting also heard from two couples serving on the field.
Philip and Jummai Nache, North American Mission Board church planters in Minneapolis, shared about their ministry. They serve in an area where hundreds of Africans come each year for education and work opportunities.
Philip, a third generation Christian in his home country of Nigeria, came to the U.S. for seminary but God had other plans. Now the Naches help prepare believers to return to their home countries to start churches and share the gospel, Philip Nache said.
Hun and Eunjoo Sol, International Mission Board representatives in East Asia since 2012 whose work includes training for seminary students and outreach to college students, asked the group for prayer.
“Without your prayer and support we can’t do anything,” Hun Sol said. “Keep praying for us to share the gospel and make disciples and make small groups and church planters and build new leadership in local churches.”
Eunjoo Sol added, “Pray for us to open the door of evangelism … to boldly proclaim the gospel.”
Sandy Wisdom-Martin, executive director of National WMU, encouraged believers to live “on call as Christians each and every day.”
“If you want to pursue God pray for His power. If you want to pursue God live for His purposes. May we pray for His power. May we live for His purpose. May it be so,” she said.
National Acteens panelists and WMU president emeriti also took the stage to share their testimonies, echoing Wisdom-Martin’s call to daily be on mission.
Grace Cain, national Acteens panelist from Pineville, Louisiana, said in the midst of the many decisions she has to make as a high school student she has learned to test her choices against what the Bible says.
“Does it allow me to be holy? Does it allow me to share the gospel? As I am on this quest for answers I am able to get closer to God’s wisdom and peace … chasing after a deeper knowledge of God so I can live a life that pleases Him,” Cain said.
Acteens panelist Ashley Fan of Blacksburg, Virginia, said she was the first in her family born in the U.S. One of the first people to show kindness to her family when they arrived in this country was a Christian and as a result her family has become believers.
“God really does pursue us individually,” Fan said.
Also during the meeting David George, president of the WMU Foundation, presented the Dellanna West O’Brien Award for Women’s Leadership Development to Ruby Fulbright, retired executive director of North Carolina WMU.
In the only business conducted during the meeting Cooper, who has served as WMU president since 2015, was re-elected president and Shirley McDonald was elected recording secretary.
During Cooper’s presidential address she reminded participants of what she called “the common denominator” in Scripture.
“God wants us to actively, relentlessly pursue Him as He does us. We cannot expect others to see Christ in us if we are not actively following, always pursuing Him,” Cooper said. “Our missionaries and many of you are doing just that — passing it on to others as you pursue Him.”
On June 10 WMU celebrated 131 years of missions with 131 missions activities throughout the day conducted at their headquarters in Birmingham.
Activities appealed to all ages and to all the senses. Participants could prepare a cup of tea and hear about early missions educator Polly Webb. Royal Ambassador (RA) leaders shared about RAs while teaching attendees how to make grilled banana boats. Another treat was using Lottie Moon’s cookie recipe, which was one of the ways she reached out to families in Chinese communities.
Dramatic presentations throughout the day provided insight into figures from WMU history.
The Native Praise Choir sang during lunch. The group has 59 members representing 18 Native American tribes. They formed in 1999 and present songs in languages of the Five Tribes of Oklahoma.