WMU Missions Celebration recounts ‘defining moments’ that make eternal differences

Defining Moments,” those dramatic, life-changing experiences that make an eternal difference in the hearts and minds of the Christian believer, were recounted and celebrated during the Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) Missions Celebration and Annual Meeting held June 11–12 in Phoenix.

The 325 registered participants of the two-day meeting explored defining moments in the Bible and in the lives of missionaries, national WMU leaders, Acteens panelists and other Southern Baptist Convention leaders. Two of the four Acteens panelists were Alabama Baptists.
Bree Rooks of FBC Ashville shared about her struggle with depression and how her Acteens group was instrumental in pointing her back to God.

“Alone we are defenseless against sin and struggle,” she said. “Alone, depression overwhelms me but with God it strengthens me and my relationship with Him.”

Caroline Swann of Whitesburg Baptist Church, Huntsville, told the group how a major life disappointment helped her grow in her faith.
“I loved God but I was putting cheer(leading) before God,” she said, noting she was crushed when she didn’t make the team.

“Through Acteens, God has taught me so much about Him, myself and missions,” Swann said. “When I follow Him and put Him above all else I will live the best possible life because I will be following Him.”

The Monday sessions of the meeting paralleled the Sunday opening theme examining “Defining Moments … Restored” and “Defining Moments … Released.”

‘New purposes’

“Often we make a mess of our lives and wonder if it can ever be fixed,” said Linda Cooper, national WMU president. “When Christ shows up, He restores us and give us new purposes.”

In the annual president’s address, Cooper, a member of Forest Park Baptist Church, Bowling Green, Kentucky, shared the first of many defining moments in her life when as a 12-year-old in a revival service in a small country church she accepted Jesus as Savior.

These moments continued throughout her life as “God revealed a lost world to me,” she said “and led me to today where I represent an organization that is literally changing the world.”

Cooper, who was elected to her third term as president, reminded the women they too are providing defining moments in the lives of those in WMU — “an experience that is changing people forever.”

Also during the meeting, Georgia WMU’s Jackie Hardy was elected recording secretary and Southern Baptist missionaries shared stories of restoration and release.

Ross and Dena Frierson have seen God’s redemptive hand through history while ministering to the Udmurt people of Russia. The Friersons, who began serving in Russia in 2009, helped plant churches in Udmurtia, located about 700 miles east of Moscow.

“God is still at work around the world to accomplish His redemptive purpose for all of the people groups on the earth,” Dena Frierson said.

The family will soon be serving in Wales.

Cheryl Derbyshire, an International Mission Board (IMB) worker in Thailand since 1992, also shared. She directs Thai Country Trim, a ministry that provides income for more than 200 rural village women who use their talents and gifts to produce WorldCraft products.

As their handiwork is sold across the world, the women are being led to Christ and become leaders in their local churches.

Bringing a biblical message based on Luke 14:16–24, Gordon Fort, senior ambassador for the president of IMB, said the lost are waiting for invitations to join the feast and sit at the right hand of the Master.

“The invitation to this wedding feast is in your hand,” Fort said. “This is not just ‘a defining moment,’ this is ‘the defining moment.’”

The 2017 Dellanna West O’Brien Award was presented to Becky Sumrall, executive director of Begin Anew, Christian Women’s Job Corps (CWJC) of Middle Tennessee, in recognition of her work with CWJC as well as investment of her time in developing outstanding leadership skills in the women she works with. Sumrall served in Alabama as director of Christian ministries for Etowah Baptist Association from 1978 to 1986.

Also marked during the meeting was the 20th anniversary of CWJC.

Cooper said CWJC is about “courageous women fighting for their families and their futures. It’s about godly people sacrificing themselves to make a difference in someone’s life.”

Since its inception in 1997, 40,000 women have been touched through the program in nearly 200 sites, Cooper reported. The same program for men began in 2004. (BP, Jennifer Davis Rash contributed)