Sandy Wisdom-Martin, executive director-treasurer for the national Woman’s Missionary Union, hopes the organization’s new book, “Because of Hope: Reflections of Faith,” will help Southern Baptists find hope in the midst of despair.
The book was produced as a way to emphasize WMU’s theme for their curriculum in the years 2022-2024, which is hope in Christ.
The theme of hope is drawn from Romans 12:9-16 — particularly verse 12, which reads, “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer” (NIV).
Wisdom-Martin said generally WMU will select one person to pen a book to support their two-year emphasis, but this time they decided instead to compile different stories of hope from various Southern Baptist leaders.
“I started thinking that everyone has a story that is woven into God’s story,” Wisdom-Martin said.
“All we asked of them was to write about the greatest story of hope you’ve ever experienced, and through these stories we wanted to point people to hope in Christ.”
WMU asked different people to share personal stories as a way to communicate genuine hope to readers.
“Our process was very intentional because we wanted to hear from the widest variety of Southern Baptists possible, and we wanted to connect with readers heart-to-heart,” Wisdom-Martin said.
“Playing it safe isn’t interesting, and being superficial isn’t interesting. Authenticity and passion are interesting, and I think we got that when we asked people to tell their stories.”
Writers of the book’s 50 different stories include missionaries, entity leaders, state convention leaders, association leaders and retired ministers. Relating stories is one way to follow Christ’s example, Wisdom-Martin said.
“I think Jesus used stories all the time because they can connect with people,” she said.
“I just believe stories have incredible power, and you can really connect with people when you hear their personal story. I think it’s powerful when people are authentic and vulnerable to do that.”
The thing that surprised Wisdom-Martin while compiling the stories was how many of them centered around difficult topics or challenging situations.
Whether it be the loss of a loved one or a time of deep despair, Wisdom-Martin recalled getting emotional reading through many of the personal testimonies.
She came to understand that the writers shared these stories of their deepest valleys because that is where they came to understand genuine hope and faith.
“I think their faith and hope is what got them through the crisis,” Wisdom-Martin said. “In the midst of despair, the writers found hope in their lives.
“I hope through hearing from a wide variety of Southern Baptist leaders telling their personal stories, we can see they have the same hurts, fears and challenges that the rest of us do.
“Often through people’s darkest hours, it is their best opportunity to grow, mature, develop, lean on the Father and trust Him. Those dark times help us all grow in our faith. We believe in the restoration of brokenness through hope in Christ, and I hope that’s what the book communicates.”
She concluded by challenging Southern Baptists not only to be encouraged by the stories, but also to enter into the stories of the people around them.
“I wanted the book to bring incredible stories of hope, and I want to challenge Southern Baptists to ask people their story, but also be willing to share their own,” Wisdom-Martin said.
“We have the greatest hope in the world residing in our hearts. Why wouldn’t we share that hope with as many people as possible?”
— Timothy Cockes is a Baptist Press staff writer.