Gaining Altitude: WMU Celebrates 135 Years of SBC Missions

According to an insect identification database, 647 types of bugs and insects are found in Alabama. Some downright scare me. I looked at images of each until I located the entry most resembling the flying insect I watched from a chair on my back deck.

I believe it was a common whitetail skimmer dragonfly that captured my attention. I can’t be totally sure, since there are 5,000 species of dragonflies. I’m comfortable with that guess, since the common whitetail is prevalent in North America.

Sandy Wisdom-Martin

The behavior of the dragonfly drew my interest. It dipped below the top of the deck railings. Then it kept circling inside the deck over and over again because it thought it was trapped by the rails. Only by gaining altitude could it break free from perceived captivity.

Watching the dragonfly provided a good lesson. Often, we are caught in a continuous loop, unable to rise above self-imposed limitations. Gaining altitude would enable us to see a larger picture and view things in new and different ways.

It was 135 years ago when 32 delegates from 12 states endeavored to gain a new perspective and caught a vision for how God wanted to work in their midst. Woman’s Missionary Union was birthed. Those who have gone before gained altitude and dreamed of what could happen for the kingdom if we marshaled and stewarded our resources.

Support of Mission Boards

Southern Baptists have certainly gained altitude through WMU’s domestic and global missions efforts. The WMU offering bearing Annie Armstrong’s name has brought more than $2 billion for Southern Baptist missions efforts in North America. The WMU offering bearing Lottie Moon’s name has raised more than $5.2 billion. We celebrate the generosity of Southern Baptists. WMU further supports field personnel with water filters through our Pure Water, Pure Love ministry; scholarships for MKs; free missions discipleship resources; and more.

In 1919, WMU committed to raise $15 million as part of Southern Baptists’ $75 Million Campaign. WMU was the only SBC entity to meet their goal five years later. This denomination-wide effort was to expand the work of Baptists on all fronts. Our boards borrowed money on faith that pledges would be paid.

WMU was one of the founding forces behind the Cooperative Program in the 1920s. At the time, leaders from the SBC asked WMU to cease their domestic and global offerings. WMU leaders did not think that was a good idea. SBC leaders responded, saying that if the offerings continued, they would deduct those offering totals from the CP allocations given to the home and foreign missions boards. WMU leadership fought for the boards to receive full CP allocations in addition to the WMU missions offerings. The influence of those indomitable WMU leaders is still being felt today.

WMU worked with the mission boards to establish an annuity for their missionaries. In 1900, Annie Armstrong worked tirelessly to establish and fund the Church Building Loan Fund for the Home Mission Board. Thousands of churches benefited through the decades. In support of the campaign “For a Debtless Denomination by 1945,” WMU agreed to raise one-third of the total amount, exceeding their million-dollar goal in 1943.

So many more examples can be given through 135 years of partnership. WMU has had a profound and unprecedented impact on SBC missions — both in North America and around the world — that continues to resonate today in our collective Southern Baptist work and life.

Making Disciples

It is our sacred privilege to serve alongside the SBC to accomplish the mission of God. We tell the stories of IMB and NAMB missionaries. Our doctrinal readers are SBC seminary-trained. WMU-SBC supports our denomination and affirms the SBC’s current statement of faith. Our desire is to see all ages energized, motivated and equipped for missions.

Would your church benefit from knowing more about God’s work in the world through Southern Baptist missions? We can help. What would happen in your congregation if members were praying more, giving more generously, doing missions and telling more people about Jesus? We can help. We make disciples of Jesus who live on mission. That’s what we do. That’s all we do.

Everything is for the sake of the gospel. We believe the world needs to hear the good news of Jesus Christ, and we have a responsibility to take the gospel to the nations. It is His work, and we join Him. He guides. We follow. We must seek His will with all our hearts, and then, with courage, go forward, dedicated to the God-given task of proclaiming the good news to all the world.

Check your own surroundings. Adjust your sights by gaining altitude. How can this be accomplished? Strive to enter the presence of God on a regular basis. Surrender your entire life to God. Seek the Father through prayer and study of His Word. Be open to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Obediently pursue His will with passion. Let’s be on mission together with God.

— Sandy Wisdom-Martin serves as executive director-treasurer of WMU-SBC.