The Southern Baptist Convention’s Woman’s Missionary Union began 133 years ago in the hearts of visionary leaders to pray and systematically raise money for missions. The WMU’s focus is to make disciples of Jesus who live on mission and has enabled women to share the good news of Jesus and serve others in his name. Sandy Wisdom-Martin, executive director/treasurer, talks below about how the organization has evolved over the years, making it one of the most diverse boards in SBC life. In addition, several other WMU state leaders discuss the influence WMU has had on their lives.
Elizabeth Bristow: Can you explain to our audience who the WMU is and what your organization exists to do?
Sandy Wisdom-Martin: Woman’s Missionary Union is an auxiliary — or helper — to the Southern Baptist Convention. WMU offers missions discipleship for all ages, from preschoolers to adults, leadership development opportunities, and compassion ministries such as WorldCrafts and Christian Women’s and Men’s Job Corps. Everything we do is for one purpose — to make disciples of Jesus who live on mission.
EB: In your presentation at the Executive Committee meeting, you mentioned that the WMU is one of the most diverse boards in SBC life. How has the diversity of your board played a role in your mission and in the flourishing of your organization?
SWM: It is such a blessing to have an ethnically diverse board, as representation from various countries and cultures enriches our experiences and keeps us mindful of God’s love for all peoples of all nations. We are also grateful our current board represents several generations; collectively, their valuable input helps us to effectively advance our mission’s focus without perpetuating a generational divide. This diversity reflects that missions involvement in WMU is for everyone, and as emerging leaders seek opportunities to serve, they are able to “see” a place of service for themselves in WMU.
EB: Tell me more about your board and how these women came to join your mission in making disciples of Jesus who live on mission.
SWM: WMU is very much a grassroots movement. Unlike SBC agencies that have appointed trustees or board members, WMU’s executive board is comprised of women who serve as WMU president in their state or multistate territory. Each state WMU president is a woman from the church with a passion for missions who has been elected by the WMU members in her state to represent them. This model provides for geographic diversity, since they collectively represent the entire U.S., and ensures executive board members are actively serving in WMU and are highly invested in missions.
EB: What message would you send to a female leader who is desiring to serve her local church?
SWM: I would encourage her to prayerfully consider where God is calling her to serve and follow in obedience. God has gifted and equipped each person to carry out the work of his kingdom. In every role in life, there are elements of leadership. We should be on a lifelong quest and always lean into learning, growing, and developing as leaders.
EB: Why is serving with WMU important to you?
Angela Jones, president, Alaska WMU: Serving with WMU is important to me because it gives me purpose, direction, and meaning. I believe in the mission and the ministry of WMU. I appreciate the opportunity to serve in my home, church, and community and know that I am adding value. They provide all the tools needed to be a successful leader as I serve others. WMU helps reveal the potential of the individual, helping the entire family grow into a better person. I enjoy learning from others and working in sync with other women by praying, giving of myself, and giving to the cause. Missionaries are called and sent out with prayers, funds, and opportunity to spread the Word of God and to give hope and insight to others around the world.
Melody Knox, executive director, Maryland/Delaware WMU: I believe that serving with WMU keeps me in contact with how to pray and support missionaries on the field. I am also able to share this information with the churches to encourage them to make missions a part of their everyday life. I feel like I am a bigger part of the work that God is doing through missions/missionaries.
EB: How have you grown as a leader through WMU?
AJ: I have grown through WMU by hearing the Word of God and by sharing with others the things I have learned. I have been afforded the opportunity to teach different age-level groups from Mission Friends to adult women. I have witnessed the work and cohesiveness of women from all over. Again, tools are provided to encourage and equip us to lead. I have been taught and mentored to be the leader that I am today and will be in the future. I, too, will pay it forward.
MK: I have learned that missionaries depend on the leadership that is extended to them through WMU. It warms my heart to know how much they appreciate the WMU ladies who sincerely care about them and their families on an everyday basis. My love for missions and missionaries has grown immensely through my leadership in WMU in my convention.
EB: Why should women be involved in WMU?
AJ: WMU offers something for the entire family, which will help women help their loved ones grow in Christ. It offers opportunities for women to have a meaning and purpose and [teaches them] how to take on the challenges of everyday living. It helps women love the Lord, themselves, their family members, and those who have lost all hope. I know of no other organization that has [such] a diverse group of women from all cultures, colors, and races that can come together in one accord but offering different gifts and talents.
When we come together, we leave a better woman because we pour into each other and bonds are being made. We pray together and share with one another, and we support and encourage each other. We are women on a mission united together to change the world with the help of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
MK: Women need to know the blessing that comes through supporting and praying for those who have gone to the nations. They really need to be aware of how their money is spent through the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering and Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. I did not realize until I became involved with WMU how much our donation as a family helps those who are called to go.