GRAHAM—Woman’s Missionary Union of Texas elected Earl Ann Bumpus of Graham as president five decades after her mother, Cleota Lenert, was elected president of Florida WMU.
“I wish she were here to see it,” Bumpus said. Lenert died on Jan. 28 at age 94, nine and a half weeks before her daughter’s election.
Last fall, when members of the Texas WMU nominating committee initially talked to her about serving as state president, Bumpus was careful not to discuss it with anyone other than her husband, but she did mention the possibility to her mother.
Bumpus recalled her mother’s response: “Oh, Texas is a big state.”
She reminded her mother Florida is not exactly small, either, and Lenert managed to serve well.
In January, recognizing her mother’s time was drawing to an end, Bumpus debated whether to let her know about the nominating committee’s decision to present her as their choice for state WMU president.
Her election “was not a done deal, because a nomination from the floor could be made,” said her husband Mark, pastor of First Baptist Church in Graham. He noted Joy Fenner’s election as Texas WMU president 10 years ago followed her nomination from the floor.
During the final week of Lenert’s life, “she was communicating primarily in ways other than verbally” and was in “excruciating pain,” he said. Nevertheless, when Bumpus finally told her mother about the upcoming nomination, Lenert said, “I am overjoyed.”
Lifelong influence of WMU
Bumpus noted she cannot remember a time growing up when she didn’t know about WMU and the importance of missions education.
“I started as a Sunbeam,” she said, recalling the WMU-sponsored program for preschoolers that predated Mission Friends.
Bumpus fondly remembered her father making posters for her mother to use in WMU programs and their family trips to the Southern Baptist conference centers, Glorieta and Ridgecrest, for weeks devoted to missions education.
Because of her mother’s influence, Bumpus also grew to know other state and national WMU leaders.
During her time as a student, she spent a summer working as an intern at the national WMU office in Birmingham, Ala., and lived in the home of Carolyn Weatherford, then executive director-treasurer.
At one point, Bumpus was debating whether she felt a greater calling to missions education or to collegiate ministry through Baptist Student Union, and she talked to Weatherford about the decisions she faced.
“She told me, ‘You probably can do more WMU and missions education work through student work than you can do student work through WMU,” Bumpus recalled.
She went on to serve as assistant BSU director at Baylor University, where she met her future husband, who was a recent Baylor graduate. Subsequently, Bumpus has been involved in missions education in each of the churches her husband has served as pastor—in Pearl, Troy, Mineral Wells, San Angelo and Graham—as well as at the associational and state levels.
Emphasis on communication, reconnecting
In her new role as Texas WMU president, Bumpus hopes to make an impact on the rising generation of young women, just as earlier WMU leaders influenced her life.
“Communication is the No. 1 thing,” she said. “So many don’t know about WMU, or what little they know is colored by negative impressions from years past. They don’t realize there are a lot of different ways to be involved in missions and missions education.”
Bumpus looks forward to having a platform to promote the Mary Hill Davis Offering for Texas Missions and all the ministries it helps to support.
“If I could, I would talk about Texas Baptist missions constantly,” she said.
Bumpus wants to see a greater number of Texas Baptist churches promote and collect the offering, and she hopes a greater number of individuals will contribute to it.
“There are so many ministries that are funded by the Mary Hill Davis Offering, and if people are not giving, the allocations to those ministries have to be cut,” she said.
Bumpus also hopes Texas WMU will reconnect with women who have been involved in some capacity in the past but have grown inactive. The organization needs them, and they need what WMU can offer, she added.
“WMU is so intertwined with my life, and it all goes back to my mom,” she said.