WACO—For her birthday last year, missionary Staci Powers’ most treasured gift was having her husband, Jeff, hold her hands without letting go. The fact he had forgotten it was her birthday did not matter at that moment.
Four days later, July 10, 2014, she held his hands for the last time as cancer took his life.
Powers choked back tears as she told her story to the Woman’s Missionary Union of Texas annual meeting and missions celebration at First Baptist Church of Woodway in Waco. As a Southern Baptist missionary to Zambia, she knew Texas WMU prayed for her on her birthday, and she wanted to let the women know how much it meant.
“You didn’t know what was going on with us, but you prayed,” she said. “It was because of the nearness of the Lord that I can stand here today, as he’s worked through your prayers.”
Powers joined other speakers in assuring members of Texas WMU their prayers and offerings are helping missionaries across the globe share the gospel and persevere through difficult circumstances.
Featured guests at the Texas WMU annual meeting included Liertes Soares Jr., church starter and pastor of a multicultural congregation in the Boston area; Zoricelis Davila, a counselor; Louis Rosenthal, whose association helped begin the Pray4EveryHome initiative; Kelli and Jason Frealy, Southern Baptist missionaries in Argentina; and a missionary couple serving in South Asia, whose identities are withheld to protect their safety.
In breakout sessions, participants learned about new ways of doing ministry in their churches, communities and around the world.
In a “Jeans on Mission” session, Paulette Kirkpatrick, who serves on the Texas WMU board of directors, taught how to make purses out of old pairs of blue jeans. Volunteers with the ministry, which began in Wharton, make purses, diaper bags, wallets and quilts out of used jeans to send to other parts of the state, as well as around the country and the world.
In another session, Emma French and Zach Zernial, students at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, talked about evangelism, discipleship and servanthood. They told how, as college students, they longed for a mentor and encouraged the crowd to search for younger people to disciple.
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In business sessions, Texas WMU elected President Shirley McDonald from Greens Creek Baptist Church in Dublin, Vice President Charlotte Watson from First Baptist Church in Georgetown and Secretary DeRema Dunn from Mimosa Lane Baptist Church in Mesquite.
“WMU has been and always will be a light on the hill,” McDonald said in her presidential charge to Texas WMU. “We are not being the light … so that people can see our good deeds, but that all the world can praise our Father in heaven.”
Multiple speakers cited Luke 24:32, the conference theme Bible verse, and emphasized the importance of being obedient to God’s calling and sensitive to the fire from the Holy Spirit.
“If we spend time with people who are passionate about the Lord, the fires in our hearts grow stronger,” said Sandy Wisdom-Martin, executive director of Texas WMU. “We need to focus our fire in a way that it makes the greatest impact and has the most influence. As WMU of Texas, our desire is to fan the flames.”
For some, obedience involves making purses out of jeans. For others, it may include reaching out to younger generations and discipling them through their spiritual journeys.
For missionary Staci Powers, being obedient means going back to the mission field.
“I stand here today, as a 47-year-old widow, compelled to return,” she said. “When there are people who have never heard the name of Jesus, how can I stay? … Like I learned as a GA (Girls in Action, the WMU program for preteen girls), having the desire to be obedient is a gift from the Lord. I’m grateful that you pray for me, and I’m grateful to be a sent one.”