Women come together in show of unity at first M-Counter event
HANNIBAL—Treats handed out at M-Counter were more than a chocolate snack.
The M&Ms symbolized a new beginning for Missouri Baptist women, as “missions” and “ministry” came together at Hannibal-LaGrange College April 27-28. The first-of-its-kind conference was exciting for organizers.
“I believe we have a good thing going,” said Vivian McCaughan, director of Missouri Woman’s Missionary Union (MWMU) and Women’s Ministry for the convention. “We need to encourage women to be deeply rooted in the Word. But we can’t inhale forever and that’s where WMU comes in.”
About 500 women participated in M-Counter, which combined the 83rd annual MWMU meeting with the first Women’s Ministry conference. Connie Cavanaugh, a North American Mission Board missionary to Canada, used humor and Bible study to encourage the women to “Live the Call,” the theme of the conference and to serve God as they were uniquely designed to do.
MWMU President Lorraine Powers said M-Counter opens a new door of opportunity.
“This is a milestone in our state,” she said at the Friday night session. “There’s no reason all the women in Missouri can’t work together.”
The meeting is an example for the entire state in a time of turmoil at the convention level, David Tolliver, interim executive director of the Missouri Baptist Convention, said as he addressed the group April 28.
“You are an example of cooperation that we all need right now in the Missouri Baptist Convention,” Tolliver said. “We are looking to you for partnership and an example of cooperation.”
The expanded conference provided ideas and encouragement for reaching out to women, said Heather Shortell of Independence Baptist Church of Richland.
“It’s given us insights in what we need to do to draw the younger women in,” she said.
Shortell, 32, and her friend, Leota Dinwiddie, said they also enjoyed the way the conference incorporated Bible study with missions education.
Traditionally, WMU has been the main women’s function in the church, said Chris Adams, a representative of LifeWay Women’s Ministry, during a breakout session. The missions programs are vital, she said, but fall short in reaching new or struggling believers. Churches do not have to choose between WMU and other programs, she said.
“If you want a balanced ministry with women, you want to provide opportunities where they can grow spiritually,” Adams said.
Women’s ministry includes any ministry dealing with women, she said, and varies widely from church to church.
“I cannot give you a formula,” Adams said. “I can give you a structure that will work across the country.”
Those participating in the session said they were excited about the possibilities and believed outreach activities would provide ways to get more women involved in missions.
During the WMU annual business meeting, it was reported that in the past year the organization has supported more missionaries in the field as well as more retired missionaries at home. It also has provided more scholarships.
Kaye Miller, national WMU president, urged the women to use their influence to build God’s kingdom.
“WMU exists to help churches look outside themselves, to see the world as God sees it,” Miller said. “WMU needs more influential leaders than ever before.”
One of the highlights of M-Counter was the testimony by Rosa Cruz, president of the Puerto Rico/Virgin Islands WMU. The partnership between Missouri and Puerto Rico/Virgin Islands was officially signed during the event.
“That means for us a stronger relationship with women,” Cruz said.
The Puerto Rican women enjoy learning about other cultures and praying for missionaries, she said. Instead of Girls in Action, they have Children in Action for both boys and girls. Missouri provides support for the programs.
“We are in a stage where we are developing ladies and they help to spread the message about what is WMU and what churches do for the missionaries,” Cruz said.
The second M-Counter will take place in April 2008 at First Baptist Church, Raytown. As previously planned, the format will be evaluated after the second year and a decision made about continuing the event.