Change a life … change the world
Change a life … change the world. Catchy, isn’t it? I find myself wondering to whether to call that a catchphrase, or simply a catchy phrase. Some of you, reading this for the first time, already recognize that slogan. But it is much more than a slogan.
Change a life … change the world. There are some, perhaps, who would call that catchphrase a high-sounding platitude, a jingle or cliché. But, surely it is a wise saying, even something of a proverb.
Change a life … change the world. That catchy phrase is a truism. Christians understand that the most effective way to change the world is to change it one person, one heart, at a time.
Change a life … change the world is a principle that tells us all that the only answer for the world—specifically, the only lasting solution to the problems we face in our part of the world—is the changed lives of people who have made Jesus Christ the Lord of their life.
Change a life … change the world is the motto—more correctly, the watchword—of the Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU). Change a life … change the world.
Now some of you may be wondering how and why I know so much about WMU. And I am so glad you asked … I was hoping you would ask because I have been waiting to tell you about the recent trip I took to Birmingham, Ala., and to WMU headquarters. Wanda Lee, WMU executive director, invited all the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) state convention executive directors (interims, too). The first thing on the agenda was a tour of the WMU building. It is a fascinating tour for anyone with any interest in missions in general—Southern Baptist missions specifically.
The first leg of the tour took me down a hallway lined with pictures of the present and former WMU executive directors—known in previous years as the corresponding secretary of Woman’s Missionary Union. The first of those great ladies was a woman known to Southern Baptists as Annie Armstrong. I know this is old news to faithful Missouri-Southern Baptists, but the Annie Armstrong Easter offering for North American Missions is named for the lady from Baltimore, Md., who spent her entire adult life reaching the world for Christ. Annie Walker Armstrong was the founding corresponding secretary of the WMU.
Annie Armstrong was a woman who loved Christ with all her heart—and, with her hands. When I asked my tour guide about the title, corresponding secretary, she said that it surely had to do with the passion of Miss Armstrong to write missions correspondence—missions letters. “Wearing her fingers to the bone” was more than just a phrase for Annie Armstrong. The early missions enthusiast spent many hours handwriting letters in support of missions and missionaries. In 1893 alone, she wrote more than 18,000 missions letters. It was through that kind of passion for missions that WMU was born.
As we continued our tour, our tour guide took us to several different rooms that had been sponsored by various states. We started in the Kentucky room, toured the Mississippi Room and gathered in the Georgia Lobby. Our tour guide told us that, with the help of many state WMU organizations, the WMU headquarters building was purchased and paid off in just four years. Imagine my joy when I saw an inscription on the door of a conference room called The Missouri Room. The Missouri Room was finished and furnished in honor of Missouri WMU icon, Alberta Gilpin.
As we continued our tour, we observed missions and missionary artifacts, including the original trunk used by Lottie Moon when she travelled to the foreign mission field of China, Bibles printed in various languages and the native dress of people from other countries. Our tour included the Alma Hunt Missions Museum where you can view pictures of many of the early Southern Baptist missionaries, read missionary letters and journals and view all sorts of interesting missionary memorabilia. The tour really is inspiring. I recommend it.
But the purpose of my trip to Birmingham was to spend some time with WMU leadership learning about the mission and methods of WMU. We began, appropriately, with prayer. Curiously, I was at WMU headquarters during the 2008 Week of Prayer for International Missions. It was altogether fitting that we began our evening session with the WMU staff in prayer for missions.
Like Annie Armstrong, a great Christian lady called Lottie Moon worked tirelessly and prayed constantly for missions and for missionaries. Lottie Moon, born Charlotte Diggs Moon in Albermarle County, Va., served nearly 40 years as a missionary to China. Lottie Moon literally gave her life for the people of China. During the famine in the early 1900s, Lottie Moon starved to death because she gave her own food to the children of China.
It is that sense of missions giving that the ladies of WMU seek to instill in Southern Baptists. Since the formation WMU in 1888, Southern Baptist women have led the convention in missions education and missions offerings promotion. Specifically, the Cooperative Program, the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions all have been the recipients of the fund-raising/promotional efforts of the WMU. One of the things I learned in Birmingham is that, historically, the Missouri-Southern Baptist churches that give significantly are churches with active Missouri WMU organizations. In cooperation with North American Mission Board, International Mission Board and LifeWay, WMU has conducted Annual Church Profile (ACP) research and shown that churches with active WMU organizations give almost 45-50 percent more to missions than do churches without an active WMU.
Now, I just have to pause long enough at this point to challenge our MBC pastors to begin to take a more active role in missions education and offering promotion. I firmly believe that pastors ought to lead their churches to be passionate about missions. But, I also want to take this opportunity to express profound gratitude to the women of the Missouri WMU for keeping the missions agenda in front of us all.
And right now, missions education and missions offering are happening all over Missouri. Chances are the WMU ladies in your church have already reminded you that it is, once again, the season for giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions. Probably, you have recently completed the 2008 Week of Prayer for international missions. If not, may I suggest that you call Vivian McCaughan or Christie Dowell at the MBC building (800.736.6227 extension # 641). Either of those ladies would be thrilled to help you get started in praying for and giving to international missions. Formally, the week of Prayer was the first week in December. But I am convinced that God will hear and answer the prayer of your church no matter the date on the calendar.
Change a life…change the world. Praying for missions … participating in missions … and, giving to missions is just who we are as Missouri-Southern Baptists. Thank you Missouri WMU for keeping us on the missions track for all these years. And, please ladies, help us to always remember—Change a life … change the world.