By Vicki Stamps
FERGUSON – The new Missouri Woman’s Missionary Union (MWMU) president, Joan Dotson, has Missouri women, Mali, West Africa, and missions on her mind.
Dotson and her husband, Bill, recently returned from their third mission trip to the bush country of Mali, West Africa. They made two trips in 2008 and the third in October 2009.
“My family was involved in missions and I’ve always been interested in them,” she said. “Mission work is definitely a part of the lives of women involved in WMU.”
As MWMU president, Dotson did a poll of the state board officers for several years and discovered 75 percent of the ladies had been on mission trips.
“Many of these women,” she said, “have been overseas for mission work. Traditionally the WMU has worked to support missions through prayer and financial means, but now women are finding opportunities to get involved.”
Dotson described a retired school teacher friend who has travelled to 50 different countries on missions.
“She is a wealth of information on the work being done in these countries,” she said.
Bill and Joan Dotson as members of First Baptist Church, Lake St. Louis, attended a West African Summit in St. Charles and discovered opportunity.
“I was so impressed with Missionary Steve Roach,” she said. “He had a plan of what we would do and how we would do it.”
The Dotsons first went to Bamako, the capital of Mali, and then into the bush country to their “adopted” village. A native host provided a hut for them and helped with the cooking. “Eating with the people is a plus,” Joan said. “It offers a way to build relationships and camaraderie.”
Developing relationships to share Jesus with Bamabara people is the ultimate goal of the mission trips to West Africa and the Dotsons see it being accomplished in steps. “On our first trip,” Joan said, “quite a few people accepted Christ. Then, on our second trip, six men and 10 women were baptized. On our third trip, we tried to disciple enough Christians to start a church.”
Since witchcraft, ancestral worship, and Islam are a part of the area religion, discipleship is extremely important.
“It would be easy for them to just add Jesus on,” she said. “But, we need to help them understand that Jesus is the only one. It is difficult to for them to maintain because of this background and persecution from others. That is why it is important for us to go back and encourage them.”
During the October trip, the Dotsons helped their village give a party for the surrounding area with funding from First Lake St. Louis. Ten villages were represented with 250-300 in attendance.
“It was a special time for the village,” Joan said.
The need for evangelism in West Africa is daunting. Joan reported that there are 12,000 villages in Mali and a few missionaries.
“It is important for others to go,” she said. “It would be great to have a team to stagger times in order to disciple more to enable them to go to other villages.”
Dotson understands the world mission need from all the mission trips she took with her husband. Besides Mali, they went to China, Russia and the United Arab Emirates. She and the national WMU have a plan to increase the mission force in the world through education.
“We are looking at a new emphasis on mission education,” Dotson said. “We are working with the Missouri WMU to encourage churches to start a GA and RA group and to build from there. We are going to recognize those churches beginning a group at the M-Counter to be held at St. Joseph, Missouri, in April.”
Molly is a new character to help children understand missions.
“Molly went with us to Mali and we included her in some group photos,” Dotson said. “Molly is especially good with Mission Friends. Children can connect with her and they see her on mission. It is important for children and young people to be exposed to missions and study the opportunities available. Most of the missionaries on the field today can look back to a time they were in GAs or RAs.”
Dotson described her time in the field at Mali as focused.
“When we got away from the busy life of the United States, all I could think about was my ministry to people,” she said. “The Bamabara people are friendly and open. They are willing to listen.”
Many of the people would ask Dotson if she could speak Bamabara.
“I would say, ‘Dony, Dony,’” she said, “which means ‘little.’”
A phrase that she did learn, “Allacadobya,” is one that she uses with the people of Bamabara and the people of Missouri. It means “God bless you.”