During WMU’s board meeting, Jan. 8–9, executive board members joined national and state leaders via Zoom to hear business updates and inspiring testimonies.
Sandy Wisdom-Martin, executive director/treasurer of national WMU, acknowledged challenges in 2021 but underscored and celebrated God’s provision.
“In spite of everything, 2021 was a record-setting year,” she declared. “Our comprehensive international ministry touched 49 countries through WorldCrafts; Pure Water, Pure Love; Christian Women’s Job Corps; missions resource collaboration; international WMU; and partnership with the WMU Foundation through HEART Fund grant requests. From Bangladesh through Zambia, WMU provided compassion ministries and connection opportunities for our sisters around the world.”
According to Wisdom-Martin, donations to Pure Water, Pure Love enabled WMU to provide 1,372 water filters and replacements to International Mission Board personnel and missions teams through Pure Water, Pure Love during the 2020–21 fiscal year. In addition, WMU awarded nearly $400,000 in Pure Water, Pure Love global grants to supply clean water resources, and a full semitruck load of water was sent to New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida.
Another record was set with HEART (Humanitarian Emergency Aid for Rebuilding Tomorrow) Fund grants. National WMU and the WMU Foundation established this fund in response to the tragic events that occurred on September 11, 2001. To honor this 20-year anniversary, the WMU Foundation set a goal to grant 20 HEART Fund grants throughout 2021. A total of 25 HEART Fund grants were approved, distributing more than $256,000. This is the largest total amount and total grants given in a single year in the history of this fund. Aid was provided following damage from tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires, floods, winter ice storms and volcanoes.
‘Closing the gap’
In a financial update, Wisdom-Martin reported that despite continued fluctuations in sales in the midst of the pandemic, WMU “was blessed to close out 2021 in the black” thanks to significant gifts, grants and donations, and a robust stock market. She stated closing the gap between sales and expenses continues to be a priority.
After several downsizings in recent years and incorporating a remote work policy, WMU leadership has determined the 137,000-square-foot building that serves as WMU’s national headquarters in Birmingham, Alabama, is a larger footprint than needed. The property is on the market, and the replacement of a 37-year-old HVAC system across the complex is complete.
During the board meeting, Bob Cardinal, chair of the WMU Foundation board, presented a check from the Vision Fund to national WMU for $500,000, the largest single grant ever made from that fund.
Wisdom-Martin expressed gratitude for this gift and also voiced gratitude for sacrificial giving among Southern Baptist churches. “The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering surpassed the goal and landed at $177.62 million, and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering hit an all-time high of $66.5 million and cumulative gifts passed $2 billion. In the midst of challenges, amazing things are happening.”
Paul Chitwood, president of the International Mission Board, brought greetings and a report via prepared video.
“IMB’s mission is to serve Southern Baptists in carrying out the Great Commission to make disciples of all nations,” Chitwood said. “Together, we get to be a part of the most important work in the entire universe, and no group has been a more dedicated partner than Woman’s Missionary Union. The IMB isn’t the IMB without WMU. Hundreds of missionaries serving today can trace their call to missions back to WMU, and we are so grateful.”
Chitwood closed saying that IMB needs the continued partnership of WMU. “We need leaders who keep the work of missionaries on the hearts of the churches,” he encouraged, “those who teach the children to listen for the voice of God, those who raise support and then send generation after generation of workers to the harvest fields.”
Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board, also thanked WMU leaders via prepared video.
“The effort you put in at the national and state level, as well as each church-based WMU group, is making such an important impact,” Ezell said. “Of course, you also make a huge difference in the lives of our missionaries through your prayers, encouragement and the tangible gifts that you provide for them literally all year round. The support you provide for our missionaries keeps them fueled and on the field in the places they are needed the most.”
In two of 23 different workshops offered in conjunction with the board meeting, testimonies were shared from IMB field personnel Richard and Karen Lee in Tanzania, and NAMB field personnel Bobby and LaKeisha Williams in New Orleans.
Connie Dixon, national WMU president, challenged participants to stay focused on Jesus.
“Storms are all around us,” Dixon said, “but storms aren’t new to WMU. There is a storm in the Bible we can learn so much from. In Matthew 14:22–33, we read about the disciples dealing with a storm. Jesus called out to them and told them not to be afraid.
“We must be willing,” Dixon continued, “just like our foremothers were, to get out of the boat … to do things differently, to take risks, to step out of our comfort zones. We need to dream and dream big and fix our eyes on Jesus.”
Dixon welcomed the following new executive board members: Shirley Smith (Alabama), Laura Bramlett (Arkansas), Chris Conrades (Indiana), Deb Speas (Iowa), Vashti Jones (Kansas/Nebraska), Teresa Howard (New Mexico) and Janora Skeens (West Virginia). She also welcomed new WMU executive directors: Christine Gill (Louisiana), Cheryl Stahlman (Missouri) and Melissa Lamb (New Mexico).
Roetta Vaught (Kentucky) and Carla Bell (Montana), two board members who end their tenure in early 2022, were also recognized.
In other business, the executive board approved:
- The 2022 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering goal be set at $190 million.
- The 2023 Annie Armstrong Easter Offering goal be set at $70 million.
- The next WMU board meeting is scheduled for June 3–4, 2022, via Zoom.
EDITOR’S NOTE — Written by Julie Walters, corporate communications manager for national WMU.