Laurie Register knows Woman’s Missionary Union inside and out.
It has been a major part of her life throughout her ministry career – and even earlier.
During nearly three decades in leadership roles with South Carolina WMU, she has served as an Acteens consultant, Women on Mission consultant and nearly 14 years as state WMU executive director. On the national level, she served on the WMU general board.
She also was an active member of WMU’s Mission Friends, Girls in Action and Acteens missions groups during her growing-up years.
Announcing her upcoming retirement more than a year ago, Register noted on her Facebook page at the time, “I can point to the exact day — and approximate location in rural South Carolina — when I heard God whisper into my heart, ‘It’s time.’ And I knew exactly what He meant.
“Even so, it was not a decision made without struggle. I’ve spent nearly half my life on the South Carolina WMU staff and I’ve developed relationships across South Carolina, the U.S. and the world,” she reflected. “I’m not clear on my next steps yet … but I trust that God will show me in time.”
According to Sandy Wisdom-Martin, National WMU executive director, “I’m drawn to three things in a leader: passion, humility and a servant heart. Laurie Register exemplifies all three.
“Laurie is respected in her state and throughout the convention for being a tireless missions advocate,” Wisdom-Martin added. “The impact of her ministry will reverberate throughout eternity.”
Called to equip and disciple
Early in her ministry with WMU, Register was preparing to lead a missions trip to Kenya when someone asked her, “Do you feel called to missions?”
Her response: “Yes, I do, but not in the way that you are thinking.” Rather than a call to career missions service, she explained, “I’ve been called to missions in the role of equipping and discipling and helping others discover what their call is, what their role is and how to live it out.”
While she has been involved in more than 20 international missions trips on five continents over the years, as well as participating in numerous local and national ministry projects, “my call has always been that of equipping,” she affirmed.
Reflecting on significant moments during her years of ministry, Register said a missionary once asked her, “So tell me, where are the lost people in your life?”
Noting that her work, church and fellowship circles all were filled with fellow Christians, she said, “It took me aback for a moment. … I realized, how am I going to have an impact on people who don’t know Jesus if I’m not around people who don’t know Jesus?”
She said that conversation led her to “change some things about how I lived. That involved coming back home and intentionally finding places where I could be around people who were not believers” such as the gym and a local bowling league.
“That would be my challenge for any of us who are followers of Christ: to look and see, where are the lost people in your life? And then how can you increase that number?” she urged. “The important thing is to say, ‘Okay, God, how and where can I serve you?’ Then open your ears and listen and then open your heart and be obedient.”
Emphasizing that “relationships are huge,” Register said, “Probably one of [my favorite things I do] is have the opportunities to actually be in the churches or in the associations, speaking and being among our people.
“We also have tremendous relationships with our missionaries,” she added. “A good deal of my time is spent corresponding with our missionaries, spending time with those who are here stateside, supporting them, encouraging them in in any way that we can.”
Recalling a recent meal with two young women who were preparing to head overseas to serve as mission volunteers, Register said, “Both of them told me that they felt called to missions through GAs, through Camp La Vida (WMU missions camp), through the things that they have done here at home.”
While some believers are called to serve God overseas, others are called to serve in their local communities, she pointed out. “It all works together in this beautiful tapestry, so that we all have our place to be involved and in that way truly impact the whole world.”
Anticipating the future
As Register hands over the leadership reins to Jess Archer effective Jan. 1, she described South Carolina’s incoming WMU executive director as “energetic, creative, detail-oriented. She loves people, missions, and most importantly, she loves the Lord. That is evident in her demeanor and in her conversation.
“While stepping away from this role at this time is bittersweet, it is also exciting as I anticipate what the Lord is going to do through Jess and through South Carolina WMU.”
Expressing gratitude to God for her ministry journey, Register said, “Personally, WMU has been a place where I can exercise the gifts that God has given me.
“In many of our churches, WMU is the place that gives women leadership opportunities,” she shared. “We have many gifted women, many gifted young women, and WMU is the place where they have been able to live out that giftedness. I will always be appreciative that it’s given me the opportunity to hone those leadership skills to be who God created me to be.”