Published April 26, 2007
LILBURN — More than 700 Georgia Baptist women, representing 137 churches in 63 associations, gathered for the 124th annual WMU Missions Encounter at First Baptist Church in Lilburn. Focusing on the theme, “Future Footprints,” participants were challenged to pass the missions “baton” to younger generations.
Women’s speaker and author Esther Burroughs encouraged the women present to remain faithful in their spiritual commitments, teaching, “We know God created us in His image and that there is a place in our hearts that only He can fill. However, there is a place in God’s heart that only you can fill.”
Burroughs told how she has personally worked to create a missions legacy for her children and grandchildren, seeking to inspire participants to seek intentional opportunities to do so as well.
Highlighting the biblical account of Rahab, Bobbye Rankin, wife of International Mission Board president Jerry Rankin, affirmed that God is moving throughout many predominantly Muslim countries. “People are beginning to realize that Jesus Christ loves them and longs to spend eternity with them,” the former international missionary said.
North American and international missionaries shared testimonies from their fields of service, thanking Georgia Baptist women for their faithful prayer support. Taylor and Susan Field, who have served 20 years in the heart of New York City near the site of the 2001 terrorist attacks, shared victories of lives changed through the ministry of Southern Baptists.
A Last Frontier Missionary, who serves in a country where the tsunami struck so forcefully in December 2005, affirmed, “God is faithful,” even during times of devastation. National believers, she said, have been emboldened to share the gospel as a result of the natural disaster.
Four Georgia Baptist missions volunteers who personally prayerwalked in the Southern Rim in 2006 gave testimonies of God’s movement among the Muslim people there. In their 2005 annual meeting, Georgia Baptist women launched a four-year prayer partnership for the Muslims of the Southern Rim, where more than 300 unreached people groups reside.
College student Whitni Bledsoe told participants of a harrowing volunteer missions trip to Lebanon with her home church, Eagle’s Landing First Baptist Church in McDonough, last summer. While the group was ministering, bombs began to drop, and the missions volunteers had to be evacuated by American military. “I could trust God,” Bledsoe said she discovered through the experience.
She also sensed a spiritual call to continue to reach out to Muslim individuals. “God has called me to work with Muslims. I know it’s something I’m called to do. If I don’t, I won’t be complete,” she said. Her mother, Teri Bledsoe, who serves as Georgia Baptists’ coordinator for the Our Children Campaign, has prayerfully affirmed her daughter’s call to international missions, despite the inherent danger.
The four worship services at the 2007 Missions Encounter interpreted four specific aspects of the “Future Footprints” theme: claiming our children, claiming the nations, claiming our cities, and claiming His promises. Women attending the event also had opportunity to participate in three of fifteen small-group, special-interest conferences.
In their business session, registrants approved three recommendations designed to increase the effectiveness and cost efficiency of the BWMU executive board structure. Revised bylaws, related to these recommendations, will be presented at the 2008 Missions Encounter.
During this year’s meeting, more than $8,000 was collected and designated for renovations at Camp Pinnacle Conference and Retreat Center in Clayton. To help the fund-raising effort, former WMU state president Ann Watts last year birthed the idea of knitting and selling scarves. In addition to Watts, a number of other Georgia Baptist women have put their knitting fingers to the task. To date, the sale of the handmade scarves at $20 each has netted approximately $10,000 going directly to Camp Pinnacle renovations, Watts said. Stu Butler, with his wife, Liz, attended his first Georgia Baptist Missions Encounter as new administrator for Camp Pinnacle.
Speaking to annual meeting participants, Barbara Curnutt, Georgia Baptists’ BWMU executive director, challenged women to “center our heart’s affection on God and God alone” and urged women to seek a “new level of intimacy and friendship with God.”
Participants elected executive board officers: Patsy Pirkle, president, New River Church, Tifton; Lynn Larsen, vice president, First Church, Grayson; Cathy Dennis, recording secretary, North Metro First Baptist Church, Lawrenceville; and Barbara Morris, chairperson of finance, The Greater Solid Rock Baptist Church, Riverdale.
Next year’s meeting is at Tabernacle Baptist Church, Carrollton, April 11-12.
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