The Woman’s Missionary Union of North Carolina (WMUNC) celebrated its “Missions Extravaganza” April 16-18 as more than 900 women from across the state gathered at Ridgecrest for the annual amalgam of worship, learning opportunities, exhibits, fellowship, and business. More than 60 training or information conferences were held on a variety of topics, including a closer look at the work of visiting missionaries.
Kyle Matthews led the musical aspects of worship for the weekend, while Sharon Decker, a former business executive who now co-hosts a weekly radio show called “The Satisfied Life,” was the primary speaker. Over the course of three messages, Decker emphasized the importance of women accepting themselves as unique creations of God, being open to God’s call, believing that they are capable of doing whatever God calls them to do, and being willing to surrender all in accepting the mission God puts before them.
Lydia Hoyle, professor of church history at Campbell University Divinity School (CUDS), brought theme interpretations based on insights from Baptist history. She and student Leah Anderson also highlighted a new Women in Leadership certificate program created in partnership with CUDS.
In her executive director’s report, Ruby Fulbright described the past year as the best and worst of times, a year of contradictions and extremes. WMUNC saw exceptional growth, beginning 149 new missions organizations in 60 different churches. At the same time, there was a decline in the number of women who showed active involvement in WMU and subscribed to WMU magazines. WMUNC has more opportunities than ever, but also more work than workers, she said.
During the past year, Baptist State Convention of North Carolina leaders have continued its efforts to marginalize WMUNC and cut it off from any relationships, while promoting a newly developed competing program for women called EMBRACE. The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina, however, has fostered closer ties to WMUNC and included funds for the organization in its Mission Resource Plan. Without naming either organization, Fulbright said WMUNC was enjoying relationships with new partners, but dealing with strained relationships with others.
WMUNC’s biggest obstacle during the past year has been financial. When the organization moved from the Baptist Building in 2008 to preserve its autonomy, it lost all funding through BSCNC channels, and had to begin raising funds through reinstating the Heck-Jones Offering and encouraging churches and individuals to include WMUNC in their budgets. Contributions in 2009 fell about $300,000 short of the $1.3 million budget, requiring WMUNC to draw on reserves in order to meet payroll and complete various projects. Fulbright said only about $600,000 remains in reserves. Participants approved a 2010 budget of $1.19 million, 10.4% less than the 2009 budget.
Though WMU experienced both the best and worst of times in 2009, Fulbright said the organization had shown “an amazing ability to adapt . . . Hopefully the worst of times have helped us to do that.”
Fulbright closed her report with an announcement that North Carolina sites and individuals involved in Christian Women’s Job Corps and Christian Men’s Job Corps (CWJC/CMJC) had been recognized with two of the three national awards given annually. CWJC/CMJC are ministries designed to mentor persons who need help in developing skills necessary to find a job, budget their money, and live independently.
Jean Cullen Roberson, of the national WMU staff, and David George, president of the WMU Foundation, presented the awards. Roberson said that, nationwide, more than 4,300 persons were served last year at 215 CWJC/CMJC sites, in an effort that involved more than 18,000 volunteers. North Carolina has 15 sites in the state, plus an affiliated site in King Williams Town, South Africa.
CWJC of Gaston County was recognized with one of two site awards (the other will be announced later). Director Sandra Wright accepted the $641 award, saying it would be used to purchase supplies used to assist clients as they transition to independent living. The site focuses on helping clients know that Jesus loves them, she said.
Shandale Hodges, a client at the Raleigh CWJC site, received the Sybil Bentley Dove Award, which recognizes a client who has made exemplary progress and set an example for others. Hodges spoke of how her mentor had helped her develop a budget and the discipline to follow it. “I learned that I had to give up some things in order to support my family,” she said. Hodges said she also learned to deal with difficulties at her job and to stick with it through hard times. “I have two children,” Hodges said, “and I enjoy teaching them the things I have learned in this program.” Passing on the skills she learned, Hodges said, would enable future generations to benefit from the program.
Fulbright concluded her report by challenging participants to rem
ain obedient and faithful, trusting that “the Father will take care of the rest.”
In the business session, in addition to adopting the budget, participants elected Delores Thomas of Peachland to continue as president, Tana Hartsell of Kannapolis to continue as vice president, and Chris Harker of Winterville to continue serving as vice president of development. Tammi Ward of Gatesville and Beth McDonald of Rockingham serve as recording secretary and assistant recording secretary.