Three Ordinary Women

by David George, president of the WMU Foundation

I love that ordinary people can be part of the Walk of Faith because it is ordinary people, responding to God’s call, who make a real difference. It is people like my mom, Jackie George. As a young mom, she led missions groups at 66th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. When I was five years old, my mother pressed me into service as the GA Scepter Bearer for coronation ceremonies.

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I would later marry Allyson, who loves children and missions. She encouraged me to participate in numerous missions trips and always looked for ways we could do more for others. My daughter, Katelyn, is a lot like her mother and grandmother, always encouraging me to do more and give more to help others. These three amazing women have influenced and shaped my life, inspiring me to love missions more.

I’m thrilled that the brick bearing their names will be a lasting tribute to these three ordinary women who’ve had an extraordinary impact on my life. They lead by example, and this brick is a small but lasting reminder of the difference they have made.

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Who made a difference in your life? Whose influence instilled a love for missions in your heart? I hope you will take the time to say thank you if they are still living. If they have passed away, what a blessing it would be to let their family know how their loved one made a lasting impact.

What is the Walk of Faith

The Walk of Faith is an honor/memorial garden recognizing those who inspire us to love missions. The bricks will be laid at the national WMU building in Birmingham, Alabama. 100% of your brick purchase helps meet the needs of WMU.

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4 Ways to Make a Difference Through Year-End Giving

As the year comes to a close, take the opportunity to use your giving to make a difference. Your year-end gift is important, and we are grateful you choose to support the work of WMU through the WMU Foundation.

Here’s how to make your year-end gift count:

  • Make a one-time gift to the WMU Foundation. Your gift of any amount supports the mission and ministry of WMU. Gifts are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.

  • Become a monthly giver. It’s never been easier to become our monthly missions partner. When you give to the WMU Foundation online, select “I would like this to be an automatic monthly or quarterly gift.” Your regular support will help make our work possible.

  • Consider a Charitable Gift Annuity. A Charitable Gift Annuity (CGA) is a minimum $10,000 gift. The WMU Foundation agrees to pay you a specified amount (based on your age) for the rest of your life.

  • Add the WMU Foundation to your estate plan. Make sure the WMU Foundation is included in your will. Consider other planned gifts, like making the WMU Foundation a co-beneficiary of your life insurance policy or your retirement plan. Contact us for a free planned giving guide.

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When you give, you are part of the tradition that began with a few women saying yes to God’s call and inviting others to do the same. WMU officially began in 1888 at a meeting in Richmond, Virginia. Women joined together to make a difference for Baptist missions, but the real beginning of WMU happened much earlier.

In the early 1800s, Polly Webb invited women to her home to pray for missions. Hephzibah Jenkins Townsend sold gingerbread at the market to raise money for missions work. We may never know the names of countless others who made the choice to respond to the Great Commission in the unique way God had called them.

That is how WMU was built. One woman at a time, believing God called her to Great Commission work. One woman at a time, saying yes, then inviting others to pray, give, and go.

Since 1888, WMU’s message to believers has been consistent. If you choose to follow Christ, the Great Commission belongs to you. It is yours to act upon. God has called you and gifted you to respond.

The WMU Foundation granted over $1.6 million this year to support Baptist missions. God has called us to support Great Commission work, and we cannot do that without your support. Your gift makes it possible to continue a legacy of faith, and we are grateful for your support.

A Legacy of Leadership Development & Missions

When Claudia Johnson was growing up, she watched her grandmother, Susie Mae Towry, make hundreds of Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls.

“She would hand stitch one for every single child in her classroom, each with a heart on the front that said, ‘I love you,’” Johnson said.

It was a “sweet legacy” for the longtime schoolteacher to leave behind, she said. Towry liked to send the students off each year with a reminder that they were loved. She liked to finish well.

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But part of finishing well also meant leaving some things undone — she left a few things behind for her granddaughter to finish too—things that would come full circle in ways Johnson could’ve never anticipated.

“She was a preacher’s wife and prayed daily for missionaries,” Johnson said, noting that her grandmother kept her Bible open in the bathroom with a prayer list of missionary names marking her place. “She loved the work of WMU and loved God’s Word. I know that it was her prayers that really got me through all my high school years. She was just a real woman of God.”

And because of Towry’s active influence on her granddaughter — and her inherent influence through the way she raised Johnson’s mother, Nancy Towry Wall — Johnson eventually became one of those missionaries on that prayer list.

After Johnson finished school, she went first to Africa as a journeyman, then to Thailand with her husband, serving a total of 28 years with the International Mission Board.

“My grandmother and my mom were very inspirational in my life,” she said. “They were both very strong Christian leaders, and I am confident that it made a difference in my life. It made me want to serve the Lord in whatever capacity I could.”

One of those capacities was that, while serving in Thailand, she burned the midnight oil for a year to get her master’s degree so that she could teach at the international school.

“It was a very hard year, but when you have a clear word from God that you’re supposed to do something, it is really comforting,” Johnson said.

It was a sacrifice that paved the way for innumerable ministry opportunities for both herself and others. Because international school had become so expensive in Thailand, missionaries had been told recently that they had to homeschool their children from then on.

Johnson’s decision to lead at the school not only provided the means for her own children to go to school for free, her whole salary also went to fund other missionaries’ children’s tuition. That freed other mothers up to do more ministry, too.

And over time, God led Johnson into even deeper waters — she started a school for Urdu-speaking refugees in Thailand.

“The plight of refugees is tough, as we know, and those children gripped my heart,” Johnson said.

It was clear teaching ran in the family, as did a burden for the children who sat in the desks. Towry may have passed away before she got to see Johnson become a missionary and a teacher, but her legacy had lived on.

And recently, after Johnson returned to the U.S. and took the role of leadership consultant for WMU’s Christian Women’s Leadership Center (CWLC), her mom found something special when she was going through Towry’s things.

“It was a leadership card that said my grandmother had completed the WM Society’s leadership course,” Johnson said. “I thought that was so interesting. It was dated Nov. 12, 1963, and was signed by Alma Hunt.”

That struck a chord with Johnson, because these days her desk sits in the middle of the Alma Hunt Museum, named after the missions hero who led National WMU from 1948 to 1974. Every day as Johnson sits at that desk, she works to run the same leadership development courses for women that her grandmother completed back then — only now they are online.

And Johnson still has one of Towry’s unfinished Raggedy Ann dolls — a reminder that not only is she loved, there are still things left to do.

“I know my grandmother’s prayers and influence made a difference in my life,” she said. “She left a legacy of love behind. You couldn’t find a sweeter person, and the gift of having a family legacy of being in church and being in the Word — I recognize what a gift that is.”

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Claudia Johnson recently decided to place a brick in Towry’s memory in WMU’s new Walk of Faith brick garden. For more information about the Walk of Faith or to purchase a brick in someone’s memory or honor, visit wmufoundation.com/walkoffaith.

Generational Missions Discipleship: A Future to Fulfill

Written by Allison Turner.

Your investment matters.

How do I know it matters? How can I say this with absolute certainty?

Allow me to introduce you to a baby girl: born in 1988.

Her first WMU meeting was the Centennial meeting of WMU emphasizing: A Century to Celebrate, A Future to Fulfill.

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Of course, at 3-months-old there wasn’t much celebration or understanding; but the investments started to be made in her life. Women came alongside her godly parents and poured a deep-rooted passion dripping with love for the nations into their child’s life.

That child was me. Your investment matters.

My first WMU meeting certainly wasn’t my last. Since that time, I have had the honor and privilege of serving WMU on many levels and have seen the absolute treasure that comes in the form of women across the world who pray, give, and go.

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The prayer warriors WMU produces are unmatched. I have been blessed beyond measure to be raised by a mother and grandmother who have proved that to me. Melvadeen Friday and Denise Henderson poured their lives out for the sake of God’s work among the nations through our missionaries. Tears have been shed and countless hours of sleep have been lost for the sake of furthering His kingdom. And the beauty is: they are not alone.

We may never know how many men and women pick up their Missions Mosaic every day and weep over the lives and struggles of our missionaries serving (even those whose names we cannot know).

My brothers and I always knew that if the door was closed in the Florida room at home, it was God’s time. (And you don’t disturb God while Mama is talking to Him!) This wasn’t sporadic. Every single day Mama was faithful to invest in the lives of missionaries and those they would be serving through her prayers.

It was easy to develop a love for missionaries with this upbringing. I prayed all my life for opportunities to go and serve alongside these missionaries I’d been taught to love so well. I tried to go to different places—China, Russia, Swaziland, the list goes on—but none ever came to fruition. I was always left stateside praying for those who went.

Then, the opportunity came this year. This year, I got to go on the most special trip imaginable for a WMU baby like me. I had a few opportunities to go out into a lost nation and serve. But the main point of our trip was to serve missionaries. I was able to go with a small team on a 27-hour flight to bring a women’s retreat to 40 IMB missionaries. These beautiful servants I’d been praying for since I learned how to pray. I would get to serve them! And I cannot fully explain the absolute joy I experienced in those few days filled with laughter, tears, and new friendships that will certainly last a lifetime.

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Because I of the investment of WMU women instilling in me a passion for those who serve on our frontlines, I was able to pray for these women missionaries serving in hard places. I was able to listen to their stories and share them with others who will pray.

Specifically, because of the investment of my grandmother, Melvadeen, and my mother, Denise, the trajectory of my life has been set towards missions. Missions here, missions abroad, missions everywhere I go.

To the young mother who is exhausted and trying to sneak in quality time with God: those babies are watching. Let them know He’s important.

To the businesswoman rushing around to meet deadlines: your co-workers see you. Let them see God’s love in you.

To the retiree feeling like your purpose has been fulfilled: someone is waiting for you to speak life to them. Let those who come behind you find you faithful.

Your investment matters.

Did a mother or grandmother pour their missions heart into your life? Honor them or their memory through the Walk of Faith.