Arab Woman Today leader Abbassi named O’Brien Award recipient

Ruba Abbassi, CEO of the Jordan-based ministry Arab Woman Today (AWT), is the recipient of this year’s Dellanna West O'Brien Award for Women's Leadership Development.

 Sandy Wisdom-Martin, Ruba Abbassi, Candice Lee, and Melanie VanLaningham celebrate the O’Brien Award for Women’s Leadership Development.

Sandy Wisdom-Martin, Ruba Abbassi, Candice Lee, and Melanie VanLaningham celebrate the O’Brien Award for Women’s Leadership Development.

Abbassi was honored during national Woman’s Missionary Union’s annual missions celebration June 10 in Dallas.

The O’Brien Award, named in honor of former WMU executive director Dellanna West O’Brien, has been given annually since 1998 to recognize Baptist women who lead well and foster leadership potential in others.

Abbassi’s work through AWT, which spans the world’s 22 Arabic-speaking countries, has been going nearly as long as the award. In 1999, Abbassi began developing the organization with radio, television and online ministries as well as community programs to develop women as Christian leaders in the Muslim world.

The work has been going strong ever since.

“It takes a committed leader to develop and equip other leaders, and Ruba is an exemplary model of such ripple-effect leadership,” said Melanie Van Laningham of Birmingham, Alabama, who nominated Abbassi for the award. “She does not shy away from the hardships that come with being a woman leader in the Arab world. In fact, she — in her quiet strength — walks through the obstacles with Christ-like grace, determination and persistence.”

Abbassi “is a remarkable woman and a mentor to many,” said Cindy Walker, WMU director at First Baptist Church of Minden, Louisiana. She also noted that Abbassi had implemented a “phenomenal” program to reach out to Syrian refugees.

Abbassi chronicled the challenges facing Arab women — and the hope offered to them in Christ — in her book, “The Arab Woman: Embracing Her Potential.” She also regularly shares with church and mission groups in the U.S.

Cindy Townsend, minister of WMU and women’s enrichment ministry at First Baptist Church of Jackson, Mississippi, said Abbassi fulfills her role with “a servant heart and out of a passion to be on mission in her world every day.”

The O’Brien Award comes with a $2,500 grant from the WMU Foundation that will go to further Abbassi’s discipleship of Arab women around the globe.

For more information about Abbassi’s ministry, visit accts-awt.com.

A Brick in the Path

Can you imagine those women who gathered in 1888? Just a few years before, the Civil War had torn the country apart and most families had experienced devastating loss. These women didn’t have the right to vote and had very little independence at all.

Still, they gathered in Richmond, God calling them as Christian women to take an active part in the Great Commission. Some were fearful and uncertain, but all were committed to being part of God’s mission.

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Had these women not come together that day with the boldness to begin a new missions organization, WMU might not exist today. These women were not trying to become famous, they were simply responding to God’s invitation to tell all nations and all people about Jesus. Had they not paved the way, those of us who have been influenced by WMU might not be who we are today.  

God has designed a pathway leading us to wholeness and redemption through Christ, and each one of us is a brick in that path. We walk on the bricks of those who came before us, like those women who gathered in Richmond in 1888. Those who come behind us will walk on our bricks as they journey towards God’s plan for their own lives.

How beautiful is it to imagine God placing you into the perfect spot on the path? In His overall design, He knows exactly where you belong. He knows that each brick in the path depends on all of the other bricks because no great structure is built with a single brick.

WMU and the WMU Foundation are honoring those who have invested their lives in missions on national WMU’s Walk of Faith. This new honor/memorial garden recognizes those who are part of the WMU missions community, past and present. A special place has been reserved for the Walk of Faith at WMU on New Hope Mountain in Birmingham, AL.

When you purchase a brick for the Walk of Faith, 100% of your gift meets the needs of WMU through the Wanda Lee Joy Fund. These gifts are tax deductible.

Visit wmu.com/WalkofFaith to place your order online, or email wmufoundation@wmu.org to request more information by mail.

Empty Space

I’m a notorious over-packer. As an experienced traveler, one might presume I’m an efficient packer. On the contrary, I fill every last crevice of every bag with things I might need.

When Lottie Moon sailed for China, she packed her recipe for tea cakes in her trunk. Those treats provided countless opportunities for Lottie to share the love of Christ with those in her new country.

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If I were packing a trunk as Lottie did, filling it with ways God might use me to share the love of Christ with others, I wouldn’t fill every crevice of that trunk until it was bursting at the seams. I would leave empty space because that’s where I see God at work through me—in the moments of space I can offer to those around me simply through presence.

My daughter and I were at the mall recently, hurrying to shop then rush home for dinner. A woman working in the store began a conversation, and a voice in my head was telling me to rush through this encounter. But another voice was telling me to pause.

We soon learned that her husband of many years passed away recently. She talked about how hard it had been, how his inability to work in recent months is what led her to work in this department store.

We stood in the sacred space we allowed to open in that moment on a Thursday night in a store with a woman we’re likely to never see again. We allowed space for her to enter our evening. We were present in that pause.

People need to know that God is present and loves them. One way God communicates to those around us is through our willingness to slow down and pay attention, to offer space, a quiet, safe place to share burdens.

A recipe for tea cakes likely would not be in my trunk. But there would be plenty of carefully protected space in my trunk for God to use as He desires.

The WMU Foundation invests in women who have a passion to be missions leaders. Support women’s leadership development with your gift to the WMU Foundation Second Century Fund.

Give online or by mail to the WMU Foundation SCF, 100 Missionary Ridge, Birmingham, AL 35242.

Written by Kym Mitchell, national WMU's editor for the Student Resource Team.

Ordinary Woman, Extraordinary Investment

It’s been about 40 years since Sandy Wisdom-Martin got to know Ruth King in the small town of Marissa, Illinois.

But she’ll never lose the mental image of the small lady protecting her from snarling dogs.

“I was afraid of dogs,” said Wisdom-Martin, who was a teenager back when she used to walk through town with King on Wednesday nights. “Before Bible study, she and I would go out into the community together and invite people to church, and the dogs would chase us. She had to protect me.”

But even though that memory stuck, something else stuck with Wisdom-Martin even more, she said.

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“As we walked around town, she taught me how to witness,” Wisdom-Martin said. “She became a role model for me. She taught me about missions, and as a teenager, my worldview changed completely because of her. She showed me that there was a world beyond my tiny rural community.”

In Wisdom-Martin’s eyes, King brought the world to the small Illinois town when her husband became the bivocational pastor there.

But King said she wasn’t doing anything extraordinary — she was just doing what God had called her to do.

“I had been an Acteens leader in the church we had come from, and they had no Acteens in Sandy’s church,” she said.

So King started an Acteens group with just her daughter and Wisdom-Martin. About a year later, another girl joined them.

And King poured her life into the tiny group of girls.

“I felt like God sent us there, but I never did anything special in particular,” she said. “God just gave us the blessing of having worked with Sandy. She was already ready to respond to the call; I was just grateful for the opportunity to have been a part of her life.”

It’s been decades since the two saw each other, but when Wisdom-Martin was named executive director of Woman’s Missionary Union in 2016, King saw the news and sent her a letter congratulating her.

“I’m thrilled for her,” King said. “I know God has used her greatly, and I can’t imagine what He has before her still to do.”

But Wisdom-Martin says King is the one God has used greatly.

“I do believe that her starting Acteens changed the course of my life,” she said. “She faithfully met with the few girls who gathered. She helped me see the vast world beyond my rural county through God's eyes. Her efforts enabled me to understand I have a part in God's plan.”

Not only that — King taught her how to study the Bible. She taught everyone, Wisdom-Martin said.

“There was a time when she was the Wednesday night Bible study leader, and she taught us how to methodically and systematically read the Bible,” Wisdom-Martin said.

It made an impression — King was “one of the most powerful discipling influences in my life,” Wisdom-Martin said. “She’s a person who made disciples who made disciples. She was passionate about spending time with God, and she passed that passion on to others.”

This article was featured in the April 2018 issue of Missions Mosaic