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I have always been a little bit on the…how do I put this…dramatic side. Growing up, I was always jumping, dancing, singing, and storytelling. I’m not much different as an adult. I feel big and I talk big. I have somehow found myself in the public domain, writing for a living and sharing my strong feelings and dramatic life events with others. This is kind of a dream job for me.
My life is lived out loud, and I’ve been told I have a voice of influence. But when I think of influence, a much different picture comes to mind. I envision a cold January night. I had been tossing, turning, praying, and blogging. My life had been turned upside down by a chain of events and I had never felt so helpless or desperate. After a day filled with legal battles and angry tears, sleep just wouldn’t come. I stumbled into the dark kitchen of my parents’ house, and there she was: my mother. Sitting in the dark, head bowed, praying for me. A silent warrior, storming the gates on my behalf.
My mother never has liked the spotlight. She would much rather serve behind the scenes than have all eyes on her. She’s quiet and soft spoken; steady and strong. While I blog about things like what it means to lay down your life, she consistently lives a life of service. And the Internet does not praise her. There are no “like” buttons for months of bedside palliative care or nights slept on the floor beside a sick child. There are no comments sections for the hours spent on her knees, petitioning the Father for the hearts of her children. She has no audience. And yet, she serves. She prays. And she does so with joy.
Have I been given influence? Maybe. But my impact will never exceed the quiet, fixed influence of my mother—whispering fervent prayers at one a.m. Wiping fevered foreheads. Laying her life down for others again and again and again, and telling not a soul about it. Her quiet strength behind the scenes gives me courage to be strong in the public sphere. Her steady love for me makes me brave in vulnerability. Her joy in suffering gives me hope in the midst of my own pain.
I may speak to the masses, but her life has spoken profoundly to my one soul. When I grow up, I want to be just like her.
To honor the mom in your life, be a part of the WMU Foundation's Give 34 Challenge to honor the most influential woman in your life.
Jenn B says one day she will get to put her passion on a plane and go on a “real live mission trip.”
Until then, her love of missions is in her vehicle. And, she said, it’s in her heart, her life, and her family.
Jenn, who serves as communications coordinator for North Carolina Woman’s Missionary Union, spends her days raising and homeschooling her three children ages 9, 6, and 3. She does a lot of her work after their bedtime. And when she has events and ministry during the day, the kids go too.
“I’ve had to learn and God has affirmed that they are my mission field right now,” Jenn said. “I want to expose them to the missions opportunities that are available in our community. I believe missions is not just a project but a way of life.”
And that intentionality is something she wants to pass on to them—and to others—as best as and as often as she can, she said.
“Teaching Mission Friends when I was in high school—that’s when I was first exposed to WMU, and it nurtured my love of teaching,” said Jenn, who went on to get a degree in elementary education.
That initial contact with WMU “really spearheaded a love for missions for me too and gave me a desire to teach it in a way that’s tangible and engaging,” she said.
And it was a woman with WMU who “saw a passion and a desire in me to encourage other women, and she took me under her wing and nurtured that,” Jenn said. “It’s amazing how it’s grown since then thanks to her mentorship.”
WMU is a fantastic way to encourage more seasoned women to invest in the lives of younger women and grow in them a passion for reaching the world, she said. It’s also got fantastic curriculum to engage even young children in God’s heart for the world, she said.
“The heart of WMU is missions, and it encourages people to live intentionally, regardless of age,” Jenn said. “As my children see the things I do and are a part of WMU it becomes the thing you’re doing, the way you live, not just an organization.”
She’s not only teaching that perspective—she’s living it.
When she, her husband and children moved into a new community recently, she began noticing a group of homeless people hanging out in the lot across from the bank.
“I felt a nudging to ask the teller about them, and I told her I wanted to be able to do something for them through the appropriate outlet,” Jenn said.
As I turns out, the teller’s church ran a ministry to the homeless that Jenn and her kids could get involved in.
“So many times we just turn our head, but we were able to have that conversation and follow it up with ministry as the Spirit was leading,” she said. “I don’t want them to think that missions is just having to go somewhere—it’s every day of our lives.”
Jenn said she saw the Holy Spirit leading again in her oldest son this past Christmas, when he began to sort through his toys on his own and find some to give away to children in need.
“We have encouraged them to do this for a few years, and this year he initiated it on his own,” Jenn said. “He said, ‘These are things I want other boys and girls to have,’ and I thought, ‘OK, you’re beginning to get it. It’s not a begrudgingly done act but an intentional effort of trying to meet that need. We want to help others catch that vision.”
During the Week of Prayer in December, Jenn sat down with her children each day, read through the missionary story of the day and watched the corresponding video online.
“The family in Norway talked about their children and how they nurture relationships in their community,” she said. “It was really exciting for my kids to see how those children were involved in missions.”
WMU curriculum has so many tangible things that children can grab hold of, Jenn said. For instance, as a result of some creative learning, her 6 year old “fell in love” with missionary Amy Carmichael, she said.
“It makes a lasting impact and they remember,” Jenn said. “We want to share that and get others excited about it. It’s making a difference.”
As the Smoky Mountain resort towns of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge continue to recover from devastating wildfires, a $5,000 HEART (Humanitarian Emergency Aid for Rebuilding Tomorrow) Fund grant from the national Woman’s Missionary Union and the WMU Foundation will assist artisans and other workers struggling due to the decline in tourism.
The wildfires that swept through the Smoky Mountain region in late November and early December 2016 came at the beginning of the busy Christmas tourist season. As a result, many who make their living in arts and crafts, service, retail, and other tourism-related enterprises lost their homes and jobs.
The needs of these workers are still great, said Vickie Anderson, executive director of Tennessee WMU.
“The decline in tourism is causing reduced hours, layoffs, and loss of jobs. Also, a lower income housing shortage in Gatlinburg has gotten worse since the wildfires, which means that many workers are having to relocate to Pigeon Forge and beyond,” Anderson said.
Many of the workers did not have cars because they could walk to work from their homes in Gatlinburg. Others lost their cars in the fires. The lack of reliable transportation coupled with the housing shortage has resulted in increased homelessness in the area.
“The homeless population is growing because monthly costs in housing and transportation are increasing drastically for so many,” Anderson said.
Those most affected are people who work in hotels, restaurants, entertainment attractions, and shops. Gatlinburg businesses employ many temporary and international guest workers who are ineligible for other forms of assistance.
The HEART Fund grant will be distributed through Smoky Mountain Resort Ministries (SMRM) to help workers with transportation, housing, and transitional needs as they rebuild their lives after the fires. As “boots on the ground” in Gatlinburg, SMRM personnel are ministering through the relationships they have developed through many years of faithful service, Anderson said.
A $5,000 HEART Fund grant awarded in December 2016 allowed SMRM volunteers to give out gift cards to help fire victims with immediate needs. However, relief funds have slowed dramatically since the beginning of the year, said SMRM director Bill Black.
“Our income has almost stopped in terms of money for helping those affected by the fires, but the needs have not stopped,” Black said. “We remain deep in this holy and painfully beautiful fire ministry.”
The HEART Fund was created in response to September 11, 2001. Grants allow Christians to provide relief and rebuilding assistance as they minister to disaster victims in the United States and around the world.
The WMU Foundation is accepting donations to the HEART Fund for disaster relief online or by mail to WMU Foundation HEART Fund, 100 Missionary Ridge, Birmingham, AL 35242.