Equipped for His Service

Gloria Thurman and her husband, Thom, served as missionaries in Bangladesh for 33 years. The WMU Foundation spoke with Gloria as she recalled how God worked in the midst of illness and impossible circumstances to allow them to share Christ’s love.

WMUF: God allowed you to identify with the people of Bangladesh in a lot of ways. Part of your story also involves a bout with leprosy, doesn’t it?

GLORIA: Yes, it does. When David was almost a year old, I noticed a little dime-sized spot on my left leg that looked like ringworm. We thought it might be leprosy, and the doctor confirmed it. But we felt God’s hand on us. It touched the people that I had gotten “their” disease — I was one of them now. With medication, in time it went away.

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WMUF: As you look back on what God has done, what would you say to young women who are trying to figure out how God wants them to respond to the Great Commission?

GLORIA: Be willing to take a risk. God doesn’t want us to be foolish, but He has given us the courage and wisdom to be obedient to His will. Seek out God’s heart for where He wants you and give Him all of your life plans. And be willing to take that first step. So often we think we have to know where the road is going or where it will end, but God leads us one step at a time.

WMUF: What is your advice for older women who might feel that they are past their prime as far as ministry goes?

GLORIA: In most areas, age has its positives. In Bangladesh for example, if someone older is willing to come share with the people there, they are quick to think, “Let’s see what they have to offer.” You’re never too old to find your place. There are hospitals, there are boarding schools and there are orphanages full of babies who need someone to rock them. There is a place for every one of us. God is not finished with us yet. As long as we have breath, there’s hope to do more if we’re willing.

The Second Century Fund provides support for women seeking to develop their missions leadership potential. Your gift helps women in the United States and around the world. 

A PAGE FROM THE PAST

Hephzibah Jenkins Townsend grew up in the late 1700s on Edisto Island, South Carolina. She heard about Polly Webb’s missionary society in Boston and organized her own group. Hephzibah was creative and bold, starting a baking business to raise money for missions. Though women had few rights or freedoms during this time in history, Hephzibah never let that stop her from using what God had given her to fulfill her role in the Great Commission.  

Adapted from We've A Story to Tell: 125 Years of WMU by Rosalie Hunt

Equipped for His Service

Gloria Thurman knew how to kill a chicken before she and her husband, Thom, ever got to Bangladesh in 1965. Their rural upbringing — her in Alabama, him in Mississippi — “prepared us to be equipped to do what God called us to do,” she said. In their 33 years in the South Asian country, they saw God do a work bigger than anything they could have ever imagined. Recently, she shared her story with WMU.

When did you feel the call to missions?

As a sophomore in high school, I knew the Lord wanted me to do something special in His service. Then while I was at Troy State College (now Troy University), I worked in the dining hall alongside five men from Muslim countries. I shared with them and tried to help them understand English. As I listened to them talk about their family members back home, God placed a burden on my heart for the Muslim world. When I was a junior, I surrendered to go wherever God led me.

What led you to Bangladesh?

Soon after I committed to missions, I met my husband, Thom. He was committed to missions too, but he felt God was calling him to India. So we decided to see if God led in that direction. We told the Foreign Mission Board that we wanted to go to India, but they didn’t have any work in that country at that time. They asked if we would consider East Pakistan, which is now Bangladesh, and we said yes.

When we got there, we saw immediately that God had prepared us for it. It was a very poor, rural country, and both Thom and I had grown up in rural areas. My grandmother had taught me how to can and preserve foods and also kill a chicken. We found that a lot of times in Bangladesh we had to carry water from wells, and most of the people around us grew the food that they ate. We understood that kind of life. They took us in and made us part of their family.

Next month, Gloria shares how God used leprosy to open the hearts of the people they served, and she shares her advice for women of all ages responding to God’s call.

Support women’s leadership development with your gift to the WMU Foundation Second Century Fund.

A Page from the Past

Born in 1779, Polly Webb had a passion for women helping share the gospel with those who had never heard. She gathered her friends in her home to sew, and they used their handcrafted goods to raise money for missions. The Boston Female Society for Missionary Purposes was the first woman’s missionary society, and they raised funds to support missionaries in India. Polly Webb, confined to a wheelchair since age 5, not only organized this first group, but she also wrote thousands of letters urging others to help. God placed a passion for the Great Commission in Polly Webb’s heart, and He equipped her in a special way to fulfill His call. Polly not only organized her own group, she also prompted 20 more groups to organize during the early 1800s.

Adapted from We’ve a Story to Tell: 125 Years of WMU by Rosalie Hunt.

What's In Your Trunk? [The Gifts He Has Given]

THIS ARTICLE IS A PART OF A SERIES CALLED "WHAT'S IN YOUR TRUNK?" AS A PART OF THE LOTTIE COOKIE PROJECT BASED ON WHEN LOTTIE MOON LEFT TO DO MISSION WORK IN CHINA. SHE PACKED HER BELONGINGS IN A LARGE TRUNK INCLUDING CLOTHES, SHOES, AND PAPER FOR WRITING LETTERS. SHE ALSO PACKED HER FAMOUS TEA CAKE RECIPE, WHICH HELPED HER BUILD RELATIONSHIPS WITH HER NEIGHBORS AND SHARE THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST WITH THEM. YOU CAN READ THE STORY OF LOTTIE'S TRUNK HERE. WE ASKED WRITERS WHAT THEY WOULD PUT IN THEIR METAPHORICAL TRUNK IN ORDER TO SHARE THE GOSPEL AND THIS WAS THEIR RESPONSE:

Recently I attended an event with lots of games. In one of the games, the announcer called out an item. You had to be the first to find that item in your purse or your pockets.

The game started off easy. Find a blue pen. Find a phone charger. Then the items started getting harder and harder. By the end of the game, people had produced some pretty amazing things from their purses/pockets – Tabasco sauce, super glue, an eyelash curler, a jar of peanut butter, a swimsuit (it wasn’t summer).

It’s interesting what we chose to carry with us. I assume the Tabasco wielding woman wanted to be prepared for a meal where she might need to add a little spice.

We all carry different items with us in our purses or pockets because we’re all going different places. We’re all preparing for different experiences.

God has uniquely gifted each one of us. In His infinite creativity, He’s made each one of us with different backgrounds and experiences, a variety of talents and interests, and a unique set of circumstances. And He’s given us all of these things so that we might love Him with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind, and love our neighbors as ourselves.

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In a sense, God has packed our bags with exactly what we need. He’s prepared us with unique items that will help us love our neighbors and share the love of Jesus with those around us.

The gifts He’s given us might seem odd, like carrying a swimsuit in winter. The gifts He’s given us might not seem special or fun or worth talking about. Sometimes it’s a painful experience that allows you to connect with another person. Maybe you’ve failed or embarrassed yourself, but that’s the thing that gives you the opportunity to show love to someone else.

All of the things that make you, you – the good, the bad, the painful, the joyful, the talents, the failures – those are the things God’s packed in your bag. Those are the unique and special things that prepare you to love your neighbor.

In Romans 12:6, The Message version says, “Let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t.”

Maybe you feel like you’re not gifted or special or talented. Maybe you feel like the ways you love your neighbor are insignificant. Well, the Bible says otherwise. You don’t have to be something you aren’t. You don’t have to wish you had someone else’s purse or pockets.

Go ahead and be what you were made to be. Don’t worry about trying to be something you aren’t. Look in your own, unique purse (or pockets!). Celebrate what you see. These are your gifts, perfect for loving your God and loving your neighbor.

Written by Candice Lee, Marketing Director for the WMU Foundation. 

What's Your Why?

Why are you involved in WMU? What first drew you in? I can’t tell you my why without introducing you to a couple of my friends.

The first time I met my friend Judith, she gave me a big hug. I felt welcomed and accepted by her before I really even knew her. Judith lets me call her Naana, the Navajo word for grandmother. She was a missionary in New Mexico for years, and she tells the best stories.

Judith is a bit “spirited”. She’s not exactly what I would call a rule follower. The truth is, she treats every single person she meets as if the most important thing about them is that they are created and loved by God. Everything else is secondary.  If she breaks a few rules in the process, I don’t think she cares.

Judith is the one most likely to show love to the outcast. If you don’t have your life together, Judith is the one who will sit beside you. When you are unlovable and struggling, Judith doesn’t just point you to Jesus. She will walk with you until you get to Him.

My friend Courtney has a lot in common with Judith. She’s kind, funny, loving, and she doesn’t care about appearances. Like Judith, she will break the rules if that’s what it takes to love her neighbor.

Courtney is drawn to the people who are most likely to be forgotten in society. She goes out of her way to love the poor, the refugee, the trafficking victim, the abused. If you sit and talk with her, she will always steer the conversation in the direction of Christ’s love.

These two women epitomize WMU to me. They are both, first and foremost, disciples of Jesus. They take the Great Commission personally and seriously. They fulfill it in different ways, but they both live their lives in a way that plainly and boldly points directly to Jesus.

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My friends are like the women in WMU’s early history. They love Jesus more than they love status or privilege. They value Jesus’ love more than the opinions of others, and they aren’t afraid to break the rules.

Why am I involved in WMU? Because women like Judith and Courtney welcome me and accept me. They are my family, my community. I see the way they constantly look for ways to love people the way Jesus did, and I’m drawn to that. They help me see Christ. They help me know how to be more like Him.

What’s your why? Join the WMU Foundation on social media during the month of December as we discuss our why. If you’re not on social media, write to us and tell us why you or your WMU group is involved in WMU. We may use your response in an upcoming article or feature it on social media.

Written by Candice Lee, Marketing Director for the WMU Foundation.