Learning to Lead Through WMU

Judith Edwards wasn’t afraid to say it — WMU wasn’t for her.

“When I got to seminary, a couple of friends and I decided WMU was outdated and we weren’t going to be involved,” she said.

But people just wouldn’t stop inviting her to go to the Woman’s Missionary Union meeting on campus, so finally she and a friend decided to go — and the unexpected happened.

“We fell in love with it,” Judith says.

And now, looking back, she says she realizes that if it hadn’t have been for WMU, her entire life would have been different.

“I say WMU is my mother, because God has used WMU as the channel through which He’s done so many things in my life,” she said.

It started when Judith was 5 years old, a Sunbeam in pigtails, soaking up the stories of missionaries before she’d ever even heard of WMU.

“It was right there listening to a missionary from China that I heard God’s call to missions, even as a young girl,” she says.

About 10 years later, after she had been through the Girls in Action program too, she made that call public. One Sunday during church, she stopped playing the piano halfway through the offertory hymn, left the congregation singing a cappella and walked down the aisle to “Trust and Obey.”

A little later, she got married, went to seminary and met the organization that had brought that missionary from China to her as a young girl.

“That first night we went to that WMU meeting at seminary, everybody was leaving, their husbands were graduating. I was elected program chairman, president and director,” Judith said, laughing. Her friend who went with her was elected to every other available position.

“It turned out to be the most unexpected training ground for me and was better than any leadership class I took, just getting in there and doing it,” Judith said. “WMU is how I learned to lead and speak. I really didn’t know how to do those things before.”

After seminary, Judith and her husband Dalton moved to New Mexico to become missionaries to the Navajo. After about 14 years, they moved to Albuquerque and started an ethnic leadership development program, training up leaders among the deaf community as well as among the Hispanic, Korean and Native American populations.

They’ve kept it going with the Dalton and Judith Edwards Endowment through the WMU Foundation.

“I’m thrilled and honored to have that — people have given graciously,” she said. “We launched that program, and it’s still going strong. My husband trained pastors, and I trained wives and taught piano lessons.”

Judith also began writing WMU materials along the way — GA and Acteens curriculum, books, magazine articles — and eventually became a state WMU president, a director on the board of the WMU Foundation and held a position on the national WMU staff.

“So much of our missions work was in the training area. For all of it, I give God the glory, and I give WMU the credit for giving me skills and the opportunities to use them,” Judith said. “Just about everything about me is missions.”

To prove it, she’s got a small dog named Lottie Moon, after the pioneering missionary to China.

“We have such a legacy of missions, and we have to keep that going,” she said, noting that it’s vital to pass the training she and others received on to the next generation.

“This is how missions will live on — we have to tell them,” Judith said. “If I’d been in a position where there was no missions education, no training for women missions leaders, my life would’ve been totally different. It’s about becoming equipped to do what God has called you to do, and WMU is such a good channel for that.”

This article first appeared in the March 2017 issue of Missions Mosaic