Girls in Action

Legacy of Service: the Story of Doris Ragan

When Doris Ragan died last year at 97, she left behind fifty years’ worth of travel journals.

And when her sons and daughter found them, they got out a big map and started sticking pins in every country she’d been to.

“It was at least sixty, and at least half of those were missions trips,” said her daughter, Angela Sloan. “She was a ‘go, go, go’ kind of person. She never dwelt on the past—she was always looking forward to the future.”

That’s the legacy Doris left at her church—First Baptist Church of Tavares, Florida—as well as in the community around her. She taught Sunday school, was director of WMU, led Girls in Action, played the piano at church, directed the choir when needed, and insisted on a cut-flower arrangement every Sunday in the church.

Doris’ daughter explained, “My mom is 3rd row far right if you count the row with the crown bearers. I am in the middle with my brother, Randy, in front. Carolyn Weatherford was there to give me the scepter.”

Doris’ daughter explained, “My mom is 3rd row far right if you count the row with the crown bearers. I am in the middle with my brother, Randy, in front. Carolyn Weatherford was there to give me the scepter.”

And she loved missions, said Ann Fortenberry, a fellow church member. “She was a wonderful lady—a real go-getter,” Ann said.

Doris invested in WMU for a reason—she believed in its work, and it spurred her on. After she read a missions study on Japan, she visited the country twice. She once felt such a burden for an orphanage in Egypt that she spent a month serving there.

And up until recently, she was still going on missions trips, standing out in the hot sun to help people in need all day long—and outlasting people half her age without so much as a complaint.

“Mom was very feisty,” Angela said. “We couldn’t stop her, so we just let her go until she was ready to stop.”

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Doris’ grandson, Jonathan Sloan, said one of the places her zest for life showed was in her garden.

“She was a master gardener and had amazing exotic plants in her backyard—many she took from her travels,” he said. “She knew every plant by its scientific name and also created more than two hundred flower arrangements a year for public libraries, civic receptions, and shut-ins.”

She nurtured flowers, and she nurtured everyone around her, Jonathan said. She spent more than five hundred hours every year serving the community. The city of Tavares declared “Doris Ragan Day” on two separate occasions. The mayor called her the “ultimate community volunteer.”

Jonathan said his Nana didn’t think what she did was anything out of the ordinary. He said when she was asked about it, she simply said, “Jesus was a servant. He was the one who washed the feet of His disciples. While we’re here on this earth, I believe we’re here to serve.”

Because of her legacy of service, her WMU group purchased a brick in her name for the Walk of Faith at national WMU headquarters in Birmingham, Alabama. Their gift honors the memory of Doris’ passion for missions and invests in the future of WMU’s ministry.

“She was a special person, someone who never stopped going and giving,” Ann said.

For more information about how to honor a past or present missions hero on the Walk of Faith, visit wmufoundation.com/walkoffaith.

A ‘Missions Hero’ Who Pushed Others to Use Their Gifts

When Martha Pitts was a young girl, Mary Quick talked her into going with her to an associational Girls in Action (GA) meeting. Quick asked her if she would say the prayer there.

Pitts assumed it would be a small group.

“I said I would do it. I was probably 10 or 11 years old,” Pitts said. “And we went to this church and it was full of GAs. There were probably 300 GAs in this small church, and I realized I was supposed to get up on stage behind the podium and say the prayer.”

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She panicked a little.

“But Mrs. Quick pushed me on up there,” she said, “and I don’t have a clue what I said or how it was, but ever since then I have never had a fear of talking in front of people.”

And Pitts, now president of Tennessee WMU, said Quick probably had no idea how life changing that moment was for her.

“There are a lot of things I don’t remember from when I was younger, but that experience stuck with me,” she said. “It was one of those encouragements that changes you. I feel like WMU has a niche in that, in helping you develop your skills.”

Quick did that for girl after girl at Whitehaven Baptist Church, hundreds of GAs who grew up through the ranks and were introduced to Quick’s love of missions.

“I loved GAs because of her,” Pitts said. She remembers the coronation services, giant celebrations for girls who had completed their steps. And she remembers as Quick got older and there were fewer GAs doing the work, she kept urging them to persevere.

“She kept after the girls, saying, ‘Come on, you can do it.’ She was an encourager,” Pitts said.

One of Pitts’ fondest memories is the first time Quick introduced her to a missionary who was home on furlough from Indonesia.

“Mrs. Quick didn’t just introduce us to her — she had us hyped up,” Pitts said. “She told the story of who she was and how important her work was, and then we walked down to the pastor’s office and sat around with her and talked.”

Pitts said it was like meeting a star.

“Mrs. Quick just had such honor for missionaries, and she wanted to pass that on,” she said.

It connected the dots for Pitts that missionaries were special people, but they were also real people — a lesson that stayed with her for life.

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It’s because of those moments that Pitts recently honored Quick by purchasing a brick in her memory for the Walk of Faith at WMU headquarters on Missionary Ridge in Birmingham.

“She probably didn't realize when she made me pray in front of the church or allowed me to meet a missionary that it would mold my life,” Pitts said. “By her teaching us Scripture and then showing us how to put action to the words, I learned to pray, give and go.”

One hundred percent of each brick purchase helps meet the needs of WMU. Learn more at wmufoundation.com/walkoffaith or call (205) 408-5525 for more information.

I Hope To Be a Helen Lee

Connie Dixon says that if you had met her back in 1994, she wouldn’t have looked you in the eye.

“I was painfully shy,” she said. “I rarely had anything to say. Let’s just say I was a mess. The absolute last thing I was ever going to be was a leader.”

But Helen Lee Lambirth could not have disagreed more. Lambirth, a single schoolteacher, had moved to New Mexico from the East Coast. She had a good eye for potential, and she saw it in Dixon.

Lambirth “also had a personality that was hard to say no to,” Dixon said. “In fact, over the 40-plus years that I knew her, I never remember anyone telling her no.”

That’s what got Dixon to Birmingham, Alabama, for the National Acteens Conference (NAC) back in 1994 — Lambirth’s refusal to take no for an answer.

“She started talking to me about going to the conference with my then 13-year-old daughter,” Dixon said with a laugh. “Sorry, but no part of that sounded fun — a 24-hour bus ride with 36 teenage girls in July in the South.” But Dixon went, and it changed her life.

Soon after, Lambirth, who served as Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) president for New Mexico, took Dixon with her to WMU Week at Glorieta Baptist Conference Center.

“I have laughed often about that week. I went to her conference and was the only attendee. That was way more attention than I wanted.”

But that focused attention and push to be more involved set Dixon on a course. Not long after that trip, she became the Acteens consultant for her local Eastern Baptist Association. Within the year, she was the state consultant, a role she served in for more than 12 years.

Then when Lambirth passed away, Dixon was nominated for the position she had left vacant — state WMU president.

“I never would’ve imagined that would happen,” she said.

Lambirth’s influence gave Dixon a push to do something else, too — Dixon went on several missions trips overseas to places she never dreamed she would go, places she had seen in Lambirth’s slideshows.

“She had a way of speaking about missions that just brought it to life and could get you so excited,” Dixon said of her mentor, who taught GAs for more than 30 years at First Baptist Church, Elida, New Mexico, and served 10 years as state WMU president.

All of that influence is why Dixon recently honored Lambirth with a memorial brick in WMU’s new Walk of Faith brick garden. The walk, built on New Hope Mountain in Birmingham, recognizes missions heroes past and present.

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“I will never know what she saw in me that convinced her that I was worth pouring into, but I thank God every day that she came into my life,” Dixon said. “I only hope and pray that I can be a Helen Lee to someone.”

You can honor a missions mentor or add the name of your missions group to a brick that will be laid at the national WMU building in Birmingham, Alabama. 100% of your gift helps meet the needs of WMU. Call (205) 408-5525 or visit wmufoundation.com/walkoffaith for more information.

Long-Term Investments: The Payoff of Missions Education

Written by Kelly King, Women’s Ministry Specialist at LifeWay Christian Resources.

I’m not an expert at financial planning, but I learned some simple investment principles when I began working at a financial institution full-time right after college.

Invest early. Save consistently. Reap rewards later. Time is your friend.

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These simple principles were great advice for financial help, but I also saw these principles displayed in the life of one of my mission mentors. Othella Thompson was my next-door neighbor from the time I was born until my family moved when I was in fourth grade. She and her husband Bill raised three boys in the home where she lived until she passed away a year ago at the age of 81.

While she never mentioned wanting a daughter, Mrs. Thompson taught my Girls in Action (GA) class at the small church plant where my family attended and where I came to know the Lord. Our church rarely broke the 100 mark in attendance, but Mrs. Thompson faithfully taught our GA class during my early grade school years. Occasionally, she sang solos in the worship service and her shrill soprano voice was a source of suppressed giggles among my friends and me.

For the most part, I was a fairly compliant child and loved learning about Jesus. Those early years learning about missions and missionaries were foundational stones that shaped my heart and made me tender towards others who sacrificed so others could hear the gospel.

Unfortunately, Mrs. Thompson didn’t always see how I was being shaped. For some reason, every Wednesday evening, I gave Mrs. Thompson trouble. I was a bit sassy and a bit of a know-it-all. Some people might say some things haven’t changed, but I always seemed a bit rebellious during that hour. She would gently scold me, and remind me that my behavior was unbecoming. She desperately tried to help me be a young lady, but she also challenged our group of girls to get dirty and serve others. I still remember our class planting flowers at church and how I shuddered at the thought of digging in the dirt. Even so, she smiled and encouraged us to serve Jesus by serving our church and serving others.

We may have literally planted those seeds, but she “planted” the seeds of missions into our young lives. I still remember learning about various countries, praying for missionaries, giving to mission offerings, and learning how we serve a big God who cares about the eternity of the entire world.

It would be years later before Mrs. Thompson would see the fruit of those seeds.

When my husband and I married, we began the task of finding a church. Because we taught teenagers at two different churches, one of our first big decisions was determining where God wanted us to serve together. After a few months, we joined the church where Vic was already a member. He had established relationships, but I was looking for ways I could be involved and make new friends. In a few months, I made the decision to join the church choir.

As I entered the choir room, I found a place among the alto section and tried hard to fit into the group. As I looked around the room, a familiar face waved from the soprano section. It was Mrs. Thompson! Little did I know she was a member of the same church. She quickly made her way towards me, hugged my neck, and welcomed me. In the back of my mind, all I could think of was the way I had misbehaved as a young girl. A few weeks later, I mustered the courage to approach her and ask her forgiveness. She winked and smiled, “I don’t remember any of that and I’m so proud of who you are today.”

For the next 29 years, Mrs. Thompson saw the rewards of investing in a small group of GA girls. She saw my calling into ministry and how God opened opportunities for me to serve. Each time we had a conversation, she would tell me how proud she was and how she prayed for me.

Even so, the reality is: I know her long-term investment in a young girl was the greatest gift I could be given. The impact of teaching girls about God’s word and God’s world was the payoff of a faithful woman who answered the call to teach missions education. That’s a great investment.

Who invested in you?

CHECK OUT THE WALK OF FAITH TO honor Those who made long-term investments in your life.