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.

4 Ways to Make a Difference Through Year-End Giving

As the year comes to a close, take the opportunity to use your giving to make a difference. Your year-end gift is important, and we are grateful you choose to support the work of WMU through the WMU Foundation.

Here’s how to make your year-end gift count:

  • Make a one-time gift to the WMU Foundation. Your gift of any amount supports the mission and ministry of WMU. Gifts are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.

  • Become a monthly giver. It’s never been easier to become our monthly missions partner. When you give to the WMU Foundation online, select “I would like this to be an automatic monthly or quarterly gift.” Your regular support will help make our work possible.

  • Consider a Charitable Gift Annuity. A Charitable Gift Annuity (CGA) is a minimum $10,000 gift. The WMU Foundation agrees to pay you a specified amount (based on your age) for the rest of your life.

  • Add the WMU Foundation to your estate plan. Make sure the WMU Foundation is included in your will. Consider other planned gifts, like making the WMU Foundation a co-beneficiary of your life insurance policy or your retirement plan. Contact us for a free planned giving guide.

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When you give, you are part of the tradition that began with a few women saying yes to God’s call and inviting others to do the same. WMU officially began in 1888 at a meeting in Richmond, Virginia. Women joined together to make a difference for Baptist missions, but the real beginning of WMU happened much earlier.

In the early 1800s, Polly Webb invited women to her home to pray for missions. Hephzibah Jenkins Townsend sold gingerbread at the market to raise money for missions work. We may never know the names of countless others who made the choice to respond to the Great Commission in the unique way God had called them.

That is how WMU was built. One woman at a time, believing God called her to Great Commission work. One woman at a time, saying yes, then inviting others to pray, give, and go.

Since 1888, WMU’s message to believers has been consistent. If you choose to follow Christ, the Great Commission belongs to you. It is yours to act upon. God has called you and gifted you to respond.

The WMU Foundation granted over $1.6 million this year to support Baptist missions. God has called us to support Great Commission work, and we cannot do that without your support. Your gift makes it possible to continue a legacy of faith, and we are grateful for your support.

A Legacy of Leadership Development & Missions

When Claudia Johnson was growing up, she watched her grandmother, Susie Mae Towry, make hundreds of Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls.

“She would hand stitch one for every single child in her classroom, each with a heart on the front that said, ‘I love you,’” Johnson said.

It was a “sweet legacy” for the longtime schoolteacher to leave behind, she said. Towry liked to send the students off each year with a reminder that they were loved. She liked to finish well.

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But part of finishing well also meant leaving some things undone — she left a few things behind for her granddaughter to finish too—things that would come full circle in ways Johnson could’ve never anticipated.

“She was a preacher’s wife and prayed daily for missionaries,” Johnson said, noting that her grandmother kept her Bible open in the bathroom with a prayer list of missionary names marking her place. “She loved the work of WMU and loved God’s Word. I know that it was her prayers that really got me through all my high school years. She was just a real woman of God.”

And because of Towry’s active influence on her granddaughter — and her inherent influence through the way she raised Johnson’s mother, Nancy Towry Wall — Johnson eventually became one of those missionaries on that prayer list.

After Johnson finished school, she went first to Africa as a journeyman, then to Thailand with her husband, serving a total of 28 years with the International Mission Board.

“My grandmother and my mom were very inspirational in my life,” she said. “They were both very strong Christian leaders, and I am confident that it made a difference in my life. It made me want to serve the Lord in whatever capacity I could.”

One of those capacities was that, while serving in Thailand, she burned the midnight oil for a year to get her master’s degree so that she could teach at the international school.

“It was a very hard year, but when you have a clear word from God that you’re supposed to do something, it is really comforting,” Johnson said.

It was a sacrifice that paved the way for innumerable ministry opportunities for both herself and others. Because international school had become so expensive in Thailand, missionaries had been told recently that they had to homeschool their children from then on.

Johnson’s decision to lead at the school not only provided the means for her own children to go to school for free, her whole salary also went to fund other missionaries’ children’s tuition. That freed other mothers up to do more ministry, too.

And over time, God led Johnson into even deeper waters — she started a school for Urdu-speaking refugees in Thailand.

“The plight of refugees is tough, as we know, and those children gripped my heart,” Johnson said.

It was clear teaching ran in the family, as did a burden for the children who sat in the desks. Towry may have passed away before she got to see Johnson become a missionary and a teacher, but her legacy had lived on.

And recently, after Johnson returned to the U.S. and took the role of leadership consultant for WMU’s Christian Women’s Leadership Center (CWLC), her mom found something special when she was going through Towry’s things.

“It was a leadership card that said my grandmother had completed the WM Society’s leadership course,” Johnson said. “I thought that was so interesting. It was dated Nov. 12, 1963, and was signed by Alma Hunt.”

That struck a chord with Johnson, because these days her desk sits in the middle of the Alma Hunt Museum, named after the missions hero who led National WMU from 1948 to 1974. Every day as Johnson sits at that desk, she works to run the same leadership development courses for women that her grandmother completed back then — only now they are online.

And Johnson still has one of Towry’s unfinished Raggedy Ann dolls — a reminder that not only is she loved, there are still things left to do.

“I know my grandmother’s prayers and influence made a difference in my life,” she said. “She left a legacy of love behind. You couldn’t find a sweeter person, and the gift of having a family legacy of being in church and being in the Word — I recognize what a gift that is.”

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Claudia Johnson recently decided to place a brick in Towry’s memory in WMU’s new Walk of Faith brick garden. For more information about the Walk of Faith or to purchase a brick in someone’s memory or honor, visit wmufoundation.com/walkoffaith.

I Wish I Had a Mentor

Written by Katie Orr.

I wish I had a mentor.

I’ve heard that statement from many women. I’ve uttered those words myself. Most of us have a deep-down desire to be intentionally poured into. We sense our great need for change and feel helpless to invoke it on our own. Yet we also hold with this desire an unrealistic expectation of what the mentor-mentee relationship should look like. For me, it’s often been dreamt of as a weekly, 2-hour time together with hot coffee, freshly-baked blueberry scones, time in the Word, prayer, and an intense time of coaching. I’m always the teachable, eager disciple. She’s always the loving yet firm truth-teller.

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Who knows, maybe this sort of relationship does exist, but I’ve not experienced it personally. There is nothing wrong with that situation (if it indeed does exist); however, there is danger in holding to this as the mentoring ideal. Mainly because it blinds me from seeing the mentors I had right in front of me. For too long, I assumed that mentoring would come primarily through one soul. Looking back, I see that God instead (and in His wisdom) has sent me multiple mentors throughout every step of my spiritual journey who have each uniquely shaped me into who I am today.

  • My parents, Jim and Donna, who sacrificed to send me to Christian private school so I could learn about God, and who drove me all over town so I could attend children’s ministry, youth group, and various other activities that laid a gospel foundation for all God had planned for me.

  • Judy Crewell, our neighbors and carpool-friends, who intentionally and regularly took time to tell us kids about the love and forgiveness of Jesus.

  • Cynthia Seeger, the super-cute young mom who helped her husband lead the small youth group I attended. She got to know us, loved on us, and pointed us to Jesus when we barely knew which side was up, spiritually speaking.

  • The teacher in high school (I don’t even remember her name…) who one year invited a few girls to meet in her office once a week to go over The Navigator’s discipleship materials.

  • Josh Long, a friend who had the guts and love to confront me my senior year of high school when my sinful choices were getting out of control. He called me out and up to a higher standard of integrity as a leader who claimed the name of Christ.

  • Mia Murphree, a junior in college, who led a freshman girls’ Cru Bible study. I showed up having zero clue how far from knowing Jesus I really was. Through her group, I quickly realized that I knew all about Jesus, but I didn’t know Jesus. I had salvation, but I didn’t have a daily, intimate relationship with God. Mia’s faithful service through praying for, loving on, challenging, and teaching me every week for several years has brought much change and fruit in to my spiritual life.

  • Ruth Rhea, a Cru staff member, who entrusted me with a stack of response cards to follow-up on. I was just learning how to walk with God, yet she invited me into Kingdom work before I even knew exactly what God’s Kingdom was all about. For years, Ruth pursued me, checked in on me, prayed for me, and saw Kingdom potential in me I never would have believed was there.

  • Bill and Julie Bolt and Scott and Katrina Moffatt, two couples who have faithfully served college students for decades. Beyond benefitting from their discipleship efforts as Cru staff members, getting to watch how they loved on their kids, involved them in missions through prayer, and lived a missional lifestyle as a family still shapes my own parenting journey.

  • Kathy Bourque, my pastor’s wife before I myself became one. As a busy homeschooling mom of 6, she made time to hang out with me several times. I still go back to many nuggets of wisdom shared with me through our conversations.

  • Kristen Snow, my parallel friend who has faithfully prayed for, listened to, and spoken truth to me for over 15 years. Though our growth and stages of life have mirrored one another’s for years, we are very different people. This sporadic, loud-mouth bulldozer consistently learns from her gentle, quiet, intentional spirit.

  • Kathy Litton, who I worked for and got to watch for 5 years. I observed how she balances the complexities of life as a high-profile ministry leader while also being an involved pastor’s wife—all the while consistently prioritizing and loving on her family.

  • My husband, Chris, whose servant leadership, excellence in preaching, and daily integrity shapes my walk with God as well as my own ministry.

I know I’m missing many more who belong on this list—not including all the books I’ve read from those long-gone whose gospel-centered teachings and missional life examples have shaped the trajectory of my own. So, while I haven’t had the 2-hour, candle-lit sessions with the same person for years on end, I have been the recipient of much mentorship over the years. From a simple sentence stated, a note of encouragement, a hard conversation, or the testimony of a life well-lived, I have been mentored by many.

My guess is, you have been, too.

Who are your mentors? And how can you thank them?

Check out the Walk of Faith to find a unique way to honor your mentor.