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.

Mother Helps Cast Missions Vision for Family, Runs Community Ministry in the Bronx

When Kerri Johnson started taking missions trips to the Bronx with her family, she quickly realized something — she wanted desperately to be in the place where no one else wanted to be.

“Most everybody in the Bronx wants to get out, and we were finding every opportunity we could to come back,” she said.

It wasn’t long before she and her husband, Josh—her high-school sweetheart—said goodbye to the West Virginia town where they grew up and moved their family to New York City.

The Johnson family: Noah, Paige, Kerri, and Josh

The Johnson family: Noah, Paige, Kerri, and Josh

For Kerri, the eight years since have been a labor of love where the laborers are few. With limited resources, she runs Graffiti 2 Works, a Christian Women’s Job Corps site, and WorldCrafts artisan group based at Graffiti 2 Community Ministries. She’s helped to provide jobs for some and train others with job skills.

“We’re not in the Bible belt, so finding volunteers and finances is tough,” she said. “We don’t have a church down the street we can pull volunteers from. Most everyone we know who could serve as a volunteer should be a participant in some way.”

It’s an ever-evolving program as needs arise, she said. She does much of it on her own, working one-on-one with people through Graffiti 2’s adult learning center. In one case, Kerri meets regularly with a mother who struggles to read.

“We’re working to get her some basic vocabulary, and we’re doing some reading activities using the Bible,” Kerri said. “We take one story a week and walk through it and have vocabulary words from it.”

Kerri leads her Women on Mission group.

Kerri leads her Women on Mission group.

She meets with other mothers to teach them English, or even just sit and visit. That has expanded—almost accidentally—to an ESL program that kicked off in 2019.

“What we were advertising originally is literacy, but somehow what got out is that we were teaching English,” Kerri said. “We found that was a big need.”

This type of hands-on ministry and the ministry she runs through the sewing microbusiness make her “heart sing,” she said. “We have big dreams and big visions. It isn’t always easy, but God gives us small glimpses of what He’s doing, and that helps us keep going. We’re just moving forward and seeing what He has for us in His time.”

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Her husband, Josh, said Kerri’s passion for investing in people has made all the difference in their family as they have followed God’s call to the Bronx.

“As a family unit, God has blessed us to lock arms and continue where He has planted us,” he said. “We’ve been on quite a journey together, and sometimes it’s tough, but having her as a wife and a mother who can drive that vision has made all the difference.”

“It’s been life changing for our children to see their mother’s love for Christ, people, and missions,” said Josh, who recently bought a brick in his wife’s honor in the Walk of Faith brick garden at WMU headquarters in Birmingham, Alabama.

“She has been very instrumental in being that champion on the team and helping make the vision happen.”

For more information about how to honor your missions heroes on the Walk of Faith and support the work of WMU, visit wmufoundation.com/walkoffaith.

To learn more about Graffiti 2, visit graffiti2ministries.org.

Written by Grace Thornton.

Partnering with Purpose

I remember being in school on those days when the teacher let us know we needed to choose a partner to work on a project together. It was always a little anxiety-inducing because what if someone else chose your best friend or, even worse, no one wanted to partner with you? What if there wasn’t an even number of children in the class and you had to partner with the teacher? That could be embarrassing. Or what if you got partnered with that kid who didn’t pull his own weight and you ended up doing all the work?

You never knew what you would get when you had to partner up in school. It could be great, but it could also be absolutely terrible. If you were anything like me, you tried to make the most of the situation and hoped for the best.

All this to say, if you’re having anxious flashbacks to rough days in elementary school, I can put your mind at ease. At the WMU Foundation, we want to partner with you, but only in ways that benefit everyone.

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When you partner with us, we’ll help you find your missions passion.

Natalie Shannon, administrative assistant at national WMU, is passionate about social justice issues, so she partners with the WMU Foundation when she gives monthly to the Judith and David Hayes Endowment to Combat Human Trafficking. “I give because of how clearly scripture mandates fighting for the oppressed,” she explained. “Fighting for those enslaved by others is a very real, practical way to show love and display the gospel.”

We have churches that partner with us, as well. Mountain Brook Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, has given since the WMU Foundation’s inception twenty-five years ago. “World missions has always been a priority for our church,” said June Whitlow, a long-time church member. “Since the Foundation regularly grants funds to ministries all over the world, this enables a portion of an individual’s initial gift to keep on giving and giving, long after the giver is gone. This pleases Mountain Brook Baptist Church members,” Whitlow continued.

When you partner with us, you can make personal connections.

“It’s easy to give when you see firsthand the impact of your giving,” said Lena Plunk, national WMU CWJC ministry consultant. “As a former Christian Women’s Job Corps (CWJC) site coordinator, I know that giving to the CWJC/CMJC Special Fund directly impacts the lives of these men and women. I have heard their stories and know that my giving is helping to impact a life.”

Emily Swader, WorldCrafts marketing strategist, agrees. “I am a monthly partner because I believe it is important to provide consistent support to the WorldCrafts artisans through the Isaiah 58:10 Campaign,” she said. “I know that the money is being used to transform the lives of men and women around the world and give them opportunities to hear of eternal hope.”

When you partner with us, you help spread the love of Christ across the globe.

Mark Johnson, associate pastor at Shades Crest Baptist Church, said, “The WMU Foundation has been instrumental in helping our church connect with Baptists in need all around the world. We have been able to help respond to crises knowing that our funds are accompanied by prayer and ground personnel who are actively ministering through their actions and with their witness.”

When you become a monthly partner with us, you become part of something so much bigger than yourself. Your dollars are always at work, helping combat human trafficking through the Hayes Endowment, sending help to places in need of disaster relief through the WMU HEART Fund, or providing scholarships to missionary kids heading off to college.

And that’s only the beginning. The WMU Foundation has so many other funds and endowments, and we are happy to do whatever we can to help you find your missions passion.

“I consider it a joy to get to be a part of what is being done through WorldCrafts and the WMU Foundation,” concluded Swader. “A monthly donation is an easy way for me to be a consistent financial supporter.”

We hope you’ll choose to partner with us by becoming a monthly donor to the WMU Foundation*. We promise we won’t make you do all the work.

* The WMU Foundation offers automatic monthly giving, making it easier than ever to support your favorite fund or endowment. When you give online, select the option to make this a recurring gift. The card you use will be charged each month for the amount you specify. If you need more information, contact us at wmufoundation@wmu.org or call (205) 408-5525.

Written by Maegan Dockery, Marketing Manager at the WMU Foundation.

Ann Judson: An Inspiration for Missionary Women

Rosalie Hunt said that ever since she heard about the Walk of Faith being built on New Hope Mountain, she knew she wanted to buy several bricks to honor the “missions heroes” in her life.

And she knew which one she wanted to buy first — a brick dedicated to the memory of Ann Hasseltine Judson, “the one who started it all,” Hunt said.

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“Ann Judson led the way for all women missionaries, for the many thousands who have followed,” said Hunt, missions author, former Alabama Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) president and a former national WMU recording secretary.

Judson — who headed to Burma with her husband, Adoniram, in 1812 — was America’s first female international missionary.

“She knew she would never see her family again,” Hunt said. “She knew she was giving up everything she knew.”

Judson stared death in the face and decided the risk was worth it for the people of Burma to know Jesus, Hunt said. “She made a leap of faith and courage that has been so inspirational to us.”

And her legacy extends far past Burma, Hunt said. Follow the trail of the lives influenced by Judson, and you’ll find people like Lottie Moon, a missionary who gave her all for the people of China and laid the foundation for Southern Baptist missions support. You’ll find Hephzibah Jenkins Townsend, who founded a missionary society that was the precursor to WMU. And you’ll find Fannie E.S. Heck, who was WMU’s first president.

“Each of those women was directly inspired by the dauntless Ann, and they, in turn, have inspired those of us who have followed,” said Hunt, who wrote about Judson’s life in her book “The Extraordinary Story of Ann Hasseltine Judson: A Life Beyond Boundaries.”

And because of that impact, Judson’s name has been engraved on a brick for the new prayer garden at national WMU headquarters in Birmingham, Alabama. Hunt said she also wants to buy other bricks to honor missions heroes in her life whose names may not be as well known.

But she said it’s important to remember our roots, too.

“I realize that Ann Hasseltine Judson is not a little-known or unsung hero, but she is indeed the number one to us.” Hunt said. “The brick is a tangible way for us to hang on to that legacy.”

Judson blazed the trail for the thousands who came behind — both those who answered the call to missionary service and those who “held the ropes” by giving, praying, and teaching children about missions, Hunt said.

“Each person she influenced is a stepping stone, an important step in passing that missions legacy on to the next generation,” she said. “We need to pass it on. It takes work. It takes effort. It takes every person answering the Great Commission in their own way making an investment in lives.”

For more information about the Walk of Faith or to purchase a brick in someone’s memory or honor, visit wmufoundation.com/walkoffaith.

Rosalie Hunt, board member for the WMU Foundation, wrote about Ann Hasseltine Judson in her book, The Extraordinary Story of Ann Hasseltine Judson: A Life Beyond Boundaries.

Rosalie Hunt, board member for the WMU Foundation, wrote about Ann Hasseltine Judson in her book, The Extraordinary Story of Ann Hasseltine Judson: A Life Beyond Boundaries.