SHE leads

Each Moment Has Purpose: Celebrating International Women's Day

On Sandra Waters’ refrigerator there’s a handmade card with a photo that smiles back at her every time she looks at it.

It’s a picture of her and her friend Carolyn Suyderhoud, and it says, “Ain’t we a pair? Good friends since 1993! Hope it never ends.”

But it ended much sooner than anyone could’ve imagined, at least the chapter here on earth. Suyderhoud passed away suddenly and unexpectedly in 2015.

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“Carolyn — or ‘Caroline in the morning,’ as we called her — was a brilliant gem,” Sandra said.

For 22 years, Carolyn, Sandra, and their husbands — both named Richard — shared in friendship and ministry together at Cedar Grove Baptist Church in Warsaw, Missouri. Over many a plate of Mexican food, the group listened to Carolyn share her heart for people — especially children and the terminally ill.

“She had a quiet disposition, yet her dedicated, selfless, and humble service spoke louder than words could ever express,” Sandra said. “Although she is now with the Lord, the lives she touched through the work she did lives on.”

Carolyn had a doctorate in biblical theology, and she felt like her theology had practical application.

“She was passionate about studying the Bible and learning more herself so she could share it,” Sandra said. “She studied tirelessly and used her knowledge to share Christ’s love with other people. She was a giver — very compassionate, very caring and giving.”

Carolyn was a chaplain for a local hospice and volunteered as a grief counselor. She also served on the boards of the Missouri Baptist Children’s Home and LIGHT Ministries, which provided maternity care and adoption services for young mothers.

It’s a legacy worth honoring, Sandra said. That’s why she’s wearing her “For Such a Time as This” T-shirt in Carolyn’s honor on International Women’s Day on March 8.

“I can’t think of a better person to honor with that shirt than her,” she said. “Her actions spoke volumes. It is an honor and a privilege to wear it in her memory.”

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That’s why Sandra kept the card on her refrigerator, too — to remind her of her friend and the way she lived as though every minute of her life had a divine purpose.

“Those beautiful handmade cards were a part of who she was and how she loved people. She loved making cards like that,” Sandra said. “She made them for friends and family members at birthdays, Christmas, all the holidays.”

She also made them for hospice patients and for the women at the Cedar Grove Ladies Outreach Group, a ministry she helped start in 1992 to find ways to assist people in need.

“Carolyn was a wonderful role model who reflected the light of Jesus wherever she went,” Sandra said. “She was motivated and determined to get the job done.”

And after Carolyn passed away, her husband found a whole stack of handmade cards in her craft room ready to be delivered to hospice patients.

“It’s one way her ministry lives on, in the cards that so many people still keep,” Sandra said. “She loved and served the Lord with gladness. I’m better because I knew her.”

Sandra is wearing a “For Such a Time as This” T-shirt made by the Begin Anew refugee artisan group. The $2,585 raised from these T-shirts supports women receiving job and life-skills training at Christian Women’s Job Corps sites through the Dove Endowment for CWJC.

Partner with us to support women as they work towards a better future in Christ by making a gift to the Dove Endowment for CWJC. The Dove Endowment supports Christian Women’s Job Corps by providing scholarships to participants, program development grants for sites, and a grant for Dove Award recipient.

Written by Grace Thornton.

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.

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.