Second Century Fund

Ordinary Woman, Extraordinary Investment

It’s been about 40 years since Sandy Wisdom-Martin got to know Ruth King in the small town of Marissa, Illinois.

But she’ll never lose the mental image of the small lady protecting her from snarling dogs.

“I was afraid of dogs,” said Wisdom-Martin, who was a teenager back when she used to walk through town with King on Wednesday nights. “Before Bible study, she and I would go out into the community together and invite people to church, and the dogs would chase us. She had to protect me.”

But even though that memory stuck, something else stuck with Wisdom-Martin even more, she said.

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“As we walked around town, she taught me how to witness,” Wisdom-Martin said. “She became a role model for me. She taught me about missions, and as a teenager, my worldview changed completely because of her. She showed me that there was a world beyond my tiny rural community.”

In Wisdom-Martin’s eyes, King brought the world to the small Illinois town when her husband became the bivocational pastor there.

But King said she wasn’t doing anything extraordinary — she was just doing what God had called her to do.

“I had been an Acteens leader in the church we had come from, and they had no Acteens in Sandy’s church,” she said.

So King started an Acteens group with just her daughter and Wisdom-Martin. About a year later, another girl joined them.

And King poured her life into the tiny group of girls.

“I felt like God sent us there, but I never did anything special in particular,” she said. “God just gave us the blessing of having worked with Sandy. She was already ready to respond to the call; I was just grateful for the opportunity to have been a part of her life.”

It’s been decades since the two saw each other, but when Wisdom-Martin was named executive director of Woman’s Missionary Union in 2016, King saw the news and sent her a letter congratulating her.

“I’m thrilled for her,” King said. “I know God has used her greatly, and I can’t imagine what He has before her still to do.”

But Wisdom-Martin says King is the one God has used greatly.

“I do believe that her starting Acteens changed the course of my life,” she said. “She faithfully met with the few girls who gathered. She helped me see the vast world beyond my rural county through God's eyes. Her efforts enabled me to understand I have a part in God's plan.”

Not only that — King taught her how to study the Bible. She taught everyone, Wisdom-Martin said.

“There was a time when she was the Wednesday night Bible study leader, and she taught us how to methodically and systematically read the Bible,” Wisdom-Martin said.

It made an impression — King was “one of the most powerful discipling influences in my life,” Wisdom-Martin said. “She’s a person who made disciples who made disciples. She was passionate about spending time with God, and she passed that passion on to others.”

This article was featured in the April 2018 issue of Missions Mosaic

Packing is Hard: A Simplified Guide to Sharing the Gospel

When it comes to sharing the Gospel, I want to be prepared. I want to carefully choose my words as I share with others. I want to prayerfully consider how the conversations could go and let God guide me. I can’t do that if I’m scrambling at the last minute.

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Although sharing Christ isn’t easy, it’s of vital importance. In Lottie’s own words, “How can I not speak, when I know the words of life?” Luckily, you don’t need much to share Him with your neighbors. Here’s what I pack:

Prayer: I believe all things begin with prayer. I’m not always great at finding the right words to say, but I know God honors my efforts. I have made it a habit to pray each morning on my way to work, and it has helped me tremendously throughout the day. It helps me focus on glorifying God instead of worrying about selfish things. Sometimes, random people pop into my head during those prayer times, and I know that’s God telling me to pray for them and maybe even share Him with them.

Bible study: Everyone has heard this, but you don’t go to take a math test without working on a few practice problems first. It’s the same with the Bible. It’s hard to share about Christ and all He can offer to others when you don’t even know the full story yourself. I have recently become a Bible journaler, and it has helped me understand and appreciate God’s Word in a new and fresh way that I am so thankful for. It has also opened up new doors for me because I can talk to nonbelievers and believers alike who are interested in learning more about the creative side of this type of study.

Encouragement: My top two spiritual gifts are administration and encouragement. So basically, I’m going to help people through tough times in a very organized way! I fully believe that relationship-building is the first step to sharing Christ with another person, and I think encouragement is a great way to begin that. It’s not difficult to lend a listening ear or to give a positive comment to someone struggling, but it can make all the difference in their life.

There are so many other things that would be helpful on this Christ-sharing journey, but you can’t go wrong if these three things lay the foundation for you.

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Maegan Dockery is donor administrator at the WMU Foundation. She loves creative Bible journaling.

Download a free journaling page designed by Maegan.

Equipped for His Service

Gloria Thurman and her husband, Thom, served as missionaries in Bangladesh for 33 years. The WMU Foundation spoke with Gloria as she recalled how God worked in the midst of illness and impossible circumstances to allow them to share Christ’s love.

WMUF: God allowed you to identify with the people of Bangladesh in a lot of ways. Part of your story also involves a bout with leprosy, doesn’t it?

GLORIA: Yes, it does. When David was almost a year old, I noticed a little dime-sized spot on my left leg that looked like ringworm. We thought it might be leprosy, and the doctor confirmed it. But we felt God’s hand on us. It touched the people that I had gotten “their” disease — I was one of them now. With medication, in time it went away.

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WMUF: As you look back on what God has done, what would you say to young women who are trying to figure out how God wants them to respond to the Great Commission?

GLORIA: Be willing to take a risk. God doesn’t want us to be foolish, but He has given us the courage and wisdom to be obedient to His will. Seek out God’s heart for where He wants you and give Him all of your life plans. And be willing to take that first step. So often we think we have to know where the road is going or where it will end, but God leads us one step at a time.

WMUF: What is your advice for older women who might feel that they are past their prime as far as ministry goes?

GLORIA: In most areas, age has its positives. In Bangladesh for example, if someone older is willing to come share with the people there, they are quick to think, “Let’s see what they have to offer.” You’re never too old to find your place. There are hospitals, there are boarding schools and there are orphanages full of babies who need someone to rock them. There is a place for every one of us. God is not finished with us yet. As long as we have breath, there’s hope to do more if we’re willing.

The Second Century Fund provides support for women seeking to develop their missions leadership potential. Your gift helps women in the United States and around the world. 

A PAGE FROM THE PAST

Hephzibah Jenkins Townsend grew up in the late 1700s on Edisto Island, South Carolina. She heard about Polly Webb’s missionary society in Boston and organized her own group. Hephzibah was creative and bold, starting a baking business to raise money for missions. Though women had few rights or freedoms during this time in history, Hephzibah never let that stop her from using what God had given her to fulfill her role in the Great Commission.  

Adapted from We've A Story to Tell: 125 Years of WMU by Rosalie Hunt

Equipped for His Service

Gloria Thurman knew how to kill a chicken before she and her husband, Thom, ever got to Bangladesh in 1965. Their rural upbringing — her in Alabama, him in Mississippi — “prepared us to be equipped to do what God called us to do,” she said. In their 33 years in the South Asian country, they saw God do a work bigger than anything they could have ever imagined. Recently, she shared her story with WMU.

When did you feel the call to missions?

As a sophomore in high school, I knew the Lord wanted me to do something special in His service. Then while I was at Troy State College (now Troy University), I worked in the dining hall alongside five men from Muslim countries. I shared with them and tried to help them understand English. As I listened to them talk about their family members back home, God placed a burden on my heart for the Muslim world. When I was a junior, I surrendered to go wherever God led me.

What led you to Bangladesh?

Soon after I committed to missions, I met my husband, Thom. He was committed to missions too, but he felt God was calling him to India. So we decided to see if God led in that direction. We told the Foreign Mission Board that we wanted to go to India, but they didn’t have any work in that country at that time. They asked if we would consider East Pakistan, which is now Bangladesh, and we said yes.

When we got there, we saw immediately that God had prepared us for it. It was a very poor, rural country, and both Thom and I had grown up in rural areas. My grandmother had taught me how to can and preserve foods and also kill a chicken. We found that a lot of times in Bangladesh we had to carry water from wells, and most of the people around us grew the food that they ate. We understood that kind of life. They took us in and made us part of their family.

Next month, Gloria shares how God used leprosy to open the hearts of the people they served, and she shares her advice for women of all ages responding to God’s call.

Support women’s leadership development with your gift to the WMU Foundation Second Century Fund.

A Page from the Past

Born in 1779, Polly Webb had a passion for women helping share the gospel with those who had never heard. She gathered her friends in her home to sew, and they used their handcrafted goods to raise money for missions. The Boston Female Society for Missionary Purposes was the first woman’s missionary society, and they raised funds to support missionaries in India. Polly Webb, confined to a wheelchair since age 5, not only organized this first group, but she also wrote thousands of letters urging others to help. God placed a passion for the Great Commission in Polly Webb’s heart, and He equipped her in a special way to fulfill His call. Polly not only organized her own group, she also prompted 20 more groups to organize during the early 1800s.

Adapted from We’ve a Story to Tell: 125 Years of WMU by Rosalie Hunt.