Wasn't it like a fire burning in us when he talked to us on the road and explained the Scripture to us? Luke 24:32, GNT
For her birthday last year, IMB missionary Staci Powers' most treasured gift was having her husband hold her hands without letting go. The fact that he had forgotten it was her birthday did not matter at that moment.
Four days later, on July 10, 2014, Staci held her husband Jeff's hands for the last time as cancer took over his body.
Last weekend, Staci boldly stood on stage at the Woman's Missionary Union (WMU) of Texas Annual Meeting and Missions Celebration, fighting back tears as she told her story. The WMU had been praying for the missionary to Zambia on her birthday, and she wanted to let them know how much it meant.
"You didn't know what was going on with us, but you prayed," she told the crowd. "It was because of the nearness of the Lord that I can stand here today as He's worked through your prayers."
Hundreds of men and women gathered at First Baptist Church in Woodway April 17-18, for the conference. Powers' testimony was just one of many, which revealed ways WMU prayers and offerings are helping missionaries across the globe share the Gospel and persevere through all circumstances.
A stimulating charge was presented throughout the weekend for guests to meet God through worship, small group conferences, hands-on ministry, hearing testimonies from missionaries and fellowshipping with one another.
Among the featured guests were Liertes Soares, Jr., who is planting a multicultural church in Greater Boston; Zoricelis Davila, who ministers through her profession as a counselor; Louis Rosenthal, whose association helped begin the Pray4EveryHome initiative; Duane and Kristy, who are serving in South Asia; and Kelli and Jason Frealy, who are IMB missionaries serving in Argentina.
In breakout sessions, attendees learned about new ways of doing ministry in their churches, communities and around the world.
In one session called Jeans on Mission, Paulette Kirkpatrick, who serves on the board of directors for WMU, gave instructions on how to make purses out of old pairs of blue jeans. Volunteers with the ministry, which began in Wharton, Texas, make purses, diaper bags, wallets and quilts out of old pairs of pants to send to other parts of the state, country and the world.
In another session, Emma French and Zach Zernial, students from the University of Mary Hardin Baylor, talked about evangelism, discipleship and servanthood. They told stories of how, as college students, they longed for a mentor and encouraged the crowd to search for younger people to disciple.
In business, the WMU of Texas elected the following leaders into office: Shirley McDonald, from Greens Creek Baptist Church, in Dublin, as president; Charlotte Watson, from First Baptist Church, in Georgetown, as vice president; and DeRema Dunn, from Mimosa Lane Baptist Church, in Mesquite, as secretary.
"WMU has been and always will be a light on the hill," McDonald said in her presidential charge. "We are not being the light … so that people can see our good deeds, but that all the world can praise our Father in heaven."
Being obedient to God's calling and sensitive to the fire from the Spirit, as demonstrated Luke 24:32, was an evident theme of the conference.
"If we spend time with people who are passionate about the Lord, the fires in our hearts grow stronger," said Sandy Wisdom Martin, WMU of Texas executive director. "We need to focus our fire in a way that it makes the greatest impact and has the most influence. As WMU of Texas, our desire is to fan the flames."
For some, being obedient involves making purses out of jeans. For others, it may include reaching out to younger generations and discipling them through their spiritual journeys.
For Staci Powers, being obedient means going back to the mission field.
"I stand here today, as a 47-year-old widow, compelled to return," she said. "When there are people who have never heard the name of Jesus, how can I stay? … Like I learned as a GA, having the desire to be obedient is a gift from the Lord. I'm grateful that you pray for me, and I'm grateful to be a sent one."