St. Louis, Mo.—International Mission Board church planter Sabastian Vazquez couldn’t escape the inevitable emotions as he stood before a group of women whose legacy had led to four generations of pastors in his family.
Speaking during day two of the 2016 Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) Missions Celebration and Annual Meeting, Sabastian unsuccessfully fought off tears as he told the story of a new Southern Baptist missionary who a century ago handed a Spanish-language evangelistic tract to an illiterate baker named Angel Vazquez, his great-grandfather. Angel knew the missionary had given him something very special because of the way in which he gave it to him. He became a Christian and asked the missionary to teach him how to be a pastor, too. His son, grandson and great-grandson, Sabastian, would follow in his footsteps.
“My family is your legacy,” said Sabastian, who serves as a church planter among college students in Toronto. “I tell you that story so you know to never give up. Don’t grow weary in doing good because somewhere out there, there’s a baker waiting for a missionary. Somewhere … there’s a baker waiting for someone to tell him about the Gospel—and that missionary needs someone like you to support him and pray for him, to raise money for him, to give him a water filter, to give him a home to stay in when he goes stateside. He needs you.”
Sabastian’s plea, directed to the 550 attendees of the celebration, came during the Monday afternoon (June 13) session of the event. He and his wife Erin then told stories related to the four new churches they had started in Toronto since their arrival.
‘Our turn to lead WMU forward’
In the Monday morning session, National WMU President Linda Cooper urged WMU to build upon the legacy of the women who had gone before them, such as Annie Armstrong, Fannie E.S. Heck, Hephzibah Jenkins Townsend and Wanda Lee.
“We are blessed in WMU today because of their contribution, and we are very thankful for the strong foundation they laid for us,” Cooper said. “So now it’s our turn to lead WMU forward.”
Cooper, of Bowling Green, Ky., who was also elected to her second term as WMU president, noted the retirement of Wanda Lee as executive director and said she had appointed a committee “to find the person whom God has already prepared who will lead WMU forward.”
While WMU searches for that person, Cooper told attendees the entity would continue to do its work, including missions discipleship, raising support for IMB and NAMB missionaries, job training, providing clean water for missionaries and publishing missions-related books through New Hope Publishers.
Missionary encouraged by cards
North American Mission Board missionary Travis Kearns told attendees about his work among Mormons in Salt Lake City. He noted the loneliness that often comes while serving in a city where he is one of the few evangelical Christians. He also thanked attendees for the support of WMU—and in particular the hundreds of birthday cards he had recently received from WMU groups throughout the country.
“Thank you so much for your support, WMU,” Kearns said. “Thank you for your love. Thank you for your generosity. I want to encourage you to continue to do that because with your help—by all means—we can reach people, even in our nation, who are lost and don’t know Jesus.”
‘The mission matters most’
Jeff Iorg, president of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, told conference participants in the evening session that the hardest part of being a seminary president is keeping the seminary focused on its mission.
“While that is true of a seminary,” he said, “it’s also true of your church and you personally. Our mission is refined by our circumstances. It is not defined by our circumstances. The circumstances you are facing do not define your mission that God has given you. Your mission is to share the gospel.”
Iorg said that circumstances could refine how you share the gospel and with whom you share the gospel, but “do not let your circumstances decide whether or not you will share the gospel. Our mission focus must be on reaching people.”
In the Monday afternoon session, author and pastor’s wife Katie Orr, shared some pitfalls that keep Christians from studying the Bible. (BP)
Tobin Perry and Kathie Chute