Baptist women work together in social justice initiatives
After a five-year retirement, Thomasina needed to return to work. Yet, she lacked computer skills for todayâs jobs. She soon got a fresh start at Women Mentoring Women, a six-week course designed to help equip unemployed and underemployed women.
Building relationships with 15 women, aged 30 to 65, over the six weeks, Dollie Hamlin, a director of the program, explained that the focus of the program was on helping participants âreinventâ themselves and learn ânew ways of going after what the world has to offer.â
Held at St. Johnâs Baptist Church in Scotch Plains, N.J., the course gave Thomasina just what she needed. She mastered the art of applying for work online and landed a customer service job.
Cassandra grew up in a dysfunctional family where addictions were a way of life. In 2008 she entered a six-month residential transitional living program, The Next Door, in Nashville, Tenn., for women addicted to drugs or alcohol. A proud graduate and now an employee at the program, Cassandra said she is âgiving back something that was freely given to me.â
âOnce you get clean, your life will be overwhelmed with wonderful, beautiful things,â said the 29-year-old.
She has earned her high school GED and her drivers license. She is now married and hopes to adopt a child soon.
The Next Door program, led by Linda Leathers, has been so successful that additional programs have been opened in Knoxville and Chattanooga.
Tennessee WMU executive directorâtreasurer, Candy Phillips, said, âThe Next Door is a wonderful example of missional women taking action in their local community to make positive change.âThe Women Mentoring Women initiative and The Next Door program are two of six projects in North America receiving life-changing grant money from North American Baptist Womenâs Union, one of seven Continental Unions that make up the womenâs department of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA). Together, the seven Continental Unions represent women in 132 countries and 229 national Baptist womenâs organizations.
The North American Union is comprised of 16 member bodies within the United States and Canada, with more than three million member women.
Saying three million women is âa lot of woman power,â newly elected NABWU president Moreen Sharp, extolled the âstrength in numbersâ in her acceptance speech at the NABWU assembly in Nashville in October 2012, a meeting that convenes once every five years. The 2012 meeting attracted 220 women, with one-third of attendees coming from Canada, including Sharp, who is NABWUâs first president from Western Canada.
Elected to a five-year term, Sharp encouraged attendees, âWe are women with compassion, and we are a powerful force as we unite together.â
Much of NABWUâs focus is on resourcing and networking Baptist women who are touching the lives of women and children suffering injustices and disadvantage in our society. Individuals being reached include refugees to North America, youth at risk, people trapped in human trafficking and prostitution and others.
In her acceptance speech, Sharp noted that there are many Baptist women âout thereâ to whom God has given a passion to âdo something.â Yet, many, while seeing a need, have no idea how to follow through and make a difference, she said.
âThese women need resources and encouragement,â she said, emphasizing that networking among Christians is imperative in todayâs disconnected society.
âNetworking would allow [those who are working in particular ministries] to have others who can give input when they are stumped, encouragement when they are discouraged, or share prayer concerns that they may not feel free to share with others who donât understand or are outside their particular area of ministry.
âNetworking is a key initiative that needs to continue and grow ever stronger. As a North American organization, we have a unique place in networking women who are working towards bringing Godâs heart and values to this world.â
Modern technology, including the possibility of online training and video-conferencing, allows for quicker and more far-reaching connections today than in the past.
âTechnology is our friend. The potential is massive,â she said, as she discussed how women could sit in front of their computers and âbe taught by those who have gone before them.â
Such connections have a strengthening effect, Sharp believes.
âThe more connections we make between our member bodies, the stronger they all become. The stronger we all become,â she said.
The North American Baptist women also look beyond their own continent as they join with other Baptist women throughout the world in prayer during the Baptist Womenâs World Day of Prayer every November. The five-year (2010-15) theme for the day of prayer is âIn Step with the Spirit,â with the 2012 focus on joy.
âWe are intricately linked with Baptist women from around the world,â explained Sharp.
Linked in prayer, some Baptist women have participated in the World Day of Prayer through a Facebook page. Others, on the other side of the world, walk for days for the opportunity to âpray with their sisters.â In some places, hundreds of women come together to pray; in other places, only two or three women gather in prayer.
The World Day of Prayer promotes an offering, with monies collected evenly divided between NABWUâs grant projects and BWAâs womenâs department and international projects. One of the seven Continental Unions prepares the World Day of Prayer materials, with the 2012 resources being prepared by the Asian Union.
Additionally, because the Baptist World Alliance is a registered non-government agency at the United Nations (UN), the BWA womenâs department sends representatives to the annual meeting of the UN Commission on the Status of Women in New York. NABWU was represented at the 56th session in late February/early March 2012 by Linda Weber, NABWUâs president from 2007-2012, along with several others. The primary theme was the empowerment of rural women and their role in eradicating poverty and hunger.
George Bullard, General Secretary of the North American Baptist Fellowship said, âNABWU is a vital missional movement among Baptists. We are all more effective in ministry because of the prophetic actions of women related to NABWU.â
In addition to Sharp, NABWU elected the following five officers at its October 2012 assembly in Nashville: Lisa Lohnes, vice-president, Baptist womenâs day of prayer promotion, project grants, and prayer partners; Ruby Fulbright, vice-president, leadership and mentoring; Angelita Clifton, vice-president, communication and promotion; Stacey Benn, secretary; and Darlene McGilberry, treasurer (beginning in January 2013).
For more information about the North American Baptist Womenâs Union, visit the website www.nabwu.org.Read More