South Carolina WMU is much more active, involved in touching lives than most churches know
A lot of people think Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU), an auxiliary to the Southern Baptist Convention and to state conventions, is dying, but that’s not true. In South Carolina, where an estimated 75 percent of churches (more than 1,575) have some involvement with WMU, members are deeply involved in local, North American, and international missions education and service.
“All through the year, we hear from churches that want to start something new within Woman’s Missionary Union,” says Laurie Register, executive director-treasurer of South Carolina WMU. “WMU is active and involved all over South Carolina through weekly and monthly meetings, children participating in missions education, and adults getting beyond the walls of the local church to serve others.”
Though organized in Society Hill, SC as the Central Committee in the South, in 1875, South Carolina WMU was organized as such in Greenville in 1902. The organization’s sole purpose is missions and according to its Web site, “South Carolina WMU continues to seek innovative and creative ways to involve more individuals, families, groups, and churches in missions by helping them find their place in missions, and passing on that passion for missions to future generations.”
For years, SC Woman’s Missionary Union has had a relationship with the South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ). Today, more of the state’s at-risk children are being kept in the community rather than formally incarcerated, and that has led to bringing the Blazers Program, to date, a program held only on the DJJ camps, to the community. Selected young people meet weekly to learn about dressing for success, education, networking, careers, self-awareness, public speaking, and community expos. They also host community service events.
“SC WMU is working with DJJ to launch Blazers programs throughout the state,” Laurie says. “We hope to start in Charleston in Spring 2017, and we have people in Greer and Spartanburg who have completed training. WMU will provide the location for meetings and meals for meetings, as well as mentors. We will work with the local DJJ staff to provide programming and guest speakers. We need church involvement throughout our state.
“Most South Carolina Baptists are unaware that we are hard at work in a partnership like this one with DJJ,” she says.
Human Trafficking was once the appointed social issue for Southern Baptist WMU, and while the emphasis has moved from that issue to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Laurie says SC WMU will continue to provide educational resources for seminars throughout the state and has been invited to meet with state Attorney General Alan Wilson related to his South Carolina Human Trafficking Task Force. Human Trafficking may involve both sexual slavery or labor slavery or both.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
South Carolina WMU has and will continue to provide educational resources related to PTSD, and has utilized chaplains from the VA Hospital and the U.S. Army’s Fort Jackson, in Columbia, SC. WMU will engage PTSD awareness and serve as a South Carolina Baptist leader in making churches aware of the issue and how to respond.
“A lot of people suffering from PTSD don’t come to church because our environment just makes them very uncomfortable,” Laurie says. “Something as simple as an approach from behind can create significant tension. We want to help churches understand how to make environments comfortable for those suffering from PTSD, and how to recognize and connect with people. PTSD victims are those who have been to war, yes, but also those who have been victims of crimes, have been in automobile accidents, and any other high-stress situation.”
In addition to these high-profile issues, this year, SC WMU has
- Served International Mission Board (IMB) missionaries affected by the agency’s drawdown of personnel by preparing more than 80 gift baskets through local associations. The baskets were given out at a WMU sponsored retreat earlier in 2016.
- Facilitated a Disaster Relief unit from another state, coming to South Carolina in response to Hurricane Matthew. The visiting unit’s needs were intercepted and met by an associational WMU.
- Continued to support local church missions discipleship through children, youth, and adult education.
- Continued its involvement and support of the Foster Parents Association, and both Christian Woman’s Job Corps and Christian Men’s Job Corps.
- Sent missions exploration teams to Detroit and Boston, and supported church WMU groups that already have relationships with church planters in the Boston area.
- Continued to partner with the South Carolina Baptist Convention staff’s Missions Mobilization area of work, helping connect missionaries with South Carolina ties to local churches for involvement, prayer, and support.
- Promoted the state convention’s Heart 4 Schools emphasis through conferencing, speakers at WMU meetings, and through social media. The state WMU staff members, in 2016, each had a reading buddy at H.B. Rhame Elementary School – the closest elementary school to the convention building in Columbia.
- Partnered with national WMU and Spartanburg County Baptist Network to bring MissionsFest to Spartanburg County. A highlight of the meeting was that participants, some as far away as California, visited a local police station where refreshments were served and a time of prayer was provided. Other groups during the event were visiting a local nursing home to lead Vacation Bible School (VBS) for the residents. At least one of the residents was introduced to Jesus during the special VBS.
- As a part of MissionsFest, SC WMU provided, through Baptist Nursing Fellowship, a ministry of SC WMU, training for the staff of Millar’s Place, an extended care facility, helping with the facility’s accreditation. Volunteers also provided devotions, storytelling, singing, holiday crafts, and manicures. Nurses also participated in a mobile home park block party, inviting adults to blood pressure checks. Nutritional information was also provided. Baptist Nursing Fellowship also continued its 30-year ministry of co-sponsoring a Sunburn Unit at Surfside Beach. The unit included 43 volunteers and ministered to almost 4,400 people who stopped by the trailer.
- Hosted teen-aged girls from North and South Carolina, who gathered at Myrtle Beach for a spiritual retreat called Carolina Girls. As a part of the event, the girls and their leaders were engaged in missions activities in the community.
- Facilitated missions involvement by collecting Buckets of Hope for Baptist Global Response to AIDS patients in Africa. This effort will culminate at the SC WMU annual meeting in March 2017. (For information on how you can participate, visit www.scwmu.org.)
“As I reflect on all that we are doing in South Carolina WMU,” Laurie says, “the statement that comes to mind is this: ‘WMU facilitates missions involvement.’ That’s who we are, whether it’s in a classroom at church on Wednesday nights or at a homeless shelter serving soup; learning about Norway during an IMB study or packing shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child; gathering to pray for the women of the world or providing a meal to a volunteer fire department – these are all examples of what WMU in South Carolina is doing.
“We are excited about what’s happening today and very excited about what’s going to happen tomorrow and in 2017,” she says.