RITE OF PASSAGE: WMU
A résumé can say a lot about a person. I haven’t redone mine for a number of years. If I did, one of my favorite entries would read, “WMU leader, 1984-2008.”
When I tell my friends about this important part of my life, they often assume I’m joking. After all, I’ve had more than 35 years of experience taking students overseas. I’ve counseled families deep in the aftermath of suicide and shared Jesus from the jungles of Panama to the Palace of the Parliament in Hungary. WMU? Who am I kidding?
Nobody. For 24 years, I had the privilege of leading a WMU group based at Tulsa, First, where I served on staff long ago. One day, a speaker failed to show up for a monthly meeting. I was asked to fill in, and those dear ladies kept inviting me back. Before long, I was their main speaker and Bible teacher. You got it: Walker Moore, WMU leader.
For a number of years, our Awe Star staff hosted the annual Christmas party for my WMU group. I’ll never forget the excitement each December as the silver-haired ladies descended on our office. Each had her own stories of supporting missionaries through the years. And each prayed over our staff and students with the kind of love that can only come from . . . His.
One of these precious ladies was my mom, Lucile Hodges, who went to be with Jesus nearly two years ago. Another dear one, Lorena George, received her promotion to Heaven this past week. Nearly all the others awaited them in glory.
I no longer have a WMU group to lead, but that hasn’t changed my love and appreciation for the folks who have come through the ranks of the Woman’s Missionary Union. To me, WMU represents not an organization, but people: people whose lives have been changed by the power of Jesus Christ. People who long to see others’ lives changed as well. People who are willing to give their time, their money and their prayers to touch the world with the Gospel of Christ. People who support literacy projects and teach thousands to read every year. People who sponsor shelters for battered women and give them skills to rebuild their lives. People who fund craft ministries that provide escape from unspeakable horrors worldwide. People who spend countless hours on their knees lifting up missionary birthdays, prayer needs, emergency requests and more. People who recognize everybody matters to Jesus, and Jesus should matter to everyone.
My first WMU heroine was my mom, not Lucile but the mom who gave birth to my three brothers and me. Mom was a longtime Baptist and dedicated mission volunteer. But she was far from the old WMU stereotype with the Sunday dress and granny shoes. One of my best memories comes from the time we visited Mom and Dad back home in Missouri, and I couldn’t find my sons.
“Jeremiah! Caleb!” I called at the top of my lungs.
I finally located them high in a tree outside. Furiously, I rebuked the boys for their carelessness (I’d already adapted to the culture of the city). But my roar hushed instantly when Caleb pointed out that Grandma was up in the tree, too . . . several feet above her rambunctious grandsons.
That was Mom: lots of talk, and plenty of action, too. She loved nothing better than to jump into our old pickup and cruise the dusty roads around our home place, picking kids up for Sunday School or Backyard Bible Club. She’d haul out her flannelgraph and have a crowd gathered around her in no time. I’ve written about the haphazard way she stored the flannel-backed figures. The same character who served as King David one week became Abraham the next and the apostle Peter soon after that. Her audience may have found it a bit confusing, but little details like that never flustered Mom. She concentrated on telling the kids about Jesus. When she died unexpectedly at the young age of 55, hundreds of them lined up so each one could place a rose on her casket. Today, we’d say Mom knew how to keep the main thing . . . the main thing.
The older I get, the more I think about the kind of legacy I want to leave. The legacy of all the WMU ladies I’ve known consists of faith and hope: faith in a God who rules the universe, hope in His Son who came that the world through Him might be saved.
That kind of legacy beats a résumé . . . every time.