By Paula Schlueter Ross
In their presentation on “Telling the Good News,” Kristy Grannis and Ida Mall shared lots of information with the nearly 200 women attending the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League’s Assembly of Leaders.
Grannis, mission project administrator with LCMS World Mission, called the United States the world’s third-largest mission field, after China and India. She encouraged the women to share their faith with others because they “get to,” not because they “have to,” and to look for opportunities to share a joy-filled witness as “a loving response to all God has done for us.”
Mall, who served as LWML president from 1991 to 1995, likened faith-sharing to a woman with exciting news to share. For example, if her granddaughter has won a big scholarship “she’s going to tell [her friends about it], isn’t she?” In conversation with friends, that woman “is looking for a word that will give her entry to tell her story,” Mall said. But, even without it, “she is going to tell it anyway.”
Mall encouraged her audience to “pray for opportunities” to share their faith; “be intentional” about sharing it; smile, which “makes you approachable”; if you wear Christian jewelry, “have your [faith] story ready” when others comment on it; pray in public; and distribute LWML’s Mustard Seed pocket-sized devotionals when opportunities arise. For example, when paying a restaurant bill, you can hand the server your payment and a Mustard Seed tract, commenting, “Here’s something for your body and something for your soul — the more important one is the one for your soul.”
Mall also asked listeners to make an effort to get to know visitors to their church, “and don’t forget them.” Not all church visitors are Christian, she said.
The LWML’s Assembly of Leaders is a leadership training conference held once every four years that includes updates from the auxiliary’s five departments – Human Care, Gospel Outreach, Communication, Christian Life, and Servant Resources.
This year’s event, Oct. 24-26 in St. Louis, focused on the LWML’s current “primary targets and goals”: Telling the Good News, Christ-centered Living, Partnering for Diversity, and Building Up Our Sisters in Christ.
“As an organization, we feel that this is where our focus needs to be,” said LWML President Janice Wendorf. And, unless the women of the LWML embrace those primary targets, “they’re just words on paper,” she added.
Attending the training event were presidents and from two to four other representatives from each of the LWML’s 40 districts nationwide, as well as members of the auxiliary’s national executive committee.
LWML districts intentionally invited local leaders who had never attended an LWML training event before, as well as about 30 women age 35 or younger. Each will return home with a DVD of the event’s presentations that they will be expected to share with others in their local areas so that even more Lutheran women will be, according to Wendorf, “encouraged to use their gifts in their churches, zones, districts, and communities.”
Wendorf, who was elected president at the LWML’s June 2007 convention, said her involvement in the organization began in 1983, when she attended its national convention in Detroit. Her father had recently died, and she almost didn’t go, but was encouraged by her husband’s Aunt Ruth, an avid LWML member.
At the Detroit convention, Wendorf says she “got the big picture right away” and was “overwhelmed” by the experience of being with thousands of like-minded Lutheran women who were enthusiastic about — and involved in — mission work worldwide. On the bus ride home to Cleveland, she was asked to serve as her zone’s Christian growth chairman, and accepted.
And, although her LWML positions and duties have grown over the years, she says she never expected to serve as the organization’s national president. Now, looking back, she realizes “God was preparing me each step of the way.”
Likewise, she says, many other women may not know yet how far God — and their service in the LWML — will take them.
“I’m excited by the energy I see here and encouraged that the LWML is alive and well and blazing the path for the women of the church,” Wendorf told Reporter. “We’re ready to do whatever God asks us to do.”
Flo Hofman, a 38-year-old from Fort Walton Beach, Fla., has been an LWML member for 11 years. Hofman said she found the Assembly of Leaders a “wonderful” experience because she learned that “there’s more to the LWML than mission grants — there are Christian resources, Bible studies, the mentoring program, human care. I’m excited to tell people what’s happening on all the different levels of the LWML.”
Her mother died when Hofman was 14, and she was invited to an LWML event by an older woman at her church when she was in her 20s. She said she particularly enjoyed an Assembly of Leaders presentation on mentoring by former LWML President Virginia Von Seggern and Katy Gifford, chairwoman of the LWML’s Friends Into Serving Him Task Force, and now is “excited to go back and be a mentor to somebody else.”
Elaine Perry of Tacoma, Wash., an LWML member for 10 years, serves as chairwoman of the auxiliary’s Mission Advocacy and Grants Committee.
“I’m excited by the encouragement that comes as a result of the presentations” at the Assembly of Leaders, Perry said.
It’s a “no brainer” to be part of the LWML, whose mite-box offerings are used to preach the Gospel worldwide, she said.
“The LWML reaches everyone,” she added. “It’s a great organization for any woman who wants to put into service the gifts the Lord has given her.”
Posted Nov. 6, 2008