A Shared Love for North American Missions

I love the WMU building! When you walk in the front door, you know immediately who we are and why we exist. You are greeted with a beautifully crafted bronze replica of the world, and farther down the hallway you see a mural with the faces of the peoples of the world. All around you are artifacts emulating the culture and diversity of our world.

Many of our artifacts are gifts from missionaries and friends of missions who served as partners with WMU. One of those is the North American Mission Board (NAMB). Begun in 1845 as the Board of Domestic Missions and later the Home Mission Board, NAMB shared with WMU a love for missionaries serving in our nation and its surrounding territories.

We recently received some very special gifts from NAMB. One is the armoire belonging to Annie Armstrong, a welcomed addition to our Annie Armstrong collection. The other item is the desk of former secretary of the Home Mission Board Isaac Tichenor. Receiving this gift prompted me to dig a little deeper into the life of this great Southern Baptist leader.

Born in Kentucky in 1825, Tichenor became a minister early in life and was the pastor of a number of influential churches, including First Baptist Church, Montgomery, Alabama, and First Baptist Church, Memphis, Tennessee. He also was a gifted businessman who became president of a coal mining company in Alabama. Because of his business and professional experience, he ultimately was invited to serve as president of the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Alabama (now Auburn University), which he led for 10 years.

During this same time, Southern Baptists were struggling as a denomination. The Civil War had devastated the country and impacted giving in many ways for missions causes. The Home Mission Board, in particular, was on the brink of failure, and at the very meeting where a motion to eliminate the mission board was to be considered, Tichenor was presented as an alternative option as the new secretary. Today, history credits him for saving the Home Mission Board and influencing the successful turnaround for all Southern Baptist work.

One of the first actions of Tichenor in 1882 after the election was to invite Annie Armstrong to organize the women for a special missions project among the Native Americans of Oklahoma. They became a great team, advancing missions in North America. Six years later, WMU was formed and Annie was elected as the first recording secretary. Their shared love of Southern Baptists and missions made them a great team. How fitting that WMU would receive this pair of gifts on the same day from NAMB.

The faces on our wall just off the lobby not only represent the peoples of the world far away but also the people who now live and work alongside my family and yours. Many of them do not know the love of Christ nor His special gift of salvation. As we enter this season of prayer and giving on behalf of North American missions, we find the landscape of North America is vastly different than when Annie and Isaac served as our leaders. Just as they faced significant challenges in their day, we also face many challenges. Our response, however, should be the same: to faithfully serve the Lord, meeting needs and sharing the gospel wherever He leads us. 

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