National Woman’s Missionary Union has named four young women to the 2022 National Acteens Panel: Grace Carter of University Hills Baptist Church in Charlotte, North Carolina; Taylor Glover of Harps Crossing Baptist Church in Fayetteville, Georgia; and Aileen Gregorio Mejia and Nievez Montanez, both of Freeman Heights Baptist Church in Garland, Texas.
“We are excited to have these young women represent Acteens this year,” said Heather Keller, WMU ministry consultant for children and students. “I am anxious to see how God will use this group to impact their generation with the gospel and encourage other believers to share the gospel with the world.
“Acteens is an amazing opportunity of growth, a time to build confidence and a place for teen girls to realize their role in the Great Commission,” Keller added. “The young women on this year’s panel are amazing examples of what Acteens is all about: making disciples of Jesus who live on mission.”
Grace Carter: ‘Feet to my faith’
Carter, 17, has been personally involved in missions since she was in sixth grade, traveling with her church’s youth choir throughout the nation and also serving with Acteens to minister in practical ways to those in need.
Missions, she said, is “a great way to share the love of Christ and meet other people’s pressing needs. Actions speak louder than words, and as I tell others about my faith in Christ, that has to be backed up by actual action.
“Serving others puts feet to my faith.”
Beyond being involved in organized missions opportunities, Carter strives to live with a daily “missions mindset,” explaining that “living a missions lifestyle means consistently and purposefully living with mission on your mind. In reality we are surrounded by missions opportunities every single day.”
Carter often lives out her missions mindset at school, she said.
“While going about my days, I can seek out opportunities to be a light in a dark world by being a listening ear or by helping explain a topic or just simply helping someone smile,” she said.
She also helps lead community service projects within school clubs.
During the nine years Bo Riley has served University Hills Baptist, first as student pastor and now senior pastor, he has seen Carter’s “heart for missions, her leadership abilities and efforts and her perseverance through trials.”
The teen’s mother died of cancer a few years ago, he shared.
“This type of tragedy can either lead a student away from faith or push them deeper into faith,” Riley noted. “By God’s grace, Grace has grown closer to Jesus through the difficulty she has experienced.”
Deborah Taylor, WMU of North Carolina president, agreed.
“Grace did not use [her mother’s death] as an excuse to withdraw or seek pity, but instead drew strength from Christ and the love surrounding her from her extended family and the Christian community.
“Grace has chosen to walk in the light of Christ and follow His path.”
Taylor Glover: ‘On the move for God’
Whether she’s at school, on the softball field or tennis court, or in the community, Glover sees opportunities to minister and be a gospel witness.
“For me, living a missions lifestyle means constantly being on the move for God,” she said.
“In this lifestyle, it is understood that wherever one goes, there is always an opportunity to share the word of God. Missions-minded people are quick to meet human needs while sharing the redeeming love of Christ.”
Through involvement in school and community activities, Glover has organized a canned food drive, kickstarted a recycling project, organized breast cancer awareness week activities, collected used prom dresses and set up mini-prom boutiques in schools and completed a project on the prevention of childhood obesity, including a digital cookbook and workout videos.
“Through servant leadership, Taylor makes missions a priority not only through church but school and community,” said Linda Fuller Bide, WMU director for Harp’s Crossing Baptist.
Even if Glover has to get out of her “comfort zone,” she said she wants to “share the good news of Christ with anybody that is met in one’s journey of faith.”
Her hope, she said, is to “make heaven crowded.”
Through Acteens, Glover has helped conduct a Valentine’s Day party for a girls’ cottage at the Georgia Baptist Children’s Home and collect school backpacks with supplies for children in Appalachia, among other missions activities.
“Taylor is eager for opportunities where she can meet new people and point them to Jesus,” said Tabitha Ferrell, director of Camp Pinnacle, a ministry of Georgia Baptist WMU.
Aileen Gregorio Mejia: ‘Following in the footsteps of Jesus’
High school senior Gregorio Mejia knows what it’s like to face a personal crisis and grow closer to the Lord. When she was 15, she was diagnosed with leukemia and endured a year of medical treatment.
“Looking back at it now, I see that God was there with me and my family, holding us,” Gregorio Mejia said. “Being able to say that God has completely healed me and … has changed the way I look at life is a good testimony that could also change the perspective of others.”
WMU of Texas leader Teri Ussery added, “God has used that experience to help mold her, teach her and prepare her for the journey to which she is called. … God can use the maturity she has gained on her journey to help influence and encourage others.”
The young woman’s career goal, a result of her cancer journey, is to become a nurse and be used by God through her vocation to minister to others.
“To know Aileen is to know one of the most joyful Christ-followers you will encounter,” said Larry Venable, Freeman Heights pastor.
Such joy was evident in 2016 when Gregorio Mejia went on her first mission trip to help a Brazilian church in Boston. She loved “being able to make connections with the people that God put in my journey,” she noted.
A missions lifestyle, she said, “means following in the footsteps of Jesus.”
Acteens provides many opportunities for her to follow those steps and be actively involved in missions.
An active missions lifestyle “makes me feel like this is what I am meant to do in that time and place, like I am fulfilling the purpose that God has called me to,” she said.
Nievez Montanez: ‘Domino effect’
“I can’t help it. No matter what’s happening, I can’t stop myself from doing it,” stated 18-year-old Montanez.
“Though this cheeky smile comes naturally to me, that upturn of the corners of my mouth with the small wrinkles formed around my sparkling eyes is a testament to my faith in Christ, my testimony to how Christ has changed me for the better,” she said.
Montanez, who professed faith in Christ during the summer of her sixth grade year at Girls in Action (a WMU program for younger girls) camp, was the first in her family to become a Christian. Her decision then had a “domino effect,” she said, as her sister and then her mother and father became Christians.
“She has led her entire family to Christ, and to not only come but to be very involved in our church,” said Audrey Gibbs, a North American Mission Board missionary serving in Garland, Texas.
When Montanez helps distribute gifts and food through Freeman Heights’ outreach center, she recalls how she, her mother and younger sister once were on the receiving end of the gifts and food. Those days, she believes, were one way God prepared her to serve the community and share His love.
“The most meaningful thing” in Montanez’s Acteens experience, she said, “is being able to serve in my church’s community outreach center. It’s the place where I grew up attending whenever my family needed support from the church. My mission field has always been serving [there], and I believe it’s no coincidence that I ended up helping in a place where I once received aid.”
At the center Montanez not only distributes assistance to families but also eagerly shares her testimony of how every member of her family “came to know Christ.”
Acteens is the WMU-sponsored missions group for girls in grades 7–12. For more than 50 years, Acteens has provided generations with the opportunity to grow in their faith with others who share the same goal: to be actively involved in missions discipleship. This includes learning about, praying for, supporting and doing missions and telling others about Jesus.
The panelists will serve through 2022 and each will receive a scholarship from the Jessica Powell Loftis Endowment through the WMU Foundation. They will help lead in the WMU Missions Celebration and Annual Meeting in Anaheim, California, in June, prior to the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting. In addition, they may have speaking opportunities in their respective states and will write blogs for Acteens at wmu.com/blogs.
by Margaret Colson