Called to Do Missionary Work
By Sherita Wallace | Dec 2, 2013
By Sherita Wallace
“You can’t just sit in the church and wait for things to come to you; you’ve got to go out into the world to see the needs for yourself.”
- Barbara C. Hudson, Episcopal Women’s Missionary Society President
Key bible verse: James 2:18
Do you feel called to do something? Something you or others may consider too small and insignificant or something you think is too big to accomplish. Whatever this calling may be, it may feel like a burning desire trapped in your bones that you cannot shake. Perhaps you are working in your calling now and asking God is this really what He called you to do or you’re pleading with God to send help NOW! Before we were born, God embedded a call to action in all of us, a call that God predestined for us to fulfill in our lifetime. The Prophet Isaiah said that God formed him in his mother’s womb to be His servant. See Isaiah 49:5(a) (see also Jeremiah 1:5, “Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as my prophet to the nations.”).
Recently, I interviewed a woman who discovered her call to do missionary work by accident. Let’s explore her story to perhaps unlock or crack open the door of your calling that you may be avoiding, confused about or didn’t know existed.
About 30 years ago, a young wife and mother, Barbara Hudson, settled into her acceptable and quiet role as pastor’s wife of a small, rural church in Georgia. She was quiet and meek; the type that thought long and hard about what to say before she spoke. In her church, the African Methodist Episcopal Church (A.M.E.), pastor’s wives where expected to take on the role of Advisor to the president of the church’s Women’s Missionary Society.
In the late 1700’s, former slave and American abolitionist, Sarah Allen, along with other women formed a group that tended to the physical conditions of the male preachers and ministers who would return from mission trips in feeble conditions. These male missionaries were going out to witness on foot, with one set of clothes on their backs and perhaps a small bundle of food that was unlikely to last the entire journey. Many of these men were former slaves traveling in unknown, rural, undeveloped and often hostile territory. However, they pressed on, feeling compelled by God to meet needs and witness to others. They travel only as far as their feet and health could take them. Many of these men returned from their missionary trip in sickly, malnourished, and tattered physical conditions. Sarah organized a group of woman to provide meals and mend the tattered clothes of the exhausted ministers returning home from the field. Thus, the Women’s Missionary Society (WMS) was born.
Fast forward centuries later, Barbara assumed her role as Advisor to her church’s WMS. Of course, this group of women now looked outward in their outreach efforts. Time, technology, tolerance, and enlightenment had eroded the racial, gender and geographical boundaries that limited these women to only a first aid committee that nursed the men missionaries back to health.
Advisor to the missionary society was and still is an honorable position. However, Barbara soon learned that at this particular church, she was just advising a “sewing circle” that didn’t really do much outside of the church. To their defense, this group was generally comprised of elderly ladies in their 70’s and 80’s who had a hard time getting around; lived miles away from the church; and lost track of time easily, therefore, showing up for a 6 o’clock WMS meeting at 6:45 or 7:00.
Unexpected Call to Action
As fate would have it, the telephone rang in the middle of the night at Barbara’s home. The voice on the other end of the receiver informed her that the current president of her church’s missionary society was being transferred out of town for work, and they thought Barbara would be a perfect successor. Barbara responded, “ummm…I don’t…ummm…are you sure about that.” You know how this story goes—Barbara timidly accepted the nomination and was elected President of the Women’s Missionary Society at the next meeting.
During my interview of Barbara, I asked her “what was your first order of business.” She smile and stated, “I told them that when we call a 6 o’clock meeting, the meeting will start at 6 o’clock, and if I’m at the church at 6 o’clock by myself, I will start the devotion and vote on business by myself.” “They all beat me to the next meeting,” she chuckled.
Accepting the Call
Like many other faith-based organizations, Barbara’s organization faces the challenges of an ever-widening age gap of laborers, an aging congregation, some groups and churches apathy towards the world outside its doors, and the insufficiency of laborers to address increasing needs. However, despite these challenges, Barbara and her organization have initiated and championed missionary outreach projects such as HIV/AIDS prevention programs that collaborate with community agencies to get people tested for HIV and AIDs, participated in World AIDS Day activities, donated toiletries and bedding for summer camps sponsored by H.E.R.O. for Children, distribute HIV/AID literature and raised thousands of dollars towards research and a cure for the disease. They have also partnered with other organizations like the Prison Fellowship that sponsors the Angel Tree ministry for children of incarcerated parents, conducted Breast Cancer Awareness workshops, and donated to the Susan G. Komen Foundation.
This group has not only responded to the call of great service in their local community, state and nation, but also to the call in countries like Africa by working with organizations like The Balm in Gilead (develops health and disease prevention educational and training programs designed to meet the unique needs of African congregations).
I could go on and on, but the point is to highlight someone in a local community that stepped outside of their comfort zone and answered a call, a call to strengthen others faith and continue the ministry of Jesus Christ by service and witnessing in the world. Your call may be missionary work or something else. Whatever your call may be, have you answered your call to action? Having faith and being a faith-based organization is great, but in the words of James, “show me your faith without deeds (or works), and I will show you my faith by my deeds (or works).” James 2:18.
We salute Barbara Hudson and others like her who work tirelessly in the field of ministry and missionary work whether locally, nationally or globally. Barbara final words were “I love serving others. It’s just a passion of mine, and I think I picked the best organization to fall in love with because its purpose is to serve.”
Through prayer, meditation and sometimes trial and error, unlock the calling that may not bring fame and fortune, but it makes you say “I love what I do; I’m passionate about what I do.”
Barbara Hudson's Acknowledgements: "I want to thank the Bishop, Supervisor, and SED WMS Missionaries for giving me the opportunity to spread my wings."
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