With Thanksgiving

With Thanksgiving

Written By Sandra Hughes

With Thanksgiving

Philippians 4:6-7 (CSB)Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. 

When I was sixteen, the North American Mission Board sent me to South Carolina as a Sojourner (a high school-aged summer missionary). This California girl got to pet chickens, try boiled peanuts, and drink sweet tea for the first time.  The mission board paid for my airfare, food, and other expenses so I could spend the summer leading VBS’s and day camps in low-income neighborhoods and work with children on Native American Reservations. I was grateful and amazed that Southern Baptists who I’d never even met would be so generous with me and the hundreds of other sojourners sent out that summer.  

It was the summer of the “Fantastic Good News Ocean Odyssey” VBS, and I still remember the words to most of the songs (“We’ll discover a world of wonder underwater….”). I also remember the words of Philippians 4:4-8, which I memorized during my weeks in South Carolina. As I meditated on the verses, I began to believe that I, a neurotic, and grade-obsessed student, actually did not need to be worried or anxious…about anything. I especially meditated on those two little words, “with thanksgiving.”  

I was vaguely aware that my summer missions experience was due to the generosity of Southern Baptists and that it all had something to do with a lady named Annie Armstrong. In college, I went on a mission trip to Central Asia where I worked with International Mission Board missionaries and I knew that this also had something do with Southern Baptists, and with a lady named Lottie Moon.  

I’ve since learned more about these ladies and how they encouraged Southern Baptists to give generously to missions so young women such as myself could be mentored, trained, and sent on mission. Over the years they have become symbolic of lives well-lived for the Kingdom of God, as women who gave everything they had, with thanksgiving, to The Savior whom they loved. Annie Armstrong wrote thousands of letters exhorting Southern Baptist women to form missions societies to support our home missionaries. She never collected a salary, and worked until she could work no longer.  

Lottie Moon, the first single woman missionary sent out by Southern Baptists, literally gave her life in the cause of missions to China, but not before working on the Chinese mission field for over 40 years, and spending most of that time sending letters home exhorting Southern Baptist women and men to give their lives and their finances for the sake of the gospel. Her death on Christmas Eve 1912 was so tragic and unexpected that it caused Southern Baptists to increase their missions giving exponentially. Now, every year when we hold the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, we remember not only Lottie, but all the missionaries who have given their lives on the mission field.   

When worry creeps into my heart about the future of the gospel, about God’s kingdom work in California and around the world, Philippians 4:6 reminds me to present my requests to God, “with thanksgiving.”  

I am thankful for the example of the women and men who have come before me; those who continue to pray for missionaries, go on mission, and give to missions. I am thankful for my Southern Baptist family who works together to fulfill the Great Commission. And I am thankful for the ministry leaders who have given me many chances to serve in the churches where God has placed me. 

I am particularly thankful for the women (and men) of the California Woman’s Missionary Union (CA-WMU) who have embraced and valued me and put me to work leading trainings and exhorting churches in California to keep missions in the forefront of everything they do.  

This Christmas season, my family and my church will have a chance to give generously to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering which goes straight to our missionaries on the mission field and ensures that they have what they and their families need to stay on the field for the long term.  

In 2022-2023, Southern Baptists raised over $194,000,000 for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. Our California Southern Baptist Convention alone gave over $2,252,000! I hope to see California Southern Baptists outgive ourselves generously to the cause of International Missions this year. If your church needs supplies for the missions offering, they are provided free of charge through CA-WMU in partnership with CSBC and are available at the CSBC website.   

In Catherine B. Allen’s biography of Lottie Moon’s life, The New Lottie Moon Story, Lottie Moon once said, “I will do no more missionary work today. I’m exhausted!” She had been on the road all day teaching and talking, and her strength was nearly gone, but when she saw the many curious people who wanted to hear more about Jesus, she rallied and went on working, saying, “It’s impossible not to speak, when we have the words of eternal life.”  

Just like Lottie in her time, our current generation has been entrusted with the words of eternal life. It’s impossible for us not to go, pray, or give!  

About the Author

Sandra Hughes
President, California Woman's Missionary Union

Sandra Hughes is a mother of five, and the president of the California Woman's Missionary Union. She serves as Children's Ministry Director at Mt. View Baptist Church in Lake Isabella, and is currently pursuing a Masters in Educational Leadership at Gateway Seminary. A former high school English teacher and published poet, Hughes loves to write and to talk, especially about missions. She inherited her love for ministry and for communication from her father and mother, Randy and Carol Bennett.

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