Baptist Women’s Missioanry Union of Nigeria comprises four organisations. These organisations take care of the spiritual, physical and intellectual aspects of womanhood from cradle to the grave. Each of these organisations has its name, functions, programmes and literature to fit the group. The groups are Sunbeam Band, Girls’ Auxiliary, Lydia Auxiliary and Women’s Missionary Society.
Women’s Missionary Society (WMS) is an organisation for Baptist married women of all ages. Historically, the organisation is as old as WMU. In the early years, Baptist churches were used to having societies. For instance, in 1896, Araromi Baptist Church, Lagos had women societies like Missionary Band, Young People’s Society; in 1915, First Baptist Church, Lagos had societies such as Women’s Preachers’ Band, Morning Star and Aged Women’s Association; in 1916, 94 women from three churches in Lagos gingered by Dr. Agbebi formed “Baptist Women’s League; in July 1916, at Oke’lerin Baptist Church, Ogbomoso, five women’s societies came together – “The Grandmothers”, “The Mothers”, “Purity Society”, “Esther” and the ‘Stars’ all dressed in white attire – as forerunners to the formation of WMU.
On March 14, 1919, the Women’s Missionary League was inaugurated by eleven women representing nine western towns. They had a separate meeting presided by Mrs. E.C. MacLean (A Southern Baptist Missionary) under an ackee apple (Ishin) tree at Osupa Baptist Day School, Ogbomoso during the 6th Annual meeting of the Nigerian Baptist Convention. The women assembled outside in an open space illuminated by God’s natural light.
WMU mainly exists for missions. She does this through her purpose which is to build lives that will emulate the Spirit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and promote Christian Missions through her organisations and fundamentals. This purpose is broken down into the following bitable pieces:
to participate in private and public prayer
to conduct regular personnal and corporate Bible study
to plan strategic and systemic giving
to engage in missions by praying, giving and going to support the Convention
In line with the above, WMS is set to:
empower every member for Kingdom growth through in-depth Bible study and prayer;
impact Christian leadership qualities on members in order to influence their homes by being good wives to their husbands, exemplary mothers to their children, and useful vessels in the church, community and society;
support, finance and mentor young people’s organisations (Sunbeam, GA, Lydia). It is from WMS that workers and advisers are chosen to mentor these Young People’s groups;
raise godly women who will use their human and material resources to promote Kingdom work and growth here on earth; and
prepare women for the Kingdom of God.
These objectives are achieved through weekly meetings in churches, quarterly in associations and annually in conferences, Leadership Workshops, Camps and Retreats. Proclaim magazine is used for weekly meetings. Some of the retreats organised at the Convention level include the following: Hannah’s Retreat (for waiting mothers), Widows’ Retreat, Executive Women’s Retreat for professional women who are at the peak of their careers, World Day of Prayer, Africa Day of Prayer, Mother’s Day, Focus Week among others. Needs of women are being met during these programmes and there are tremendous testimonies to God’s glory.
Watchword: Our watchword is “Labourers together with God” (1 Corinthians 3:9), while our permanent hymn is “Come, Women Wide Proclaim”.
Colour: Our colours are white, purple and gold.
WMU Workers and Advisers
Before the introduction of the term ‘Director’, women who served WMU were called workers and advisers. It was among WMS women that these workers and advisers were and are being selected. At that time, there were not many literate women who could read and write. Advisers and superintendents were also allocated to different associations. Some of these women supervised three or four associations according to the size and distance of each association.
Mrs. R.B. Famuyiwa, Mrs. Ladanu, Mrs. Alake Adekambi, Mrs. Asabi Fagbohun, Mrs. Rebecca Shentan, Mrs. Ikpunyen Eyetsemitan and Mrs. Victoria Abiola were among the women who served faithfully and tirelessly. These women stood out like bright light. Oftentimes, they were away from their homes for weeks at a time, trekking long distances, wading through deep streams or beaten by rain and most often with loads on their heads and babies tied to their backs.
Mrs. Powell directed WMU work through the period in the 60s. She travelled wide, visiting, encouraging and aiding workers. In her quiet way, she won the love and confidence of all. In 1962, area conferences blossomed into fraction. Northern Conference was the first to be organised under the leadership of Miss Carol Humphries and Mrs. A.A. Awoniyi who served as President. The following year – 1963, the Mid-western Conference was formed with Mrs. F.E. Ogisi elected as President and Mrs. J.C. Abel serving as WMU Director. The Eastern Conference was organised also in 1963 and Mrs. Ada Horsfall served as President and Mrs. Ralph Davis was the Acting Director. Four years later in 1967, West – Lagos Conference came into being. Mrs. A. Omikunle was elected President, while Mrs. B.T. Griffin was the Director.
The story of Gold Coast (now Ghana) Association cannot be omitted in the history of WMU of Nigeria. Rev. and Mrs. Homer Littleton and Rev. and Mrs. John Idowu went to Gold Coast to unify the scattered groups and to lead the Baptist work. Mrs. Lydia Adewole was the Supervisor for many years. Miss Majorie Jones served for several years as WMU Director of Ghana. Later, the work in Ghana grew from an association to a conference and then a convention of its own.
Convention WMS Directors