wmu1By Jean Bihn

Riveting personal stories from missionaries and recognizing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder were among the learning opportunities packed into the Arizona Woman’s Missionary Union Celebrate Missions — 2016 held Feb. 19-20.

In addition to breakout sessions, spirited worship music was led by teams from Corona Baptist Church, Chandler, and Fil-Am Baptist Church, Tempe. The event, which drew about 50, was held at CrossPoinTempe Church.

Retired educator Tom Toone was Friday’s keynote speaker.

“Even when going through a trial, we must ‘surrender to serve,'” Toone said, speaking to the event’s theme.

The former principal and administrator spent five years fighting cancer. The disease is now in remission. Toone shared wisdom he acquired while working through the depression that accompanied the illness.

Addressing those suffering mental or physical challenges, he said, “Your trial was custom-made for you. Remember that depression is deep … but God is deeper!”

Calling depression “a slippery slope into darkness,” Toone suggested studying the Psalms and serving God by serving others. He also encouraged individuals in similar circumstances to ask God to “help me to use this to glorify You.”

Arizona WMU held their annual election at Friday’s meeting. Officers for 2016 are: Executive Director Terrie Sullivan, President Nadine Peterson, Vice President Linda Hopson, and Recording Secretary Jennifer Orkin.

Saturday, Roger Daniels, statewide director of New Life Counseling for Arizona Baptist Children’s Services & Family Ministries, led a breakout session about the causes and symptoms of PTSD. Daniels said God built many coping mechanisms into our brain to deal with both physical and emotional trauma.

In another classroom, Eric and Brittany Gibbs, Mission Service Corps missionaries with the North wmu2American Mission Board, told of waiting for their call while taking part in many mission trips.

“We were always mission-minded,” Eric said. “We both grew up in a youth group that did many mission projects.”

But as a married couple, every mission trip would eventually conclude with, “This isn’t it for us — God has something more for us.”

Then Eric was given an opportunity to travel to the Tohono O’odham Nation in Arizona and earn college credit to boot. In 2009, as he stepped off the airplane, he knew this was where he and Brittany belonged. Once in the village of Hikiwan, Eric befriended a 17-year-old. By the end of the week, the boy had accepted Christ as his Savior and was baptized in the very last service of the mission trip.

“It was the first baptism in that church in 10 years,” Eric recalled.

The Gibbs now serve on the Gila River Reservation in Sacaton.

AZSBC Executive Director David Johnson, Saturday’s keynote speaker, told members of Arizona WMU, “You are our partners. We need you now more than ever.”

Johnson said many Southern Baptists are not learning about the Cooperative Program.

“We need your help to educate Christians about the Cooperative Program,” he said. “It is not just in missionaries who go into the field, it’s in the individuals who come to Christ.”

On sharing the gospel, Johnson said John 3:16 is “the most important missions verse … because if you have only one verse you can use, it tells the whole story. I believe this because it shapes our belief.

“[God’s] motive was nothing less than love. … We live in a world that is desperate for love, and John 3:16 says ‘the world.’ The whole world.”