By Shannon Baker
BCM/D National Correspondent
SPARTANBURG, S.C.—Aquilla Ann Brown Smith, a former Woman’s Missionary Union state executive director for Maryland/Delaware, New Mexico and South Carolina, died Feb. 7. She was 70.
Smith retired on medical disability at the end of 2005 after serving the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware for a decade as a consultant for the WMU as executive director, missions education, special education, coordinator of On Missions Celebration (World Missions Conference), Women’s Enrichment Ministry, advisor to the Maryland/Delaware support staff and director/treasurer for Camp Wo-Me-To, a camp in Jarrettsville, Md., owned and operated by WMU.
She also served 18 years in the New Mexico Convention and four and a half years in the South Carolina Convention.
Smith, who is the wife of Lonnie L. Smith and daughter of the late Frank and Aquilla Wilkins Brown, was introduced to missions at an early age.
“Missions is in my blood and it has been from the time missionaries came and spoke at our church and stayed in our house when I was a child,” Smith told BaptistLIFE at her retirement. “My parents set the example. They didn’t have a whole lot materially, but Mama and Daddy shared with people who needed things such as food and clothing. They also supported the special missions offerings like Annie Armstrong, Lottie Moon and State Missions, as well as the South Carolina Children’s Home, in addition to tithing.”
Smith was raised in the rural community of Goucher in Gaffney, S.C. She made a confession of faith when she was nine years old at an August revival service at her church, Goucher Baptist Church in Gaffney. Later she graduated from Limestone College in Gaffney and did graduate work at the University of South Carolina, Spartanburg, in special education and counseling.
She spent two years in Guatemala, Central America, as one of the Foreign Mission Board’s (now IMB) first missionary journeymen group where she taught missionary children. She also taught history and special education in South Carolina before becoming the director of Baptist Women (now Women on Mission) for the South Carolina’s Woman’s Missionary Union. In 1978, she became executive director of WMU for the Baptist Convention of New Mexico. She was called to Maryland in 1996.
Since beginning to work professionally with WMU in 1973, Smith had the privilege to serve with five state executive directors and five division directors. In New Mexico and Maryland, in particular, she was a transition person seeing many changes in the organization of WMU: most notably, younger women serving on the WMU Executive Board and in other places of leadership.
Gayla Parker, who followed Smith in her ministry at the BCM/D, noted, “One of the hardest things in ministry is to follow someone who so passionately gives her all to a ministry. As soon as I arrived in Maryland I knew that I was following a woman who had given her life passionately to the cause of missions and missions education through WMU.”
Parker added, “Every where I went I heard stories about Aquilla; how she gave, how she worked, how she lead, and how she inspired. When I finally met her for the first time I met a gracious, humble and very kind woman. She was a spiritual giant that will be greatly missed but her legacy will live on through the women and girls who learned to live out their faith from Aquilla Smith.”
Smith enjoyed working in all the churches, with church plants and with language churches. Smith said she enjoyed providing training, planning events, setting up mission trips and especially making new friends.
She was a member of First Baptist Church in Laurel, Md., while in Maryland.
Surviving in addition to her husband is a sister, Mildred Wilson and husband, Don, of Shelby, N.C.; a nephew, George Wilson and wife, Susan, of Shelby; a niece, Margaret Bradshaw and husband, Dan, of Hillsborough, N.C.; two great-nephews. She was preceded in death by a brother, Basil Brown.
The family will receive friends from 12 until 1 PM on Saturday, February 9, 2013 at Goucher Baptist Church. Funeral services will immediately follow at 1 PM at the Church with Rev. Norman Gardner officiating. Interment will be in the Goucher Baptist Church Cemetery. An online guest register is available at www.blakelyfuneralhome.com.
Memorials may be made to: Baptist Family and Children’s Services of Maryland, Inc., 7161-A Columbia Gateway Drive, Columbia, MD 21046.
With reporting by Sharon Mager