Posted on : Monday July 11, 2011

By Joe Conway

PHOENIX (BP)–In a hand-off complete with a race car pit stop, transition of Royal Ambassadors to its 103-year-old parent organization is now under way.

Wanda S. Lee, executive director and treasurer of the Woman's Missionary Union (WMU) gives the WMU report with Acteen panelists behind her during the June 14 morning session of the Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting at the Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix, Ariz. Photo by Van Payne

Woman’s Missionary Union Executive Director/Treasure Wanda Lee accepted the “hand-off” of Royal Ambassadors and Challengers from North American Mission Board President Kevin Ezell in the June 13 morning session of WMU’s annual meeting and missions celebration.

“We are excited,” Lee said. “We are in a new arena of partnership for missions education. We love RAs. They were born from our hearts and we gave them willingly to the Brotherhood Commission in 1954. We now gladly receive them back. Thank you.”

RA, begun by WMU in 1908, is the Southern Baptist missions organization for boys in grades 1�6. Challengers engages young men in grades 7�12 in missions education.

Ezell said he believes this is the right move at the right time.

“We have the assignment for missions education from the Southern Baptist Convention, but we have always worked in partnership with the WMU. You are experts in missions education and this makes great sense to me. Who does it better than WMU?”

Unveiling a large RA race car cutout to laughter and applause, Ezell presented Lee with the “small gift,” along with a framed logo with each of the missions education organizations, symbolic of the transfer of the organizations’ copyrights to WMU. The frame came in a box marked one of 1,908.

“We have a lot of files to transfer to you; the semi will be rolling into Birmingham soon,” Ezell joked. “We may not have exactly 1,908 boxes, but we wanted to recognize your commitment to the organization you founded in 1908.”

Acteen Panelist Taylor Townsend, a member of First Baptist Church in Jackson, Miss., and Challengers SBC Page David Ray, a member of Bethel Baptist Church in Greenville, S.C., assisted M. Steve Heartsill in unveiling the car on the platform.

Heartsill, a 10-year veteran at WMU and former pastor, will assume the managing editor’s role for RA and Challengers resources July 1.

Lee noted Heartsill’s commitment to WMU and its resources.

“Leadership is critical in this transition and we are happy to announce Dr. Heartsill’s acceptance of this role. He will lead a team of men at WMU to plan, design and create resources for RAs and Challengers,” Lee said.

The car, used in pit stop events where RAs are timed on changing tires and “fueling up” with water, is representative of the evangelistic outreach activities that have been a large part of RAs and Challengers.

Lee recognized NAMB staff and missionaries in the audience as well as missionary parents and children.

“You scared me for a minute with that box,” Lee said to laughter. “We have always enjoyed a great partnership with NAMB. We look forward to working with their team in this transition and to continuing to strengthen our partnership.”

Ezell thanked the audience for their support and prayer for missionaries and thanked Lee for her help and pointers as he began his days at NAMB.

“Today is a special day for NAMB as we continue to bring focus to the entity and expand our partnerships,” Ezell said. “With your support we want to put more missionaries on the field. We want to take better care of our missionaries who are on the field. I have visited with many of our missionaries who are sacrificing to commit more resources to missions. We want to have a higher quality of care for them.”

Joe Conway is a writer for the North American Mission Board.