BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP) -- Five Acteens from four states have been selected by WMU as national Acteens panelists and will be featured during the WMU Missions Celebration and Annual Meeting, June 9-10, in Birmingham, Ala.
Serving on this year's panel are Grace Cain of First Baptist Church in Pineville, La.; Dominique DuPar of St. Stephen Missionary Baptist Church in La Puente, Calif.; Ashley Fan of Blacksburg Baptist Church in Blacksburg, Va.; Emily Morrow of First Baptist Church of Ponder, Texas; and Annsley Pugh of Bethany Baptist Church in Callao, Va. The event will be held in conjunction with the Southern Baptist Convention's annual meeting, June 11-12.
Acteens is an organization sponsored by WMU that encourages girls in grades 7-12 to grow in their faith and become rooted in missions and ministry. Through Acteens, girls learn how to become disciples of Jesus who live on mission, in accordance with WMU's purpose, as they participate in missions work in their local community or abroad.
"We are so proud of these dynamic young women and their commitment to grow in their faith and share Christ with others," said Heather Keller, national WMU ministry consultant for children and students. "As they continue to seek God's direction for their lives after high school, they go with a firm foundation based on their faith in Christ, biblical knowledge, and the benefit of godly leaders who have poured into them during these formative years."
National panelists must demonstrate academic excellence, leadership skills, and involvement in church and community. Each of these girls has served through Acteens from five to seven years.
Pugh said she is always trying to learn new ways and find new opportunities to share the good news of Jesus.
"I believe we are called to help meet the basic needs of whoever God puts in our path, and in the most respectful way possible," she explained. "When basic needs are met, that opens up an awesome opportunity to talk about why we serve and love others. We love and provide for the needs of others because God loves us so much that He sent His only Son to save us. It is our responsibility to share that love with everyone we meet."
Pugh will participate in her fifth missions trip to Standing Rock Indian Reservation in Cannon Ball, N.D., this summer.
"By coming back year after year, the people of Cannon Ball know we love them and God loves them," she shared. "Our continued commitment to serving them in the name of Jesus gives them hope."
Similarly, Fan said her mission work in the Dominican Republic strengthened her faith and provided insight. "Missions is incredibly humbling and fulfilling because serving others shows us what we take for granted and what we should be grateful for," she shared.
Furthermore, Fan said involvement in missions "gives us the opportunity to be like Christ, to serve others.
"Jesus set the example of serving others in daily life," Fan noted. "Some people just need to know they're loved and cared for. I want to live so others can see that I know God's love for His people. We have the ability to influence every single person we interact with and any little thing can make a difference."
DuPar said her missions involvement has humbled her and redirected her goals in life.
"Serving in missions has shown me there are others who are less fortunate and they need love and compassion shown to them," DuPar said. "My leaders remind me daily that I should not let anything deter me from my goals and I should always put God first in anything I do. I am learning how to pray and to ask God to give me the right words to speak so I might be a help to others. Being involved in missions has been one of the greatest things that has ever happened to me because I am no longer selfish in my actions, I am no longer judgmental toward others and I no longer put God second in my life."
Last summer, DuPar served in Tanzania with a mission team from her church, but describes her high school as her biggest mission field.
"One of the most important things Acteens has taught me about missional living is that it must be intentional," she said.
Cain noted one of the most significant experiences she has gained through Acteens is the opportunity to mentor girls in grades 4-6 by praying for them and making care packages throughout the year.
"Each Acteen is assigned one or two younger girls each year to mentor," Cain said. "To see the girls find more self-confidence and self-esteem is so heartwarming. You get to form such a strong bond as you watch them grow in their relationship with Christ for a year. When they succeed, you succeed. When they struggle, you struggle."
Mentoring is only part of Cain's passion for missions.
"Having a prayerful attitude as you go throughout your day, taking time to learn about missionaries, giving to missions offerings, and serving your community are the main ways you can live a missions-focused life. It is a lifestyle," she said.
Morrow said, "As a GA and Acteen, learning about missions, praying for missions, giving to missions, doing missions and participating in the work of the church is a huge part of what drives my life today. As a GA, I was inspired by Acteens and how they lived on mission as they related to younger girls in GA. So when I became an Acteen, I felt like I was able to give back to the younger girls in GA ... now I get to be the person who inspires others to get involved in missions."
These five panelists will serve through 2019 and each will receive a $1,000 scholarship from the WMU Foundation. In addition to speaking and serving during the WMU Missions Celebration in June, they may also speak at churches in their respective states. Additionally, they will write blogs for Acteens at wmu.com/students.