How Missions Leader’s Passion Began at the Dining Room Table

Joy Bolton (center), retiring executive director of Kentucky WMU, visits with Sandy Wisdom-Martin (left), National WMU executive director, and Linda Cooper, National WMU president, during Bolton’s retirement reception. Photo by Pam Henderson/WMU

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) — “I learned missions at my dining room table,” Joy Bolton often has said, recounting that “my mother and dad were passionate about missions.”

Not surprisingly, Bolton has been a missions leader, participant and advocate throughout her ministry career. Following her recent retirement as executive director of Kentucky Woman’s Missionary Union after 19-plus years, she will serve in a volunteer consulting role with national WMU as lead strategist for churchwide and associational WMU.

Bolton’s WMU career harkens back to the summer of 1978 when she served as national WMU’s first summer intern after graduating from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Emphasizing that “I have been a part of WMU all of my life,” Bolton said, “I can’t think of a time I have not been a part of WMU organizations. This was my real passion.”

After completing her internship and marrying her husband Lee later that year, they both worked for national WMU the following summer. They next served as church planters in Pittsburgh, Pa., before Lee was called as pastor of churches in Reading, Pa., and Annapolis, Md.

“During those years of serving churches, I was a WMU volunteer,” Bolton said. “Everywhere I went, I did church, associational and state level leadership and did writing for national WMU,” including several books on such topics as nursing home ministry and WMU missions guides for church and associational leaders.

She also served on the state WMU Executive Board in both the Pennsylvania/South Jersey and Maryland/Delaware Baptist conventions as well as serving on volunteer mission teams in Brazil, Rwanda, South Africa, South Korea, Tanzania and several other countries over the years.

Joy Bolton (right), longtime Kentucky WMU executive director, visits with her successor, Liz Encinia, who previously served as missional lifestyle strategist for WMU of Texas. Photo by Pam Henderson/WMU

Bolton’s missions commitment and involvement did not go unnoticed. She was named publications consultant for Maryland/Delaware WMU and later became adult missions consultant for South Carolina WMU. In 1999, she was called as executive director of Kentucky WMU.

Years earlier, with her dad serving as a church pastor and her mother as an associational Girls’ Auxiliary (now Girls in Action) director, Bolton had lots of opportunities to learn about missions during GA meetings her mother led at their dining room table as well as visiting missionaries who frequently were invited to dinner in her home.

Recalling one particularly poignant childhood memory, Bolton said her dad allowed her to pick up pecans from a tree in the church parking lot. As a child of 7 or 8, she said her dad “would take me to the processing plant and I would sell those pecans. I can remember giving that first money that I earned to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. I’ve been giving to this offering all my life.”

Years later, during her first overseas missions trip to Rwanda, Bolton recalled, “We were going out on one of the Sundays to a little church in the bush. A missionary was telling us about the congregation and how they had made the brick themselves out of straw and mud. Almost as an aside as we were pulling up, he said, ‘Oh, and by the way, the tin roof on this building was put here by the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.’

“I was a basket case for the whole service,” Bolton said. “I cried because here I had been giving to this offering all of my life and I could see in a tangible way that what we do on this side of the world makes a difference on the other side of the world.”

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Source: Baptist Press