For four decades Vanita Baldwin has inspired Florida Baptist women and men to pray for and support Southern Baptists’ worldwide missions, first as WMU Executive Director for Florida Baptist Woman’s Missionary Union from 1977-1991 and then as a legendary prayer warrior for mission causes.
Now her legacy will continue to encourage and influence the cause of missions for decades to come.
In honor of her birthday 90th birthday May 1, the Executive Council of Florida Women’s Missions and Ministries/Missions Education (formerly Florida WMU) unanimously voted April 15 during its annual Missional Connection to name the state’s endowment as the “Dr. Vanita M. Baldwin Touch Tomorrow Today Endowment for Florida Women’s Missions and Ministries/Missions Education.”
Baldwin was presented with a plaque naming the endowment in her honor during a birthday celebration held at Southside Baptist Church in Jacksonville April 30.
“It is difficult to measure the impact Dr. Baldwin has had and continues to have here in Florida and around the world for missions,” said Cindy Bradley, catalyst for Florida Baptists’ Women’s Missions and Ministries.
“She is a legacy in Florida and continues to be involved in missions in her local church, Southside Baptist Church, her association, Jacksonville Baptist Association, her state, Florida, as well as National WMU. She is a powerful prayer warrior who loves missions.”
Anna Guy of Jacksonville, who serves as the current president of the Florida Women’s Missions & Ministries/Missions Education, called Baldwin, “one of the giants of the faith. She is a godly woman who is a mentor and a friend.”
“Dr. Baldwin is devoted to missions in Florida as well as other states with an influence that stretches to National WMU. She inspires all to be faithful to WMU and the Kingdom of God.” Calling Baldwin “a steadfast prayer warrior,” Guy concluded, “I know without a doubt she prays for me on a daily basis.”
The birthday event at her home church drew 130 WMU leaders, long-time friends and church members, including her pastor Gary Webber and his wife, Sheri.
Webber explained that not only has Baldwin “been a vital part of Southern Baptists’ and Florida Baptists’ commitment to international missions and missions education, she has been the cornerstone of her own church’s efforts to fulfill the Great Commission.”
“If the light that shines the farthest shines the brightest at home, then Southside Baptist Church in Jacksonville has surely been illuminated by the light emanating from Vanita Baldwin. Even as (Benedictdaily)she celebrates her 90th birthday, she continues to lead our church in praying for missionaries, supporting Southern Baptist mission causes, and advocating for missionaries around the world,” he said. “She is more informed and engaged in Southern Baptist’s International mission work than anyone I know,” he added.
Included in the birthday festivities were six former and the current state WMU presidents: Oma Del Ely of Daytona Beach, 1979-1984; Ann Fuller Coffman of Sanford, 1994-1998; Helen Yates of Apopka, 1999-2003; Clysta de Armas of Orlando, 2004-2007; Carol Vandeventer, Salt Springs, 2008-2011; and Guy.
The Touch Tomorrow Today Endowment is a partnership that began in 1998 benefiting Woman’s Missionary Union of Florida and national Woman’s Missionary Union. Its purpose is to provide strong long-term financial stability and support for the ministries of both entities by annually dividing the earned income from the endowment. Each state determines how to use funds in its organization, explained Bradley.
The Touch Tomorrow Today Endowment will benefit women’s missions/missions education in Florida, including partial scholarships for boys and girls to attend Camp WorldLight, missions training, resources and projects in Florida. In 2016, the funds will provide camp scholarships and resources to churches beginning missions organizations.
At the time of the naming of the endowment fund during the Missional Connection, participants were challenged to give a $90 gift to the endowment in her honor–$2,295 was collected. “We also challenged attendees to give $50 per month from April through December to the endowment in her honor to help us reach our $150,000 milestone,” Bradley added.
By Barbara Denman, Florida Baptist Convention, May 5, 2016