|Annie Walker Armstrong|
July 11, 1850 - December 12, 1938
Born in 1850 in Baltimore, Maryland to a prominent family active in Baptist life, Annie accompanied her mother to the missionary meetings where she learned the importance of giving and praying for missions. Annie grew up with strong convictions for home missions. Living in the city, she developed interest in Indians, blacks, immigrants, children, the sick and the poor.
Annie began a lifestyle of ministry through her church and the charitable institutions of Baltimore when she was a young adult. 1880 marked a turning point in her life when, in response to a speaker who told of destitute conditions and needs of Indians, she began a pilgrimage of leadership in missions and mission support. In 1882, the Woman's Baptist Home Mission Society of Maryland was formed and Annie was elected as their first president. The societyĻs objective was to involve women in support of the Home Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. Annie held this office until 1906.
On May 14, 1888, Annie Armstrong, along with Baptist women from 12 states, met in in Richmond, Virginia and formed the Women's Missionary Union, Auxiliary to the Southern Baptist Convention. The first president was Martha McIntosh of South Carolina, and Annie Armstrong was elected corresponding secretary (a position equivalent to executive director today). In 1890, the name Women's Missionary Union was adopted and, although linked in a cooperative auxiliary relationship, the new WMU was not technically a part of convention structure. The women elected their own officers and planned their own programs. This organization was first headquartered in Annie's hometown of Baltimore, but later moved to Birmingham. No other group has done more to stimulate and channel Southern Baptist mission interest and support.
Annie believed in Christ with all her heart, but it was her hands that expressed that belief in tangible ways. She spent a great amount of time typing and handwriting letters in support of missions. Many of these letters were quite lengthy and all were filled with conviction that more could and should be done in our mission efforts. In 1893 alone, she wrote almost 18,000 letters! Annie also never hesitated to use her hands to reach out to hug a child or distribute food and clothing and the Word of God to those in need. Her hands held her own Bible as she studied to know how best to share Godís love with others. And, most important, Annie was a woman of prayer, folding her hands in prayer to intercede for the missionaries and for those they were helping discover Christ.
Annie gave WMU and the work it supported her all as she led it to be a major force for missions in the Southern Baptist Convention. She served as corresponding secretary until 1906 and always refused a salary for the work she did through WMU to further the gospel. Annie Armstrong died on December 12, 1938, the year of WMUís 50th anniversary.
Since 1895, Southern Baptists have supported a national offering for home missions. Initiated by the WMU as the "Week of Self-Denial for Home Missions," the week acquainted women with the needs of Southern Baptist missionaries in the United States. In 1934, the offering was named the "Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for Home Missions" in honor of Miss Annie.
In 1998, the Offering was renamed the "Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions" and supports not only missionaries in the United States and its territories, but also in Canada. Nearly $800 million have been given to the Offering during its 103-year history, supporting thousands of missionaries who evangelized the lost, ministered to the needs of millions of people and started thousands of Southern Baptist churches.
Each year, we honor the life and work of Annie Armstrong when we give to the annual offering for home missions named after her. As a tireless servant of God and a contagious advocate and supporter of mission efforts throughout the world, Annie led women to unite in mission endeavors. She rallied churches to give more, pray more, and do more for reaching people for Christ. As we continue to unite to make her vision a reality in North America today, we can be confident that her legacy will also be ours.