It was in 1909 when large hats, high button-up shoes and long Sunday drives in a horse and carriage were popular that GA got its start.
In 1907, Young Woman's Auxiliary (YWA) was created for younger women and grew to 992 organizations within two years. The missing link was involving preteen and young teenage girls in missions, so WMU began publishing literature for these girls in 1909. These missions groups were first included in a 1913 report, and that year was claimed in later years as the official start of missions education for girls through WMU.
Although the names of the missions organizations for girls have changed over the years, its missions purpose remains true. As members of Junior YWA (1909), Junior Auxiliaries (1912), Girls' Auxiliary (1914); Junior Girls' Auxiliary and Intermediate Girls' Auxiliary (1924); Girls in Action and Acteens (1970), girls have come to understand God can use them now -- even in their youth -- to share His love with others and make a difference.
Many things change within a century, and GA and Acteens have changed and grown with girls and teens throughout the years.
Heather Keller, a children's ministry consultant for national WMU, describes GA today as an active organization full of girls learning about and participating in missions work in their communities as well as around the world.
"GA is a place where girls can experience Jesus' love and compassion while they learn to be His hands and feet," Keller said. "It's often just the beginning of a lifetime of missions involvement. It's always exciting ... and common ... to hear about former GAs participating in short-term mission events, becoming fulltime missionaries or reaching out in their own communities in Jesus' name. GA has a long legacy of creating strong women of faith and prayer."
As a missions discipleship organization for girls in grades 1-6, members of GA learn about, pray for, give to and do missions work. GA provides weekly curriculum, a Christ-centered peer group for girls, hands-on missions experiences, opportunities for girls to develop leadership skills, lessons about the biblical basis for missions, and godly mentors for girls. GA Journey, an individual achievement plan, further engages girls in missions.
Acteens involves girls in grades 7-12 in missions and helps them develop an authentic faith that leads them to be compassionate and demonstrate a true servant's heart and attitude.
"Acteens is about empowering teenage girls to understand that God has a plan and a purpose for their lives and He can and will use them in His work in the world," said Suzanne Reece, a student ministry consultant for national WMU.
"It's about more than just sitting in a classroom and learning. Girls involved in Acteens know what it means to have a worldview that encompasses all people, and they know that God desires that all people come to know Him. Acteens teaches girls to see a need and figure out how to meet that need rather than simply acknowledging that the need exists."
Acteens organizations are supported with ongoing curriculum, hands-on missions opportunities and supplemental resources like MissionsQuest, the individual achievement plan for Acteens. Similar to GA, Acteens provides a Christ-centered peer group for teens, opportunities to develop leadership skills, and godly role models.
Celebrating 100 years
Throughout the 2013-14 church year, WMU is encouraging GA and Acteens groups across the country to celebrate their 100th birthday.
"In the last 100 years, hundreds of thousands of girls and young women have invested time learning about and doing missions through GA and Acteens," Reece said. "Those individuals have been and continue to change their world for Christ. Being involved in missions education truly matters, and it impacts how girls and women view the world.
"It's also true that missions education for girls would never have survived for 100 years without the willingness of leaders to pass on their passion for missions to the next generation," Reece said. "This year is a time to celebrate these leaders, the value of GA and Acteens in our churches and communities, and more importantly, what it means to live missionally in the world today."
WMU is encouraging members of GA and Acteens to give back to their communities, local charities, national organizations and possibly even international organizations in honor of this celebration year.
"A birthday celebration is a great time to promote what is happening in local churches," Keller said. "Leaders should shout about their church's legacy of helping to educate children about missions. We want to encourage current and former GA and Acteens to work together on missions projects that will leave a lasting impact on their community, our country and our world."
Laura Wilson is a senior at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and was an intern at national WMU. Visit wmu.com/ga100 for more information, including celebration ideas, 100th birthday mission action ideas and more. New ideas and additional content will be added throughout the year. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
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