BIRMINGHAM (TAB) — Guntersville resident and retired International Mission Board missionary Rosalie Hall Hunt is shining a light on a missions pioneer who paved the way for organizations like Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) with her book “Her Way: The Remarkable Story of Hephzibah Jenkins Townsend.”
Townsend was a devout and resourceful woman who overcame the societal constraints of the antebellum South to form a missionary society that became the working model for hundreds of other such societies to follow. “Her Way” also describes the love Townsend felt for the slaves around her. Through a cake-baking business Townsend and a servant were able to raise funds for missions giving, eventually funding the construction of a Baptist church on Edisto Island, South Carolina, where nearly all the members were enslaved people.
In 1888, more than 40 years after Townsend’s death, WMU was formed. Today WMU is “synonymous with missions, and both owe much to the work of a mostly unknown lady from South Carolina,” writes Bob Terry, editor of The Alabama Baptist (TAB). “It is time Baptists knew her story.”
Linda Cooper, president of national WMU, said, “Hephzibah blazed the missions trail for all of us. Her sheer determination and ‘where there’s a will, there’s a way’ attitude is a reminder that each of us can make a difference in the lives of others.
Laurie Register, executive director-treasurer of South Carolina WMU, introduced Hunt to Townsend’s story several years ago.
“She felt an immediate bond with Hephzibah and right away began to talk about telling her story,” Register said. “I was able to take part in one of Rosalie’s research trips. What a delight it was to see her at work, digging out the smallest details of this amazing woman’s life — details that will be meaningful to many who read her story.”
Hunt is a member of First Baptist Church, Guntersville, and serves on the TAB board of directors.