This week at the American Baptist World Mission Conference my friend and colleague the Rev. Dr. M. Cecilia Broadous was remembered. M. Cecilia passed away in June of this year. Though she had been in poor health for some time, it was still unexpected.
There is much that could be said about the life, influence and ministry of M. Cecilia, but there is one thing especially among the many things that I will always appreciate about my friend. M. Cecilia has had a profound influence on my children, particularly my son. This is something that I am keenly aware of at this conference, as he is “the man who rode his bike around the country” to raise awareness about human trafficking and in the process raising support for various projects through American Baptist missionaries. He has a display in the exhibit hall and when people read my name tag they ask if I am related to the guy who rode his bike. He calls himself a missionary.
When my kids were in elementary school, I was a campus minister at USC and M. Cecilia was the Minister of World Mission Support for our denomination in Los Angeles. Two or three times a year she would gather the Mission Advocates from our churches in the city for a time of training and “charging.” These would happen on Saturdays. Often it was the Tuesday before that I would get a call from M. Cecilia telling me that she had put me on the program to talk about campus ministry at USC. “After all,” she would say, “Campus ministry is a mission of our churches and people need to know about it.” What could I say but, “See you Saturday!”
Saturdays were one of the days that I was home with my kids. My husband worked on Saturday mornings and after they had been in daycare all week after school, I had a hard time putting them with a babysitter on Saturdays. So they would go with me to these meetings. After they went to their first Mission Advocate meeting it was not hard to get them to go to the next one and the next one after that. My kids were excited to go to a Mission Advocates meeting. It was fun. M. Cecilia would give them both responsibilities like putting papers at each place setting and other important jobs. But most of all, M. Cecilia could get anyone not only interested in missions, but excited! These meetings were pep rallies on steroids. As a result, churches that had never given to missions became regular supporters. And my kids became avid fans of missionaries!
Eventually, M. Cecilia was appointed to be a missionary in South Africa. My kids became aware of this as we went to services and celebrations to send her off. From then on, my kids would say that when they grew up they were going to be missionaries like Auntie M. Cecilia.
My son continued to answer the “what do you want to be…” question with “missionary” clear into Junior High where he wrote a paper about it in one of his classes. After a while he changed his answer to “engineer”, then “mathematician”, “professional athlete and philanthropist,” “musician,” “film maker,” “um, I don’t know”…. And then he graduated from college and began “Riding Against Traffic.”
At this stage of her life my daughter is not looking to be a missionary, but she provides hospitality to everyone she meets at the front desk of the hotel where she works. And I know that M. Cecilia has been a role model for her of a strong, gifted and empowered woman.
I thank God for my friend for many reasons, but right now for being “Auntie M. Cecilia, the Missionary.”