When abducted in Nigeria Feb. 23 and released March 6, Free Methodist missionary Phyllis Sortor received international news coverage. That dramatic experience, however, was not the reason Women’s Ministries International presented Sortor with the Woman of the Quadrennium Award at the July 14 luncheon celebrating WMI’s 125 years of global mission.
WMI Executive President LaWanda Bullock explained that the WMI Executive Board named Sortor a finalist for the award in October 2014 and chose her for the prestigious honor when the board met again Feb. 16.
“The next week, she was kidnapped,” Bullock said at the luncheon in a packed ballroom of the Grand Caribe Convention Center in Orlando, Florida. “People around the world prayed, and God answered prayer, and she was released.”
Bullock said that Sortor received the award because she has “devoted years to the people of Africa, a land she deeply loves.” Bullock cited Sortor’s childhood in Mozambique, her previous ministry in Rwanda and her work in Nigeria with leadership development efforts and International Child Care Ministries. The award recognizes Sortor’s “outstanding sacrificial service and intentional Christian leadership, an example of WMI’s principles and purposes.”
‘All About Jesus’
Sortor thanked WMI but said she plans to “hand that award over to Jesus Christ” because her work is for Him.
“This honor is too big for me, and it’s very undeserved. I know that I have done nothing more and probably much, much less than most of you sitting here who are serving in God’s kingdom,” Sortor told the luncheon participants.
Sortor shared that she recently read a Charles Spurgeon devotional that uses Hebrews 12:2 to remind us to be “fixing our eyes on Jesus” and that we cannot take credit for our salvation.
“It’s all about Jesus, and so this award is for my Jesus,” she said. “All glory be to Him forever and ever. Amen.”
The luncheon’s keynote address came from Wesleyan Church General Superintendent Jo Anne Lyon, who expressed solidarity with her Free Methodist hostesses. “We share a great history together. We share a great theology
together. To me, there is no difference,” Lyon said. “God’s using all of us.”
Before becoming the first woman to lead the Wesleyan Church, Lyon founded World Hope International, her denomination’s official relief and development partner.
“God is still calling us for a witness in some of the most unusual places, and He’s calling you,” Lyon said. “The world is hungry for spiritual leadership.”
She shared how she joined other women in prayer after they saw children for sale while visiting Cambodia in 1996 shortly after she started World Hope International. The experience prompted her to become a leader in the emerging movement against human trafficking. She returned to the same street corner years later to find the neighborhood cleaned up with children playing freely.
“They took me to what had been the most vile brothel in that area, and that brothel is now a church and community center,” Lyon said. “That’s how our God does greater things.”
Lyon urged the WMI to stay committed to both justice and righteousness in keeping with Amos 5:24.
“If it’s only justice, it will just become political. If it’s only righteousness, it will just become inward,” Lyon said. “When it’s righteousness and justice together, that’s what transforms the society. That’s about bringing the kingdom of God on earth.”2