JESUP — Joan Lawson Cartwright, a native of Jesup and member of First Baptist Church in the south Georgia city, has always been interested and involved in missions. In recent years she has taken it upon herself to donate towels and wash clothes to the Baxley campus of the Baptist Children’s Homes and Family Ministries.
However, her interest in missions began when she was a student at Mercer University in 1960. There, she was involved in the Baptist Student Union (now Baptist Collegiate Ministry) and the Christian Service Fellowship.
The CSF has a strategic ministry to the Bibb County Nursing Home each Sunday afternoon. The students conducted a worship service for the residents. Since many of those who resided there were not ambulatory the students would walk down the halls of the nursing home and visit with the people confined to their rooms. Cartwright was significantly involved in this ministry.
In 1962 Joan’s desire to serve the Lord was fulfilled when she had the opportunity to work as Roy Russell’s secretary, who was the director of missions for Wayne County Baptist Association.
For the next two decades Joan lived in Wheaton, MO, where she served as the Woman’s Missionary Union director for both the Wheaton Baptist Church and Barry-Lawrence Baptist Association.
A personal investment
Cartwright recalled, “At first, the church was made up of older members, so no nursery facilities were provided. But when I discovered that my husband and I were going to be parents, we personally began to make provisions for a church nursery by making two sets of fitted sheets, mattress covers, and blankets for six cribs.
“Every month for six months after our son was born, other couples had babies born to them and it was not long until the nursery was full of infants.”
In those days Wheaton had a population of less than 500 and the church was small and in need of leadership. They had an organist, but no choir leader, so Cartwright offered her services and became the choir director and also led the music for Vacation Bible School.
As the director of the WMU one of the first projects undertaken by the women of the church was to supply the wood for pews for a new church in Uruguay. Cartwright had become acquainted with IMB missionaries Wally and Betty Poor, who ultimately served as Southern Baptist missionaries for 33 years. For 26 years, the Poors, who retired as IMB missionaries in 2001, served as media missionaries and church planters in Uruguay.
When Cartwright and the church in Wheaton learned of the Poors’ need they secured the oak Wally wanted for the pews and had it shipped to Uruguay.
While Cartwright lived in Wheaton, a member of one of the Baptist churches in the association donated a 100-acre farm and a $250,000 home (as appraised by 1980 real estate experts) to the state Baptist convention for a children’s home.
Cartwright immediately saw the need to help furnish the home and orchestrated a plan to meet that need by providing towels and linens for the boys and girls who resided there.
Continuing on mission
Since returning to Jesup, Cartwright’s zeal for being an involved Baptist has not diminished. In 1999 she served as a summer missionary to China. On the first leg of her flight to China the plane landed in Los Angeles and she spent five hours waiting for someone to pick her up and take her to Azuza Pacific College for a period of orientation. When she finally arrived at the college she realized that she was part of a group of 500 people going to serve for six weeks in China.
Cartwright reported, “The six weeks’ work in Guangzhou, Guangdong, China was thrilling. I had the opportunity to supervise nine students who in turn taught conversational English to nine groups of children. The trip to China has been one of the most fulfilling trips of my life.”
More recently, Cartwright has continued to be involved in First Baptist Jesup’s mission projects by working with Operation Christmas Child, providing snacks and other items for college students, assisting with the ministry at Camp Hawkins near Clarksville, and serving with the WMU at the church.
But time and space would not be sufficient to report all that Cartwright has accomplished to this point in her life. From all accounts her life has been marked by faithful and consistent service to Christ and His church.
Katie Brazelton, Christian bestselling author and founder of Life Purpose Coaching Centers International, stated, “Don’t just ask God to use you; ask Him to use you up. Then pray more than you’ve ever prayed before to be able to keep that commitment.”
That must be Joan Cartwright’s prayer.