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Retired missionary stays dedicated to alma mater

JACKSON, Tenn.Jan. 21, 2002 – Ramona Mercer (‘52) has lived the kind of life that many students at Union University hope to someday live themselves. She has been involved in God’s work locally and overseas through various ministries and mission work, touching lives wherever she has gone. Fifty years after graduation, this Union success story is looking forward to returning to Union for Homecoming 2002, revisiting the place that helped shape her life, and enjoying the activities of the day as her class is honored and celebrates their 50th anniversary commemoration.

Ramona (Hall) Mercer ('52)

Ramona (Hall) Mercer ('52)

“I have nothing but the best to say about Union,” said Mercer. “My experiences with Union, both as a student and since graduation, have been wonderful.”

Citing Union as the place where she really became grounded in her faith as a student, Mercer said the biggest influence at Union was her continual involvement in the activities of the Baptist Student Union (BSU). The primary source of mission activities for the university at the time, the BSU provided students with the opportunity to participate in mission work in Jackson and surrounding areas. Mercer remembers the BSU as place where relationships were formed that lasted throughout the course of her college experience, in addition to the opportunities she had to work in local churches. The experience of doing this type of ministry strengthened Mercer’s personal commitment to missions and helped shape the course of the rest of her life.

After graduation, Mercer, along with her husband Dewey, spent thirty-eight years as missionaries to Japan, where the two were primarily involved in the ministry of starting new churches and strengthening existing ones. Because she is a woman, Mercer had special opportunities to witness to the Japanese women in a variety of ways.

“Japan is a man’s world,” Mercer said, explaining how the Japanese men would work all day leaving their wives at home with the entire day free. To make use of this time, Mercer taught classes in cooking, doll making, and quilting in a twofold effort to interest the women in the Western world as well as build relationships and witness though those relationships. In addition to her women’s classes, Mercer taught English classes in the local school systems. Through it all, Mercer never lost enthusiasm for her true purpose in Japan.

Ramona Mercer ('52) works with her Missionary Kids.

Ramona Mercer ('52) works with her Missionary Kids.

“Because of Buddhism and Shinto are the two main religions in Japan, it was always a miracle to see someone give their life to Jesus,” Mercer said. “Those decisions are the things that stand out the most about my time in the mission field.”

After Dewey passed away while still in the mission field, upon her retirement, Mercer was asked to be Union’s first Missionary-In-Residence. The Missionary-In-Residence program gives Southern Baptist missionaries a chance to connect with university students by sharing their experiences, teaching courses, and conducting seminars for students considering full-time careers in missions.

Since that time, Mercer has committed herself to several volunteer organizations. She is active in the Women’s Auxiliary as well as her main activity as a sponsor of a Missionary Kids (MK) group, and most recently, coordinating homecoming activities for her class’s 50th reunion. She and other classmates have recently participated in calling to inform members of the Class of 1952 of Union’s upcoming homecoming celebration and the special events that will take place for their class. Each graduate has also received a letter detailing the activities that will take place including a class trip back to the old campus and presentation of 50-year medallions in a special chapel service.

Mercer enjoys attending homecoming, especially getting the opportunity to see the many changes to the campus and the people of Union. Physically, Union is no longer even in the same location, and the topography of this campus continues to expand each year. Mercer said that even more significant than the changes to the landscape of Union are the changes she sees in the student body and campus life. One notable example is that the rules that students follow now are much more relaxed than when she was a student.

“I used to be an assistant director at McAfee,” Mercer explained. “Every time a student would complain about a rule of some sort, I would always think ‘Well, you should have been a student when I was here.’”

Another staple of college life has improved in the last fifty years—the food in the cafeteria. Mercer said that while she enjoyed the food that she ate as a student, she would have been “in heaven if she had the menu that current students enjoy.”

Homecoming is a chance to return to a place full of good memories and experiences. This year’s activities and special recognition of her class add an extra sense of excitement to the event. Realizing that it has truly been fifty years since graduation is perhaps the most unbelievable part of coming back to Union, and Mercer is looking forward to seeing her classmates again.

“I can’t wait to see these people I went to school with and who they have become,” said Mercer. “I’m hoping for a great turnout from my class so I can touch base with everybody.” Mercer wants to encourage not only members of her own class, but all alumni, current students, prospective students, and anyone else who can to come to Union and be part of Homecoming 2002.

“Homecoming is always so much fun,” Mercer said. “It’s a real treat to get to come back.”

By Jody Webster ('04)
Special to Union Today

Media contact: Sara B. Horn, news@uu.edu, 731-661-5215

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