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Board elects Wanda Lee as WMU’s 7th executive director

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP)–The Woman’s Missionary Union executive board unanimously elected Jan. 22 their national president, Wanda Lee, to serve as the seventh executive director of the 111-year-old organization.

Lee, 50, national president of the organization since 1996, succeeds Dellanna W. O’Brien, who retired Sept. 1, 1999, after 10 years at the helm of WMU. Lee, who currently lives in Columbus, Ga., with her husband, Larry, will assume her new position March 1.

A new national WMU president will be elected in June during the WMU annual meeting in Orlando, Fla.

In making the announcement, the executive board pointed to Lee’s exemplary leadership as national WMU president, especially during the interim period following O’Brien’s retirement. As chair of the WMU executive board, the responsibility fell to Lee to assume more leadership of the national headquarters following O’Brien’s departure.

“Wanda Lee brings to the position her experience as president both at the state level and national level,” said Ann Coffman of Sanford, Fla., chair of the search committee. “She has experience as a pastor’s wife and an international missionary.

“She also has a heart for missions,” added Coffman, noting that Lee has used her nursing skills on several missions trips during her WMU presidency.

“Wanda’s vision and leadership will determine the direction of Woman’s Missionary Union as it enters the new century,” she said.

Lee’s involvement with WMU began during her husband’s first pastorate at Gilgal Baptist Church, Tuscaloosa, Ala. (1973-79), where she worked with Acteens and Baptist Young Women. She also held several associational leadership positions during that time, including WMU director.

After moving to Columbus, Ga., she held similar positions during her husband’s pastorate at Waldrop Memorial Baptist Church (1981-90) and currently serves as Acteens adviser at First Baptist Church, Columbus.

From 1993-96, she served as president of Georgia WMU, which made her a member of the national WMU executive board. She served as a member (1994-95) and chair (1995-96) on the board’s finance committee. She also served on the Georgia Baptist Convention’s administration committee during that time.

Lee and her family served as Southern Baptist missionaries in St. Vincent, Windward Islands, from 1979-81. The family returned to the States due to the asthmatic problems of their youngest child, Matthew.

Currently, Larry Lee is director of pastoral care for the Columbus Regional Health Care System. He is an endorsed chaplain by the North American Mission Board. Their children, Allison and Matthew, both live in Birmingham, Ala. Allison graduates from Cumberland Law School at Samford University in May and is engaged to be married in November. Matthew graduates from Samford University in May with a degree in biochemistry.

Born in Russellville, Ala., Lee spent her formative years in Michigan and south Florida before returning to Russellville during her junior year in high school. She holds a nursing degree from the Ida V. Moffett School of Nursing at Samford University in Birmingham.

Since April 1982, Lee has worked as a registered nurse at St. Francis Hospital in Columbus, Ga. She has held many administrative duties during that time, including coordinating the annual credentialing process for a team of nurses. She also helped organize and then chaired the hospital’s shared governance quality council. This body is made up of administrators and staff and serves as monitors for the standards of care practiced by the hospital.

Gert Quzack has supervised Lee during her 18 years at the hospital. “Wanda is a natural leader,” she said. “I’ve seen her walk into acute situations and organize the staff to find a quick resolution. She is firm yet compassionate. People want to follow her because she first takes the time to listen to them and hear their concerns.

“There is no question for me that Wanda and her family are letting God’s will drive them,” Quzack said. “We are happy for Woman’s Missionary Union, but it is a great loss for us.”

In accepting the position, Lee recounted the events of the past year in the life of WMU. She spoke specifically of the spiritual journey she and her family had traveled and her struggle in recent weeks with the sacrifices that her election would bring for her husband and children.

But, she said, “I remembered another time in our lives when [God] asked us to do that very thing, and I was reminded of how God provided everything we needed during our time as missionaries. I knew he would do it again.

“Woman’s Missionary Union in the local church and in my association made it possible for me to learn about missions and try my hand at leadership,” Lee said. “Because of WMU, I heard God’s call to missions and was appointed. I am who I am today because God was able to use this organization to teach me and create the atmosphere where I could hear him speak.

“I don’t believe for one moment that we have completely accomplished the task he has called us to do,” Lee continued. “As a matter of fact, I believe God is issuing that call more loudly than ever before and he is waiting to see if we will allow him to work through us to accomplish his will. I believe he is asking us to recommit ourselves to follow his direction for this new day.”

Referring to her audience of WMU executive board members and national and state WMU staff members, Lee concluded, “Right here in this room is all the talent and knowledge that is needed to make this organization in the years ahead an even more useful tool in God’s hands. We can move ahead into a new century if we will commit ourselves to join hands and work together in new and creative ways. We can accomplish great things for God because he has called us and set us apart to tell the good news around the world.”

*Name changed for security concerns.

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