ORLANDO, Fla. (BP)–Mary Lou Serratt of Amarillo, Texas, received the Dellanna West O’Brien Award and Joy Cranford of Fort Mill, S.C., received the Martha Myers GA Alumna of Distinction Award June 14 during the annual meeting of the Woman’s Missionary Union in Orlando, Fla.
In receiving the Dellanna West O’Brien Award for Women’s Leadership Development, Serratt was honored for her commitment to developing missional leaders, particularly among ethnic groups.
“I have observed Mary Lou as an outstanding Acteens leader, a capable associational WMU director and officer of WMU of Texas,” said Joy Fenner, president of WMU of Texas. “Then her heart led her to work with the ethnic women and families who came to her community and church. Out of this church experience came the desire to help develop missions education among the emerging ethnic groups in Texas.
“The Hispanic and Korean work were growing, but multiple other groups needed personal hands-on assistance,” Fenner said. “Mary Lou patiently works to understand the unique culture of each group, diligently seeks to present the concepts of WMU’s missions tasks in simple words and context, finds one or two within each group to mentor, and helps those women to develop strong, working relationships with pastors.”
Serratt has been involved with Laotian, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Sudanese, Burundian, Iranian, Iraqi, Korean, Liberian, Burmese Chin and Karen people through First Baptist Church in Amarillo for many years, according to Carolyn Porterfield, multicultural consultant for WMU of Texas, who nominated Serratt.
“On the state WMU level, Mary Lou has been the catalyst for beginning and strengthening WMU work among Laotian, Cambodian, Vietnamese, Hmong, Thai and Chinese women,” Porterfield said. “She has developed leaders who are now leading in their national ethnic fellowships. It is a joy to see her in action with the women because her love for them radiates to them and they know it.
“I have watched her pour herself into these women to help them develop into confident leaders who are respected by the pastors of their respective churches,” Porterfield said. “Anytime, day or night, she will take their calls and nurture them in the Lord. She is very much loved by our ethnic leadership.”
Serratt has served in church, associational and state WMU leadership. In addition to many years of leading Acteens, she has served as vice president of WMU of Texas and a volunteer multiethnic consultant, among other leadership roles. She also writes for national WMU for the Missions Plan Book, a resource written in basic English for smaller or new churches, multicultural congregations and deaf congregations.
Serratt partners in ministry with her husband Delbert, a former pastor and director of missions, as they serve as consultants for Cambodian churches in Texas. They have two children and five grandchildren.
Established in 1999, the Dellanna West O’Brien Award for Women’s Leadership Development is awarded annually to a Baptist woman who demonstrates the ability to foster leadership in women. It is named in honor of O’Brien who served as national WMU executive director/treasurer from 1989–99. The award is accompanied with a grant to help the recipient continue her development and ministry to others.
Cranford, the Martha Myers award recipient, developed a love for missions as a young girl in GA (Girls in Action) and has lived a life committed to sharing the love of Christ.
“Joy credits GA with her love for and involvement in missions,” said Betty Ann Rudisill, WMU director of Flint Hill Baptist Church in Fort Mill, S.C. “Today she helps women in Christian Women’s Job Corps experience hope and peace through Scriptures — many that she learned as a GA.”
Cranford, a member of First Baptist Church in Fort Mill, S.C., served on the first advisory council for York County (South Carolina) CWJC during the pilot year and was one of the first to serve as a mentor.
“Joy learned as a GA that ‘We’ve a Story to Tell’ and she has made telling that story her life work,” said fellow church member Elizabeth Ford, a nationally certified trainer for Christian Women’s Job Corps/Christian Men’s Job Corps. Ford said Cranford has remained an active volunteer in the CWJC ministry for all 13 years of its existence in their association.
“Joy takes every opportunity to encourage the women in Bible study and toward a personal walk with Jesus Christ,” said Debbie Wieland, executive director of York County CWJC. “Joy lives out her love for Christ by sharing God’s love and compassion every day, and she challenges others to be on mission as she leads girls and women to opportunities [to serve].”
Cranford has served as GA leader and director in her church, GA director for the York Baptist Association, and GA consultant for South Carolina WMU. She currently serves on the executive board of the South Carolina Baptist Convention.
She has participated in several missions trips to China, teaches English as a Second Language and helped nurses in her church organize a chapter of Baptist Nursing Fellowship.
“Joy is not a health care professional, but she does have a heart of compassion and mercy,” said Amanda Davis, a registered nurse and fellow church member. “Thankfully, she is also very organized and orchestrated most of the fine details in forming a chapter of BNF in Fort Mill. She is living proof that the lessons learned in GA are not forgotten. She has continued to answer God’s call to go and tell the world of His great love for us.”
Mike Wallace, missions development director for the York Baptist Association who has worked with Cranford for the past 11 years, described her as eager and willing to serve in most any way needed.
“She serves with humility and a genuine transparency that is refreshing and needed in the Kingdom work,” Wallace said.
“I was blessed some time ago to hear Joy share some of her story,” Wallace said. “She spoke of the role that GA played in her life and her call to missions. She spoke with a joy on her face as she remembered the days that she participated in GA and the times as an adult when she has led GA groups in her church. She is a model of a life impacted by this great ministry and a life that gives back.”
Established in 2004, the Martha Myers award is given annually to recognize a GA alumna who influences the lives of others for Christ, and serves as a positive role model for girls. It is named in honor of Myers, a medical missionary who served in Yemen for 24 years.
Courtney Simpson and Julie Walters write for Woman’s Missionary Union.