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Sumrall receives top award for women’s leadership

PHOENIX, Ariz. (BP) — Becky Sumrall, a Tennessee Baptist who has spent the past 40 years mentoring women from all walks of life, is the recipient of this year’s Dellanna West O’Brien Award for Women’s Leadership Development.

The award, presented annually by Woman’s Missionary Union since 1998, comes with a $2,500 grant from WMU Foundation that will go to further Sumrall’s ministry at Begin Anew, Middle Tennessee’s branch of Christian Women’s Job Corps and Christian Men’s Job Corps.

Sumrall, a member of First Baptist Church in Nashville, has served for 15 years as Begin Anew’s executive director.

“Her ministry has empowered women of all social classes and has led to not only changes in individual lives but also communities as a whole,” said Vickie Anderson, executive director of Tennessee WMU. “She has shown her selfless ability as a servant leader to influence other women to become leaders, all the while leading with personal integrity.”

Born and raised in Georgia, Sumrall grew up in Sunbeams, Girls in Action and Acteens. She answered a call to full-time ministry at 16, not knowing where that call would take her.

“Because of all that experience (in WMU programs), I was receptive to that call, and it was powerful enough that it’s driven the rest of my life,” Sumrall said.

In the years since, she has served as a North American Mission Board missionary, a social worker for the Kentucky Baptist Children’s Home and a leader of inner-city ministries and in several church and associational staff positions. She served as adult missions and ministry specialist on the Tennessee WMU staff before leaving to lead Begin Anew.

“Working on that staff developed some of the leadership and organizational skills that really prepared me to step out of there and lead at Begin Anew,” Sumrall said.

She has been married for 41 years to Rusty, who serves as executive director of the Nashville Baptist Association. They have two daughters, both of whom have been involved in cross-cultural missions for more than a decade.

Sumrall said she is grateful to still be fulfilling the call she heard as a teen.

“WMU feels like home to me,” she said. “I think that’s why this award means so much — it’s who I am and who developed me.”