ORLANDO, Fla. (BP)–Placing a bronze medallion around the neck of Wanda Lee, three former Woman’s Missionary Union executive directors who had served a combined total of five decades challenged Lee to accept the role God had prepared for her as the mission organization’s new executive director.
The former executive directors noted that Lee’s roles as missionary, pastor’s wife, nurse, missions volunteer and Acteens leader have uniquely prepared her for the leadership position she assumed with her installation as the WMU’s seventh executive director during its June 11-12 annual meeting in Orlando, Fla.
“As I accept this medallion today, it is with a sense of God’s call to this most challenging missions assignment of my life,” said Lee. “He had led me through critical days of discovery to reach this point.
“It is a trust I do not take lightly but accept only with the confident assurance that God has led and been faithful in my life before today,” Lee added.
The medallion is a bronze replica of the WMU emblem in the shape of a fish — a symbol of the early church — with an open Bible, torch and outline of the world. Following the installation service the medallion will hang in the WMU headquarters building in Birmingham, Ala.
Alma Hunt, WMU executive director from 1948-1974, recalled the many changes that have taken place in the 52 years since she was tapped as WMU’s fourth executive director. Traveling by train to Memphis for her installation service, Hunt remembered that she placed a hat on her head and gloves on her hands before disembarking the train.
“There is something exciting about being a torch bearer and setting apart a torch bearer,” Hunt said.
Hunt reminded Lee of the promise of Jesus in Matthew 28, “and lo I am with you,” telling the younger woman that “partnerships are important in her new position.”
“We are never alone anytime,” Hunt added. “By his guidance we have him as our partner.”
Noting Lee’s contagious enthusiasm, Hunt told her, “Don’t let anyone deprive you of the enthusiasm of what the Lord is going to do through you.”
Carolyn Weatherford Crumpler, WMU executive director from 1974-89, said, “What can I say about Wanda Lee after all the stages I’ve seen her serve in so faithfully?
“I won’t pray for you to have wisdom but discernment,” Crumpler told Lee, “that every step of the way you do what is the will of God for you and WMU.”
Days ahead will be filled with difficulty and challenge, WMU’s immediate past executive director, Dellanna O’Brien, said.
O’Brien said the Lord has prepared Lee for her role by giving her a compassionate heart as she nursed her mother through a terminal illness, by experiencing the joy of a Christian home and by “denying personal desires to be in God’s service on the mission field.”
Morris H. Chapman, president of the SBC Executive Committee, welcomed Lee to her new ministry. He said he is confident that Lee will “work tirelessly and effectively to challenge Southern Baptists to fulfill their worldwide mission, and to not forget the vast spiritual darkness in the world and the need to share the gospel.”
June Whitlow, WMU senior associate executive director, praised Lee’s ability to encourage future generations and “model how God calls young women and how they are used to connect with the world.”
The installation service was a family affair for Lee. Husband Larry, a hospital chaplain, provided piano accompaniment for the session and her daughter, Allison, sang and played, “Where He Leads Me.” Son Matthew was also in attendance.
Prior to being tapped for this position, Lee of Columbus, Ga., served as elected president of the national WMU, a voluntary position. Her pastor, Ron Grizzle of First Baptist Church, Columbus, brought a bag of well wishes from church members and Acteens.