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WMU awards recognize local missions leaders

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Woman’s Missionary Union honored five women for their leadership and service during the WMU Missions Celebration and Annual Meeting on June 20 at First Baptist Church in Nashville.

Linda Leathers received the Dellanna West O’Brien Award for Women’s Leadership Development during the Monday night service.

The award recognizes Baptist women who demonstrate an ability to foster Christian leadership in other women, display the potential to be a leader in their community and the world, and excel in missions education. The award commenced in 1998 on WMU’s 100th anniversary and O’Brien’s 10th anniversary as executive director of national WMU. O’Brien retired in 1999.

Leathers serves as director of The Next Door, a ministry in Nashville that provides transitional housing for women leaving prison. The ministry began in May 2004, and approximately 40 women have received care and guidance under her leadership. The Next Door offers housing, counseling, job training, medical and dental care and Bible study.

Candy Phillips, executive director-treasurer of Tennessee WMU, said Leathers’ encouraging spirit and motivation is the driving force behind the ministry’s success. “Because of her tirelessness, Linda is an inspiration to everyone,” Phillips said. “The Next Door would not exist if it were not for her faith, vision, and energy.”

The Dellanna West O’Brien Award also provides a grant that will further the ministry of The Next Door.

In addition to Leathers, the WMU Foundation honored four other women at a dessert fellowship following the Monday night service:

— Mary Moore Nance of Colorado received the 2005 Lillian Isaacs Award. She is a literacy missions coordinator for the Colorado Baptist General Convention.

The convention had been without a coordinator for several years when Nance accepted the position a year ago. She saw a need to train people in English as a Second Language (ESL) outreach workshops.

“At this point, I see an immediate need for volunteer teachers to have the tools they need to do their best work in the name of Jesus,” Nance said. By September 2004, 43 people were trained in ESL, and the number of trainees continues to grow.

“Dr. Nance has a passion for ESL. She has become an incredible asset to our state convention,” said Becky Badry, executive director of Colorado WMU.

The Isaacs Award provides a grant to help Nance continue her literacy missions.

— Rebekah Sumrall, coordinator of Christian Women’s Job Corps, or CWJC, in Nashville, and Sandra Mitcham, coordinator of CWJC in Tyler, Texas, received 2005 CWJC site awards.

Nashville CWJC partners with The Next Door Ministry and offers life skills training, computer and GED classes and Bible study. The site award provides a grant that will provide books and materials for the ministry.

Tyler CWJC currently provides computer training, job and life skills training, alumni support meetings and remedial classes. The site will use its grant to expand classes, offer more teacher support and childcare. They also will offer Bible studies for students and mentors.

The CWJC site awards are supported by the CWJC endowment to help site coordinators further their ministry.

— Tina Feagans of Henderson, Texas, received the 2005 Sybil Bentley Dove Award.

The award was established in 1998 by Faye Dove Wright in honor of her mother and is awarded annually to a current or former CWJC participant. Each year the WMU Foundation honors a woman with this award who desires to advance herself through skills training, academic development and faith in Christ.

Feagans has completed business and paralegal associate degrees and plans to continue her education by majoring in either business or sociology at Stephen F. Austin University.

“Tina is determined to continue her education until she can obtain a job which will enable her to properly provide for her family,” said Christie Gambrell, her CWJC site coordinator. “She also wants her sons to go to college and is setting an example for them of not giving up.”

Feagans also has grown spiritually, rededicating her life to Christ shortly before entering the CWJC program. Her sons have accepted Christ as well, and they continue to participate in church activities.

Feagans also gives back to CWJC through office help, computer assistance and counseling other women.

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  • Kendra Buckles