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WMU celebrates O’Brien’s tenure, offers training, revises bylaws

ATLANTA (BP)–A celebration of the contributions of Dellanna O’Brien, more than 100 training conferences and a major bylaws revision were key parts of the 1999 Woman’s Missionary Union annual meeting, June 13-14 at Wieuca Road Baptist Church in Atlanta.
“We are a part of a seamless history in which we connect with the stories of the past to write our own chapters in preparation for those who come after us,” WMU Executive Director Dellanna O’Brien, who will retire in September, said in her annual message.
A celebration of O’Brien’s 10 years at the helm of WMU capped the Monday evening closing service.
Among highlights cited during her tenure, O’Brien’s concern for women in poverty led to formation of the Christian Woman’s Job Corps, which started in 1996 with five pilot sites and has grown to coast-to-coast sites and hundreds of families strengthened after receiving job training and personal mentoring.
Elizabeth Ford, director of the project site in Rock Hill, S.C., received the first Dellanna West O’Brien Christian Leadership Award and $1,000. This award will be given annually “to a laywoman in the trenches, serving in a way only God can envision,” WMU President Wanda Lee said.
O’Brien’s interest in getting women personally involved in hands-on missions activities led to the Volunteer Connection, which has grown from 125 women its first year to1,400 in 1999.
Another O’Brien “brainchild,” Lee said, was Project HELP, which is designed to address one major social issue each year. In its first year the issue was hunger. The 1999 issue is violence.
“Dellanna, you are a person who is full of faith and also faithful,” North American Mission Board President Robert E. “Bob” Reccord wrote to O’Brien in a letter read during the celebration. “There is no question that you have been faithful to the trust placed in you by WMU and the sovereign God we serve. … You have my utmost respect.”
“Strength for Today — Bright Hope for Tomorrow” was the theme of WMU’s two-day 111th national meeting, attending by about 1,500 men and women.
WMU took advantage of its meeting being in the spacious Wieuca Road church facility to add 129 training courses to its 1999 sessions.
The courses, which ranged from age-level training to heightened awareness of social and ethno-cultural issues, were enthusiastically received.
“The number one reason I came here was because this is the first time they offered training,” said Bethany Grayson, of Panama City, Fla. “It was a great idea.”
Jean Hicks of Jonesboro, Ark., agreed. “We’re trying to get our WMU revived,” Hicks said. “We wanted information to get other women involved, and neither of us had been to the national conference before.”
During a short business session, Lee was re-elected national WMU president and Janet Hoffman was re-elected national recording secretary.
Approval was given for a revision of WMU bylaws. For the most part, the changes were cosmetic — refining legal language. But the revision included one historically significant item: All members of the WMU executive board will be permitted to vote. In previous years, only members from states or regions that had a minimum of 25,000 church members were able to vote.
An offering of $7,361.73 was received for WMU’s 1999 eight-house building project in conjunction with Habitat for Humanity.
The 1999 annual meeting was completed with theme interpretations led by worship leader Karla Worley of Franklin, Tenn., other musical support by the Wieuca Road choirs and a Sunday evening message by popular author Calvin Miller.
Missionary speakers included those serving within the United States (West Virginia, Hawaii, Tennessee, South Carolina) and around the world, including South America and Last Frontier areas of Asia and the Middle East.
“Missions exist because worship of God does not,” said a Last Frontier missionary who used the name Sherri. “WMU exists because the worship of God does not. … When the flame of worship burns, the light of missions will shine to the most remote peoples on earth.”