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WMU elects new executive, awards grants, scholarships

TALLADEGA, Ala. (BP)–The Woman’s Missionary Union executive board elected a new executive director for its national headquarters and awarded nearly $83,000 in Second Century Fund grants and scholarships during its Jan. 22-25 meeting.

The annual meeting was held at Shocco Springs Baptist Assembly in Talladega, Ala. Nearly 250 people attended the meeting, including executive board members, state WMU staff members, national WMU staff members, staff from the International and North American Mission boards and a team of international missionaries.

Wanda Lee, 50, national president of the organization since 1996, was unanimously elected to serve as WMU’s seventh executive director-treasurer in a called meeting of the board Jan. 22.

Lee succeeds Dellanna W. O’Brien, who retired Sept. 1, 1999. Lee, who currently lives in Columbus, Ga., with her husband Larry, will assume her new position March 1. (See Jan. 24 Baptist Press story for a full report.)

The election of Lee set the tone for the meeting, which was celebrative and lighthearted. Lee had been the popular choice among WMU leaders for the executive directorship for months.

During their reports to the gathering on Monday, North American Mission Board President Robert E. Reccord and International Mission Board President Jerry Rankin congratulated Lee on her election and pledged to pray for her and to seek ways to strengthen the boards’ working relationship with WMU.

During the four-day meeting, the WMU executive board heard updates on the work of the national headquarters and approved several recommendations.

Most of the recommendations related to organizational procedures including revising the process for developing program content and creating a tool to help church WMU leaders measure membership and participation.

Other recommendations outlined “wish lists” of ways to strengthen WMU’s relationship with African American and language congregations and its international audiences, such as the BWA women’s department and WMU organizations in other countries.

One wish was for the establishment of an endowment fund with the WMU Foundation to support WMU work among African American churches. A fund already exists to support WMU work with language churches.

In a later session, Florida WMU Executive Director Frances Shaw recommended that an offering be taken to establish the African American fund. More than $2,600 was collected. Other contributions may be sent to the WMU Foundation, African American Endowment Fund, PO Box 11346, Birmingham, AL 35202-1346.

The meeting concluded with the awarding of $82,900 in Second Century Fund grants and scholarships. The Second Century Fund grants totaled $73,500 and were awarded to nine international projects, 15 state WMU projects and five special projects. Each project is designed to educate and involve women in missions.

The Second Century Fund is a permanent endowment launched by WMU during its centennial year in 1988 as a gift to future generations of women in missions. All contributions are invested permanently, along with 10 percent of each year’s earnings on the principal, which stands at more than $1.4 million. The remaining interest is given each year in grants. Since 1988, WMU has awarded $770,023 in grants.

The scholarships, totaling $9,400, were awarded to six young women and three international educational institutions. The latter awards carried the designation that the funds were to be used for financial support for women students.

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  • Tanya Dawson*