June 23, 1999

WMU bids farewell to O'Brien,
looks to new millennium

___ATLANTA (ABP)--Woman's Missionary Union members highlighted both world missions and local participation during their annual meeting, June 13-14 at Atlanta's Wieuca Road Baptist Church.
___The theme this year was "Strength for Today--Bright Hope for Tomorrow." Emphasis was placed on reviewing the past century in WMU history and activities, as this is the last national meeting of the WMU during this century.
___The meeting also was Dellanna O'Brien's last as executive director.
WMU EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR Dellanna O'Brien is overcome with emotion while listening to the testimony of missionaries. (BP photo by Gibbs Frazuer)
___O'Brien, who retires this year, received a standing ovation when introduced at the meeting's opening session.
___Another session recognized new programs initiated by O'Brien, who has led the 111-year-old auxiliary 10 years.
___A committee reported to WMU's executive board that a search for O'Brien's successor is well underway. As of a June 1 deadline, the committee had received 15 recommendations, said Ann Coffman of Sanford, Fla., the search committee's chairwoman.
___Wanda Lee of Columbus, Ga., was re-elected WMU president by acclamation. In her president's report, Lee described how her sensitivity to minister to foreign visitors to the United States increased after she toured a predominantly Muslim Middle Eastern country as an outsider.
___She encouraged women to view their own overseas travel as a missions opportunity.
___"Missionaries sometimes aren't allowed in certain countries, but American tourists sometimes are," she said. "What does God want you to do with what you do, what you know? We are called to understand and take that understanding and do something radical in the world."
___Other main speakers included "Sherri," a missionary to an unidentified country, who did not disclose her last name or exact location for safety reasons. She said 1.3 billion people in the least evangelized parts of the world--termed alternately by missions strategists as the "Final Frontier" or the "10/40 window," have not been reached with the gospel.
___"They wait while Christians who have the good news stay at home and choose wallpaper for their kitchen or tomorrow night's menu," Sherri said.
___In many remote villages, she related, people are familiar with Coca-Cola products but have never heard about Jesus.
___"Does it make you weep," Sherri asked, "that Coca-Cola has made it to places that the name of Jesus hasn't?"
___Despite concern by many Christians over governments that suppress or persecute Christians, Sherri encouraged WMU members "that nothing is too difficult for my God. ... Despite what you see with your eyes, God is at work and has been for centuries."
___Robert Norris, a director of missions from Littleton, Colo., spoke about his experiences in connection with the Columbine High School shootings. "It's amazing the number of times God's name has been mentioned since April 20," he said.
___Just as amazing are the testimonies that have been publicized of the slain Christians. "What Dylan and Eric meant for bad, God used for good," Norris said.
___Calvin Miller, a religion professor at Samford University in Birmingham, Ala., closed one session with a message titled "Trust His Rich Promises of Grace." Miller reminded WMU members that this time 100 years ago women were fighting for suffrage. Today, women are at the forefront of mission organizations and activities.
___"WMU was originally founded to support missionaries," Miller said. "Now they exist to be missionaries."
___He said most of his mentors are women and that he often quotes women.
___In a business session, WMU members approved bylaw changes to extend full voting rights to executive board members from state and regional fellowships that previously did not meet membership requirements. The change made vice presidents from Iowa, Minnesota-Wisconsin, Dakota, Montana and the Caribbean full voting members of the executive board.
___Lee said WMU is the first Southern Baptist Convention entity to allow full voting rights to new-work fellowships.
___Another bylaw change adds three at-large vice presidents to the executive board, a change intended to increase ethnic and cultural diversity.
___Rick and Ellen Burnette, who are missionaries in residence at the host church for the WMU meeting, also spoke during a theme interpretation. The couple are missionaries to Thailand sponsored by the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.They are the first CBF missionaries to be invited to speak at a national WMU meeting.

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