September 8, 1999

O'Brien leaves legacy
of advance amid challenge

___BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP)--Favorite quotes from Dellanna O'Brien abound.
___For future-lookers, it might be "God is not finished with us yet," a hopeful defense against discouraging thoughts.
___For current-events watchers, it might be the question, "Where are the peacemakers?" asked as WMU launched its anti-violence emphasis.
___For the ministry-minded, it might be "Some places are so dangerous, only a woman can go there," a quote borrowed from inner-city pastor Ray Bakke.
DELLANNA O'BRIEN, shown with the two other living former executive directors of Woman's Missionary Union, Alma Hunt and Carolyn Weatherford Crumpler.
___O'Brien's words--and the life they represent--have been a source of encouragement and challenge to her friends and co-workers and spurred many others to join her in devoting their lives to God's mission.
___Last week, O'Brien retired after 10 years as executive director of Woman's Missionary Union. She and her husband, Bill, will continue to live in Birmingham, Ala.
___O'Brien has served at the helm of WMU in challenging times. As an auxiliary of the Southern Baptist Convention, WMU has been structurally unaffected by the sweeping political and theological changes in the denomination since 1979. But practically, those changes have pushed and prodded constantly--sometimes in uncomfortable ways.
___On top of that, WMU has come face-to-face with changes in the way local churches do missions education, programming and women's ministries.
___Yet amid this sea of change, gifts to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering have continued to reach record levels. Both offerings are promoted and managed by WMU.
___WMU's governing board, drawn from its state-level organizations, remains strong and largely has been devoid of the political wrangling that afflicted SBC agencies and institutions.
___WMU's 111-year-old commitment to missions is still being quietly carried out by legions of praying, giving, teaching and ministering women in the church, women who make up the fabric of WMU.
___"Even though undesirable things came her way, her Christ-like spirit never wavered. Her strength came from the fact that she knew she was in the will of God and that he would always guide her steps," said Carolyn Miller, who served as national WMU president from 1991-96.
___O'Brien's predecessor, Carolyn Weatherford Crumpler, believes O'Brien's perspective as a missionary, educator and devoted mother and grandmother made her ideal to lead WMU during this period.
___"In a unique way, she has used WMU as a vital force in missions education for the sake of missions, rather than for the sake of WMU," Crumpler said. First and foremost, O'Brien's decisions have been for the sake of non-Christians around the world, Crumpler added.
___Those who worked with her said O'Brien kept WMU moving forward with determination. She has traveled across the country and around the world, encouraging the work of missionaries and, in particular, women involved in missions.
___She challenged WMU leaders to study the needs of a changing world and develop ministries to help Christians meet those needs.
___For example, in 1993 O'Brien and several WMU leaders took an "urban plunge" in Chicago, learning of ministry needs in the city. Then they visited Appalachia to identify causes and effects of hunger in the United States. In these two different environments, the urgent situation of women in poverty--primarily single parents and welfare recipients--raised the same haunting question: Isn't there something we can do?
___Christian Women's Job Corps was born out of that heartfelt question. A ministry of WMU, Christian Women's Job Corps not only provides job and life skills for women in need, but also a caring mentor, Bible study and a chance to know Jesus Christ.
___Praised by Vice President Al Gore and Texas Gov. George W. Bush, Christian Women's Job Corps has raised enthusiasm among Christian women who find it an exciting place to share their gifts. Growing from five pilot sites to 100 ministry sites in 21 states and one international site, Christian Women's Job Corps has helped hundreds of women move from dependency to self-sufficiency.
___Other initiatives begun under O'Brien's leadership include:
___bluebull WorldCrafts, a WMU ministry that gives missionaries a way to market and distribute unique items handcrafted by economically deprived people on the mission field, with sales directly benefiting the crafters. WMU currently works with missionaries in more than a dozen countries.
___bluebull Volunteer Connection, a network which identifies missions needs and resources, both national and international, and matches them with volunteers willing to serve. Two major projects coordinated through Volunteer Connection are WMU's recent partnership with Habitat for Humanity International and an ongoing partnership with IMB personnel in Bosnia. More than 1,400 volunteers have been placed through the program this year.
___bluebull New Hope Publishers, now a separate department, focusing on producing books for the larger Christian audience.
___bluebull Missions Innovators, trained, certified, experienced consultants who work with churches, associations and states in missions involvement.
___bluebull Expanded language materials.
___bluebull WMU Foundation, which receives gifts to provide for the future of WMU ministries. The foundation's assets stand at more than $5.5 million.


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