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WMU opening sessions honor Lee, highlight missions

Women registering at WMU missions celebration

ST. LOUIS (BP) -- About 500 Southern Baptists gathered June 12 for the opening sessions of WMU's 2016 Missions Celebration and Annual Meeting in St. Louis, Mo.

With a theme of "By All Means," the two Sunday programs recognized current and retired missionaries, as well as International Mission Board staff, and celebrated Wanda Lee's service as she retires as executive director of WMU.

"I believe just as strongly today as I did 16 years ago that WMU is important to the Kingdom," she said. "We have the opportunity to make a difference. Our charge first and foremost is to be a light to the nations. There is strength in our union. There is strength in our collective purpose of missions. May our song truly be a song for the nations."

Lee said she was working as a nurse when God called her to missions. When she returned home to serve in the U.S., her call to missions did not end.

"My calling was to go wherever God leads," she said. "My call has not changed, only the place. No other ministry in Baptist life devotes itself exclusively to missions. What we do matters because we are shining a light."

Jamison receives O'Brien Award

Photo by Van Payne

ST. LOUIS (BP) -- Mindy Jamison, co-director of Friendship Baptist Center in Des Moines, Iowa, for the past 17 years along with her husband Jon, is this year's recipient of the Dellanna West O'Brien Award for Women's Leadership Development.

"Mindy pours her life into people living in the inner city of Des Moines, and at the same time invites and encourages others to minister alongside her," said Joni Wilkinson, executive director of Iowa WMU and volunteer at the Friendship Center, who recommended Jamison for the award. "She is a mentor to women of all ages and backgrounds and continues to teach about her passion -- living out her faith in her community and seeing people living in poverty come to know Christ."

Wanda Lee, executive director of national WMU, presented Jamison with the award during the WMU Missions Celebration on June 13 in St. Louis. The gathering was held there in conjunction with the Southern Baptist Convention's annual meeting.

WMU highlights missional discipleship

Wanda Lee addressing audience

ST. LOUIS (BP) -- Wanda S. Lee, executive director of national WMU, thanked Southern Baptists for partnering through missions education to equip the next generation of missionaries, an endeavor she described as more critical than ever before in an increasingly postmodern world.

Lee noted to messengers June 15 at the SBC annual meeting: "It is our desire to partner with every Southern Baptist church in discipling preschoolers, children, youth and adults by engaging them in meaningful missions involvement right in their own communities or on the other side of the world; to support those who go to the nations for a lifetime with our praying and giving; and to accept the mandate of the Great Commission in whatever way God calls us."

National WMU President Linda Cooper thanked Southern Baptists for the largest Lottie Moon Christmas Offering in the history of the offering.

"When the financial needs were made known, Southern Baptists stepped up as they always have and gave over $165.8 million dollars," Cooper said. "This is a reminder that what we do together is far greater than anything we can do alone as one person or one church."

WMU urged to 'not grow weary in doing good'

Linda Cooper

ST. LOUIS (BP) -- International Mission Board church planter Sabastian Vazquez couldn't escape the inevitable emotions as he stood before a group of women whose legacy had led to four generations of pastors in his family.

Speaking during day two of the 2016 Woman's Missionary Union (WMU) Missions Celebration and Annual Meeting, Sabastian unsuccessfully fought off tears as he told the story of a new Southern Baptist missionary who a century ago handed a Spanish-language evangelistic tract to an illiterate baker named Angel Vazquez, his great-grandfather. Angel knew the missionary had given him something very special because of the way in which he gave it to him. He became a Christian and asked the missionary to teach him how to be a pastor, too. His son, grandson and great-grandson, Sabastian, would follow in his footsteps.

Lee honored for 20 years leading national WMU

Wanda Lee Portrait

ST. LOUIS (BP) -- Approximately 150 Southern Baptist leaders, family members and friends from across the country gathered in St. Louis on June 11 to honor Wanda Lee and her leadership of national WMU over the past 20 years -- 16 as executive director and four as president.

Frank S. Page said he got to know Lee in 2010 when he assumed his current role as president and CEO of the Southern Baptist Convention's Executive Committee. Page recited Micah 6:8, "What does the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?

"I believe Wanda Lee has exhibited that great trio of imperatives from our Lord," Page said. "I believe she has done what is right, what is just. She is merciful, and many of you are the recipients of her mercy and ministry in your own life. She is a strategist, an organizational genius, yet is always humble and gives credit to those around her. I am honored to call her my friend, and I thank God for her."

National WMU Appoints New Leadership Consultant

Claudia Johnson

(BIRMINGHAM, Ala.) – National Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) has hired Claudia Johnson to develop training opportunities for Christian women’s leadership. Johnson has a wealth of experience in missions leadership, having served as a teacher and missionary with the International Mission Board (IMB) for nearly 28 years. She will serve as the leadership consultant for WMU’s Missions Resource Center and Christian Women’s Leadership Center (CWLC).

“We are thrilled to have someone with Claudia’s wealth of teaching and missions experience serve in this role,” said Wanda Lee, executive director of national WMU. “We believe her unique perspective on leadership, having lived it out in another culture, will be key to the success of the CWLC and how we engage women in leadership within their church, workplace, and community.”

Cooper requests prayer, names search committee for WMU executive director

(BIRMINGHAM, Ala,) – Feb. 8, 2016 – National WMU President Linda Cooper has issued a call to prayer for those serving on the national search committee charged with identifying the woman God would have as the next executive director for national WMU.

On Jan. 11, Wanda Lee, who has served as executive director since 2000, announced to the WMU board her intention to retire, giving ample notice for a search committee to be formed and seek a new leader.

Cooper said she prayed earnestly for God’s direction as she selected search committee members who have extensive experience in WMU and represent various geographical locations.

The committee members are Joy Bolton, executive director of Kentucky WMU, who will serve as chairperson; Debby Akerman, former national WMU president (2010-2015); Jill McNicol, president of Illinois WMU; Kathy Sheldon, president of Pennsylvania/South Jersey WMU; and June Tate, president of Colorado WMU.

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