Dellanna O’Brien, former WMU leader, dies (updated Sept. 11)
    September 8 2008 by Julie Walters, WMU

    Dellanna West O’Brien, the first international missionary to serve as executive director/treasurer of national Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU), died Sept. 7 in Frisco, Texas. She was 75.

    “Dellanna O’Brien is one of the most amazing women I have ever known,” said Wanda S. Lee, O’Brien’s successor at WMU. “She possessed a deep love for the Lord and her family, and made countless sacrifices as she led WMU through 10 challenging years in our denomination. I will remember her as a great friend, leader, educator, innovator, and loving wife and mother — but most of all, as a humble and diligent servant of Christ and his mission.”

    O’Brien assumed leadership of the national missions organization in 1989 and was instrumental in propelling WMU into the 21st century with new and innovative ways to engage a larger audience in missions. In addition to leading approximately 1.1 million women, girls, and preschoolers in missions education and involvement, co-ed missions materials made their debut during her tenure, and three new co-ed missions organizations were begun: Adults on Mission, Youth on Mission, and Children in Action.

    Many of WMU’s hands-on missions initiatives were also begun under O’Brien’s leadership, including Volunteer Connection, to plan and direct a volunteer program for hands-on missions experiences; Christian Women’s Job Corps, a ministry seeking to equip women for life and employment in a Christian context; WorldCrafts, a ministry that imports handmade crafts from impoverished artisans worldwide and markets them in the United States, providing these artisans with income for food, shelter, education, and medicine; and Project HELP, which gives awareness and visibility to a specific social and moral issue and ties in local, national, and international projects to assist the church in addressing the designated issue.

    Several other firsts include WMU assuming responsibilities from the International Mission Board to arrange housing for missionaries while on stateside assignment; assuming responsibilities from the Brotherhood Commission for Pure Water, Pure Love, a ministry that provides water filters and purification systems to missionaries; creating a separate department within WMU for New Hope Publishers to give focus to publishing under the New Hope imprint; combining Baptist Women and Baptist Young Women organizations with a new name, Women on Mission, and renaming the WMU publication for this audience, Royal Service, to Missions Mosaic; and establishing the WMU Foundation to help secure WMU’s financial future by providing for the mission and ministries of WMU.

    Her family were missionaries from 1963 to 1971 with the Foreign Mission Board (now International Mission Board) in Indonesia.

    O’Brien suffered a stroke in 1998, but continued to serve WMU faithfully. Upon her retirement a year later, in 1999, WMU established the Dellanna West O’Brien Leadership Award as a way to honor O’Brien and her legacy while recognizing a dynamic female leader who also shows her same penchant for leadership and dedicated service.

    Even in retirement, O’Brien remained true to her missions calling.  

    “After announcing our retirement, we returned to Texas to be near two of our three children and settled down to retirement, but somehow it never took,” O’Brien shared during the 2007 WMU Missions Celebration and Annual Meeting in San Antonio, Texas. “We continued to have missions opportunities through the BWA (Baptist World Alliance) and found numerous opportunities to challenge our church and others to faithful response to God’s command to evangelize the nations.”

    Author of four books, O’Brien is survived by her husband of 56 years, Bill O’Brien; two daughters, Denise Basden of Frisco, Texas, and Erin Puryear of Richmond, Va.; a son, William Ross O’Brien of Dallas, Texas; and six grandchildren.

    A memorial service was held Wednesday in Frisco, Texas.

    Memorials to: WMU Foundation, 100 Missionary Ridge, Birmingham, AL 35242; or the Dellanna O’Brien Chair for the School of Social Work at Baylor University, c/o WMU Foundation, 100 Missionary Ridge, Birmingham, AL 35242.

    9/8/2008 7:05:00 AM by Julie Walters, WMU | with 0 comments
    Filed under: Dellanna West O’Brien, obituary, WMU

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