Korean missions leader receives O'Brien Award
Wednesday, Jun 12, 2013
By Laura Wilson
HOUSTON (BP) -â€“ National WMU and WMU Foundation presented Sook Jae Lee of Seoul, Korea, with the Dellanna West O'Brien Award for Women's Leadership Development June 10 at the WMU Missions Celebration and Annual Meeting in Houston.
"Through Sook Jae's leadership many Korean women have enjoyed being a part of WMU," said Angela Kim, Korean WMU consultant and a past O'Brien Award winner. "She equipped and empowered them to become mission leaders.
"... I have known Sook Jae many years," Kim continued. "Many times we shared our visions and the joy and the difficulties of the ministry. I also had an opportunity to see her work in Korea and was very impressed by her leadership. Sook Jae's leadership style resembles that of Dellanna in many ways ... her clear vision, her passion for missions education and leadership development, yet being humble and personal and pressing on to her calling."
At age 16, Lee received Jesus Christ as her Savior at a GA (WMU's Girls in Action) camp. From there, God called her to be a nurse as well as a missionary. Lee became a registered nurse, taught at Wallace Memorial Baptist Hospital in Pusan, Korea, and served rural people for 17 years as a nurse practitioner and midwife.
In 1979, Lee attended an international community health seminar in Sri Lanka. While there, she witnessed the spiritual and physical poverty of the people and began to feel called to serve as a medical missionary to Southeast Asia. Through her service, a church was built and many people were saved. Lee also was invited to become the executive director of Korea Baptist WMU (KBWMU). After two years of prayer, she accepted the position.
Through Lee's leadership, KBWMU entered into several partnerships with state WMUs in the U.S., including Kentucky WMU from 2006-10. It was through this partnership that Joy Bolton, executive director of Kentucky WMU, had the opportunity to witness Lee's leadership among KBWMU leaders and nominated her for this award.
"Sook Jae's leadership and influence were evident," Bolton said as she reflected on several trips she took to Korea. "She had a vision for the future and as a part of our partnership, Sook Jae encouraged one of her associates, Soon Shil Beck, to attend Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville. I was particularly impressed with Sook Jae's investment in Soon Shil to prepare her to become the next executive director of KBWMU and make for a smooth transition in leadership."
Upon Beck's return to Korea, she was named associate executive director and then elected co-executive director of KBWMU in 2011. Later this year, when Lee completes her term as president of the Asia Baptist Women's Union (2009-13), she will retire from KBWMU and Beck will assume the full role.
Linda Cooper, president of Kentucky WMU, said, "Sook Jae is an outstanding leader in South Korea and literally around the world. She is most definitely inspiring other women as she leads by example."
Established in 1999, the Dellanna West O'Brien Leadership Award for Women's Leadership Development was created by WMU and the WMU Foundation to honor O'Brien, who served as executive director/treasurer of national WMU from 1989 to 1999. It is awarded annually to a Baptist woman who has demonstrated the ability to foster Christian leadership in women and demonstrates excellence in missions education. The award is accompanied by a grant to help the recipient continue her development and ministry to others.
Laura Wilson is a senior at the University of Alabama at Birmingham in Birmingham, Ala., serving as an intern this summer with WMU's corporate communication team.