FRISCO, Texas — Dellanna West O’Brien died September 7 at a Dallas hospital. She was executive director of the national Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) from 1989-1999.
WMU, as an auxiliary of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), has struggled to retain its autonomy and broad missions focus since the onset of the fundamentalist takeover of the SBC. Announcing her retirement in 1999, O’Brien confessed: “WMU has faced some of its hardest days during this decade.”
In addition to raising record mission funds through promotion of the Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong offerings during her tenure, WMU launched several new initiatives including the Christian Women’s Job Corps.
“Dellanna led Woman’s Missionary Union through difficult times, and she faced opposition and personal difficulties head-on and successfully,” said Carolyn Weatherford Crumpler, noting that O’Brien continued to lead the organization after suffering a stroke.
Crumpler, who preceded O’Brien as WMU executive director, described her as a “true friend” as well as “wife, mother, missionary, educator, mentor, leader and over-comer.”
“After retirement from WMU, she and Bill made significant contributions to the needs of people in Southeast Asia, where they had served as missionaries years before,” Crumpler added.
Dellanna and her husband Bill were missionaries in Indonesia for 10 years following their appointment in 1962. He later became a mission strategist for the Foreign Mission Board (now International Mission Board) before going to Samford University when Dellanna worked at the WMU national office in Birmingham.
A native of Wichita Falls, Texas, Dellanna was a graduate of Hardin-Simmons University, Texas Christian University and Virginia Tech — where she earned a doctor of education degree. She worked in various capacities as an educator.
Dellanna authored or co-authored several books including Timeless Virtues: Lessons in Character for Women. The O’Briens were parents of three children and six grandchildren.
In recent years the O’Briens directed Compassion Frisco, an effort to assist survivors of the tsunami in Banda Aceh, Indonesia.
A memorial service is planned for Sept. 10 at Preston Trail Community Church in Frisco, Texas, where the O’Briens were members.
(Photo from compassionfrisco.org.)