"Sook Jae is an outstanding leader in South Korea and literally around the world," said Linda Cooper, president of Kentucky WMU. "She is most definitely inspiring other women as she leads by example."
Lee became a Christian at a GA camp when she was 16. 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 the rural people for 17 years as a nurse practitioner and midwife.
In 1979, Lee attended an international community health seminar in Sri Lanka, where she witnessed the spiritual and physical poverty of the people. She then served as a medical missionary to Southeast Asia.
Through her service during this time, a church was built and many people were saved. Lee also was invited to become the executive director of Korea Baptist WMU. 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 to 2010. 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. "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. Lee will retire from KBWMU and Beck will assume the full role when Lee completes her 2009-2013 term as president of the Asia Baptist Women's Union
"Through Sook Jae's leadership, many Korean women have enjoyed being a part of WMU," said Angela Kim, Korean WMU consultant and prior O'Brien award winner. "She equipped and empowered them to become mission leaders. Soon Shil, her successor, is one of many.
"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."
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 and treasurer of national WMU from 1989 to 1999. It is awarded annually to a Baptist woman who has proven the ability to foster Christian leadership in women and demonstrated excellence in missions education. The award is accompanied with a grant to help the recipient continue her development and ministry to others.
Laura Wilson is a summer intern at national WMU on the Corporate Communication Team.
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