Houston missions leader receives WMU award

Baptist Press
Posted: Jun 17, 2014 5:52 PM
BALTIMORE (BP) -- Ginger Smith of Houston received WMU's top award for leadership and service during WMU's Missions Celebration and Annual Meeting in Baltimore.

Smith, who received the Dellanna West O'Brien Award for Women's Leadership Development from national WMU and the WMU Foundation, has served as the executive director of the Mission Centers of Houston since 2002. Encompassing three location, the centers offer a variety of ministries, including food and clothing distribution; kids, preteens and teen clubs; senior adult ministries; and English as a second language and nutrition classes.

Carolyn Porterfield, multicultural consultant for WMU of Texas who nominated Smith for the award, said she provides "creative leadership to a ministry that seeks to transform their neighborhood by raising up indigenous leaders who are equipped and empowered to change the inner city."

Porterfield has worked with Smith most closely on the issue of human trafficking.

"Ginger sees what is happening in the neighborhood where she serves and is seeking ways to stop this heinous assault on men, women, girls and boys," Porterfield said. "Her influence is felt through the work of the association as well as other nonprofits who are also fighting human trafficking in the Houston area."

Born in Arkansas, Smith also lived in Oregon and Louisiana in her formative years and developed a heart for missions early as a member of WMU's Girls in Action program. A graduate of Louisiana College and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Smith was introduced to the Mission Centers of Houston while serving as a summer missionary under home missionary Mildred McWhorter. It was during that experience that she sensed a call to inner-city missions.

"Dellanna was one of my heroes," Smith said June 9 as she accepted the award named in honor of the former WMU executive director/treasurer who died in 2008.

"Mildred McWhorter attended my commissioning service and Dellanna gave me a bouquet of roses to give to her," Smith continued. "Dellanna prayed for me and my future, not knowing I would serve where Mildred served."

Smith opened her Bible and showed a petal from that bouquet she had saved over the years. In the same Bible was another petal from a bouquet that McWhorter gave to Smith when she became director of the centers.

"God reminded me of the legacy of these women and how they invested in me," Smith said, "but I have also learned much from others, like my friend Patricia.

"Patricia overcame addition to alcohol and crack cocaine," Smith said. "She was a great friend who has since passed away, but she taught me so much about what it means to love others. Missions is not a project, it's loving people ... removing barriers to where there's not an 'us' and 'them.' Jesus died for all of us, not just the affluent or educated. We share the Great Commission through the Great Commandment. Thank you for honoring me in this way."

The Dellanna West O'Brien Award for Women's Leadership Development was established in 1999 to celebrate O'Brien's 10th anniversary as executive director of WMU. The award recognizes Baptist women who are outstanding leaders in their community and their world and demonstrate the ability to foster leadership in other women. The award is accompanied by a $2,000 grant to allow the recipient to continue her ministry to others.

For more information on the Mission Centers of Houston, visit www.missioncenters.org. For more about the award, visit www.wmufoundation.com.

Julie Walters is the corporate communications team leader for WMU (Woman's Missionary Union), based in Birmingham, Ala.

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