Becky Sumrall said that when God impressed a call on her heart as a young girl, she was ready to say yes.
And that readiness, she said, was because of Sunbeams, Girls in Action, Acteens and everything she had learned through those programs.
“Because of all that experience, I was receptive to that call, and it was powerful enough that it’s driven the rest of my life,” she said.
It drove Sumrall first down the aisle of a camp in Georgia where she made her commitment public at 16, though she had no idea what form a life of ministry would take for her.
“I didn’t know what the call was for, I just knew I had to do something,” she said.
With that in mind, the counselor who met her at the altar told her that God might have lots of things for her to do, just to watch and see what He did.
So Sumrall has watched — and God has led her through seasons of teaching school, working on several church and associational staffs and directing inner-city apartment ministry. She served as adult missions and ministry specialist on the Tennessee WMU staff.
And for the past 15 years, she’s watched as God has worked through Begin Anew, Middle Tennessee’s branch of Christian Women’s Job Corps and Christian Men’s Job Corps, which she serves as executive director.
“She has spent the last 40 years investing in the lives of women to help them fulfill their call to serve the Lord,” said Vickie Anderson, executive director of Tennessee WMU. “Her ministry has empowered women of all social classes and has led to not only changes in individual lives but also communities as a whole.”
Because of this, Sumrall is this year’s recipient of the Dellanna West O'Brien Award for Women's Leadership Development, which recognizes a Baptist woman who mentors other women to become leaders.
The award comes with a $2,500 grant given by WMU Foundation to help further the ministry she leads at Begin Anew.
In each position Sumrall has held, “she has shown her selfless ability as a servant leader to influence other women to become leaders, all the while leading with personal integrity,” Anderson said. “This constant drive and servant leadership has led to the transformation of thousands of lives and has enabled countless (women) to follow and develop their own call and continue their path of transformation with her support and encouragement.”
Sumrall said that would have never been possible without WMU encouraging her and shaping her. After she committed to the call to ministry, her mom — a longtime WMU leader — began to find ways for her to explore her call, from going to camps to shadowing missionaries. That investment carried on as colleagues poured into her along the way.
And working on the state WMU staff “developed some of the leadership and organizational skills that really prepared me to step out of there and lead at Begin Anew,” Sumrall said.
She said she is grateful to still be fulfilling the call she heard as a teen.
“WMU feels like home to me,” she said. “I think that’s why this award means so much — it’s who I am and who developed me.”