Alumna Lesley Gray: A Transformational Leader in Service to God and the Global Community
No other person in the history of the Women's Missionary Union (WMU) of Virginia furthered the cause of missions more than the late Miss Alma Hunt. She provided superior leadership for the WMU for 26 years, garnered millions of dollars in support of world missions, and traveled to 93 countries on mission throughout nearly nine decades of life. She was indeed a transformational leader in service to God and the global community.
July 8, 2009
Recent Bluefield College graduate Lesley Gray has always admired Hunt. In fact, as a student at BC she shared how someday she hoped "to grow up to be Miss Alma Hunt."
While never in her wildest dreams did she believe that anyone could fill the shoes of this missions icon, today Gray is one step closer to fulfilling that vision as the youngest ever trustee appointed to the Board of the WMU of Virginia (WMUV).
A native of Fieldale, Virginia, Gray came to Bluefield College to study behavioral science and psychology. An admitted "introvert," she aspired not to be a leader, and was in fact content with remaining "behind the scenes."
"Before coming to Bluefield College, I had never led anything in my school, because I believed that was an extrovert's job, and I was more of a behind-the-scenes person," said Gray, who graduated in May 2008. "But, BC gave me the opportunity to be a leader in many different ways and helped me realize that leaders come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, introverted or extroverted. The college was very instrumental in transforming me into a leader and preparing me for this (WMUV trustee) position."
While a student, Gray was an active leader of Alpha Delta sorority, Greek Council, the Bonner Leaders Program, BC Impact Teams, and Baptist Collegiate Ministries (BCM). In fact, this once "behind-the-scenes" person served as vice president of BCM during her senior year, a resident advisor for three years, and the Student Government Association for two years.
"I never would have been given all the opportunities to serve and to learn how to become a leader if I had attended any other school," said Gray. "Bluefield College allowed me to try out my leadership talents in many different organizations."
And today, she has certainly taken those transformational leadership skills to a different level as the youngest member ever to serve the WMUV's Board of Trustees. As a trustee, Gray is serving as a visionary for the organization's ministries, which include meeting women's needs, eliminating poverty, promoting social justice, advocating for at-risk children, increasing literacy, equipping the aging, mentoring future leaders, and enhancing ethnic relationships.
"Our job as trustees is not to run the WMUV. We have staff to do that," said Gray. "We are there to set goals for the organization -- as Executive Director Laura McDaniel stated, 'big, hairy, audacious goals.' My responsibility is to help think outside of the box and to find goals for the staff to work toward."
Gray said she's thankful for how accepting and excited everyone with the WMUV has been since she accepted the new post. She added that she hopes to bring a point of view to the group that will benefit ministries for youth and young adults.
"A lot of times the WMUV gets an unfair reputation for being old-fashioned and not very forward thinking," Gray said, "but my nomination to the Board is a great example of the move toward new ideas and a fresh look on the future. I mean, I'm a 23-year-old woman serving on the Board of Trustees of the WMUV! How cool is that?"
One person who is confident Gray is qualified for the call to the WMUV Board is BC Campus Minister David Taylor, who said Gray's past experiences with church, missions, and the WMU will serve her well as a leader.
"Lesley brings excitement and freshness to her new role as a trustee for the WMU of Virginia," said Taylor. "She had the unique experience of attending a church with a strong commitment to missions and mission programming. Her involvement in those activities will only strengthen her leadership and passion as it relates to missions in the Commonwealth."
Gray said her passion for missions and sharing her faith came from participating in Girls in Action (GAs) and Acteens while growing up in Fieldale Baptist Church. Through those organizations, she learned about the WMU and one of its ministries, Crossroads Camp. Gray attended Crossroads as a child and later staffed the camps as a teen. Now, as a trustee for the WMUV, she'll make improving the camp one of her passions -- after all, it's the place where she made her first profession of faith at the age of 10 and six years later felt a call from God to a lifetime of missions.
"The WMUV has been the foundation for my faith and growing," said Gray, who served five years on staff at Crossroads, "and now it's my turn to help other young girls and even boys learn what God has planned for their lives."
In addition to her service to the WMU, Gray is pursuing a master's degree in school counseling at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, while working full time for a Credit Union.
"Lesley is mature well beyond her years and has had some great life experiences that make her a person of influence," Taylor said. "She's one of those students you know is going to be a transformational leader and make a difference in the world."
Just like Miss Alma Hunt.
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