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IMB’s top stories: Great challenges, new opportunities

RICHMOND, Va. (BP)-- Baptist Press asked the International Mission Board to select 10 of its key news and feature stories of 2014 as the year comes to a close. The following list for 2014 includes a brief description with each subject line and link.

Conversation with pimp gives IMB missionary new perspective

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (BP) -- As an International Mission Board missionary, Martha Richards* ministered on South African streets among prostitutes, pimps, sex traffickers and drug dealers. In her journal "My Life on the Streets: A Journey of Hope," Richards shares some of the joys, sorrows and struggles she encountered during her outreach efforts.

"He was the enemy, and all I could see were the images of the battered and abused women of whom he and others like him took advantage," Richards wrote of the pimp she met. Following is an excerpt from Richards's journal. Change of heart He didn't realize that I knew who and what he was. I struggled to look at him, speak to him or even see him as God's loving creation. He was the enemy, and all I could see were the images of the battered and abused women of whom he and others like him took advantage. I saw the images my mind created of Lisha once I heard she was found beaten, broken and dead on a darkened city street. The girl I knew, however briefly, was gone. I hadn't met Diallo before today, but he represents all of them. My anger toward the pimps is overwhelming. To walk by them and [see] their smiling faces or hear their triumphant laughter. To see their disregard for the forced sacrifice of the women as they throw away the money earned on a bad hand of cards. To watch them feast as the girls they own go without food for a week. To see them laze in the sun or kick a ball -- playing while a young girl 20-feet away trembles in fear as she slides into a car with an unknown man. Jesus tells me to love these traffickers and pimps. I want to ask why, but I already know the answer. Their sins are no worse than mine, and Jesus died for them as much as He did for me. Love them. Today was the first step. I sat in the park for several hours talking with Diallo. Previously I had watched him from a distance and knew some of the girls he owned. For him, I was a prospective target, a potential prostitute and an unknown in his realm. Diallo was eloquent and kind, full of laughter and flirtation. To all appearances, he was a good-looking young man who claimed to be a Christian -- once he found out I was one. He offered to buy me a coke or snack and even invited me to join him for church on Sunday. ... He was adept at truly listening, devoting every word and glance to the woman before him. Isn't that what all women desire? He is too good to be true. Today was the first time I realized how easy it would be for me to be trafficked. I am optimistic and trusting, always looking for the good in people. That's not bad, but it needs to be tempered with the reality of the world around us.

2nd VIEW: Photographers capture missions, national attention

RICHMOND, Va. (BP) -- Rahima* barely makes a living begging on the busy streets of Bangladesh. As Rahima and her two young daughters sat down on the edge of the sidewalk to eat a bag of cooked rice and vegetables, photographer Joanna B. Pinneo sees a story unfolding before her eyes and takes the shot.

Photographers capture missions, national attention

RICHMOND, Va. (BP) -- Rahima* barely makes a living begging on the busy streets of Bangladesh. As Rahima and her two young daughters sat down on the edge of the sidewalk to eat a bag of cooked rice and vegetables, photographer Joanna B. Pinneo sees a story unfolding before her eyes and takes the shot. Each year IMB releases a special collection of their images taken during the past year. Many of those images compel Southern Baptists to give and go on missions to help relieve suffering through sharing the love of Christ. This article includes links to images and audio comments from photographers who covered the stories overseas. This year, IMB's CommissionStories magazine also was recognized by Pictures of the Year International as a finalist in their Best Publication Division/Best Magazine category. National Geographic received top honors in that category for Best Use of Photography by a Magazine. German Geo and the International Mission Board were the category's finalists. For more information about the award go to http://www.poyi.org/71/35/index.php. The following includes more details behind IMB's photographs. Click here to see full collection. Begging for a better life Through Pinneo's lens she was able to share Rahima's story. See the image here. Listen to Pinneo's comments here. Rahima and her family are forced to make a living in the best and most respectable way they can. This life of mere survival is not Rahima's choice. Her hope and dream is that her two daughters will have a better education and environment than she has had and become "good women." Rahima said, "I do not have any dream for myself. I only have dream and hope for my children." The Light of Hope Learning Center seeks to give girls an opportunity to expand their horizons and to make a living for themselves. The school, started by Southern Baptist worker Geri Hennerman,* lifts the girls up spiritually and provides them an education and handicraft skills. The teachers approach each girl as a whole person, treating them with respect, love and care. (See related stories from BP's May 14, 2013, edition).