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67 respond to missions call in Kansas appointment service


WICHITA, Kan. (BP)–God stirred willing hearts during a missionary appointment service in Wichita, Kan., Sept. 19, and 67 people responded, indicating their desire to follow God’s leadership in the challenge of taking the good news of salvation to those who have never heard.
The stream of youth and adults was the largest response to a Southern Baptist missionary appointment service in recent memory. Those who came forward outnumbered the 54 missionaries being appointed.
“There are many here tonight who fully support you and rejoice in your appointment to missionary service,” International Mission Board President Jerry Rankin told the new missionaries during the appointment service, which was held at the Century II Convention Center in Wichita. “But they think they are recipients of greater grace because they are blessed by God with a comfortable life here in America.
“Let me tell you, many whom God would call are forfeiting God’s greater grace by staying here and refusing to consider missionary service,” he said. “Never forget, you are getting to go and share the gospel with those who have never heard.”
Though the 54 new missionaries brings the number of Southern Baptist workers worldwide to 4,762, that still amounts to only one missionary for every 2.8 million people in the world, Rankin told the estimated 2,600 people who jammed the convention center for the appointment ceremony.
The new missionaries, about half of whom will focus on people groups in areas of the world where traditional missionary work is forbidden, told the assembly how God had called them to overseas service.
After her husband died in 1990, Shirley Whittington of Crystal Springs, Miss., heard God calling her to full-time missionary service. But she asked God to let her wait because her daughter was seriously ill.
“God revealed to me that he would take care of my business if I would take care of his,” said Whittington, who will serve in the central and eastern Europe region. “My daughter said, ‘Mom, please go. God could remove me as your excuse.’
“Just hours after I notified the International Mission Board of my willingness to serve, my daughter called, saying she was getting a new miracle drug for her condition. God confirmed his promise in such an awesome way.
“My daughter continues to improve. I will take care of his business, knowing he’s taking care of mine,” Whittington said.
The missionary appointment service capped several days of activities that included a missions fair prior to the service, missions speakers in churches belonging to the Kansas-Nebraska Convention of Southern Baptists, and a meeting of International Mission Board trustees.
During their Sept. 16-18 meeting, IMB trustees were challenged to lead Southern Baptists to do everything possible to lead the world to Christ.
As Southern Baptists and other evangelicals prepare to enter a new millennium, they face a “hinge” of history — a time when the choices they make can turn the course of human history, said Avery Willis, senior vice president for overseas services.
Compared to the rest of this past 1,000 years, the last century has seen a movement of God almost beyond belief, he said.
“In 1900, only 3 percent of Africa was Christian; today it’s 46 percent Christian,” Willis said. “In 1900, there were 40,000 evangelicals; today there are 40 million. Just a few years ago, there were an estimated 15 million Christians in all of Asia; today that number is more than 100 million.”
The IMB’s “New Directions” emphasis has been designed to prepare the agency to move where God is moving as the new millennium dawns, organizing missionaries to develop and implement strategies to take the gospel to those who have never heard and to set in motion a harvest wherever God has prepared it, Willis said.
“We stand on the threshold of a new millennium. I believe God has been preparing us for this time,” he said. “We dare not miss it.”
God is launching church-planting movements in Last Frontier countries the world over, said Rodney Hammar, the new regional leader for IMB work in central and eastern Europe. In many of those countries, local believers are paying a high cost for that growth in imprisonment and even death. Like them, Southern Baptists must be willing to do whatever it takes to spread the good news of God’s salvation, he said.
“It doesn’t say much to Christians who lay their lives on the line to hear Southern Baptists debating whether or not it’s appropriate to share the gospel in their countries,” Hammar said. “From Daniel to Peter, the Bible is very clear — Romans 13 included — that we must obey God rather than men.
“We won’t see church-planting movements in closed countries if we buy the lie that we mustn’t share the gospel until the government says it’s OK,” he said.
After Hammar’s presentation, trustee chairman Bill Sutton asked board member Tom Wolf to prepare a draft position paper on the Christian’s responsibility to share the gospel in countries where evangelism is prohibited and can result in martyrdom.
Trustees also appropriated $2.45 million from operating reserves for grants that will help the board’s 4,762 missionaries meet personal financial needs that may arise from Y2K problems.
Most experts believe the United States is far better prepared than most of the rest of the world and will experience fewer serious disruptions as a result. An IMB task force has been developing contingency plans to help missionaries deal with Y2K interruptions in banking and finance, transportation, electronic communication and physical needs.
Trustees also received a report on the planned expansion of the board’s Missionary Learning Center facility at Rockville, Va. The construction, expected to begin in May, will add a multipurpose building, an auditorium with breakout rooms, two guest lodges with up to 70 beds each, nine new residential quad units and an addition to the facility’s conference center. The project will almost double the square footage of the learning center, which has been stretched beyond capacity by dramatically larger numbers of missionaries preparing for overseas service.
The IMB trustees also affirmed the selection of two new associate directors for work in western South America.
Dan C. Batchelor, a missionary in Quito, Ecuador, will serve as field administrative associate for the region. A native of Texas who grew up in Louisiana, Batchelor and his wife, Joan, were appointed as missionaries to Ecuador in 1988. He has been leading the administrative support team for missionaries serving in Ecuador.
W. Douglas Floyd, a missionary in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, will serve as the associate for the region, based in Richmond, Va. Also a Texas native, Floyd and his wife, Deborah, were appointed as missionaries to Bolivia in 1992. He has been leading the administrative support team for missionaries serving in Bolivia.
The two will assume their new responsibilities Oct. 1. Floyd succeeds Tom Vassar, who will retire Sept. 30.
IMB trustees will hold their next meeting Nov. 15-17 in Sacramento, Calif.

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  • Mark Kelly