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72 new missionaries tell of God’s calling

RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–Journeyman Trevor Yoakum lay face down in mud on the side of a narrow highway in Nigeria. Gunfire exploded in his ears. Squealing tires followed and then the crunch of cars crashing.

As Yoakum lay undetected, the shouts of highway robbers reverberated around him. He was afraid, but his love for the Nigerian people did not waver.

“Why go back? Why subject your wife and children to the same risks?” people have asked Yoakum about his family’s return to the region where he served in the late ’90s. “Because we bear in the body the death of Jesus, that the life of Jesus may also be manifest in our bodies.”

The Yoakums were among 72 new International Mission Board missionaries appointed at Bon Air Baptist Church in Richmond, Va., June 25 and Southern Hills Baptist Church in Oklahoma City June 27.

Hailing from 28 states and four countries, the newly appointed missionaries join more than 5,300 others serving around the world to complete the Great Commission task.

Kelli Johnson has witnessed firsthand the urgency of Matthew 28:18-20.

“On a sweltering night in 2006 I sat outside a Bangkok shopping mall surrounded by spiritual deception far more oppressive than the heat,” Johnson recalled. “My heart broke as I watched a young man bow before a statue of Buddha and offer incense and fervent prayers to a man-made image.”

Immediately she began crying out to God, “Here am I Lord, send me!” Not long after, He did just that. In obedience to God’s calling, Johnson will serve among the people of southern Bolivia.

Rebekah Motley shares Johnson’s passion.

The city of Rome “was built in darkness, and the plight of the early Christians was extreme,” Motley told attendees at Southern Hills. “Today, millions of Romans are adrift in a sea of nominal Catholicism and post-modern thought.”

Jared and Rebekah Motley are leaving their rural Oklahoma farm town to begin a new kind of harvest — church planting in Rome.

“While [I was] attending Oklahoma Baptist University, God used friends, experiences, mentors and His Word to speak … His heart for the nations,” Jared said. “We desire to bring God’s light into this city that Satan has held in darkness for generations.”


Speaking from Luke 4, Rankin encouraged the new missionaries appointed in Richmond to be like Jesus as they begin their overseas ministry. “He determined the priority of His purpose, He demonstrated the power of His presence, and He demanded participation in His program,” Rankin said of Christ’s ministry example.

The priority of a Christian’s purpose is to bear witness to the saving power of the Gospel. But it won’t be easy, Rankin said. Many already know the challenges they will face on the mission field, he continued, but it is important to remember to identify priorities, learn to depend on the power of His presence and know what it means to participate in God’s plan and mission.

“I think one of the most abrupt [realizations] that I came to when I got to the mission field … was to arrive in the largest Muslim country in the world and realize that I had brought a spiritual mediocrity,” Rankin said during the Oklahoma service.

“From that moment, even until now … I [longed] to see something that could not be explained except by the power of God’s Spirit. I knew my abilities weren’t sufficient. I was desperate to see the hand and power of God in ministry.”

Referencing 2 Kings 2, Rankin urged the new missionaries to not “stop short.” Letting anything distract from the Spirit of God, he said, is like going around in circles but never really getting anywhere.

“Don’t be satisfied with just being busy,” Rankin said.

“There is no greater thrill than to lay your life on the altar, continually sharing Jesus with someone who has never heard,” he said. “There is no greater thrill [than] … to have the privilege of seeing the Kingdom of God planted and extend among people … where no Christian witness has ever existed.”
Emilee Brandon is a writer for the International Mission Board.

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  • Emilee Brandon