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76 new IMB missionaries reflect diversity, share Kingdom goal

FREDERICKSBURG, Va. (BP)–One was a political exile from Bulgaria 20 years ago.
Another spent time in a Cambodian concentration camp.
Two were born in Asia (Singapore and South Korea), met on a mission trip to Africa, then settled in the United States.
Another husband and wife were nonbelieving U.S. Marines when they met and fell in love.
Yet in God’s grace, each came to know the Lord in a personal way and on May 25 was part of a large appointment service for new Southern Baptist international missionaries. The service was held at Spotswood Baptist Church in Fredericksburg, Va.
With accents ranging from Australian to Cambodian to Bulgarian, as well as Korean, Hispanic and Deep South drawl, the 76 newest International Mission Board missionaries reflected the ethnic, language and cultural diversity which are becoming hallmarks of the nation’s largest non-Catholic denomination.
Even those who were not born outside the United States reflected the increasing globalization of the Southern Baptist Convention’s perspective because of their prior travels and work abroad. Reflecting current trends, about two-thirds had been on short-term mission trips to other countries, actually served as short-term International Service Corps or journeyman missionaries, or were children of missionaries.
Yet amidst all the global diversity, the 76 focused on one goal: to bring about the day when representatives from every tribe, every people, every nation and every tongue will gather around the throne of God to sing praises to the Heavenly Father.
They were reminded by IMB President Jerry Rankin: “You go to serve an awesome, mighty God who is sovereign over the nations. Never lose that perspective. You have no higher priority than keeping your heart pure and walking with Him.
“You are venturing into Satan’s territory, and whatever your assignment, you will be engaged in spiritual warfare,” Rankin also told them.
“When government bureaucracy withdraws your visa, or when you are forced to evacuate by an outbreak of war or natural disaster, you will find it is easy to succumb to discouragement and hopelessness,” he said.
“When the opposition of antagonistic Muslim or communist leaders exposes your platform, you will feel defeated.
“But never forget, God is on his throne; turn to him in confidence and trust.”
He urged the new missionaries to “keep the view from the throne. All that is swirling about you is not reality. God is in control.
“This is what the (Jewish) temple was all about,” Rankin said. “It represented the presence of God in their midst, and when they sinned and failed, when they were defeated in battle, when there was famine and the showers of blessing were withheld, they were to remember to come to God in supplication and prayer and worship, and He would hear.”
Rankin told of his early years on the mission field in Indonesia, when his zeal and optimism became mired in the difficulties of a hostile Muslim environment.
“As the months went by without significant response and the showers of blessing did not seem to be there, I began to doubt the power of God. I felt betrayed. Here I had committed my life, brought my family to a foreign country, paid the price in sacrifice to live in a strange culture, and God wasn’t keeping his end of the bargain,” he said.
“But as I fell on my face before the Lord, He heard my supplication. In times of dryness and spiritual famine when no response is evident, be faithful in turning your heart toward him.”
The appointment service took on a particularly personal perspective for Rankin, president of the IMB for almost six years, as his son, Russell, and daughter-in-law, Angela, were appointed missionaries. Russell will serve as an overseas correspondent/writer in Asia.
Several months ago Rankin’s daughter and her husband were appointed to serve in a restricted Last Frontier country.
At the end of the service, some 20 people walked the aisles to make a commitment to missions, extending the stream of new missions volunteers coming forward for future appointment services.

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  • Louis Moore