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83 missionaries, chaplains commissioned

O’FALLON, Ill. (BP)–In its first-ever missionary commissioning in Illinois, the North American Mission Board commissioned 83 new missionaries and SBC-endorsed chaplains during Sunday morning services May 20 at First Baptist Church in O’Fallon.

The commissioned missionaries and chaplains represent ministries in 25 states, two Canadian provinces and Puerto Rico. Following a processional including the flags of each of the states, provinces or territories, the missionaries were introduced and gave the congregation of hundreds a brief description of their new assignments.

Doug Munton, senior pastor at the O’Fallon church, which draws some 1,700 people to its three weekly services, said the commissioning service “gives members a face to missions.”

“Instead of just knowing there are missionaries out there, this allows us to meet the missionaries, see what they do and hear their stories. It makes it far more personal and real,” said Munton, who has led the church for 12 years. He also has served seven years as a trustee of the North American Mission Board.

Roy Fish, NAMB’s “ambassador-at-large” who served as interim president until the election of Geoffrey Hammond, delivered the commissioning address. He told the missionaries and chaplains that “there comes a time in a man’s or woman’s life when you can no longer just sit there and do nothing.”

Using Ezekiel 37 as his text, Fish described how God took Ezekiel into a valley of dry bones but brought the bones back to life by “allowing breath into them,” restoring the bones by His spirit with skin, tendons and flesh.

“God has planted this church here in O’Fallon to bring the dead back to life,” Fish said. “God has called these missionaries to bring the dead back to life….

“Take a look at the dead around us,” Fish continued. “They might not be dry bones in a valley. But they are bodies walking, they have mouths that talk, eyes that see, ears that hear, but they are dead -– cut off from the life of God. The Bible calls it ‘being dead in trespasses and sin.'”

Fish challenged the missionaries, chaplains and church members to be part of bringing the spiritually dead to life.

“One of the remarkable things about God, He took a valley of dry bones and turned them into an army,” Fish said. “God can take those around us who are dead, breathe new life into them and bring them to the Savior and into the fullness of life.”

An evangelism professor at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, for more than 40 years, Fish said that during that time “I’ve discovered that we Southern Baptists, as God’s people, want to do outreach from our buildings. We’re not willing to identify with people out there who need us to come out where they are. We want them to come where we are.

“When Jesus was here, He didn’t put up posters saying, ‘Come down to the synagogue at Capernaum and hear Me preach.’ Jesus went out to where the people were. He rubbed shoulders with the needy, the hurting, the sick and the sorrowful. He told us, ‘Like my Father sent me, even so I’m sending you.'”

Among the 83 missionaries and chaplains commissioned were three military chaplains and their wives -– Scott and Christy Kennis, Herb and Katie Lemke and Kirk and Brandi Kay -– all of whom will soon leave for Fort Jackson, S.C., for basic training and then be assigned to a military base with possible deployment to Iraq.

Kennis, in his first Army chaplaincy assignment, will be ministering to soldiers in the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum in Watertown, N.Y.

When asked how he would communicate the love of Christ and God’s forgiveness to soldiers whose buddies may be killed by a roadside bomb or sniper’s bullet, Kennis — a native Alabamian who, along with wife Christy, will leave behind four small children — has a ready answer.

“You tell them about a wonderful God who can comfort them through all circumstances,” Kennis said. “He provides eternal comfort and peace.”

Chad Chomlack, who with wife his Anastasia was commissioned as a Mission Service Corps missionary, will minister to visiting athletes and spectators at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Whistler, Vancouver, Canada. They will serve through the Canadian Convention of Southern Baptists as resort missionaries.

“We’ll be local missionaries before and after the Olympics and will facilitate volunteers, serve as resident chaplains for the athletes and share the Gospel with people from throughout the world,” Chomlack, 34, said. “It will be a great global gathering of people. The world will be coming to us in Whistler.”

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  • Mickey Noah