RICHMOND, Va. (BP)—”I was an agnostic during college.”
After years of trying to disprove God’s existence, Henry Clary realized God is someone you must accept by faith. He was saved in 1995 and just over a year later felt the call to missions in Uruguay — a place he knew little about.
Clary and his wife, Tasha, were among 84 men and women appointed to the mission field July 17 during a service at Grove Avenue Baptist Church in Richmond, Va. Before a crowd of approximately 1,100 people, they committed to join more than 5,100 other International Mission Board missionaries around the globe.
“I had not ever thought about Uruguay,” Clary remembers. “I knew where it was on the map and I knew they spoke Spanish there. But other than that, I had never given the place a second thought.”
He began to question whether he had understood God’s calling correctly. But God reassured him. “The Lord showed me Uruguay on a map in my mind and repeated, ‘Go!'”
Clary and his wife moved to Texas for him to attend Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1997. “Two degrees and 10 years later [God] seems to be opening up a door of opportunity for me to go to Uruguay … the most atheistic country in South America.”
Other new missionaries also shared stories of how God led them to their callings. Following are some of their stories:
— Growing up in GAs and RAs, meeting a real live missionary is exciting. This was the case for one missionary who is heading to the Pacific Rim with her husband. (The names of missionaries to the Pacific Rim cannot be printed for security reasons.)
“To me they were extremely famous,” she said. “Now as we prepare to go, I realize that is far from true, but I am eager and excited to share the true famous One with those who have never heard.”
— Newly engaged and sitting in a missions class, a couple first felt God tug on their hearts to go to the millions who had never heard the name of Jesus.
“Twelve years later, on a tsunami relief trip, as I rode in the back of a pickup, medical supplies to my right and a bag of fish to my left, I knew now was the time to go,” said the wife. Now she and her family prepare to serve in the Pacific Rim.
— Joel and Angela Jolley both grew up as missionary kids.
“During a mission trip to Toluca, Mexico, on a quiet walk up a mountain, I sensed God’s calling to cross-cultural missions,” Joel said. “After 16 years of working in Christian radio, we’re headed to Spain!”
— In 1989, Janet Bobo surrendered to God’s calling to be a missionary. Janet’s husband, Calvin, felt the Lord tugging on his heart while reading The Commission magazine, published by the IMB.
“As I pastored,” Calvin said, “it was my … privilege to pray for missionaries and promote missions giving.”
Added Janet, “Now, in God’s perfect time, He is calling our family to serve Him and invest our lives in the people of Ukraine.”
CHALLENGED LIKE PAUL
Jerry Rankin, president of the International Mission Board, reminded the new missionaries how God converted and called a Jewish rabbi named Paul to begin the process of taking the Gospel to the world.
“It was God’s timing for the Gospel to break out of the narrow Jewish context … and spread to the ends of the earth,” Rankin said.
Paul had a vision to go to far-off regions, and he had a passion for those who had never heard the Gospel. He developed a “wigtake” attitude –- to do “whatever it’s going to take” to get the Gospel to all peoples -– much like the missionaries today, Rankin said.
Rankin challenged the 84 new missionaries to learn to speak the language of their people groups and to rely on the Lord as they minister. He encouraged them to trust God for results as they disciple new believers and train leaders. He advised them to implement an exit strategy so new believers would not become dependent on them. And finally, he urged them to return and report to their sending churches.
“You are going to tell them (Southern Baptists) what God did through you, how He ministered to you and was … faithful to His Word. Come back and report to the churches,” Rankin said. “Because the people who are gathered here –- these churches, these families –- they [are] partners with you in the task. And that’s what it means to be called and follow the call where God is leading.”
A person’s ability is not as important as his availability, Rankin reminded the group. “God promises to equip those who offer their lives and are willing to go.”