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Amid progress, missionaries say overwhelming global task remains

NEW ORLEANS (BP)–Leaning on a cane and gripping the hand of his wife, the International Mission Board missionary listened to the staccato applause as it swelled into a standing ovation.

They came to the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting to challenge pastors and church leaders to go to the mission field. But they also had another reason for coming — the man is dying of cancer and is seeking someone to take his place as a missionary in North Africa.

“Is the Lord calling you to go to the people who have no voice?” he asked. “Then my challenge is to go and not wait, because we are not promised tomorrow.”

As part of the International Mission Board’s presentation, a video depicting the couple’s ministry played on large screen projectors. The couple then offered a challenge and prayer for church leaders who may feel led to participate in missions.

“My challenge to you is to continue to go and to answer the call when [God] calls you,” he said.

Other missionaries and church leaders shared testimonies of God’s work overseas and the importance of missions.

D. Ray Davis, an associate director for IMB work in southern Africa, discussed the plight thousands of Africans face each day as they die without knowing Christ.

“There is a thief stalking our continent. The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy,” Davis said. “But … [Jesus] came that they may have life and might have it abundantly. Until he comes, we must go.”

Mike Hamlet, pastor of First Baptist Church in Spartanburg, S.C., related how mission participation has changed his congregation.

“Our church believes we can make a difference,” Hamlet said. “And our people began to see that.”

Many people in his church have responded to the call to join the mission field, the pastor said, adding that their departure inspires the whole congregation and leaves vacancies for new leaders.

“Missions is helping us to build leadership,” he said.

Recounting the amazing work God is doing in East Asia, Bill Fudge told of church planting movements and monthly baptisms that number in the thousands. But he also told of 84 cities in China that have more than 1 million residents and little Christian presence. He also noted that more than 1 billion people have yet to hear the gospel.

“There is an overwhelming task,” he said. “It is no time for business as usual. It is time to go.”

Jerry Rankin also presented the annual IMB report to the convention. Last year, the International Mission Board appointed 873 new missionaries. Southern Baptist missionaries overseas recorded 451,000 baptisms and 6,525 new church starts. The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering reaped more than $113 million for overseas mission support.

Yet with all the advances, Rankin warned that the task of saving a lost world is far from complete.

“In spite of this progress, multitudes are still waiting, described in the Bible as lost, without hope, alienated from God and in darkness,” he said. “How long must they wait?”
*Names have been withheld for security reasons.

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  • Brittany Jarvis