HIGHLAND, Calif. (BP)–Seventy-one new North American Mission Board missionaries and chaplains were strikingly reminded that one doesn’t have to travel far to reach the mission field.
Between two Sunday morning commissioning services at Immanuel Baptist Church in Highland, Calif., one of the two bus drivers, Alfred Hinson, who had been busing the missionaries and chaplains around all weekend, came forward to give his life to Christ.
After the services, Hinson — dressed in his company’s bus driver uniform — was introduced to the missionaries, chaplains, their families and NAMB staff at a luncheon hosted by the church.
The missionaries and chaplains -– from 23 different states and one Canadian province — cheered loudly for Hinson as they welcomed him into the family of God.
“Sometimes during commissioning services we forget why we are commissioning because we are so caught up in the service, but this time we were reminded right away,” said John Yarbrough, NAMB’s vice president for strategic initiatives, referring to Hinson’s conversion.
Yarbrough, who preached during both services May 21 to about 2,300 people, challenged the congregation, missionaries and chaplains to “serve all-out in a searching culture.”
“Right now we are in influential days,” Yarbrough said, pointing out that the Apostle Paul “influenced his culture with the same tool box we have.”
Paul, in his Acts 26:19-30 testimony before King Agrippa, “used the power of Scripture, the power of the Savior Jesus Christ and the power of His story — his testimony,” Yarbrough said, noting that Paul could barely stand before Agrippa because of the chains on his arms and legs.
“If you’re a Christian, then you have a story,” Yarbrough said.
He encouraged people in the congregation to raise their hands if someone had shared the Gospel with them. Hundreds of hands went up.
“We’re all Christians because someone shared Jesus with us,” he said. “But seven out of 10 Americans are lost.”
Yarbrough encouraged each NAMB appointee to have “an airplane story” of leading a person to Christ sitting next to them on their return flights. “They have been divinely seated next to you. I will be praying for you on your way home.”
Fermin Whittaker, executive director for the California Southern Baptist Convention, encouraged the new missionaries and chaplains in their “assignments.”
“These are the heartbeats of the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering and Cooperative Program that you see here,” Whittaker told the Immanuel congregation. “They have only one assignment: to win every man and woman, boy and girl to Christ.
“I did exactly what you are doing now 32 years ago,” Whittaker told the missionaries who were being commissioned. “I thank God for your life. I am the ‘chief encouraging officer.’ We as a church family will stand beside you, behind you and underneath you as you serve Christ. That’s the only way I could’ve made it when I did it.”
Two of the newly-commissioned NAMB missionaries, Oscar and Lydia Sanchez, were inspired by the service. “It was beautiful,” said Sanchez, who has been serving migrant workers in Fresno, Calif., since December. “The message was inspiring and encouraged me to meet the lost where they are.”