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Church planters among 117 commissioned

CHESAPEAKE, Va. (BP)–Just a little more than 10 years ago, Todd Briggs didn’t know what it meant to have a personal relationship with Christ. Today, he’s pastoring EPIC Village Church in midtown Atlanta and telling others how they can know God personally.

“I am a testimony to God’s great work,” Briggs said. “I didn’t come to Christ until I was 35 years old.”

Briggs joined 116 other North American Mission Board missionaries at a commissioning service May 19 at River Oak Church in Chesapeake, Va.

In addition to church planters like Briggs, the NAMB commissioning service included a chaplain at a Kentucky veterans center, three missionaries serving Baltimore’s Strategic Focus City ministry, a director of a crisis pregnancy center near the University of Texas, the director of a battered women’s shelter near Tulsa, a chaplain ministering to truck drivers in Denver and a couple operating a seafarer’s ministry center in Pago Pago, American Samoa.

Briggs shared the story of meeting a couple — Sean and Charice — who had recently relocated to Atlanta.

“They were from Canada and we came from Michigan, which is practically Canada,” Briggs said to the amusement of the audience. “The husband was a believer but had become disaffected with church. His wife was not a believer. They came to one of our church’s first events.”

That day, NAMB national missionary Kerry Jackson shared the Gospel artistically through a wall-sized puzzle, and each person present was given a puzzle piece.

“The family of God is not complete without everybody,” Briggs noted at the end of the service. He then invited the attendees to bring their puzzle piece forward to complete the picture. Charice came with her piece that day and invited Christ into her life.

“That is the call we have answered,” Briggs told the audience. “Thank you for enabling us to do it.”

Briggs and Johy Yi, a church planting missionary in the Chicago area, thanked Southern Baptists for supporting the Cooperative Program and Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions that provide support for Southern Baptist mission efforts across the United States, Canada and their territories.

NAMB trustee chairman Bill Curtis, pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Florence, S.C., greeted the missionaries, saying, “We are excited about what God is doing in your life.”

Curtis noted the evening’s special significance to him because one couple being commissioned — Bobby and Sandy Byrd — serve in the city where Curtis pastors. Another, James Cecil, formerly served with Curtis as a NAMB trustee. And the commissioning service took place at River Oak Church in Chesapeake, a congregation planted by Dennis Culbreth, a NAMB trustee at the time who has since joined NAMB’s senior leadership team.

The missionaries introduced themselves after entering the worship center carrying a flag representing a state or territory in North America. After the missionaries had entered, Wanda Lee, Woman’s Missionary Union executive director, led in a prayer of dedication asking the crowd to gather around a nearby missionary and place a hand on them in prayer.

“Our responsibility as the church,” Lee said, “is to support these who have been called out and then to go ourselves when we are called.”

NAMB President Geoff Hammond noted in his commissioning sermon that he once served as a NAMB missionary in Chesapeake.

“One of the greatest privileges of my life was to be appointed as a NAMB missionary,” he said.

Hammond drew comparisons between the life of Daniel, the Old Testament hero, and the lives today’s missionaries are called to lead. He outlined the characteristics that set Daniel apart, even as he faced life in a foreign land, serving under pagan leaders. Hammond said those qualities of character, courage, consecration, a cross-cultural awareness and being a catalyst for change are all needed by missionaries today as they serve across North America.

Hammond closed his sermon by challenging the audience to consider their own calling. “Is God calling you to be a missionary? Maybe it’s to serve a few weeks or short term or maybe it’s for a long-term role. God can use anyone. Maybe this is the night.”

The 117 new missionaries join more than 5,000 already serving throughout North America. In addition, NAMB endorses more than 2,800 chaplains serving in North America and as military chaplains throughout the world. NAMB’s missionary mobilization efforts in 2007 assisted more than 155,000 Southern Baptists who served on the mission field in short- and long-term capacities.
Mike Ebert serves is publications coordinator for the North American Mission Board.

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  • Mike Ebert