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Commitment, dangers hallmarks at appointment of missionaries

SALT LAKE CITY (BP)–During a June 10 appointment service laden with emotion and pageantry, Southern Baptists’ 38 newest international missionaries heard and saw the commitment they must maintain and dangers they will face as they follow God’s leadership in pushing back spiritual darkness worldwide.
From his wheelchair, disabled missionary Wade Watts told in slow and halting speech about his desire to fully recover from injuries sustained in an automobile accident in Peru and someday return to his work there.
Watts and his son, Marcus, received serious head injuries in an automobile accident in Peru in early 1996, prompting a massive Southern Baptist prayer campaign. Watts lingered in a coma for months and at first could not speak after awakening. But he said if he could relive his life, he would still go to South America as a missionary because that was his calling from God.
The six new missionaries bound for South America surrounded Watts and his wife, Nancy, during the service as International Mission Board President Jerry Rankin predicted Watts will fully recover and will return to Peru some day.
Quoting from the words of the Apostle Paul in Romans 1, Rankin told the new missionaries they are going overseas as “bondservants to Christ” who have surrendered their lives to God’s will.
“You have no choice but to obey,” he said.
Among the 38 new missionaries were two who recently tasted danger.
One was Allie Larm, whose first wife, Holly, more than two years ago died of a reaction to malaria medicine while the couple were serving their first term in Cote d’Ivoire. Larm is returning to West Africa with his new bride, Kathy, who previously served as a journeyman missionary in Cote d’Ivoire.
When he chose to return to the United States with his young children, Larm said, “I knew I might never return (to Africa). That thought saddened me very much. I stand here again tonight full of the same hopes, dreams and convictions, planning to spend the rest of my life in West Africa.”
The other individual was Mark Roberts, who had a vertebrae shattered June 9 while crossing the street in front of the Salt Palace Convention Center, where the SBC annual meeting was being held. Roberts’ wife, Jenny, suffered minor injuries in the accident. Police say the 16-year-old male driver of the vehicle that hit them was at fault.
Wearing a temporary back brace and in a wheelchair, Roberts left a Salt Lake City hospital in time to participate in the Wednesday night appointment service, held in conjunction with the annual convention.
Bruised and sore from the accident, Jenny Roberts told the convention audience of her exit as a young person from her native Cambodia just before communists took control there. “(At that time) my grandmother said to me, ‘God spared your life and he’s going to use you to share the good news someday.’ Her prophecy has come true tonight.”
Despite spiritual warfare and tragedies that befall missionaries, God is at work around the world opening doors to new areas and using Southern Baptist missionaries to bring more people to a saving faith in Jesus Christ, Rankin said.
Speaking to the new missionaries and their audience of more than 3,000, he said the world stands on the brink of the “greatest opportunity for global evangelization” ever. It is possible now to envision a day when “people from every tribe, every nation, every tongue” will fulfill the biblical vision of worldwide commitment to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, he added.
Earlier in his report to the convention, Rankin predicted the IMB missionary force could grow from 4,447 today to 16,000 within a few years, as God calls increasing numbers of people to walk through doors swinging open worldwide.
“What would happen if exalting the unchanging Christ among the nations became the priority for Southern Baptists that it represents in the heart of God?” Rankin asked.
The IMB reported 161 decisions during the invitation at the close of the appointment service, including 77 from pastors and associational directors of missions. The service was laced with testimonies from furloughing missionaries and new appointees. Many new missionaries told about being called to a career in missions after going on a volunteer trip or serving short term overseas.
“A few years ago, Tim (my husband) went on two short-term mission trips to Honduras,” said Missy Bentley of Lenoir, N.C. “As he talked about what he had seen, I saw tears in his eyes. I also knew that God had been calling me.”
Furloughing missionaries focused on how the light of Christ is penetrating spiritual darkness in the world.
“Darkness in Asia is defined by the tens of thousands of religious and political leaders who lead their people from the light or prevent them from ever seeing the light,” strategy coordinator David Watson said.
“The most graphic example of darkness comes from my last trip to Asia. I visited a burial area to pay respects to a family and there encountered religious leaders who were going from body to body feeding on the dead flesh. This is darkness.
“When I think of light, I think of vision, because there can be no vision without light,” Watson added. “As more missionaries, Christian business people and tourists make their way to Asia, vision grows as these rays of light beam into the darkness. My vision is that in this generation every Asian in the world will hear the gospel in such a way that they must make a decision or reject Christ.”
Stan and Marlene Lee, missionaries to Rwanda in central Africa, said a demonic power controls the warring Hutu and Tutsi tribes in their country. “We know that one day they (both tribes) will say ‘Jesus is Lord,'” she said, “and the light will flood that country.”

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  • Louis Moore