TULSA, Okla. (BP)–Southern Baptists continue to send large numbers of new career missionaries to serve in areas where the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ is unknown. But God’s spirit is moving dramatically in those places, and the number of new workers remains short of meeting the opportunities.
About two-thirds of the 35 new missionaries appointed Sept. 6 by the Southern Baptist International Mission Board are headed to regions where multitudes are dying without ever hearing that God wants to forgive their sins.
A standing-room-only crowd — perhaps 1,850 people — at First Baptist Church in Broken Arrow, Okla., heard Avery Willis, the IMB’s senior vice president for overseas operations, report that God is powerfully using people who care enough to go to the world’s 1.7 billion people who have no hope of hearing the gospel.
Willis recounted the story of one missionary who tried without success to recruit Christians to take the gospel to an unreached people group in the Philippines. When asked to represent the people group at a missions fair, the missionary simply posted a sign at an empty booth: “There is nothing here because there are no missionaries to [this people group].”
He was shocked when 78 people told him they wanted to help. One pastor said he wanted his congregation to adopt the people group. A young woman decided to go as a missionary to the people group. Another woman decided to pay the new missionary’s living expenses.
The young woman went to the people group with medical and Bible storying teams, and soon 30 people gave their hearts to Christ. She later learned that the people had tried to poison her on her first visit. When she didn’t even get sick, the people were awestruck and decided she must be a messenger from God.
“Now God is working in a unique way among this people group,” Willis said. “Eleven more people have come to Christ and there are now five missionaries working among them.
“One is the fiancee of a Christian pastor who was murdered in the pulpit. Another is a former child soldier with a rebel group, whose father tried to kill him when he learned he had become a Christian. The father put his gun to the young man’s head and the gun jammed.
“God is at work in this world to bring [the gospel] to a people who have not known the love of God,” Willis told the assembly. “He is multiplying disciples through these countries where they have not had a chance to hear the gospel.”
The new missionaries testified about the ways God helped them understand his burden for people groups unreached by the gospel.
One new worker, who will focus on a people group in the IMB’s Northern Africa and Middle East region, said God used a previous overseas assignment to show her that his purpose for her life was “to share the good news of Jesus Christ with the unreached people of this world.”
“When I would read about different people groups around the world and see the phrase ‘no known believers among them,’ my heart broke,” she said. “His purpose became greater than my own personal desires in life. And now he is allowing me to join him at work in the hearts of [an unreached people group].”
Another new worker, who will serve in Asia, recalled attending an International Missions Week at Glorieta, a LifeWay conference center in New Mexico, when she was in college.
“That night, I realized for the first time that those who had never heard the name of Jesus would still die and go to hell,” she said. “At that moment, my world became enormous, and I committed to God to go anywhere people did not know him to share the good news of salvation through Jesus.”
One young couple, who will take the gospel to an unreached people group in the IMB’s Southeast Asia and Oceania region, said God spoke to their hearts through a college missions professor.
“My missions professor passionately challenged us to make it our ambition, like the apostle Paul’s, to take the gospel where Christ had never been preached,” the husband said. “That was a seed God planted in my heart and I have never been able to escape that calling.”
“[He] showed us that, in his Word, God already has commissioned us to go,” his wife said. “The only reason we have to stay is if he tells us to stay.”
IMB President Jerry Rankin said that when he asked missionaries among unreached people groups in Central Asia how Southern Baptists could pray for them, they were quick to answer:
“Pray for laborers. We desperately need someone to come help us. We are beginning to see glimmers of church-planting movements among several people groups, but we are so few among so many. Why don’t more come? Don’t Southern Baptists care? Don’t they realize what they could do?”
Rankin posed those questions to the congregation:
“Do we care? Are we concerned for the multitudes that will enter a Christ-less eternity, not because they’ve rejected Christ, not because they don’t need the salvation he provided, but simply because no one has told them?
“How will we give an account to our Lord, when we stand before him on the day of judgment, and Jesus will say, ‘I told you to go. I promised you my power. I assured you of my grace. But you never responded. You never opened your heart to consider that I could use you.'”
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: CERTIFIED TO GO, TESTIMONY, PRAYER, FLAG PRCESSIONAL and PRAYER DEDICATION.