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Exuberant audience sees 53 commissioned by IMB

OKLAHOMA CITY (BP)–Exhibiting a passion for winning the world to Christ, Southern Baptists’ 53 newest missionaries told 5,000 people in Del City, Okla., how God led them to quit their jobs, sell their homes and leave family and friends for service overseas.
“I was a merchandise manager with J.C. Penney and loved management when God called me to missions,” said appointee Terry Willett.
“I was managing my dad’s lady’s clothing store when I accepted the call to missions,” said Leslie Burch.
“I wanted to be rich, when I told the God of creation I’d do whatever he asked,” said Steve Roach.
“I realized the time had come to leave my job as an Air Force psychologist in order to be obedient to my lifelong call to missions,” said Dick Price.
The testimonies poured out as an exuberant audience at First Southern Baptist Church, Del City, celebrated through music, orchestra, prayers and pageantry. Oklahoma Baptist churches throughout the area dismissed their Sunday night services March 22 so members could attend the commissioning service.
Kicking off the testimonies were Henry and Thu Phan, whose lives echo the past, present and future of Southern Baptist international missions.
“When my family and I left Vietnam in 1986, we stayed in the Philippine Refugee Center for six months,” said Thu Phan. “There God allowed me to serve and also witness the sacrificial love of the missionaries ministering to the people. After 12 years living in the United States, now God has called me to join the missionary team.”
Henry Phan said: “When I was about 10, my father (a Vietnamese Christian) took me to visit the Jeh Montagnard people in Vietnam. The tribal chief gave us half-raw buffalo meat with crawling maggots to eat. My dad closed his eyes and took a bite. I followed him. We won the chief’s approval.
“Eight years later, the chief and his whole village accepted the Lord Jesus Christ. I now believe that God can use me to minister among the Vietnamese living in Germany.”
Other testimonies revealed the diverse backgrounds of the people God is calling as missionaries today.
“My father committed suicide when I was 4, and growing up in New York City with its opportunities and temptations left me empty,” said Richard Piscopo. “As a teenager on drugs, I asked Jesus into my life. He met me that night, and I have never been the same.”
“I praise the Lord that I grew up in Zimbabwe, Africa, to godly missionary parents,” said Philip Griggs.
“I grew up as a G.A. in Travis Avenue Baptist Church in Fort Worth, where Dad served as a Royal Ambassador leader and Mother was a Girl’s Auxiliary leader,” said Nancy Griggs.
The new missionaries will now go through eight weeks of intensive training at the Missionary Learning Center in Rockville, Va., before going overseas, some to locations so sensitive the board is unable to identify them publicly.
In his charge to the new missionaries, IMB President Jerry Rankin noted that, whereas 53 at one commissioning service seems large, “it is not very many relative to the needs of a lost and dying world.”
“When we picture those masses of people around the world” who still need to hear about Christ, the whole SBC international missionary force of 4,200 seems so small and limited, he said.
He said that during a six-month period 10 million Hindu people in India go to the Ganges River to bathe in a fruitless quest for spiritual cleansing. He noted Mexico City’s population likely will reach 28 million early in the next century — a total greater than the combined populations of Texas and Oklahoma, two large Southern Baptist strongholds.
“As you encounter the masses, the poverty, the darkness, I want you to remember that the world lies in the power of Satan,” Rankin said. “Satan will do everything he can to defeat you and destroy your effectiveness.”
Citing 2 Chronicles 20, he challenged the new missionaries to recognize the battle is not theirs, but the Lord’s, and encouraged them to deal with the multitudes and opposition they will encounter with an attitude of praise.
More than 30 people registered commitments to missionary service at the conclusion of the evening.

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  • Louis Moore