ROGERS, Ark. (BP) — Turner Bowman* walked into a jail cell as the door slammed behind him. He knew all too well the sounds, smells and sights of captivity.
“I was serving as a jail chaplain when God called me not just to a person in physical bondage, but a people in spiritual bondage,” he said.
Bowman, a corrections officer and later a chaplain in the Virginia state prison system, was one of 58 candidates appointed by International Mission Board trustees in a May 15 service at Cross Church in Rogers, Ark.
He and his wife Alice*, a family physician, will serve in Central Asia.
Ellen Smythe*, who will work with her husband Stefan* among refugees in North Africa and the Middle East, learned about the hope found in Christ from her adopted sister Shelley.*
“My sister told me about her life in Morocco — how God had changed her life and never forsaken her,” Smythe said.
Taken to an orphanage at age 5 because of her skin color, Shelley heard the Gospel from Christian workers and began a relationship with Christ, Smythe explained.
“Hearing her story opened my eyes to the hardships around the world … and to the idea of mission work,” Smythe said. “I was able to witness the fruit of foreign mission work in my own home, and through that God began to work on my heart.”
On a mission trip to a restricted area, Douglas Murray* recalled a seven-hour bus ride down bumpy roads that required crossing a river and hiking a mountain to reach a remote village. When he asked villagers if they knew who Jesus was, they responded, “No. Where does He live?”
“They had never heard of Jesus,” said Murray, who will serve with his wife Heather* in East Asia. “We go so they can know Him.”
Acknowledging the varied ways in which God calls those like Bowman, Smythe and Murray to a lost world, IMB President Tom Elliff reminded appointees of the uncertainty of the future, the necessity of being filled with God’s Spirit, the reality of being God’s witnesses and the extremity of the locations in which they will serve.
Preaching from Acts 1:6-8, Elliff said, “You don’t know how long you are going to live. You don’t know how long other people are going to live. You don’t know how long it will be before Jesus returns.”
Because of these uncertainties, Elliff warned appointees to live day by day in “the fullness of God’s Spirit” and to be witnesses of His power even in the most restricted, most remote areas of the world.
He also encouraged appointees to recognize that God’s Spirit has gone before them, preparing the hearts of those who have not yet heard of Jesus.
“They are ready. They are eager. In their hearts is emptiness only Christ can fill,” Elliff said. “If they can just hang on, before too long you’re going to get there with the Word of God.”
*Names changed. Tess Rivers is an IMB writer.