HOUSTON (BP)–“Who will come back for us?” a Zambian man cried out as Tommy and Cyndi Morreau departed his village.
The short-term missionaries longed to stay and work among the unreached Tonga tribe, building houses and sharing Bible stories — but their two-year term was coming to an end.
As the Morreaus continued to seek God’s will about the next chapter in their lives, the man’s desperate cry weighed heavy on their hearts. They knew it was God confirming their call to serve Him full-time.
The Morreaus, from Lone Oak First Baptist Church in Paducah, Ky., are returning to their beloved Tonga people to continue their ministry. They were among the 105 new missionaries from across the United States and nine other countries appointed Nov. 11 at First Baptist Church in Houston. The service marked the third-largest group ever appointed by the International Mission Board, bringing the total of Southern Baptist missionaries serving overseas to 5,541.
As with the Morreaus, Africa played a significant role in Chris and Christina Elledge’s decision.
In 1998 Chris went on a three-week medical mission trip to Africa. He and his wife decided they would not communicate with each other while Chris was gone, but rather keep daily journals of what God was saying to them.
“When I arrived home, my wife and I went day by day through our journals and saw how God had intertwined our hearts for our future and, namely, our role in international missions,” Chris said. “It was amazing to see how [similarly] our journals were written.”
A decade later, the Elledges’ dream has become a reality. The couple from The Vine Church in Norman, Okla., are heading overseas to work with university students in Austria.
Bobby Paul, as an AT&T employee, wanted to climb the corporate ladder. The mission field was the furthest thing from his mind.
“[I felt] God was calling us to missions, but I remained quiet,” his wife Ruth said. “I continued to pray.”
After returning from several mission trips to Malawi, Bobby became discontented chasing worldly success after discovering his true passion was spreading the Gospel.
“Africa ignited a zeal within me,” Bobby said. The Pauls, from First Baptist Church in San Antonio, will be serving in South America.
Addressing the new missionaries, IMB President Jerry Rankin referred to the Apostle Paul’s letters in 1 Thessalonians as he told them their most important witness is to live like Jesus.
“That is why we are appointing you as missionaries,” he said. “Jesus told us to go, but I believe He understood that the most effective witness is living out in flesh and blood the reality of [Him].”
Rankin told of a veteran missionary from Asia who said his most effective time of ministry was his second year on the field. After completing language study, the worker went to a local market, sat at an empty vendor’s table and began starting conversations with passers-by.
“‘I don’t think there was anyone in my city that didn’t know who I was or why I was there,'” Rankin recounted the missionary saying.
Unfortunately, he became too busy with ministry responsibilities and stopped going to the market.
Rankin told the new appointees they are compelled to share their life-changing experience with others, just like the believers in Thessalonica.
“No one will ever see Christ in your life … if you isolate yourself.”
Emilee Brandon is a writer for the International Mission Board.