ROCKVILLE, Va. (BP)–Janet McDowell remembers children suffering from malnutrition becoming well enough to run through the pediatric ward at a mission hospital in Mbeya, Tanzania, where she served for part of her 28 years as a medical missionary in Africa.
The children would pull on the nurses’ white stockings, watching them snap back and “… laughing so hard, thinking it was the nurse’s skin snapping back.”
McDowell was one of 60 retiring missionaries honored May 15 at an emeritus recognition service at the International Mission Board’s Learning Center in Rockville, Va. Their time on the mission fields of the world represented a combined total of 1,730 years of service.
They served across the globe as church planters and evangelists, in seminaries and universities, as medical practitioners, agriculturalists and relief workers, administrators and teachers — in just about any role one can imagine — so people who had not yet heard could know the story of Jesus and the Good News of His Gospel.
The names of the people groups they lived among rolled off their tongues — Waha, Subi, Iraqi, Maasai, Barabbaig, Owambo, Eritrean, Iban, Murut, Tembanuo and Rungus — names only those intimate with them would know.
“What you have done with your lives will glorify the Lord for generations that follow,” IMB president Jerry Rankin said.
Rankin noted similarities between the Apostle Paul and the retiring missionaries. Like Paul, “You had a vision for your people coming into the Kingdom of God,” he said.
As Paul discovered at the end of his ministry, they learned it was never intended for them to finish that task. Like him, they were intended to be a prototype for those who are to follow.
“You didn’t complete the task … but many people came to know Jesus because you offered what you had,” Rankin said. “You learned it was the power of the message, that Jesus came and died for the sins of the world.”
Don and Edith Kennedy worked among university students in Mexico for 31 years.
“The university is the clear-cut fulcrum from which to move the world,” Don said. “Change the university and you change the world.”
The Kennedys have seen that change through the lives of hundreds of Christian young people they mentored who are now in leadership positions in Mexico and serving as missionaries around the world.
A midlife crisis leads many people to make major career, lifestyle and location changes. For Bob and Landra Sarles, it was a midlife call that eventually led them to Brazil and 16 years on the mission field.
“Our midlife crisis came in language school,” Landra said, “trying to learn Portuguese at 50.”
At a retirement celebration in Taiwan after 32 years of service, Ron and Elinda West were reunited with a woman whose parents disowned her and her sister for being baptized after attending a Bible study the Wests led. Now the sisters “… are not only in fulltime Christian service but have led their parents to know Christ,” Ron said.
In their 28 years as missionaries among South Asian peoples, Jim and Trudy Crittendon remember: “A Bible School student telling me six years later that she silently accepted Christ when I preached in her village [and] now she’s reaching neighboring villages.” Jim said. “[An Arab] diplomat’s wife finally asking, ‘Tell me about Jesus,'” Trudy said. “Seeing the first Filipino I mentored 20 years later [as] a doctor on the first Baptist response team after the Pakistan earthquake,” Jim said.
Malaria, malnutrition, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and typhoid were among the many problems George and Elizabeth Faile faced at the hospital in Ghana where they served. In the last year of their 24 and 22 years of missionary service, respectively, nearly 100,000 patients were treated, 9,000 needed admission, 1,200 major surgery and “… two to three died every day,” George said. “Prayer support of Southern Baptists helped us meet the demands and stress.”
Elizabeth said, “I marvel at God’s faithfulness through good times and through times of illness, heartbreak and disappointment.”
After teaching in the Philippine Baptist seminary for 12 years and traveling and teaching throughout Southeast Asia for an additional five, Bob and Jane Grayson list where their students are serving: “Several founded a seminary in [South Asia],” Bob said. “[Another] a Christian music school in Burma,” Jane said. Others are serving as missionaries in Cambodia, East Asia, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Taiwan and Thailand.
“We have been so blessed to see students being faithful in passing God’s light and love to the next generation,” Jane said.
Complied by International Mission Board staff.