WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (BP) — Addressing 33 retired International Mission Board missionaries at a dinner, North Carolina Baptists’ Executive Director Milton Hollifield said, “Even though your place of assignment may be changing, you are still Southern Baptist missionaries.”

The audience was part of the 80 IMB missionaries from North Carolina who accepted the organization’s Voluntary Retirement Incentive (VRI) or Hand Raising opportunity (HRO) during the past few months as part of IMB’s organizational “reset.”

The missionaries, consisting of 44 units, were invited to a March 8 dinner at Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem. The event was jointly sponsored by the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSCNC) and the Woman’s Missionary Union of North Carolina (WMU-NC). The evening was designed to welcome the missionaries home and invite them to consider using their experience to serve in ministry positions in the state.

IMB President David Platt reported in February that 702 missionaries and 109 stateside staff took the VRI, and 281 missionaries and 40 stateside staff took the HRO, for a total loss of 1,132 personnel.

Hollifield told the missionaries that North Carolina Baptists set up a $500,000 reserve fund to hire missionaries as contract workers. They will join the BSC’s strategy of impacting lostness through disciple-making, with special emphasis on reaching internationals. Please see related story.

“With what is taking place here in this state with the growth in population from other countries, you are going to have the opportunity to work with some of the same kinds of people from countries where you have served, but they are now living in North Carolina,” he said.

“Although we understand that you would prefer to be in the place of your overseas assignment, we’re glad that God has brought you safely back to North Carolina. I speak for many when I say thank you for the years and months that you have invested your life in serving Jesus where He placed you to serve.”

Pointing to the illustration of the potter and clay in Jeremiah 29:11-13, Hollifield said the Bible teaches that God has a plan for our lives.

“Although the personnel reduction at IMB was a surprise to us,” he said, “it did not take God by surprise. … We know that God still has another plan for our lives, … and I hope that the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina can be a small part of what God has in His plan for you.”

Among the people groups classified by IMB as unreached or unengaged, 154 of those nations are represented in North Carolina. Hollifield said the needs are great. The state’s school system reports that children go home from school each day and speak more than 300 different languages in their homes.

Steve Hardy, team leader for the BSCNC’s Office of Great Commission Partnerships, said there are 244 million immigrants worldwide. About 50 million of those are immigrants in United States. Many have come to North Carolina.

Amy Boone, executive director-treasurer of WMU-NC, spoke about the organization’s ministry opportunities including the work at Camp Mundo Vista and the coming Missions Extravaganza, April 1-3 at Ridgecrest Conference Center.

She also invited the missionaries to consider jobs that are available at the national WMU office in Birmingham, Ala.

A fellowship event for VRI missionaries will be held this June at the Southern Baptist Convention’s meeting in St. Louis, Boone noted. WMU-NC welcomed each couple back to the state with a gift basket provided by local church WMU groups.

Chuck Register, BSCNC’s executive leader for Church Planting and Missions Partnerships, shared biblical encouragement from Acts 17:22-27 and the need for more “Pauls” in the state.

He noted North Carolina has approximately 10 million residents. And more than half, 5.8 million people, do not know Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior. One million of the state’s population are foreign-born residents.

Referencing the 154 people groups in the state Register said, “God needs some apostle Pauls to come alongside us and help us develop strategies, and help us know how to communicate the Gospel to Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and animists.

“So He has brought you here to help us,” Register said. “… We need your language skills, we need your worldview understanding, but more than that, we need your passion for the nations in North Carolina. … Come help us proclaim [the Gospel] to people who are seeking and groping after a God they don’t even know.”

Former IMB missionaries who took the VRI or HRO and have an interest in contract work on the N.C. Baptist staff are asked to contact Kathy Bennett in the office of the executive director-treasurer at [email protected] or (800) 395-5102 ext. 5503.

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