RICHMOND, Va. (BP) — For the International Mission Board, 2018 proved to be a year of transitions — both beginnings and endings. They elected a new president in November. And Southern Baptists continued pushing forward in sharing the Gospel with the vision of a multitude from every language, people, tribe and nation knowing and worshiping the Lord Jesus Christ.
IMB trustees announced the election of their new president, Paul Chitwood, on November 15. Chitwood, who previously served as executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, is the 13th president of the 173-year-old entity.
“Dr. Chitwood is uniquely qualified to lead us into the next era of Southern Baptists reaching the nations,” said Chuck Pourciau, chairman of the IMB Presidential Search Committee, and senior pastor of Broadmoor Baptist Church, Shreveport, La. “His missions heart and leadership acumen will serve us well in the years to come. I am eager to watch God work through him as he leads our international missions efforts.”
Chitwood succeeds David Platt, who announced his intention to transition from the IMB in February. Platt, who has been serving as pastor-teacher at McLean Bible Church in Northern Va., resigned in September. Clyde Meador served as interim president of the IMB from September to November, until Chitwood’s election. At Chitwood’s request and with the approval of IMB trustees, Meador serves as interim executive vice president.
Partnering with Southern Baptist churches across the convention, IMB facilitated the sending of 177 full-time, fully funded missionaries during the year — missionaries such as Nathan and Kim Gunter from Kansas. The Gunters grew up in small churches where they saw the cooperative giving of Southern Baptists send men and women around the world with the Gospel.
“Now after years of pastoring an amazing church family here in the U.S., the Lord has made it clear that He is calling us to serve in Africa,” Nathan said. The couple is being sent to Sub-Saharan Africa by Lansing (Kansas) First Southern Baptist Church.
Tragedy and hope
While celebrating the sending of new missionaries, IMB grieved the loss of Randy and Kathy Arnett, missionaries to Africa. The Arnetts died in March from injuries sustained in an automobile accident in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Arnetts were traveling to conduct theological training with national believer partners.
In the months following the accident in Africa, IMB followed the ongoing recovery of fellow missionaries Jeff and Barbara Singerman, who also were in the vehicle with their colleagues. Barbara reported ways they have seen God mobilize fellow believers in Benin since the accident.
Faithful support for missionaries
Southern Baptists demonstrated faithful support of their international missionaries through the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. In the 100th anniversary since Southern Baptists named their global mission offering in honor of esteemed missionary Lottie Moon, IMB reported $158.9 million given, the second-highest offering in its history.
Remembering Jim Slack
Southern Baptists mourned the loss of longtime missiologist Jim Slack, 80. He died Nov. 15 and was known for his greeting of “Hello World!” when he learned something new. In his 50-year career with the IMB, Slack helped missionaries learn Bible storying, and he engaged in research and advocacy for the world’s unreached peoples.
Week of Prayer
During the Week of Prayer for International Missions, IMB missionary Larry Pepper recounted ending his career as a NASA flight surgeon decades ago to follow God’s call to a new career in medical missions in Africa.
Pepper’s story was one of seven shared during the annual prayer emphasis.
Lilly’s Christmas gift
The IMB family cheered a precious new beginning as 6-year-old Lilly Chitwood saw her Christmas wish come true: a family to call her own. Lilly’s adoption by Paul and Michelle Chitwood was finalized in early December.