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IMB trustees fill leadership positions, review strategy, hear prayer challenge

GLORIETA, N.M. (BP)–Trustees of the Southern Baptist International Mission Board filled two key leadership roles and conducted a detailed review of overseas strategy during a July 31 — Aug. 2 meeting at Glorieta, a LifeWay conference center in New Mexico.

They also appointed 47 new missionaries, who were publicly recognized in an Aug. 2 service in Glorieta’s Holcomb Auditorium, and heard a challenge to prayerfully seek God’s wisdom and direction for every decision they make.

Trustees elected John W. White III to serve as IMB executive vice president following the Sept. 30 retirement of Don Kammerdiener. In his new role, White will be responsible for the day-to-day operations of the agency.

“John White is a person who can step into this very strategic role and fulfill its responsibilities without the organization losing any momentum,” IMB President Jerry Rankin said. “I doubt anyone has ever come into our organization with the level of executive and business training in the corporate world John had before answering the call to missions. In his time with the board as a missionary and a staff member, John has played major roles in administration, personnel, budget and leadership matters.

“But John is more than an administrator,” Rankin added. “You are as likely to find him praying with a colleague as anyone in our building. He has a deep walk with the Lord and a passionate commitment to our task. We can totally depend on him to provide administrative leadership for the agency.”

White was absent from the meeting because of the hospitalization of his mother-in-law, Jeannette Cathy of Hampton, Ga.

A native of Birmingham, Ala., White, 44, has been serving as IMB associate vice president for overseas operations since 1995. He and his wife, Trudy, previously served as missionaries to Brazil for 12 years.

White holds both master’s of business administration and law degrees from Samford University in Birmingham, Ala. He also attended Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, before missionary appointment.

The Whites have four children, ages 14-21.

After retirement, Kammerdiener will serve 15 months as a special assistant to the president, mentoring leaders and nurturing relationships with national Baptists in Latin America. Clyde Meador, regional leader for the board’s Southern Asia region, will step into the position White is vacating. David Garrison, the board’s associate vice president for strategy coordination, will direct work in Southern Asia until a successor to Meador is selected.

Trustees also elected Southern Baptist missionary Gregory Pratt to direct the board’s work in the nine countries of Central Asia.

Pratt, 43, is a Georgia native. He and his wife were appointed by the IMB in 1991. They have two children, ages 6 and 8.

The Central Asia region is home to more than 500 people groups, noted Avery Willis, IMB senior vice president of overseas operations. Only a tiny fraction of the people have any access to the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ.

Central Asia previously was part of a larger Central and Southern Asia region. Trustees carved it out as a separate region in their May meeting, convinced that missions efforts would be much more effective because of vast differences between the two areas in culture and in the way Christianity is developing.

When Pratt was appointed 10 years ago to focus on taking the gospel to a Muslim people group in Central Asia, only one believer was known among that people group’s 13 million people. Ten years later, Christians there number about 800.

“Our heart and our desire is to see Central Asia become a place from which the gospel goes out to the rest of the world,” Pratt told the trustees. “Our vision is that Central Asia would be filled with the knowledge of God’s glory as the waters cover the sea, to see that every person in Central Asia hears the gospel in a way they can understand and that all 500-plus people groups there experience a church-planting movement.”

Seventeen new trustees joined the 85-member board at Glorieta for their first meeting since election by messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in June. The new trustees attended orientation sessions and participated with other trustees in six special sessions outlining IMB global missions strategy.

Strategy sessions focused on the enormous challenge of lostness and how to overcome it, and the gap between Southern Baptist’s massive resources and the human and financial assets actually being applied to the cause of taking the gospel to the whole world. They reviewed strategies for mobilizing Southern Baptists for world missions and starting church-planting movements among all the world’s people groups. The sessions also identified “bridges” and “barriers” to evangelizing the world.

IMB President Rankin’s report to the trustees challenged them to prayerfully seek God’s wisdom and direction for every decision they make.

“We face unprecedented opportunities around the world that we dare not forfeit or neglect,” Rankin said. “We must not approach our task in a passive or haphazard way, but rather bathed in prayer, seeking God’s wisdom and guidance.

“May we never presume to have the answer, formulate plans and make decisions without consulting the Lord. It is His mission, and He alone will guide and direct us in fulfilling our role in that mission.”

The next IMB trustee meeting will be held Sept. 6-8 in Tulsa, Okla., with a missionary appointment service at First Baptist Church of Broken Arrow on Sept. 6 at 7:30 p.m.

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  • Mark Kelly