ROCKVILLE, Va. (BP)–Serving in the Middle East, Southern Baptist workers Pat and Judy Hoaldridge faced persecution in the form of newspaper articles and fliers that called for throwing them out of their neighborhood — as well as threats against their lives — all during the first years on the field.
Yet as a result of the public attacks, people knew where to find the couple to ask about Jesus — and the Hoaldridges were able to help start churches all over the area.
“After the construction of the new church a party was organized to thank neighbors for their patience,” Judy Hoaldridge said.
“Thirty Orthodox men marched in to disrupt it, but they remained for two hours listening to believers’ testimonies. Today there are many Messianic congregations throughout (the Middle East).”
The Hoaldridges were two of the 39 retiring Southern Baptist missionaries honored for their ministries July 17 during a special service of recognition at the International Mission Board’s Missionary Learning Center in Rockville, Va. The missionaries represented a combined total of 1,215 years of sharing the gospel around the world.
Jerry Rankin, International Mission Board president, praised the missionaries for their “faithfulness in service all these years.”
“You have been obedient to God’s call,” he said. “You went and labored in Latin America, entered those opened doors in the Middle East. When doors opened in Eastern Europe, you seized that opportunity to share the good news there. You’ve gone and dared to penetrate the massive cities of Asia with the good news of Jesus Christ.”
Evelyn Bullington, who served with her husband, Bill, in West Africa for 39 years, said some of “their greatest joy came from planting churches among peoples who had little or no knowledge of Jesus. That joy was multiplied through the lives of believers we had the privilege of training in evangelism and pastoral ministries.”
Some of the missionaries reminisced about people they worked, cried and learned with during their years of service.
Ken Milam, who served with his wife, Judy, in the Pacific Rim region for 34 years, said he prays God will continue to call out many more Baptist missionaries to serve those they have left behind.
“If we could turn back the clock, we would return for another 34 years,” Mrs. Milam added.
Many of the retiring missionaries plan to continue to serve. Some are returning to missions through the Masters Program, an IMB missionary service option for retirees, while others are already on staff at churches.
“My retirement wasn’t long,” said James Young, who served in Bangladesh for 34 years with his wife, Guinevere. “I am already a pastor of a church in Mississippi and will be involved in nine mission celebrations next year.”
“We’re not going to retire,” David Harms added. Harms and his wife, Joyce, will serve on staff at a church in Georgia. Using the skills they learned working in medical and evangelistic missions for 33 years in Honduras, they will work to reach the Spanish population in their town.
Ray and Bev Hicks will be serving on staff at a church in Texas. “We are excited to be continuing to be a part of God’s adventure for our lives,” Ray Hicks said.
Gordon Fort, IMB vice president of overseas operations, applauded the missionaries and their “scars of ministry” and led a prayer for their futures in ministry during a prayer of thanksgiving.
“Your life has already preached your message,” he said. “And we want to say: well done.”