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Int’l experiences stir new missionaries

LIBERTY, Mo. (BP)–After his family’s house sold, Greg, a newly appointed missionary, spotted his children’s handprints in the concrete on their front porch.

Greg and his wife were preparing to serve as missionaries among an unreached people group, but he began having second thoughts.

“I asked, ‘God, how can I leave those handprints behind?’

“And then God said, ‘You’re leaving the handprints, but you’re taking those hands to make My mark on My world.'”

Greg and his wife (last name not used for security reasons), along with 33 others, were appointed to the mission field May 9 at Pleasant Valley Baptist Church in Liberty, Mo. Before a crowd of approximately 1,000 people, they will join nearly 5,200 International Mission Board missionaries around the globe.

The 35 missionaries shared stories of how God led them to this point in their lives -– all reflecting some previous overseas experience.

For Larry Lewis, it was a mission trip to Rome that helped stir him and his wife to go to the Czech Republic. Lewis still remembers the emptiness of the “big, beautiful churches covered with gold and statues.”

“All of the churches were empty, just like the hearts of the people are empty,” he said. “God began to impress on us that He wanted us to pursue international missions.”

Other new missionaries shared their stories of how God confirmed their call to the mission field:

— “On a hot, dusty day in Mexico while on a short-term mission [trip] … unable to communicate with [the local people], my heart broke over their spiritual condition,” said one man (name withheld), who will serve in Mexico with his wife.

“I couldn’t tell them about Christ. At that moment, God called me to return to be a voice for Him.”

— “Being the first Christian in my family, God has given me a heart for the lost,” said Kris Ellis, who will be headed to the Pacific Rim with his wife Misty.

“Through the [support] of a church family in California, God has opened my heart for the people of the world who have never experienced His salvation, mercy and grace.”

— “About three days into a really difficult hike in the wet and bug-ridden jungle of Bolivia, we topped the last hill into … a small village where we were strangers and didn’t know anybody,” said Joe Brewster, who will serve in Peru with his wife Megan.

“I was exhausted and I prayed to God, ‘Lord, I can’t walk any farther and I don’t know what to do next.’ About five minutes later an old man walked by. He invited us into his home. We were able to share the Word of God with him. In the morning, we left, rejoicing. We knew a sovereign Lord had prepared the way for us.”

— “I was teaching my girls’ camp cabin about missionaries and telling them that they needed to be willing to follow God wherever He led them,” said Becky, who will serve in Central Asia with her husband.

“But I realized one night that I needed to practice what I preached. God has given me a heart for those who have never heard the hope that Christ brings and the faith to follow Him overseas.”

— “As a 19-year-old college student, I felt God’s call to international missions,” said Rebecca, who also will head to Central Asia. “On a college mission trip a couple years later to North Carolina, working in a homeless shelter I met a 3-year-old named Brandi.

“Brandi was clingy, demanding and quite wonderful. God used this child to melt my heart with compassion and pull me toward Him. He gave me a calling to love others and tell them about Jesus. I’m called to a region where 95 percent of the people have never heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

IMB President Jerry Rankin, noting the overseas experience of each of the new missionaries, said missions is not about filling a job description -– it’s all about telling others about Jesus.

Pointing to John 14:6, Rankin shared Christ’s words, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No man comes unto the Father but by me,” he read, using the words to remind the missionaries that “Jesus is your mission.”

“You’ve described the lostness -– people ringing bells to get the attention of God [or] bowing down before lifeless idols in futile devotion,” he said.

“They’re searching to know hope and security that only Jesus can provide, and that is why God has called you.”

Rankin challenged the crowd not to forget that missions applies to everyone — not just an anointed few. He added that some Christians look at missionaries with admiration because they themselves are unwilling to follow God’s call.

“What would keep you from joining them in taking Jesus to a lost world?” Rankin asked the audience of 1,000. “It’s not your ability. It’s your availability.”

    About the Author

  • Shawn Hendricks