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Karen Watson’s duffel bag a symbol of sacrifice, students told

NEW ORLEANS (BP)–Everything she owned was in a duffel bag. When she felt God’s call to Iraq, Karen Watson resigned her job, sold her car, her house and other worldly possessions, packing what was left into a duffel bag.

In March 2003, she went to Iraq to fulfill that call. One year later, that duffel bag is a reminder of the work she did in telling the lost in Iraq about Christ. She left a two-page letter with her pastor and gave instructions that it be opened only upon her death.

That letter was opened last month after she and three other Southern Baptist aid workers were killed in Iraq. In it, she made it clear that she had counted the cost of going. In handwritten capital letters she wrote, “THERE ARE NO REGRETS.”

Watson’s family shared her story with International Mission Board President Jerry Rankin at her funeral.

Rankin reiterated Watson’s sacrifice during Global Missions Week at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary as he encouraged students, faculty and staff to consider missions not out of obligation to fulfill the Great Commission, but because they are compelled by Christ’s love.

Philip Pinckard, associate professor of missions and director of the seminary’s Global Missions Center, voiced appreciation to the IMB for “an excellent group of missionaries during our Global Missions Week to serve as living testimonies of missions to the students of NOBTS.”

“The chapel times, displays, sharing in classes and conferences all provided opportunities to explore missionary service and involvement,” Pinckard said.

The main purpose of the March 29-April 2 missions emphasis is to educate the NOBTS community on what it means to be a missionary. The emphasis featured various missionaries who recounted what God is doing around the world.

Troy Bush, IMB strategy coordinator in Moscow, said Global Missions Week raises awareness of the diverse needs on the mission field and puts students in personal contact with key places of service.

“One of the opportunities we have by being at a conference … is that we are able to introduce the ministry as well as dispel a lot of myths about life on the mission field,” Bush said, underscoring the great need for additional missionaries and church planters throughout the world.

Bush entered into a dialogue with NOBTS in the fall of 2001 about beginning a ministry partnership. The partnership now assists Bush in meeting the needs of people in Moscow, while helping the seminary provide real-world mission training for its students. In May 2005 NOBTS will offer a four-credit-hour mission course in which seminary students and faculty members will serve in Moscow.

“Our hope and our desire with that partnership is to be able to link both the [seminary’s] development of students with the needs we have on the field and actually put professors and students together in meeting those needs,” Bush said.

IMB representatives from Central and Eastern Europe, Southern, Eastern and West Africa, Eastern South America, South Asia, and Western Pacific conducted workshops on missions and evangelism during the week. They also met with students and faculty to discuss international mission opportunities.

“We hope that NOBTS students preparing for service in the local church realize that missions should be the heartbeat of the body of Christ,” Pinckard said. “As local churches catch a missions vision, more persons will serve in missions not only in their communities but around the world.”

Rankin, in his chapel address April 1, said the needs and evangelistic opportunities, particularly in the Muslim world, are presenting themselves in unprecedented numbers and in ways that no amount of strategizing has cause: God is moving in His power.

“As I was traveling the Middle East, there were posters for ‘The Passion’ all over…. This week it’s been sold out. One theater in Jordan said nobody wanted to see the other films. They closed out the other films, put The Passion on all screens in the cinemaplex,” Rankin said. “Pirated DVDs are being distributed in Baghdad and all across the Muslim world….

“Who’s going to respond and say, ‘I’ll go to answer the questions, to give a witness, to follow up with what Jesus is doing’?” Rankin asked.

Despite the obvious need for more missionaries, Rankin noted that a sense of duty to the Great Commission is not sufficient motivation for becoming a missionary.

“You don’t become a missionary simply because there’s a need in the lost world,” he said. “You don’t become obedient unto death in place[s] like Yemen and Iraq just simply because of a sense of obligation because Jesus told you to go. No, you are driven by a passion in your heart for a lost world.”

The call to give one’s life to reaching lost nations for Christ is not understood by secular culture, Rankin said, because secular culture cannot imagine being willing to die in passionate pursuit of that goal.

“Media and culture, they just don’t get it. Why would anyone go to a place that their lives would be at risk?” Rankin said. “We have succumbed to a culture and a philosophy where it is all about us, it’s all about our comfort, all about our security, all about our future in this life. They never come to understand that there is something worth giving your life to. There is a purpose that’s worth dying for. But the world doesn’t understand that. And I’m not sure we understand that that for which God called us is not just something to give our lives for and to live for, but it must be driven by a sense of purpose and passion.”

“Folks, it wasn’t just about you and me,” Rankin said. “It was about God’s plan of redemption for the nations and all the peoples of the world, to give us a message of hope for people who are in despair, a message of salvation for those in bondage to sin, to share the light with those who are in darkness — that’s why Jesus paid that awful price for our sin.”
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: EXTENDING THE CALL and RELAYING THE NEED.

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  • Katherine Albers