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Learning center, relief efforts affirmed by IMB trustees

SPARTANBURG, S.C. (BP)–The International Mission Board’s learning center provides “healthy, growing and sound theological training” to new missionaries, according to a report approved by IMB trustees.

The trustees appointed 87 new missionaries during their Sept.11-13 meeting in Spartanburg, S.C. and heard encouraging reports of how nearly $4 million has been utilized for hunger and general relief projects around the world, including efforts related to the conflict in Lebanon.

They also gathered to intercede several times for IMB’s Richmond staff; Mike Hamlet, pastor of First Baptist North Spartanburg, which hosted the related appointment service; and others, blanketing the meeting in prayer and a spirit of unity and harmony.

The positive report on the IMB’s learning center concludes a study begun in 2004 when the trustees established three subcommittees within their Overseas Committee to relate directly with the responsibilities of the board’s associate vice presidents in the Office of Overseas Operations. The board charged one of these, the Leadership Development Subcommittee, to review and monitor the board’s leadership development. According to the study spearheaded by the subcommittee, the learning center is providing healthy, growing and effective leadership for outgoing missionaries.

The study, which began in February 2004, responded to concerns over the quality of new missionary work. The report is open to trustee members in its entirety, but was shortened because of the length of the report. The report summary concluded the learning center provides:

— programs found to be sound theologically, which includes but is not limited to missiology and ecclesiology.

— adherence to biblical parameters as expressed in the Baptist Faith and Message 2000.

— healthy cooperative relationship between these training programs and the larger Southern Baptist theological training system.


In an effort to affirm and organize a more effective approach to medical missions, the IMB conducted a meeting this summer where medical missionaries met to discover new approaches to their work and discuss how they can spread the Gospel using their gifts.

Next summer the board plans to conduct its first medical mobilization event, a convergence of missionaries with healthcare assignments around the world. The event will combine a functional conference where personnel can learn medical strategies, coupled with opportunities for prospective missions volunteers to learn about opportunities for partnership. The event is planned to take place at the board’s learning center. IMB President Jerry Rankin said the event will usher in a new effort, called the Global Medical Alliance, aimed to strengthen and help mobilize Southern Baptists to respond to medical needs.

In his report, Rankin acknowledged a misperception exists that the IMB has diminished an emphasis on medical work. Many mission hospitals overseas no longer are dependent on missionary staff, he said, although IMB personnel continue to work in partnership with them. Currently, more than 200 IMB missionaries work in healthcare fields, many in Last Frontier assignments. And more are needed, Rankin said.

“We anticipate this [event] being an annual functional conference for missionaries assigned to healthcare ministries and many others with medical background and training,” Rankin said. “[We] hope it will be an incentive for tremendous mobilization efforts of more of our churches and healthcare volunteers partnering with us around the world. We just want to support this very valuable aspect of our strategy.”

Rankin mentioned another initiative in process -– one focusing on finding new ways to respond more effectively to disaster relief efforts around the world. The plan entails better global coordination of disaster relief resources on the mission field -– rather than a response being isolated to a region where one disaster occurs –- as well as facilitating improved use of stateside resources and engaging disaster relief partners. Details of the new effort will be presented with an official proposal at the next board meeting in November.


Trustees praised the gifts from Southern Baptists for the International Mission Board’s hunger and general relief projects.

During the past two months, the hunger and relief ministries have distributed $3.9 million in relief projects. Nearly $650,000 has gone toward relief efforts in Lebanon and Israel.

“We are constantly receiving funds from various individuals and churches that give for the purpose of hunger and relief,” said Chuck McAlister, a trustee from Arkansas who serves as chairman of the trustees’ Overseas Committee.

He said people inquire if Southern Baptists are doing anything around the world to feed, clothe and care for people.

“The answer to that is a resounding ‘Yes,’” he said.


Trustees approved the appointment of 87 new missionaries Sept. 13 at First Baptist North Spartanburg. As one of the largest IMB missionary groups to be appointed, they will scatter to 10 of the IMB’s 11 administrative regions around the world.

Hamlet, pastor of the North Spartanburg church, shared with trustees how he hopes the excitement of the appointment service will affect everyone in his congregation. The appointment service kicked off the church’s global missions conference, which will run through the week.

“Very few churches have gotten so involved and so focused and so passionate about global missions,” Rankin said, noting the church’s role as a missions partner and supporter, which has mobilized and networked with other churches to cast a vision for missions.

Hamlet gave credit to the IMB for providing missionaries to speak at their conference, as well as missions materials.

“Our church has been looking forward to this for so long,” he said.

“We couldn’t do it without [the IMB] … We pray in some way that we can just be a part, one little part, of somebody taking the next step in missions, called to missions [or] a church getting started. We’ll be thrilled.”


In response to a trustee’s motion in the March 20-22 meeting, the board followed up with a report answering questions about trustees’ rights to access non-public information from the IMB upon request.

The report concluded that adequate structures already exist regarding trustees’ requests for information. The existing structure shows that a trustee can request information at any time, but is urged to follow a set of guidelines.


The IMB plans to decrease the number of missionary orientations from five to four next year. Smaller orientation groups will be combined. Rankin noted the change will exercise good stewardship of Southern Baptist monies. Continuing to cite a desire to show better stewardship, Rankin proposed three other suggestions for trustees to consider, including: moving to four corresponding appointment services and four quarterly board meetings and reducing the number of trustees on the board. No action was taken on these suggestions.

The next board meeting will be Oct. 30-Nov. 1 in St. Louis, with the appointment service planned for Tuesday evening, Oct. 31, in Cape Girardeau, Mo.

    About the Author

  • Shawn Hendricks