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LifeWay consultants commissioned for IMB service in 4 world regions

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Commissioning four employees of LifeWay Christian Resources to serve in four regions of the world was a “fulfillment of a personal dream,” the agency’s president, James T. Draper Jr., said.
The employees were commissioned as international consultants Oct. 23 during a special chapel service at LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention in Nashville, Tenn.
Draper said when trustees of the Sunday School Board (now LifeWay) contacted him in 1991 about serving as president, they asked him his dreams for the agency.
He listed one.
“I told the trustees one day I dreamed of having Sunday School Board employees overseas, helping churches. It seemed like an impossible dream,” he said.
The four employees will become international church development consultants of LifeWay, serving under the auspices of regional leaders of the Southern Baptist International Mission Board. They will move to the field in early 1999.
Geoff Bowen and his wife, Jennifer, will live in Germany and serve in central and eastern Europe; Steve Cretin and his wife, Ann, will live in Singapore and serve southeast Asia and Oceania; Ernie McAninch and his wife, Lee Ann, will live in Ecuador and serve western South America; and Michael Woolridge and his wife, Evelyn, will live in Kenya and serve eastern Africa.
Draper said sending the consultants “marks a unique beginning for a partnership with the International Mission Board. We’ve never done this before. They’ve never done this before.”
Avery Willis, IMB senior vice president for overseas operations and a former LifeWay employee, said, “The Great Commission wasn’t given to a mission board. It was given to every Christian and every church. Our job is to help lead Southern Baptists to be on mission with God. Now you’re [LifeWay] sending four of your best.”
He noted of the 12,000 people groups in the world, approximately 2,000 still have little or no access to the Christian gospel.
“For them it is still B.C. [before Christ] because Christ has not been introduced to them,” Willis said.
“God is bringing church-planting movements all across the world,” he said. For example, he cited the Masai tribe of eastern Africa where more than 100,000 have become Christians in the last few years. In Cambodia, only six Baptist churches existed in 1992, but the number has grown to 198 this year.
Willis said the main role of the LifeWay consultants will be to work with new churches to help them equip leaders and nurture new Christians, enabling them to start additional churches.
The consultants will spend several weeks at the IMB Missionary Learning Center near Richmond, Va., before moving to their mission assignments.

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  • Linda Lawson