INDIANAPOLIS (BP)–A personal experience with Christ’s life-changing love compels His followers to love in a way they never could have before, Ed Stetzer said June 9 during the second day of the Woman’s Missionary Union’s annual missions celebration in Indianapolis.
Stetzer, director of LifeWay Research and coauthor with Philip Nation of this year’s WMU emphasis book, “Compelled by Love: The Most Excellent Way to Missional Living,” said, “I have been born again to new life, and part of that new life is that I get new eyes” -– eyes which help people to see “through the eyes of God rather than through the eyes of self.”
That change in perspective, Stetzer said, provides motivation for a missional lifestyle in which believers stay mindful that they are sent on a mission of reconciliation and are representatives of Jesus and His Kingdom, all because of the cross. That kind of radical love, Stetzer said, earns the right to share one’s faith.
“I look to people who are far from Christ and I say, ‘They’re important, and I need to treat them with the love of Christ to show them the Good News of Christ.'”
Stetzer’s call to throw off personal agendas and preferences for the sake of love was reflected in several missionary testimonies during the meeting.
Jon and Mindy Jamison, who serve through the North American Mission Board in inner-city Des Moines, Iowa, told how God has allowed them to love all parts of their neighborhood, including a growing gang population for whom they have prayed for the past year.
Because of the prayers of WMU and other Southern Baptists through this year’s Week of Prayer for North American Missions God, Jon Jamison said God is giving them an audience with gang members as they come to play basketball at the Friendship Baptist Center, which the Jamisons direct.
International Mission Board missionary Lorri SeGraves told of making disciples of college students in Valencia, Venezuela, and then leading them to reach out to their friends and families, while IMB missionaries Charlie and Angie Lechner told of their outreach in Mozambique in a culture that often clings to traditional African religion, including ancestor worship. The Lechners shared the story of one of the men who guards their home and how God is working in his life by moving him from a fear-driven spirituality to the freedom of a personal relationship with Christ. The Lechners echoed the other missionaries in their thanks to WMU for their support, particularly through prayer.
Rebekah Naylor, a longtime medical missionary at Bangalore Baptist Hospital in India, also emphasized WMU’s dedication to praying for missionaries. Naylor said she knows what it means to be a prayed-for person, in how prayer can impact the day-to-day aspects of ministry — as well as how God works over longer periods of time in calling people to India as missionaries and drawing people to a relationship with Him. And He has opened doors in the difficult process of renewing medical licenses to work in the country, Naylor said. When Bangalore Baptist Hospital was planning an expansion to include a chapel in its facilities, Naylor received the permit from the government on her birthday when thousands of Southern Baptists were praying for her.
Naylor relayed the story of a woman who had come to the hospital very ill and was prayed for by believers. The woman told Naylor that no one had ever cared enough about her to pray for her. Because the doctor and others were compelled by their love for Christ and for people to pray, her view of Christians and of Jesus was changed.
“Surely, in all my years as a follower of Jesus Christ, I have learned that God does indeed hear and answer prayer,” Naylor said. “As you pray for missionaries and the lost, you do so in response to God’s love, and your love for others.”
As Naylor led the group in prayer for missionaries around the world, she encouraged them to continue to demonstrate the love that Christ has put in them by seeking His face on behalf of others.
“I would challenge you tonight to pray more intensely, more than you have ever prayed before, for our lost world. Jesus said if you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”
Praying for missionaries is one of the foundations of WMU’s missions education curriculum, and the group honored Angela Kim for her work in coordinating the translation of those materials into Korean. Kim, who received this year’s Dellana West O’Brien Award for Women’s Leadership Development, serves as a consultant and project manager with national WMU.
Monday’s breakout sessions featured a new element, largely thanks to Kim. Sixteen leaders were trained in missions education in Korean during sessions that introduced a bilingual curriculum to be used around the country to help churches develop missions programs for Korean and English speakers. Describing it as a project that has been close to her heart for many years, Kim said she hopes the curriculum will raise up a new generation of missions leaders with hearts bent toward lifelong commitment to sharing the Gospel, compelled by love for others.
Meredith Day coordinates communications with the Vision San Diego outreach of the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board’s Strategic Focus Cities initiative.