RAYTOWN, Mo. (BP)–A missionary’s usefulness to God is a matter of obedience, not ability, a new Southern Baptist missionary testified during a March 17 appointment service in Raytown, Mo.
“When God first called me to missions, I said, ‘I’m a mom. I’m a wife. I homeschool and make macaroni and cheese for a living. … God, how can You use me?'” said the new worker*, who will serve with her husband in a country where Christians are a tiny minority.
“And God said, ‘Just be obedient and go. I will use you to bless others.'”
Taking the good news of God’s love to people who have never heard is a privilege bestowed by God — and leading them to Christ is the greatest thrill a Christian can ever know, International Mission Board President Jerry Rankin told the 58 new missionaries.
An estimated 2,700 people filled the sanctuary of First Baptist Church in Raytown the evening of March 17 to participate in the appointment of those new overseas workers. The church choir and orchestra raised the anthem of the evening, “Go Light Your World.”
As the new missionaries talked about how God called them to the privilege of overseas missionary service, one theme emerged repeatedly: God deeply desires all the world’s people groups to know Him — and He wants Christians to share that passion and obey His call to take gospel light into a dark world.
The massive death toll after a catastrophic earthquake in Turkey shocked that awareness into one of the new workers.
“As I watched the newscasts and saw the numbers of dead climbing — 10,000, 20,000, 40,000 — I wondered how many of those people had never heard the name Jesus,” said the Georgia native*, who will serve where people have little or no access to the gospel. “After a sleepless night, I knew God wanted us to be part of His work to make Himself known among the peoples of this world.”
Another new missionary said God used her traumatic childhood to help her understand how badly unreached people groups need Christians to reach out to them.
“Coming from a broken and abusive home, feeling unwanted and forgotten, God brought people into my life to shower me with His love,” said Wanda Forshee, a Michigan native who will serve with her husband, Terry, in eastern Africa.
“They walked me down the Roman Road. They mentored me. And then they set my heart’s desire on overseas missions so I could go and share God’s overwhelming love with other lost, forgotten and unwanted people.”
Another missionary said he came to understand the urgency of missions through Baptist campus ministry.
“During college, I became a Christian through the ministry of Baptist Student Union,” said Darrell Hathcock, a Mississippi native who is headed with his wife, Kimberly, for service in Europe. “There I was continually challenged to share my faith and be involved in missions. Since then, God has continued to show me the urgency with which the gospel must be shared.”
Judy Jetton, a native of DeSoto, Mo., who will serve with her husband, Bill, in southern Africa, said she is finally responding to a missions call she has felt since childhood.
Girls in Action, a children’s missions program, “planted in my heart a love and desire for missions,” she said. “Then, three years ago, at the evangelism conference here in Missouri, I heard about an 83-year-old woman who was on the mission field.
“It was then that God spoke to me and said I wasn’t too old, even at the age of 50.”
Speaking to the new workers, Rankin said, “It’s always thrilling to hear testimonies such as yours, how God has called you out of a diversity of backgrounds… out of the business world, computer technician, Hollywood media, fireman, schoolteacher, homemaker making macaroni and cheese — because God has a place for you to light a dark world.”
He recalled the testimony missionary Tom Thurman gave when a church in southern Mississippi honored Thurman and his wife, Gloria, for 32 years of overseas service.
“Over these 32 years in Bangladesh, we’ve experienced earthquakes, floods, cyclones, tidal waves, three robberies, one stabbing, four broken bones, 291 nationwide strikes that paralyzed our economy, and 186 flat tires,” Thurman said. “We have struggled with a difficult language, coped with electrical blackouts, and Gloria contracted leprosy and suffered bouts of hepatitis.
“But we have nothing but gratitude and praise to God that one day He tapped us on the shoulder and said, ‘I’ve got a place for you.’ We came to this country because of the lost millions, and we walked with God, and we have nothing but joy in our hearts.”
Missionary service is an honor, not a chore, Rankin said, and even great hardship pales in contrast with the joy of being the first one to tell people about forgiveness and salvation in Christ.
“God in His mercy is giving you the privilege of carrying the light of the gospel to people who have never heard,” Rankin said. “I assure you, there is no greater thrill in the world than introducing someone to Jesus Christ who has never heard before.
“I feel sorry for the people who never open their hearts and lives to the privilege of doing that and hearing God call and lead.”
*Name withheld and region of service generalized for reasons of security. The International Mission Board (www.imb.org) is a Southern Baptist Convention entity supported by the Cooperative Program (www.cpmissions.net) and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering (www.imb.org/ime/LMCO). (BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: THE PRIVILEGE OF MISSIONS, NEVER TOO LATE, ON THEIR WAY, ALL PEOPLES, SEND-OFF.