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‘Make God himself your passion,’ Rankin tells 67 new missionaries

“Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Ps. 37:4).

RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–Success in God’s kingdom comes not by just making plans, setting goals and working hard to achieve them, but by delighting in God, trusting Him with your life and waiting for Him to accomplish what He wants, 67 new Southern Baptist missionaries were told May 21.

When, as a field missionary, he was challenged by Psalm 37:4 to identify the desires of his heart, International Mission Board President Jerry Rankin said his first thoughts included having more balance in his life, finding respite from his heavy workload and achieving better physical conditioning.

“As I meditated on it, however, I began to feel that those desires were pretty self-centered and that the desires of my heart should be focused on something more significant, such as the peoples of South Asia and Southeast Asia coming to know the Lord,” he said.

Rankin spoke to the new missionaries before a standing-room-only crowd in a new auditorium at the board’s Missionary Learning Center near Richmond. The appointment service was held in conjunction with a May 21-22 meeting of the IMB’s trustee board.

The auditorium in which the service was held is part of an expansion program made necessary by the dramatic increase in the number of Southern Baptists coming forward for overseas missionary service. The expansion more than doubled the capacity of the center, which has trained more than 5,000 long-term missionaries and 3,000 of their children since it opened in 1984.

The appointment service included the dedication of those new facilities. The auditorium complex was named in honor of Don Kammerdiener, former IMB executive vice president, and a classroom/conference room building was named in honor of Sam James, former IMB vice president for leadership development, both of whom recently retired after 40 years of missionary service.

The appointment of 67 new missionaries brought the number of long-term Southern Baptist workers worldwide to 5,284. Headed for service in 13 of the board’s 15 regions, they came from a wide variety of backgrounds: natives of Romania, India and Argentina alongside Baptists from Texas, North Carolina and New Jersey; two classically trained musicians, a home builder, an elementary school teacher and a J.C. Penney store manager alongside seminary students and church staff members.

Among those attending the service were 124 new missionaries currently at MLC to prepare for the start of their own overseas assignments.


The new missionaries echoed Rankin’s advice about success in God’s kingdom as they told the audience about how God had called them to international missions.

Clem Edwards, who will serve in Eastern South America with his wife, Linda, and their four children, said that in college he was entirely focused on his career plans.

But “God used the testimony of a retired missionary to break the heart of this self-centered college student,” Edwards said. “My career ambitions crumbled as God built in me a passion for the unreached nations.”

Another new worker, headed with his wife to Northern Africa and the Middle East, said God had been working for years to fill his heart with His love for Muslims.

“Every year, God has given me Muslim friends,” the new worker said. “With each person, I have fallen more in love with the people.

“After receiving a call to Northern Africa, everything inside me came to rest. I knew I was going home.”

Laurie Russell, who will serve with her husband, Mark, and their son, Noah, in Western Europe, said she had come to understand that the passion for missions flows out of an intimate relationship with God.

“If you know God, you want to make Him known,” she said. “Our desire is to make Him known in hearts that do not know Him.”

Another young worker, headed for service in Central Asia, said God planted the desire for missions in her heart at a young age.

“I am here today because of God’s gentle whisper. All my life, I have dreamed of this day,” she said. “Ever since He called me at the age of 13, He has been faithful to lead me to this place and grant this true desire of my heart.

“I’m here today, not because of who I am, but because of who He is.”


Rankin said that, as he began to use Psalm 37:4 as a template for his prayers and grew in spending time with the Lord, he experienced an amazing change.

“I discovered that, when we truly delight in the Lord, the only desire of our heart is for Him!” he said.

Two other verses in that same Psalm — verses 5 and 7 — filled out the rest of the picture for him, Rankin said.

“‘Commit your way to the Lord; trust also in Him'” (v.5) taught him that he was not himself capable of making the many decisions he faced about family, ministry, lifestyle, time management and giving himself to others, he said.

“Jesus said, ‘Apart from me you can do nothing,'” Rankin admonished the new workers. “Trust Him not only to lead day by day, but also trust Him for the power you need. Trust the promises of His word and realize, ‘It is not I, but Christ who lives in me.'”

Rankin said “Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him” (v.7) taught him to not be discouraged when he didn’t see immediate results from his hard work.

“We can’t discern how God may be working in the hearts of people, but we continue faithful and steadfast, knowing that window of response and harvest will come, because God’s desire is to be exalted among the nations,” he said.

The key to success in all God wants His children to be lies in that simple pattern, Rankin said.

“Let the foremost passion and focus of your life be the Lord,” he said. “Make your life a reflection of unceasing worship and desire for His glory among the nations. Trust Him, then rest in Him and wait patiently for whatever He is seeking to do in your life and through your ministry. … He will bring it to pass.”
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: LEADING THE WAY, 40 YEARS, PRAYER, CALLED OUT, READY TO GO, ‘DELIGHT IN THE LORD,’ JOYFUL NOISE, MLC VISION and KAMMERDIENER HONORED.

The ultimate purpose of missions: http://www.imb.org/ime/dayofprayer/ime.htm

How can I serve as a missionary? http://going.imb.org/howserve.asp

Cooperative Program missions: http://www.cpmissions.net/2001/index.htm

The International Mission Board is a Southern Baptist Convention entity supported by the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.

    About the Author

  • Mark Kelly