DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (BP)–Ron Stewart didn’t particularly want to attend the local church revival services in 1971, but he went because a good friend had invited him. As it turned out, Stewart — an avid amateur bowler – found himself at the church the same night nationally known pro bowler Fred Duncan had been invited to speak.
Now he believes it was no coincidence.
“I don’t think I would have listened to anybody else but him,” Stewart said. “But I came to know the Lord Jesus Christ that night.”
Stewart, now pastor/director of the New Life Baptist Mission ministry center in Hamilton, Ohio, was one of 98 North American Mission Board missionaries commissioned Nov. 4 during a Sunday morning service at First Baptist Church in Daytona Beach, Fla.
Among them were a broad range of Christian workers from across the country, including church planter interns birthing new congregations in pioneer areas, collegiate evangelism missionaries fostering the spread of the gospel and directors of missions and state convention staff members assisting local churches in church planting and evangelism.
Stewart, a painter in a car manufacturing plant before his conversion, was called to ministry within a few years of his conversion and served a number of years as a pastor and church planter. In 1988 he became pastor of New Life Baptist Mission, where he refocused the church’s ministry and developed a full-service ministry center offering food, clothing, after-school programs and other ministries to the inner-city community.
It was in that capacity that Stewart realized a longtime dream of becoming an appointed missionary.
“Nothing greater could happen, I think, than salvation, marriage and being a missionary,” said Stewart, who was appointed earlier this year with his wife, Melanie. “It’s just unreal. I knew God had called me into the ministry, but I think the appointment is extra special to me because of the years I’ve been in it.”
Laura Gilbert, a US-C/2 missionary serving two years assisting with the Christian Ministries to the United Nations Community in New York, shared how a trip to the jungles of Ecuador during her senior year of college made her re-evaluate God’s call on her life.
A missionary speaking at a revival “challenged me about my salvation and the way I was living my life,” and she accepted a call to missions service.
It was during that time, she said, that she recognized the value of what became her “life verse” in Galatians 2:20: “I am crucified with Christ. And I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. And the life in this body I live by faith in the Son of God, who loves me, and gave himself for me.”
NAMB President Robert E. “Bob” Reccord offered his own challenge to both the missionaries and the hundreds of assembled members and guests of Daytona Beach First Baptist Church.
Reccord emphasized the importance of all Christians living out the call of God on their lives, including the responsibility of sharing their faith.
“One of the greatest tests of our faith is if we have enough Christianity to give it away,” he said. “And if there is not, there is probably something wrong with the Christianity we’ve got.”
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: NEW MISSIONARIES, COMMISSIONING PRAYER and MISSIONARY TESTIMONY.