McDONOUGH, Ga. (BP)–The North American Mission Board commissioned 125 new missionaries and seven chaplains from 32 states and two Canadian provinces during the board’s fall commissioning service in McDonough, Ga.
Geoff Hammond, who assumed duties as NAMB’s president last May, was himself commissioned during the Oct. 8 service at Eagles Landing First Baptist Church attended by some 1,400 people and streamed live via the Internet.
The commissioning ceremonies included a processional of 75 U.S., state and Canadian flags borne by NAMB staffers, middle school and high school students; special praise and worship music by solo artists and the church’s choir and orchestra; and commissioning prayers and sermons.
Jerry Rankin, president of the Southern Baptist International Mission Board, voiced the service’s opening commissioning prayer.
Hammond, speaking to the new missionaries and chaplains, said, “How proud we are of the fact that you have answered God’s call to be a missionary in North America.”
Emphasizing the importance of prayer in impossible situations, Hammond said God demonstrates His power through the prayers of His people.
“Are you stretching your prayer muscle?” Hammond asked. “If we’re ever going to see a great re-awakening of God’s people in North America, we have got to get back to being a praying people. I want to tell you Southern Baptists, God hears our prayers.”
Tim Dowdy, second vice chairman of the NAMB board of trustees and pastor of the 4,500-member Eagles Landing First Baptist Church 30 miles south of Atlanta, called it a “great privilege to be part of Dr. Hammond’s commissioning.”
“But it was a greater privilege for us to be able to encourage these missionaries who are stepping out to serve the Lord by spreading the Gospel around North America,” Dowdy said, noting that many are going to pioneer areas, “starting from scratch. Some are nervous, scared and excited -– all at the same time.”
During the service, each missionary or missionary couple stepped onto the stage, introduced themselves and shared a specific prayer request for their ministry. Missionaries were commissioned for ministries throughout North America — from Union City, Calif., to New England and from Talkeetna, Alaska, to the Hawaiian Islands.
On Sunday, Oct. 7, most of the 125 new missionaries and chaplains fanned out throughout the greater Atlanta metro area, speaking at local SBC churches.
“It was a great experience,” said 27-year-old Steven Grissom who, with wife Sheena, is a church planting missionary in St. Johns, Newfoundland, Canada.
“We spoke at two services at Sharon Baptist Church in McDonough. They have about 1,500 members and are very missions-minded. People were very interested in our work -– especially one couple who feel called to be missionaries in western Canada.”
During their trip down from eastern Canada to the South, the Grissoms also took time to drive from Atlanta north to Waxhaw, N.C., to speak at Herman Baptist Church there.
In Newfoundland – the most eastern point of North America along the Atlantic Ocean — Grissom has established a ministry called New Life Newfoundland and has formed three separate Bible studies in preparation for starting a new church during 2008.
“Right now, we’re just trying to build relationships and disciple people for Christ,” he said. “Although St. Johns is a city of 180,000, only seven percent are evangelical. The lostness is vast.”
Grissom called the weekend in Atlanta a “great experience.
“It was so encouraging to see other people like us and know where they’re serving and to know that you’re not alone and that others are facing similar challenges,” he said.
“I was also encouraged by Dr. Hammond and his emphasis on prayer and evangelism. You could tell he’s a very humble man, but I think he’s got a great sense of leadership and a mission-minded heart. He’s a missionary’s missionary.”
Grisson is a native of Fairview, Ill., who attended the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. The Grissoms have three small children and are expecting their fourth.
“Our people really received a blessing from Steven and Sheena,” said Danny Myers, pastor for worship and missions at Sharon Baptist. “We have some people wrestling with the call to fulltime missions. The Grissoms were encouraging — especially Sheena as she talked about how to move your children to the mission field.”
Mickey Noah is a writer with the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board.