BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP)–The nearly 1,000 people in attendance enthusiastically expressed support for 108 missionaries commissioned by the North American Mission Board Feb. 17 at Huffman Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala.
From recent college graduates to grandparents, the missionaries’ ages and backgrounds were as diversified as their assignments in various locations throughout North America.
Sharing personal testimonies were Bill Howse, who serves in Arkansas, and Derek Spain, who serves in New York.
Howse, along with his wife, Ruth, works with the Arkansas Baptist State Convention in the area of church and community ministries. A fourth-generation Southern Baptist, Howse said he was called into Christian service in 1986. “It was on the last night of youth camp, complete with a campfire and ‘Kumbaya,'” he said, beaming to the crowd. “I surrendered my life to become a pastor. I didn’t know where the Lord would take me. I just trusted in him and I now have my dream job,” he said of his missionary assignment.
Spain and his wife, Kimberly, serve in Lake Placid, N.Y., where he is a resort missionary with the Baptist Convention of New York.
Part of his work, he recounted, is to coordinate efforts to share the gospel with athletes, spectators and other visitors to the Lake Placid area.
Along with these words of testimony, each of the commissioned missionaries introduced himself or herself and said a brief word about his or her service. They were each presented certificates and were shown support from family, friends and well-wishers during the nearly two-hour celebration service.
The program included prayers of thanksgiving and guidance by Joel Farrow, pastor of First Baptist Church, Chalkville, Ala., and Mike Day, NAMB vice president for organizational development. Words of encouragement also were voiced by host pastor Tim Lovett and Birmingham Baptist Association director of missions Ricky Creech.
During the commissioning prayer, Wanda Lee, executive director for national Woman’s Missionary Union, asked the congregation to form a prayer chain and lay hands on each of the missionaries.
John Yarbrough, NAMB vice president of evangelization, challenged the missionaries and preached from 2 Timothy 3.
Elaborating on the apostle Paul’s message to Timothy, Yarbrough told the missionaries to “anticipate that persecutors will come after you. Avoid pleasure-seekers and abide in the Word of God.
He noted, “People of the world need to hear the Word of God. It is the bread of life. Don’t let them tell you they don’t want to hear it — they do.
“We need to hear and heed the Word of God and then we need to habituate it [make it a habit],” Yarbrough said. “We don’t believe it unless we live it.”
Early in the service, members of Huffman Baptist Church led the procession of state, Canadian and U.S. territory flags. Throughout the service, members of the Huffman Celebration Choir, under the direction of Dennis Altizer, led a lively array of traditional and contemporary music including a crowd-pleasing rendition of the Negro spiritual, “Ain’t Got Time to Die.”
The commissioning service was the culmination of several days of training and orientation for the NAMB missionaries.
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: COMMISSIONING PRAYER and VP’S COUNSEL.