HATTIESBURG, Miss. (BP) — God would never call you to missions, you insist.
You’re too damaged. Or too average. Too inexperienced. Too tired. Too young. Too old. Too busy getting through the day-to-day. That’s your story — despite the still, small voice that keeps speaking to your heart.
Despite the many excuses — er, reasons — people have for not answering the call to missions, God doesn’t give up as easily as we give up on ourselves, according to some of the 77 new missionaries appointed by IMB trustees at Temple Baptist Church in Hattiesburg, Miss., on Nov. 16.
“For many years I didn’t think God could really use me. I was just a normal small-town girl with normal passions: children and education,” said new missionary Naomi Singer*, who is going to sub-Saharan Africa as an education consultant for the children of mission workers.
“I love being wrong!” she told the crowd gathered at Temple Baptist. “God is using what I have to offer.”
By the age of 9, Vicky Kane* was in her fifth foster home. “I had no future,” she said. “Little did I know that God would use this to burden my heart for the spiritually orphaned.”
After experiencing years of His healing and grace in the Christian family who adopted her, she’s going to East Asia with her husband Darrin* and their 1-year-old daughter to tell people as hopeless as she once was that they have a loving Father.
Tyson Sellers* was born with cataracts and has struggled with vision problems for years. “But my eyes now [have been] opened to the nations,” he said. His wife Sonya* was born in a Christian home but was “determined to be ordinary, to lean on my own understanding.” Now they’re headed out to make disciples of Jesus among East Asians with “no excuses and no limitations.”
Richard Gannet* is a pastor’s son who vowed he would never serve in ministry. His wife Sally didn’t even become a believer in Christ until college. “We never thought that we would be going to South Asia to work with Muslims through community development,” he admitted. “Through God’s amazing work, we go to share the love of Christ in word and deed.”
After 9/11, Taylor Bishop* developed a hatred for Muslims. But as he looked out over one of the largest cities in the Middle East during a 2009 trip, “God captured my heart for Muslims. I asked myself, ‘How can I not go?'” So he’s going with his wife Chandra* to live among a Muslim people group in West Africa.
The missionary appointment service was held in conjunction with William Carey University in Hattiesburg and its celebration marking the 250th anniversary of the birth of Carey, the British shoemaker who became the “father of modern missions.” Carey himself struggled with resistance to his mission call from Baptists of his day — as well as his own family.
During the appointment service, the university’s Serampore Players, a student theater group named for the Bengali area of India where Carey served, dramatized the 1786 incident when a leading minister responded to Carey’s call for obeying the Great Commission by saying, “Sit down, young man…. When God wants to convert the heathen, He can do it without your help or mine.” Carey persevered — and changed history.
“Some of you may have the same question that we just saw theatrically performed,” IMB President Tom Elliff said during his message, addressing family members and friends of Southern Baptists’ newest missionaries.
“Maybe you’re asking, ‘What’s gotten into my kids?’ What kind of a person would leave everything behind — family, friends, an occupation or an education here — and go to some dark corner of this world to plant his or her life? … What kind of a person would do what these folks are doing at their age and stage in life?
“They’re not just ‘for missions.’ They have a heart for missions. There’s a difference.”
People with a true heart for missions, Elliff said, have the kind of compulsion the Apostle Paul described: “I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. So, for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:14-16 NASB).
“He was compelled; he was under obligation to the whole spectrum of humanity,” Elliff said, noting that the same obligation still applies:
“When I get up in the morning, when I go to bed at night, when I look around the room, when I talk to a waitress or speak to my neighbor, I have one thing on my mind. I have an obligation. Christ has saved me. I don’t deserve it. As I said to these missionaries a few moments ago, if it weren’t for God’s grace, we’d all be headed to hell. Instead of sitting here in these nice clothes and getting applause, they could be in a bar someplace, shoving beers down a counter. They realize, ‘I owe these folks around the world who haven’t heard this message something. I owe that to them.'”
Paul was consumed by that mission — and he wasn’t ashamed of the message, Elliff said.
“As [New York pastor] Tim Keller says, the Gospel is not advice,” Elliff noted. “The Gospel is an announcement. You don’t have to have permission to give an announcement. Jesus saves. That’s what makes the difference in the world. Everybody is either saved or lost. And Jesus is the only one who can provide eternal life to anyone….”
As the new missionaries stood across the front of Temple Baptist’s sanctuary at the end of the service, hundreds of people came forward at Elliff’s invitation to make their own personal commitments to mission service, support and engagement.
The next missionary appointment service will be March 21 at Trinity Baptist Church in Lake Charles, La.
*Names changed. Erich Bridges is an international correspondent for the International Mission Board (www.imb.org).