GAINESVILLE, Fla. (BP)–John and Elizabeth Kea have learned to never say never.
The Keas were among 36 new missionaries appointed by the International Mission Board Jan. 30 in Gainesville, Fla.
When the couple was first called to the mission field, they had no idea where they would go. However, they knew where they didn’t want to go.
“We said we’d go anywhere except for Western Europe,” John said. “They have heard the Gospel and rejected it.”
Still, thoughts of going to Europe persisted. After talking it over with a seasoned missionary, the couple knew their calling was clear.
“The Lord asked, ‘Who am I going to send?'” Elizabeth said. “And we said, ‘Send us.'”
“And where’s He sending us? Western Europe,” John added, with a laugh. “We’ll … serve in Belgium where less than 1 percent of the people know Jesus.”
Last year, for the first time in IMB history, more than 600,000 people were baptized, said Gordon Fort, the IMB’s vice president for overseas operations. And doors began opening for more than 100 people groups who had never been given the chance to hear the Gospel.
“We have an obligation,” Fort said. “We have a debt to pay to those who have never heard the Good News of Jesus Christ.”
The Keas are not alone in their heart for missions. All 36 missionaries shared how God has called them to the field. Among their testimonies:
“In 1979, while working in a refugee camp on the border of Asia, I realized that God had linked my life with the lives of these refugees,” said Bill, whose real name cannot be used for security reasons. It was at this refugee camp that Bill met his future wife Nancy. She heard the Gospel for the first time while at the camp. Soon after accepting Christ, she knew she wanted to serve the Lord for the rest of her life.
Bill and Nancy are now headed back to the same country where they met to share the love of Jesus Christ with others.
— Kevin Howard remembers staring down at a cooked dog paw in his soup bowl while serving as a short-term missionary in Asia.
“Was it worth the cost to share Christ?” he thought.
It was then that God made two things extremely clear to Howard: yes, the cost is worth it and, yes, he could handle eating unusual foods.
“Now we get to train West African pastors and their wives in Togo,” said Howard, who will work alongside his wife Denice.
“Are there sacrifices? Yes. Are they worth it? For the glory of Christ, yes.”
— Timothy and Carrie Robichaux* remember going on a short-term mission trip to Ecuador for their first wedding anniversary. The experience changed their lives.
“The trip opened our eyes to the life and work of a missionary,” Carrie said. “And God used it to place a passion in our hearts to share His Gospel in a foreign country.”
The couple will serve in Argentina.
Jerry Rankin, president of the International Mission Board, challenged the audience to embrace the struggles and difficulties that come with taking the Gospel to a lost world.
Sharing from Luke 24, Rankin talked about the disciples on the road to Emmaus after Christ’s crucifixion. They became blinded by their own distress and didn’t realize until later that Christ was walking with them.
There are many believers who can’t see past their own agenda and struggles, Rankin noted.
“We’re blind to the needs of a lost world that has compelled these to give up their lives to go and share the Gospel,” he said. “We don’t see the world as God sees it. It’s not just a world of poverty … and suffering refugees. It’s a world living in darkness.”
But it’s not too late, Rankin added.
“That’s the task that we are sending you out with tonight,” he said. “That the eyes of a lost world would be open to see our Lord Jesus Christ.
“The mission task to breach that barrier cross-culturally is one of spiritual warfare in setting them free from Satan’s bond, delivering them from darkness and opening their eyes to the truth.”
* Names changed.