RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–In 2003, one Southern Baptist couple was burdened by Satan’s grip on the world. The wife had longed for stability and comfort for her family but surrendered those longings to God two years ago. Now, the family is headed to Central Asia.
These new missionaries –- along with 46 others –- were appointed by the International Mission Board on Sept. 12 at Biltmore Baptist Church in Arden, N.C., near Asheville. The appointment service was part of a reunion week for about 1,000 emeritus missionaries held at the LifeWay Ridgecrest (N.C.) Conference Center.
Surrender and sacrifice was a theme repeated throughout the missionary appointment service.
Another missionary couple -– Jeff and Liesa Holeman –- told of their sacrifices. Liesa was home with their sick children while Jeff, a student minister, was at a worship service. There, he felt that God was telling him that he and his family would go to the mission field. Liesa wasn’t so sure; God had given her a similar call as a teenager, but as a mom and successful tax investigator, she was hoping they could put missionary life on hold.
“The reasons to wait were good –- a wonderful job as a student minister and a comfortable life,” Jeff said. “But good is not good when God has something better.”
So they counted the cost, sacrificed career ambition and are following God’s call to Peru.
Other missionaries shared stories of sacrifice and calling:
-– “Twenty-eight years ago, my parents emigrated from East Asia in search for a better life. Now, as the son of an immigrant, I am giving up this so-called better life to go to Asia to teach the Good News of eternal and abundant life,” said Dean, who will serve with his wife, Penny.
-– “In January 2007 in Cameroon, one night in a mud hut, the grass roof came alive with mice, bats and other creatures. As a citified accountant, I’m amazed I slept,” said JoAnne Ivy. “On the bus ride home, I felt the peace of God tell me that, ‘No matter where you are, I am already there.’ With this promise I now return to West Africa.”
-– “After 20 years’ experience as a mechanical designer and with no seminary degree, God called me to full-time mission work,” said Mike Campbell, who will serve in Central and Eastern Europe. “I figured I would retire as an engineer, but in 2002 on a volunteer mission team, I taught Vacation Bible School in an orphanage in Novosibirsk, Russia. God used the fatherless of Siberia to confirm my call.”
-– “In 2005 I traveled to help with tsunami relief. During that time I witnessed a Muslim burial ceremony. At that ceremony, I sat beside a man who had lost his entire family. As he wept, he took our translation dictionary and pointed to the word sorrow. At that point I knew God was calling me to work in a foreign culture,” said one missionary, who was appointed with his wife to Northern Africa and the Middle East.
-– “I was born in Korea during the war of 1950. A missionary told me the Jesus story. I have served 11 short-term mission trips, and God used them by calling me to overseas service. When others think of me, I hope they think of Jesus’ love,” said K.T., who is going to East Asia with his wife, S.B.
-– “As a missionary kid in the Pacific, I would lay awake at night and listen to the native dancers, singing and telling their stories. The people there absolutely loved the stories told by the dancers. Who would have thought some 33 years later we would be returning to tell them of the greatest love story?” said another missionary, who’s going to the Pacific Rim with his wife.
-– “In 1999, I passed by a man who was working in the fields of North Africa. As I passed by, I was broken by the Spirit, knowing he may not ever hear of Christ. My unique desire to serve God in a developing country through agriculture has become a reality today,” said Christy Holcomb, who will serve in South America.
FIND SONG THROUGH SACRIFICE
International Mission Board President Jerry Rankin challenged the new missionaries to follow the example of the emeritus missionaries they met during the week.
“Many of them bear testimony of laboring long and suffering,” he said. “But they’ve remained faithful with a song in their heart because they walked with Jesus, and they were mindful of His presence.”
Rankin said that the missionaries will find their “song” through sacrifice.
“Lay it all on the altar –- your life, your family, your comforts -– and count it joy that you have the privilege of serving Him, and you’ll have the song in your heart,” he said.
Sharing about his own missionary service, Rankin challenged missionaries to go to the field with the sacrifice of hearts broken over their own inadequacy, ready to rely on God.
“I imagined that I would arrive on the shores of Indonesia, and the pages of Acts would unfold with multitudes being saved. And when it didn’t quite happen that way, I began to get disillusioned and recognize my own inadequacy,” he said. “Never forget it’s not you, but God. Always bring to Him a life that’s laid on the altar.”
The missionaries, Rankin said, should never let a day pass without offering a sacrifice of praise.
“We discovered early in our missionary career that that was the key to walking in victory,” Rankin said of himself and his wife, Bobbye. “When you praise the Lord, your focus is taken off your situation and circumstances and put on the Lord.”
CHALLENGE AND PROMISE
Southern Baptist Convention President Frank Page delivered a challenge for Southern Baptists and a promise for the missionaries.
“We are a mission people because of Jesus, so I challenge these missionaries, but I challenge all Southern Baptists, to love Jesus with all your heart, with all your strength, with all your mind…. Share His name everywhere you are -– whether it’s here in Asheville or whether it’s to the ends of the earth,” Page said. “Live like Him. Southern Baptists need to start living like Jesus again so that the world will listen to what we say.”
Page pledged the convention’s ongoing support to the new missionaries.
“You need to understand that Southern Baptists are gonna support you,” he said. “These dear ones who serve so faithfully –- they will have our prayer support; they will have our financial support; and we will be behind them ’til Jesus comes. And then the work of missions will be needed no more.”
Manda Gibson is a writer for the International Mission Board.