DALLAS (BP)–Their testimonies reflecting a passion for taking the gospel to those who have never heard, Southern Baptists’ 58 newest international missionaries revealed willing hearts ready to follow God to the ends of the earth.
And International Mission Board President Jerry Rankin challenged those witnessing the new missionaries’ appointment to “quit waiting for that burning bush, and hear that still small voice” that calls them to missions service.
Like many other new missionaries, the 58 appointed Sept. 7 at First Baptist Church in Dallas reflect trends God is using to place International Mission Board representatives around the world.
About half of them had participated in some sort of mission service overseas before appointment. Four were children of missionaries. Fourteen previously served with the IMB as missionaries in the career, International Service Corps or journeymen programs. Others had served as summer missionaries and short-term volunteers.
In the group were an Asian-American, a German-American and a Jewish-American. Some were reared in states outside traditional Southern Baptist strongholds. Many had grown up in Southern Baptist churches while others became Southern Baptists as adults.
Included in the group were *Amber and *Jay.
The new missionaries will be missionary teachers, agriculture specialists, nurses and hospital administrators, as well as evangelists and church planters.
And many are going to places where few if any have ever heard the good news of salvation in Jesus and where traditional missionary approaches are unwelcome.
The service included words of welcome and an invocation from O.S. Hawkins, pastor of First Baptist Church, as well as a Scripture reading and offertory prayer by W.A. Criswell, pastor emeritus of the congregation. SBC President Tom Elliff delivered the prayer of dedication for the new missionaries.
“The call to serve Jesus is the call to follow him (wherever he leads),” Rankin reminded the new appointees. “God calls us not so much to a place as to himself.”
He said missionaries are called to faithful allegiance to Jesus, not a country or a cause. That commitment sustains missionaries who have difficulty obtaining visas or find they must leave a country they prefer because of turmoil or other problems there, he said.
“Southern Baptists are proud of their missionaries,” Rankin said. “But I hope you are not looking for honor.”
He reminded the missionaries their greatest reward will be the greeting someday, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”
Then addressing the packed First Baptist auditorium, Rankin said, “The fields are truly white unto harvest, but where are the laborers?”
Rankin picked up on the testimony of Peggy Tucker Johnson, a North Carolina native preparing for missionary service in Honduras, who earlier told the assembly, “When I stopped looking for a burning bush and began listening with my heart, God clearly showed me he needed ordinary Christians willing to be led in extraordinary ways.”
Said Rankin, “It’s time for some to quit waiting for that burning bush and to hear that still small voice (calling them to missionary service).”