RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–“I’ve heard the beautiful sound of angels singing,” said missionary candidate Marie Zimmerman. *
She said angels sang after her own salvation experience, after she led a girl to Christ at camp and many times when she served as a journeyman missionary in the harvest field of Ukraine.
“Not long ago I had the chance to hike through the mountains of Southeast Asia, and I listened for the sound of angels singing,” Zimmerman said. “But I heard silence.”
Zimmerman, a native of Roper, N.C., was one of the 53 missionary candidates sharing their missions call at Grove Avenue Baptist Church in Richmond, Va., May 22.
Under the loving gaze of a massive stained-glass Christ, praise music and a parade of international flags opened the International Mission Board missionary appointment service.
“These are your missionaries,” IMB President Jerry Rankin said after attendees stood to applaud the candidates. “We’re doing this on behalf of you and your churches.”
The group of candidates comprised a variety of ages, vocations and ethnic backgrounds, including one deaf candidate.
Kaori James, a native of Maebashi, Japan, plans to serve among the deaf in Czech Republic with her husband, Steven, and son, Andrew.
When her deaf brother became a Christian and shared the truth about Jesus Christ with her, James said she listened. Four years later, she gave her heart to Christ. Not long after, she heard another Japanese Christian give a presentation on missions.
“She said more missionary work was needed because there were too many lost souls around the world,” James recalled. “It scared me because I thought it would be impossible due to my deafness. I went home and prayed to seek God’s will. After a prayer, I then looked at a map of the world hanging on a wall in my bedroom. God told me in my heart that he wanted to send me to where I would someday work for him.
“I was shocked by realizing it was God’s call for my life. It was America.”
Three years later, James met a deaf American, Steven, who was in Japan on a missions trip.
“When I got married to that man, I realized it was God’s plan for me to marry him so I would be a missionary with my husband,” she said.
Steven James had the same questions about serving as a deaf missionary, but he “realized that God had called me to work with deaf people in another country.”
“I felt burdened in my heart that many deaf people around the world need Christ for salvation,” he said.
Rankin, in his charge to the missionaries, encouraged candidates to “be the incarnational witness that influences and builds lives out of the reality of a living Savior” so that others might believe.
“Why did Christ say to go?” Rankin asked. “Because the most effective witness is to live your life among the lost. As you live out your faith, they can see the reality of your faith and your witness.”
Rankin recalled situations where normal, daily stress brought out negative reactions in even the most seasoned of missionaries.
“But when you think that the next person who answers the door I knock on might be that fruit vendor or that taxi driver, it changes things,” he added. “You have a lot of backgrounds here tonight — businessmen, doctors, dentists, teachers. You’re going to use these skills.
“But that’s not all. The real purpose of going is to exhibit in your conduct and behavior the reality of Christ.”
Rankin pointed to the vast numbers of people unreached by the gospel, despite the marvels of the modern world.
“In 1973, man reached Mount Everest for the first time. But when will we reach the Pumi people who live around the base of that Tibetan mountain?” Rankin asked. “It will happen when someone says, ‘Here am I. Send me!'”
That “someone” could be a person like Marie Zimmerman, who was deeply grieved at the sound of silence in Southeast Asia, where she plans to serve. Perhaps the sound of angels singing is not so far away for one more unreached people group.
* Name changed for security reasons. (BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: TESTIMONY, A LIVING SAVIOR, NURTURING A HEART FOR MISSIONS and THAT ALL MAY HEAR.