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New over-50 missionaries prove age no barrier to appointment

NORFOLK, Va. (BP)–Being over 50 is not a roadblock to overseas missionary service, eight of Southern Baptists’ 43 newest international missionaries testified in May 21 services at First Baptist Church, Norfolk, Va.

“In March we received word that the personnel committee would recommend us for appointment,” said Jimmy Maroney, an appointee in his 50s. “I sent an e-mail to my brothers and sisters, telling them we would be moving to Prague in the Czech Republic.

“In a flash, my younger sister sent a reply, ‘Don’t you know how old you are?'”

Adding emphasis, the Maroneys’ adult son, Eric, and his wife, Julie, stood beside Maroney and his wife, Kay, on the International Mission Board appointment service platform. The younger Maroneys will serve in Croatia.

It may have been the first time since the IMB was founded in 1845 that parents were appointed alongside their adult children.

The older Maroneys previously served as missionaries in Ghana, Ethiopia and Kenya. After several years working on the IMB’s stateside staff, the Maroneys now will serve in the board’s Central and Eastern Europe region.

Eric Maroney graduated from Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary in Mill Valley, Calif., two years ago. For the past year and a half, he and Julie have served as International Service Corps personnel in Split, Croatia.

Another over-50 couple appointed told of the influence their two adult children — already IMB missionaries themselves — had on their own sense of calling.

“I have always had a heart for missions, partly through the influence of my father and what I learned in Royal Ambassadors and Church Training Union while growing up,” said a missionary among those who are not identified by name because their work involves certain people groups with little or no access to the good news of God’s love.

His wife added, “Later, after our son and oldest daughter became foreign missionaries, our son challenged us to retire early and consider foreign missions as a place of service.”

Still another 50-something couple, Tom and Barb Suiter of Kingsport, Tenn., told of finding God’s “perfect timing” for their lives years after first experiencing a call to international missions.

“God spoke to me through an IMB report to the Southern Baptist Convention in New Orleans almost 10 years ago,” Tom Suiter said. “I made a commitment to serve the Lord as a foreign missionary, but we had teenage children and could not go at the time. God’s timing has been perfect for us as we now know that he is calling us to go.

“This is a new day for us after 32 years of pastoral ministry.”

The Suiters will serve in Vienna, Austria.

A fourth couple in their 50s are Betty and Jessie Rushing, who will serve in the Southeast Asia and Oceania region.

“Although there have been several difficult steps in the process, such as meeting medical requirements, through it all [God] has affirmed his call on our lives by helping us overcome each difficulty,” Jessie Rushing said in his testimony.

In his charge to the 43 new missionaries, IMB President Jerry Rankin noted the burdens missionaries face regarding their own families and their sense of call to faraway places.

“The burden becomes especially heavy when it extends to your own family — when you feel your children are being deprived socially or endure extended periods of separation when they go to boarding school,” Rankin said. “Or when your family members in the States have needs, but you can’t be there to help.”

Using the story of famed missionary David Livingstone as the metaphor for his talk, Rankin said: “As Livingstone bore the burden of Africa, he found that God did, indeed, sustain him and protect him. God is faithful and his grace is sufficient for any burden you are called upon to bear.”

Rankin commended to the new missionaries a quote attributed to Livingstone, “Sever any tie but the tie that binds me to Thee.”

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  • Louis Moore