EVANSVILLE, Ind. (BP)–Some are newly married and others are recently retired. Some are middle-aged with grown children just leaving the nest, while others are expecting babies soon.
One is an engineer. Another is an optometrist. Yet another was an oil company executive. Some, of course, are straight out of seminary and others have been serving Southern Baptist churches for several years.
They hail from a variety of states and an array of colleges and universities.
And their skin colors range from white to brown to black.
Yet all 40 of Southern Baptists’ newest international missionaries appointed Sept. 26 in special services in Evansville, Ind., have one thing in common: Somehow, some way, God called them to take the good news of salvation overseas.
But even this commonality is marked by wide variations. How God called each of them to become an international missionary is as distinctive and unique as are their backgrounds and personalities.
For some, it was traditional missions education programs such as GAs, RAs and Acteens.
“Through Sunbeams, GAs and YWA, God planted a great love for missions in my heart,” missionary appointee Nan Williams said in her appointment service testimony.
For many others, it was an opportunity to go overseas on a volunteer mission trip.
“After 34 years of devotion to children, church and careers, we prayed about our purposeless future,” said another appointee, who is going to a restricted country.
Chimed in her husband: “Within six weeks, we were on a medical mission trip to Chile. We knew this was the direction of our future. Five trips and five years later, we left 33 years of optometry to begin our International Service Corps term. [As associate missionaries now], we will continue our present work in Central and Southern Asia.”
And for still others, it was an opportunity that occurred when they read about international missions somewhere.
“My call to missions came while studying a Sunday school unit on international missions, when God awakened my heart to 1.7 billion who have never heard that Jesus Christ is the only Savior,” said one new appointee who will serve in a restricted-access country.
And for one, it was a secretarial assignment to transcribe a seminary president’s missions sermon.
“While my husband, Jason, was in seminary, I had the opportunity to serve as secretary to Dr. Gray Allison, founder of Mid-America Baptist Seminary,” said Kelley Hill, new missionary to the Bemba people in Zambia. “A great blessing of my job was to transcribe Dr. Gray’s sermons. Last October, I transcribed a sermon in which, literally as I typed, God revealed to me that he was calling me to overseas missions.”
Whatever the circumstance, the intensity of the call to international missions motivated the new missionaries to sell their businesses, their homes, their cars, their boats and most of their material possessions and to even set aside retirement plans to follow God wherever he was leading.
And today the “wherever” is a wide array of global locations not thought possible a decade or so ago.
“You probably had no idea [your calls] would lead to places like China, Bosnia, Kazakhstan, Zambia, Russia or Chile,” International Mission Board President Jerry Rankin told the 40 new appointees during the appointment service, which was attended by some 1,300 people from Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky.
“But regardless of the circumstances and events and people God used to influence you, the Bible indicates that it was all intentional in God’s plan and providence,” he said. “It is amazing to realize that, like Jeremiah, before you were born, God had a plan and purpose for you, consecrated you and called you to the nations.
“He had his hand on you and has skillfully and divinely manipulated the events and influences of your life to call you to the nations at this particular time.”
In his introductory remarks, Avery Willis, IMB senior vice president for overseas operations, told the appointees, “We are seeing one of the greatest moves of God in the history of the world today.”
As an example, he described how — despite persecution and extreme difficulties — the number of Christians in China has grown from an estimated 1 million in 1950 to perhaps as many as 75 million today.
He said one Chinese official recently told him that “25,000 people a day are coming to Christ in China.”
Willis added, “Although great growth is occurring there, many, many lost people live in China today, too.”
The size of the Chinese population that does not know Christ is nearly four times that of the total U.S. population today, he said.
However, he also reported that the vitality and size of Christianity in China is now so strong that Chinese Christians are beginning to envision a day when they will send 100,000 missionaries overseas.
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at www.sbcbaptistpress.org. Photo titles: PROCESSION OF FLAGS, ON TO THE PHILIPPINES, GOD HAS A PLAN and IT’S OFFICIAL.