ROANOKE, Va. (BP)–Vast multitudes live in spiritual bondage, with no idea of God’s love or the price He has paid for their freedom, 45 new overseas missionaries were told during a Sept. 15 ceremony at First Baptist Church in Roanoke, Va.
Though they came from a variety of backgrounds — from architecture to basketball coaching; from Sofia, Bulgaria, to Camden, S.C. — all of them had been chosen by God to take a Spirit-empowered witness to suffering and hopeless people throughout the world, said International Mission Board President Jerry Rankin.
“Everywhere people are in spiritual bondage and darkness because they do not know the light of the world,” he said. “God has chosen you to carry that light, to set them free.
“I’m telling you, there is no greater thrill than to have the opportunity of being the first one to tell someone about Jesus. You cannot imagine the thrill of seeing their eyes begin to sparkle and the light of understanding begin to dawn that there is a God who loves them and has given His Son to save them from sin.
“It’s a message that the world is waiting to hear.”
‘LIVING TO PLEASE GOD’
God confronts His people with a choice between self-satisfaction and obedience, several new missionaries said.
“I was practicing pediatrics and loved my life,” said one new worker, a Honduras-born physician who will serve with her husband and two children in Panama. “During Bible study, I came to the story of the rich young ruler and realized I was in a similar situation. I needed to decide if I loved my material possessions more than being obedient to God. I chose obedience.”
Another new missionary, who will serve with his wife and two children in South Asia, said: “I was looking for success — money, influence, and my own business. Then one day, a man challenged me to define success. He added that the true definition is found in the Bible. That day changed my life forever. Now we live for true success: living to please God — in His timing.”
Choosing God’s mission over stateside success is an issue for church workers too, said another new missionary, who will serve with his wife and young daughter in the Pacific Rim region.
“As a missions-focused youth minister in my mid-20s, I was interviewing for a position in a larger church,” he said. “When the pastor said, ‘There are other churches in our area, and there is a lot of competition,’ God confirmed in my heart that it was time to go to a place where no one else is sending resumes.”
BLESSED TO BE A BLESSING
God has blessed Christians in America so they can be a blessing to others who have yet to hear, said a young couple who will take three young children to the Russian Far East.
“During my college freshman year, I learned about unreached people groups and their need for the Gospel,” said the husband. “After several volunteer assignments to different regions of the world and seeing missionaries at work, we knew it was time to commit our lives. The people to whom we are going are desperate and searching. We have the answer: Jesus Christ.”
“I imagine my life as a plot of land that has been tilled by God since my birth,” said his wife. “The tools God has used have been significant people in my life like my parents, GA and Acteen leaders, teachers and missionaries. Without God’s tools, people like you and me, my plot of land would be weeds.”
Once a person understands how lost the world is, it’s almost impossible not to respond, said a young man who will serve in Western Europe with his wife and two young children.
“For years I was told that there is one way to God: Jesus Christ,” he said. “It took a long time, but once this reality set in, I was utterly overwhelmed by the incredible lostness of the world. It seemed like a powerful disease for which I was one of the few who knew the cure. How could I not go? How could I tell God no?”
His wife said her heart broke during an overseas trip as she watched a young mother gently fold her daughter’s hands together and show her how to bow before the idol in front of them.
She recalled: “As I watched, the Lord of Lords said to me, ‘This one I want to bow before Me. Go! Reach out in My name to those in darkness.'”
A SECOND CHANCE
Every day, missionaries overseas face difficult situations that can cause them to ask whether they are in the right place, said Gordon Fort, the board’s vice president for overseas operations.
He talked about two missionary couples — one of which endured two carjackings a year apart and another that wrestled with a life-threatening illness. Like other missionaries, they continue to serve because they know God called them to give their lives in witness and ministry.
“What are they doing with their lives? Refusing to allow the Enemy to deter them from doing what God has called them to do,” Fort said. “They are refusing to say, ‘I need a second chance to make the right decision,'” knowing that God has placed them as a witness to …”
“You know what these missionaries would say tonight if they stood before you? They would share with you from 2 Timothy 4: ‘I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.'”
Many Christians, however, need a second chance to obey God’s call to bear witness and make disciples among all the world’s peoples, Fort said.
“My encouragement to you, as you consider the claims of Christ on your life tonight, is perhaps God has been speaking to you for a long time and you have resisted His call,” Fort said. “Maybe tonight He will give you a second chance to say, ‘Yes, Lord, wherever You lead, I’ll go.'”