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Rankin encourages new missionaries as they begin ministries


GLEN ALLEN, Va. (BP)–God is moving in unprecedented ways around the world, and the International Mission Board appointed 12 new workers to join His work Jan. 10 at Staples Mill Road Baptist Church in Glen Allen, Va., in conjunction with an IMB trustee meeting.

The new missionaries will be serving in five of the IMB’s administrative regions: Western Europe, Central Asia, East Asia, the Pacific Rim and South America. The new workers join 383 long-term personnel appointed last year, including 175 appointed in the September and November appointment services in Pensacola, Fla., and Huntsville, Ala., respectively. More than 5,100 Southern Baptist missionaries are serving through the IMB around the world.

“I wish the experience of this evening could guarantee that you will have success in your ministry,” IMB President Jerry Rankin told the new missionaries. Instead, there will be struggles and some failures, he said.

The missionaries will encounter struggles of a new language, a new culture, religious resistance, discouragement from trials and loneliness, as well as temptations of pride and personal comforts, Rankin noted. Even the missionaries’ faith will be tested by doubts to believe the promises of God for times when they do not see the fruits of their ministries.

In testimonies during the service, the new missionaries told how God has prepared them for challenges ahead. Half of the missionaries will serve in Western Europe, “probably the only region regressing on our scale of evangelization,” Rankin said.

Rod and Kendra Lindsey, from LaMarque, Texas, will live and work in Paris, often called the “City of Lights” for the city’s many physical lights.

“I am visually impaired, and this means I live in a world of physical darkness,” Kendra Lindsey said. “However, I am not bound and blinded by a world of spiritual darkness that comes only from being separated from God. Jesus said, ‘I am the Light of the world.’

“God wants our family to be a torchbearer of His true light into this city of darkness.”

One year ago, Jason and Cheryl Dietz from Sweetwater, Texas, had never heard of Dresden, Germany. Within a few months, they will be serving God there.

“It was over 10 years ago that Cheryl and I told God that we would be willing to serve as missionaries if He wanted us,” Jason Dietz said. “It has taken Him all that time to prepare us for the job He has for us.”

Coming from families of poor, uneducated migrant farm laborers, Al and Anna Rodriguez know what it’s like to do work no one else is willing to do. In addition to a difficult home life growing up, Al Rodriguez battled alcoholism. But God saved him. Now Rodriguez and his family, from East Wenatchee, Wash., will serve God in South America.

“I began to experience things in my life that, in my own abilities, I could never have accomplished,” he said. “After 34 years of our married life, through personal dedicated prayer, and through the prayers of God’s people praying for His will in our lives, now we have been called to reach out to the Quichua people in South America.”

Rankin offered the advice of the Apostle Paul in 1 Timothy 6:11-12: “But flee from these things, you man of God, and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses” (NASB).

Missionaries may not expect the need to “flee from these things” — a love of money or possessions, Rankin said. However, “you’re going to find yourself in a deprived lifestyle,” he noted, recalling one missionary who felt guilty for missing Wal-Mart and Diet Coke.

“The things you can’t get become an attraction,” he said. “Don’t let them become a snare and temptation to you. You’ve given yourself to a higher calling.”

The Apostle Paul also urged Timothy to follow characteristics that present a good witness — a mandate applicable to mission personnel who often are observed because they are foreigners or outsiders.

“Intentionally pursue the characteristics that will draw people to our Lord Jesus Christ,” Rankin said.

Ezekiel 36:23 promises that the nations will know God through believers honoring Him, he said. “That’s why God has called you to South America to the Quichua people, to Germany and Wales and France, to East Asia and the Pacific Rim — that they might see in you the holiness of God. That they might see the reality of your living Savior and know that He is God.”

The admonition to fight the good fight of faith may seem incongruent to the role of a missionary, Rankin said. But the Apostle Paul was aware that Timothy — just as the 12 new IMB missionaries — was being sent into unfriendly territory to engage in a challenging struggle.

“We’re told that one day there will be those from every tribe and people and tongue and nation gathered around the throne of God, and that includes the people to whom God has called you,” Rankin said. “Hold onto that thought — that faith -– and fight the good fight of faith.”

‘REMARKABLE MOVEMENT’

In a recent trip to observe IMB in various locales, a group of men saw God at work firsthand in remarkable ways in individual lives, reported Clyde Meador, IMB executive vice president. During the 13-day trip, Meador told the new missionaries he learned that hell is a lot bigger place than he thought it would be.

“Every place we went, we saw so much darkness, so many people who have yet to hear the truth, and who are still involved in the worship of idols, in the worship of false gods, in the worship of that which is simply not true,” Meador said.

But everywhere the group went, they also saw God at work:

— In Central Asia, the group met a man in a carpet shop who does not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. But he is so attracted to Jesus, he gives New Testaments, “JESUS” films and other materials to anyone who goes into his shop, spreading the Good News of Jesus.

— Outside the city of Jerusalem, the group ate lunch with Palestinian Christian workers. One young man spends his days doing door-to-door witnessing in the town of Ramallah –- a Palestinian/Arab/Muslim stronghold — sharing the Gospel of Jesus despite threats or rejection.

— In Bangkok, Thailand, a 29-year-old woman from an upper-middle-class family who was incarcerated for drug offenses met Jesus as her Savior in prison. When she was released, she attended seminary and will soon graduate. She works in a halfway house assisting people being released from prison and leads dozens of people to faith in Jesus Christ.

“It is amazing what God is doing in the lives of people all over this world,” Meador said. “It is your responsibility — it is my responsibility — to be involved in seeing that the Good News of Jesus Christ gets to people all over this world, that hell becomes a smaller place than it’s destined to be right now.”

Arkansas pastor Tom Hatley, chairman of the IMB trustees, also was on the trip. Hatley relayed that he experienced “the joy of missions in its purest form.” He learned, for example, of new churches started and thriving in the Middle East in a place where Southern Baptists had invested in missions.

“Now they’ve learned to become missionaries and invest in their own missions program,” Hatley said. “That’s the loop we’re trying to see all over the world -– not just for Southern Baptists to go out and win [people to Christ], but then for us to grow them to the point of spiritual maturity where they can be missionaries as well.”

Hatley called the new missionaries “the best of the best we’re sending out, to make sure that the Gospel of our Lord will continue to grow” through the multiplication of missions.

Rankin charged those attending the appointment service to continue supporting the new missionaries as they join God on mission in their new roles.

“Though they come from various places all across the United States, they come from churches such as yours,” Rankin said. “They were nurtured in their walk with the Lord and to respond to a call to missions in churches such as yours. It’s your gifts to the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering that will support them and your prayers that will sustain them. These are your missionaries.”

Missionaries on stateside assignment from Africa told God-filled stories that inspired one new missionary from Louisiana who will serve with her husband in Central Asia.

“Little did I know that seed of inspiration would grow into a call to missions in my own life,” she said. “Would you pray with me that not only will we instill in our people group the love of God, and help them to follow Him, but also that through our testimony here in the States, to people just like you, that we would encourage you to go and tell?”
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  • Julie McGowan