HIGHLANDS, Calif. (BP)–While walking in a small town in Thailand years ago, Richard Blount spotted some Buddhists entering a temple and sensed his first heart-tug for missions.
“I witnessed several Thais … bowing down, lighting incense and praying to a big, gold Buddha,” he recalled. “I thought how fruitless, these people seeking hope in an idol. It was then that God began to burden my heart for the Thai people.”
Blount and his wife Linda were two of 43 new Southern Baptist missionaries appointed Jan. 31 at Immanuel Baptist Church in Highland, Calif. The event drew a crowd of 2,200 people as part of the International Mission Board’s trustee meeting and Immanuel’s Global Outreach Celebration. The outreach celebration was designed to personalize missions with the help of an additional 45 missionaries on site to share their experiences.
Rob Zinn, senior pastor at the church, thanked all the missionaries for following God’s call to the mission field.
“Trust me when I say that the Kingdom of God is grateful for your obedience,” he said. “The world will be grateful for your obedience … and what God is going to do through your life.”
IMB President Jerry Rankin noted the diversity and various backgrounds of the new missionaries.
“Yet, there is one thing [you] all have in common,” he said. “Someone touched your life with the witness about Jesus Christ … and the Great Commission became very personal. You’re bringing the skills, the experience, the education, all that God has put into your life to focus on the one thing of significance — God’s glory among the nations.”
One missionary, born a Hindu in Bangladesh, shared during the service how another missionary impacted his life when he had no other way of hearing the Gospel.
“From that day I became a follower of Jesus,” he said. “Afterward, God used [my wife and me] to share and lead many people to Christ in Bangladesh as well [as] in the United States.”
The couple now plans to share the Good News with people in South Asia.
Another missionary, headed to Russia, told how the Lord revealed a call to missions while he was sharing the short story “The Missing Missionary” with a group of boys at church.
“Before the end of the story, God had revealed to me the identity of the missing missionary,” he said. “It was me.”
During the event, trustees, missionaries and visitors heard updates on how God is working around the world. Among the highlights:
— More than 17,000 South Koreans attended a missions event to learn how they can impact global evangelism.
— In the past two months, the IMB spent more than $1 million on hunger relief and development projects. Some of the projects focused on the HIV/AIDS pandemic, while others were aimed at rebuilding areas impacted by disasters and crisis situations.
Rankin later challenged the new missionaries to look beyond simply going to the mission field. Missionaries must first “look, love and live,” he said.
Pulling from all four Gospels in the New Testament, Rankin contended that one of the most important commands Jesus Christ gave His followers was “to look.” In the fourth chapter of John, Rankin noted these words of Jesus, “Look unto the fields, lift up your eyes and look unto the fields that are white already unto harvest.”
“You’ve got to lift up your eyes, open your eyes and look and see a lost world,” Rankin said. “[Missionaries must] see a world as God sees it … and the potential harvest.”
Jesus also commanded His followers to love, Rankin said.
When the Pharisees asked Jesus what the greatest commandment was, He responded, “To love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy mind, and thy soul.” But Christ quickly added that they also should love their neighbor as they love themselves.
Rankin challenged the crowd to remember the people Americans tend to forget — the people of Darfur, refugees in Somalia, and the Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds in war-torn Iraq.
“[Love] is the only thing that would motivate us to give of our lives to go,” he said. “Without the love of God, your going will be futile and meaningless.”
Believers also must live out their faith in Christ wherever they go, Rankin said. Jesus taught His disciples to embrace a new lifestyle.
“It was not to be the ritualistic ritual of their Jewish faith,” he said. “But they were now to worship God and follow Him in spirit and in truth that would bring a new way of living that would reflect Christ-likeness and love and holiness.”
Though missionaries serve in a world with risks and dangers, Rankin reminded them that there are no government laws or religious restrictions that can keep them from living their faith before the people they serve.
“You’re following Jesus Christ, and He’s told you to go, but what He commanded you to do was to look and to love and to live,” Rankin said. “And as you fulfill that commandment, you’ll fulfill the mission that God has given to you.”
To learn more about serving in international missions, visit going.imb.org or call 1-800-999-3113.