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Rankin: Willing hearts made missionaries useful to God

RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–Seventy emeritus missionaries were honored for their servant hearts before a packed house at Second Baptist Church in Richmond, Va. on May 23.
More than 750 people attended the recognition service, which opened with a parade of flags and music by Second Baptist Church’s combined choir.
In an address to the missionaries, who served from eight to 41 years overseas, International Mission Board President Jerry Rankin pointed out that their individual years of service totaled 1,882 years.
“All of you, regardless of your field and assignment, were called by God to serve by his grace,” he said.
Rankin credited the missionaries’ success to servant hearts rather than raw skill.
“It is because you, like Moses, were willing to be a servant and a channel for [God’s] power,” he said in his address. “You’ve been willing for God to place you in his kingdom for him to use your witness and your faithfulness.”
Rankin predicted many would return to service through the IMB’s International Service Corps or the new Master’s Program, created for people 50 years of age or older who are available to make two- to three-year commitments to serve overseas.
And to those who remain in the United States, “you’re now in a place to challenge the lostness here in America,” he said.
Missionaries were called in order of longevity, ending with Dee Oliver, who served the longest — 41 years in the Philippines. Rankin presented each one with a “scroll of honor” plaque.
Several missionaries shared brief testimonies, ranging from thanks to Southern Baptists for supporting them in their missions efforts to stories of answered prayer and God’s protection from political bloodshed, traveling accidents and hooded cobras.
Tom Waddill, who served 27 years in Zambia as an agricultural evangelist with his wife, Lucille, said it still hasn’t “hit them yet” that they won’t be going back.
“We’ll miss the people and miss working with the Zambians,” he said. “There are lots of things about Zambia that we’ll miss, but we were ready to retire. I feel like it was our time to come home.”
Waddill said preaching to responsive crowds was one of his greatest experiences.
“I would say that the thing that stands out in my mind is not a particular one-time event, but it was the joy of seeing the Zambians not only coming to Christ, but catching the vision for witnessing and starting churches, and seeing them carrying on the work,” he said.
Tom and Gloria Thurman recalled 35 years as missionaries in Bangladesh.
“Three decades passed very quickly. We came to understand that ‘the joy of service is service,'” they said in a written testimony. “The angels could have been chosen to take the message of the blessed Redeemer, but [God] chose us to work these years in Bangladesh. We regret that we had only one life to give him in his service.”

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  • Jenny Rogers