RIDGECREST, N.C. (BP)–The appointment of Southern Baptists’ 57 newest international missionaries July 13 at Ridgecrest, a LifeWay Conference Center, provided an opportunity to look back 30 years when travel was more difficult and the world was so deeply divided that having a global vision for missions seemed impossible.
Prompting the look back three decades was a special presentation by International Mission Board trustee vice chairman Bob Claytor honoring IMB President Jerry Rankin and his wife Bobbye, who were appointed as missionaries 30 years ago at the North Carolina Baptist conference center.
Standing on the same stage where they were commissioned to evangelize the unreached people of Indonesia, the Rankins shared their story of adjusting to life overseas and urged the new missionaries to keep their eyes on God regardless of the hardships and struggles they encounter today.
“There were times we literally felt we were under siege — mentally, physically and spiritually,” said Bobbye Rankin.
“When we arrived in Indonesia, we were so naive,” said Jerry Rankin. “We learned about our own inadequacies, but we also learned we must trust [God].
“The most important thing God wants you to do [on the mission field] is to walk with him and seek his face,” he reminded the new missionaries.
Bobbye Rankin quoted Psalms 27, concluding with, “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”
Among the group of 57 was a young couple heading to the same place where the Rankins first served in Indonesia. Today, that couple can’t be identified by name in news stories because of increasing security issues there.
In 1970, the Rankins were two of 16 international missionaries appointed at the Ridgecrest service — the largest that year. A group that size today would be considered quite small.
In 1970, the Rankins traveled from the United States by boat, while today most missionaries will go to their places of service by airplane.
Unlike today, in 1970 international missionary service was restricted because of the Cold War, the Vietnam War and prevailing anti-missionary attitudes in more than half of the world. In contrast, the 57 appointed at Ridgecrest in 2000 literally will span the globe in their international ministries.
Participating in the July 13 appointment service, but totally unidentified, was a couple who will work with one of the least evangelized and most dangerous people groups in the world. In 1970, the idea of doing such a thing was thought too risky.
And unlike 1970, when ethnicity and backgrounds were more uniform, the 57 included a former policeman, a widow, a former business owner, a former high school choral director, a former Buddhist, a couple in their 60s, a former home improvement store worker, a seminary professor’s daughter and eight people of Asian descent, as well as former pastors and church staff members.
The new missionaries represented a wide swath of Southern Baptist churches, including Wedgwood Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, which was thrust into the national spotlight more than a year ago due to a multiple shooting there.
Wedgwood members Mike and Jeanna Baker Tabor testified that they, in 1998, took an “Experiencing God” discipleship class. It was out of that study, which became popular among Southern Baptists in the mid-1990s, that they began to realize God was calling them to become missionaries to Peru, they said.
Like so many other new missionaries today, Kurt and Janna Kay Holiday, who will use baseball to minister to a people group in South Africa, also said studying “Experiencing God” played a major role in preparing them to become missionaries.
Interestingly, one chapter in “Experiencing God” tells about author Henry Blackaby’s teenage daughter Carrie’s battle against cancer and how God worked in that situation for good.
Now grown, married and expecting a child, Carrie Blackaby Webb and her husband, Wendell Webb, also were among the 57 appointed at Ridgecrest. The Webbs will serve in Germany as strategy coordinators for the Hochsauerland people group. They will work closely with other Baptist churches and the Baptist Union to develop a strategy to reach out with the gospel to the German people.
The appointment service was the capstone for International Missions Week at Ridgecrest this year. During that event, some 1,400 people heard popular missiologist John Piper as well as IMB leaders Gordon Fort, Don Kammerdiener, Avery Willis, Rankin and a host of others tell about God’s activity throughout the world.
Additional photos posted in the BP Photo Library at www.sbcbaptistpress.org. Photo titles: YOUR NEW MISSIONARIES and INTERCESSION.