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Southern Baptists reminded at Sending Celebration to ‘tell others what He has done’

Patrick and Kathryn Thompson surrounded by friends and family during the prayer time at the IMB’s Sending Celebration. Jeff Ginn, IMB’s vice president of mobilization, led attendees in prayer. He asked them to “hold the ropes” as William Carey, the father of modern missions, requested of the church in his day. IMB Photo

LUTZ, Fla. (BP) — When Patrick and Kathryn Thompson arrived to plant a church in New York City with their two kids, the reality that they were already doing cross-cultural missions set in.

Patrick walked into a grocery store, glanced at the outrageous price of eggs, and immediately knew his grocery bill was going to triple. Kathryn remembers walking windy, icy streets in the winter because they sold their cars when they left Georgia. In New York City, it was all about walking and navigating crowded subways. When a gust of wind almost blew Natalie, her 12-year-old daughter, into the street, she missed the convenience of her car!

“If God is calling any of you to go, the IMB is hiring!” IMB President Paul Chitwood tells the crowd at the Sending Celebration on Nov. 14 at Idlewild Baptist Church in Tampa, Florida. IMB Photo

Their 14-year-old son PJ was quick to share the differences he was experiencing at school. His public New York City school wasn’t anything like the one he left behind in the suburbs of Atlanta.

But there, living in a neighborhood where more than 80 nationalities were represented, the family slowly began to thrive. The Thompsons planted New City Church in New York. This church, a North American Mission Board church plant, was one of the first Send City churches.

Though this work was unlike anything they’d ever done, they began to consider it home. They were reaching people who previously wanted nothing to do with church or Christ. Kathryn worked as a dental hygienist in what she considers a dream job. Patrick saw the church plant blossom through adversity and plant more churches in other areas of the city.

As a church, they began to pray and ask God how they could reach the nations outside of New York City.

“At the beginning of this process we never thought God would be calling us to go,” Patrick said. But God clearly had new plans for the Thompsons.

In the new year, Patrick and Kathryn will leave PJ and Natalie, now young adults, behind in New York and, yet again, go to a different world to share Christ with those in Europe who don’t know Him.

They see that the passion God put in their hearts to reach those who have rejected Christianity was built in New York City, where the Thompsons intentionally reached those who distanced themselves from God. As they work as church planters in France, they will encounter people with the same post-Christian, urban mindset.

Many from the Florida Baptist Convention annual meeting stayed for the Sending Celebration held in conjunction with the meeting. A choir of Florida Baptists from all across the state led worship alongside the Idlewild Baptist Convention orchestra. IMB Photo

Leaving the ministry they poured their lives into over the last decade hasn’t been easy.

“There was a time before we got so far into the process of looking at IMB that we had to say, ‘God, this is Your church. It’s not running because of what we’ve done,’” Kathryn shared with tears in her eyes. “Whatever God has for New City Church after we leave, we have to be OK with because it’s not our doing.”

New City Church and its new pastor, Jared Parsons, are excited to send the Thompsons to the nations. Partnering with the Thompsons’ home church in Georgia, Roswell Street Baptist Church in Marietta, and other churches who have supported them over the last decade, New City’s new leadership is eagerly awaiting the go-ahead from the Thompsons to send a short-term mission team to France to be a part of the church they’re planting. Their families of faith are also bathing the Thompsons in prayer.

Patrick and Kathryn ask for prayer for their family that they’d abide in Christ through this transition, for their language and cultural acquisition, and for more Southern Baptists to feel the call to join their team.

Florida Baptists ‘all in’ on missions

Cara Griggs said she first learned about missions through Girls in Action, a Woman’s Missionary Union organization for young girls. She shared a brief testimony at the most recent Sending Celebration, held in conjunction with the Florida Baptist Convention annual meeting in Tampa. “Hearing the stories of faithful missionary women dedicating their lives for the sake of the Gospel struck a chord of passion in my heart.” IMB Photo

The Thompsons are two of 49 individuals who answered God’s call on their lives and were appointed as International Mission Board missionaries during the Sending Celebration Nov. 14 at Idlewild Baptist Church near Tampa, Fla. This Sending Celebration was hosted by the Florida Baptist Convention in conjunction with its annual meeting. In total, 51 missionaries were approved unanimously for appointment in a virtual meeting of IMB’s board of trustees held Nov. 9.

Tommy Green, executive director of the Florida Baptist Convention, welcomed attendees, saying, “We are ‘all in’ in Florida in missions.”

He backed up his claim with facts. Currently, there are 289 Floridians serving as active missionaries through the IMB. Florida is home to 797 retired IMB missionaries. Over the last 25 years, Florida Baptist churches have given $143 million to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. And since 1925, Florida Baptist churches have given $1,321,056,055 to the Cooperative Program.

IMB President Paul Chitwood brought his appreciation to Idlewild Baptist Church for hosting the Sending Celebration, while quipping that he hasn’t “gotten over Idlewild stealing Edgar Aponte from the IMB.” Aponte, Idlewild’s lead pastor, is former vice president of mobilization at the International Mission Board.

Chitwood thanked Florida Baptists for their continued support and gave good news of large donations that have started a new Lottie Moon Christmas Offering season. “Our goal this year is $200 million, and I believe we can reach that,” Chitwood said. IMB missionaries are sent and supported through generous giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and the Cooperative Program.

Referencing, 2 Kings 7, Chitwood shared the account of the four lepers who, after witnessing the deliverance of God said, “We are not doing right. This day is a day of good news. If we are silent and wait until the morning light, punishment will overtake us. Now therefore come; let us go and tell the king’s household.”

Chitwood said, “God expects that we tell others what He has done. Our world is full of people who don’t know the enemy has been defeated.”

As the Israelites faced a grave problem in the lepers’ day, the world faces the greatest problem, lostness, now. Chitwood reminded the crowd that believers know the solution – the Gospel.

“Like them,” he said, referencing the lepers, “let us determine that we will go and tell the Good News.”

He added to the crowd in the sanctuary, “If God is calling any of you to go, the IMB is hiring!”

As the Sending Celebration closed, Jeff Ginn, IMB’s vice president of mobilization, led attendees in prayer. He asked them to “hold the ropes” as William Carey, the father of modern missions, requested of the church in his day. Gathering around the newly commissioned missionaries, friends, family and Florida Baptists prayed for those who are going to tell the nations about what He has done.

Taking up their cross and following Him

Wang and Hyeonah Lee, along with their children, Immanuel (11), Irene (7), and Isaac (5), are being sent by New Song Church in Carrolton, Texas, to join the team in São Paulo, Brazil, and provide sound theological education there. IMB Photo

Wang and Hyeonah Lee, who participated in the Sending Celebration, are following God’s call to South America.

Hyeonah remembers her first time sharing the Gospel. She’d been a believer for a while, and when her church in South Korea invited her to go door to door and present the Gospel, she was terrified, yet obedient.

“When we knocked on the door, they made me talk,” she shared. Her quiet voice still sounded surprised as she recounted the story.

She swallowed her fears and spoke openly about Jesus. Though the couple who’d invited the team into their home didn’t make a decision for Christ that day, Hyeonah felt something inside her change.

After moving to the U.S. to study piano, she went on a short-term mission trip, and her calling was confirmed. This was how she was supposed to spend her life.

Similarly, her husband, Wang, went on a life-altering mission trip, though the couple laughed at the fact that Hyeonah knew they were called to missions years before he did.

The Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary Ph.D. candidate was teaching an intensive in Asia. He realized there are places across the globe that need theological education. At the same time, within himself, he wrestled with Matthew 16:24.

“What is the meaning of ‘denying myself’ and taking up my own cross? What is my cross?” he pondered.

A missionary gives her testimony to attendees at the Sending Celebration, held in conjunction with the Florida Baptist Convention annual meeting. She is obscured from the crowd by a partition because she is called to a people group that may be hostile toward the Gospel. For her safety and those she serves among, she is not publicly connected with IMB. In her country of service, she will generally be known by her real name or maybe by a nickname given to her by local friends. IMB Photo

Through the conviction of the Holy Spirit, he came to this realization. “Denying myself means that I need to leave my comfort zone here in the United States and the seminary, and I need to go to the lost.”

“For me, I couldn’t find my cross here in the States and in this very safe zone in seminary,” Wang continued. “My cross is to go to the lost, to teach them Christ and the Gospel.”

The couple, both born and raised in South Korea, knew they could live cross-culturally – they’ve been doing it for years. But now, they’re taking on a new culture, this time with three kids in tow.

Wang and Hyeonah, along with their children, Immanuel (11), Irene (7) and Isaac (5), are being sent by New Song Church in Carrolton, Texas, to join the team in São Paulo, Brazil, and provide sound theological education there.

They ask partners to pray for their family during the transition, and that they would “keep our calling and conviction from God so that our family won’t be shaken in fulfilling our task in the field.”

Specifically, Wang expressed that he needs prayer that he remains intentional in discipling his own children as they go to make disciples of the nations.

The next Sending Celebration will be held Feb. 14, 2024, at 7 p.m. MT.