FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–More than 1,000 students, staff and faculty asked God to “give us the nations” at the beginning of a Global Missions Week Sept. 24 at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
The annual celebration of missions focuses on unreached people groups and God’s work among the nations, providing encouragement to students to explore careers in missionary service.
If not careers, students should at least consider volunteer missions, said Al Gilbert, special assistant to International Mission Board President Jerry Rankin. Since Sept. 11, missionary appointments have remained steady, but the number of volunteer missionary personnel has declined by 25 percent.
Asking God to give the church the nations and the service of young men and women abroad is not in line with the current thought of many American Christians, Gilbert noted.
“The church in America is eaten up with consumerism. We think it is all about us, instead of it being all about him,” said Gilbert, who then interacted with eight students and a faculty member who had devoted time to volunteer missions service during the summer.
Mike Spikes and his companions rode bikes through “the bush” in Zambia. Spikes recalled how one bushman followed their tracks through the bush until he found them. Their meeting, he said, was a divine appointment. The man was saved.
More volunteers are needed in Zambia to make an effort at discipleship because “Christianity in Zambia is 10 miles wide and one inch deep,” Spikes said.
Tim Pierce, assistant professor of Old Testament, worked in Kenya during the summer. While much of his time was spent teaching in a “resort-like setting,” his team also worked with the Maasai, one of the first tribes to be exposed to Christianity.
Pierce attended a worship service in which 70-80 children sang hymns. He noted that his experiences gave him a greater understanding of God.
“Standing in the midst of 70-80 school-age children who were praising him in their own language — there is no textbook or lecture that will bring that home as well as their singing did for me that day,” Pierce said.
Other students who spoke had traveled to Thailand, Sri Lanka, Siberia, North Africa and China.
Barbara Johnson,* who distributed literature among a people group of North Africa for 10 days, had been praying for Muslims in North Africa and the Middle East for years. The spiritual darkness she encountered was “overwhelming and oppressive,” she said.
“Only one in 60,000 people in North Africa claims to be Christian. That means that in a city the size of Fort Worth there would be only eight Christians, and no one would probably know the others.”
She is still optimistic that the people can be won for Christ, she said.
“I almost reached the point of despair once, but God reminded me that Habakkuk 2:14 and Psalm 22:27-28 say that the nations will come to him.”
Tammi Mallory invested 10 weeks of her summer in a closed country in Asia. During the trip — her second in as many years — Mallory witnessed the establishment of a house church and the salvation of an entire family.
Don Dent, IMB regional leader for Southeast Asia and Oceania, also confirmed that Christianity is making strides in closed nations. The church will continue to grow, he said, if it does not commit the sin of neglecting missions. The responsibility of carrying the gospel to the nations falls to all Christians, he said.
“The issue is not if you are, the issue is how you are called to missions,” Dent said.
Rankin, a 1969 graduate of Southwestern, issued a challenge to students during chapel Sept. 26 at the Fort Worth, Texas, campus to explore the call to missions. Global Missions Week, he said, is more than an inspiring time to know how God is at work and more than a time to gather information. It is a time to find “your place and where you fit in reaching the people for Christ,” he said.
The call to missions, Rankin said, will be answered in a world of violence and strife.
“It’s common to read in newspapers almost daily of suicide bombers in the Middle East and how believers in China and Indonesia are being persecuted for their faith,” Rankin said. “This is the environment to which God has called us to make disciples of all nations.”
The world today is much like it was in the first century, he said, where believers found themselves facing similar hostile situations.
“The reason we live under threats today is because of our failure to fulfill the Great Commission,” Rankin said. If God’s people through the ages had been driven by a passion to reach people, the world would not be experiencing the consequences of sin, he said.
*Name changed for security considerations.
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: SUMMERS OF SERVICE.