BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP) — Massive cyclones in sub-Saharan Africa. Political and humanitarian crises in the Americas. Gangs among the Deaf. Police arrests in Southeast Asia. Slander in Central Asia.
Even amid such difficulties, International Mission Board personnel are seeing God create opportunities for people to hear a clear Gospel witness, IMB President Paul Chitwood reported June 11 during the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in Birmingham, Ala.
“The Gospel is being preached among the nations, and we are privileged to be part of it,” Chitwood said, noting to Southern Baptist messengers:
— Overseas baptisms by churches that IMB missionaries have planted or directly partner with have increased by more than 6,000 over last year.
— New church starts reported in 2018 were nearly triple the number of new church starts IMB reported in 2016.
— The number of national believers who received advanced theological training increased by 10,000 over each of the prior two years.
Chitwood recounted to messengers numerous examples of Gospel advance around the world:
— In response to two cyclones in sub-Saharan Africa, Southern Baptist missionaries provided blankets, mosquito nets, sleeping mats, tarps and water treatment tablets. As a result, a village of Muslims who previously refused entry to missionaries have invited those carrying a Gospel witness into their village.
— In the Americas, God has used the political and humanitarian crisis in Venezuela to push the Venezuelan church outside its previous borders. More than 4 million Venezuelans have fled their country — many of them from churches of the Venezuelan Baptist Convention, birthed by Southern Baptist missionaries working in that country for the past 70 years. Churches are being planted in Mexico, Colombia and many other places by Venezuelan Baptists.
— In East Asia, a missionary among the Deaf shared the Gospel with a woman who responded by trusting Christ. Her husband, also Deaf, was a notorious gang leader. At first resistant to the Gospel, the gang leader became intrigued by the Bible stories the missionary shared as the gang leader’s wife was being discipled. The gang leader accepted Christ as His Savior and then started new churches. Since the first of the year, he and his partners have led more than 38 Deaf to faith in Christ and have seen nearly every one of them baptized.
— In Southeast Asia, Indonesian missionaries work alongside IMB missionaries to share the Gospel cross-culturally in a neighboring country that practices Islamic law. Two months ago, a team of five of the Indonesian believers was arrested as sharing the Gospel there. After four nights in jail, they were permanently deported from the country — but not before they shared the Gospel with 15 policemen and the religious council who detained them. Because of their team and other previous short-term teams, the first-known believers in multiple places have been baptized and are forming churches.
— In a city in Central Asia, Baptist churches had been slandered to an extent that drew the attention of an Islamic theology professor. He took 40 of his university students “to see what all the fuss was about.” Unannounced, they dropped by a Baptist church and asked the pastor if he would share what he does when people come to church. The pastor preached the past Sunday’s sermon — his Easter sermon — and those students heard a clear sermon on the death and resurrection of Jesus.
“Since 1845, Southern Baptists have been making disciples among the nations,” Chitwood said. “And now, in an unprecedented season of the globalization of missions, those who Southern Baptists have reached are now taking the Gospel to the nations themselves.
“And the IMB is rebuilding its missionary force,” he reported. “When I came into my role in November, there were 82 long-term missionary candidates in the appointment pipeline. That number has increased more than 300 percent and today stands at 270. But we need more.
“Southern Baptists, your IMB is still sending your missionaries. Every church, regardless of size or resources, has a role to play in reaching every nation. And the nations are waiting.”
Chitwood’s report preceded a Sending Celebration highlighting the appointment of 26 IMB missionaries who join nearly 3,700 fellow Southern Baptist international missions personnel.