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Through sickness & struggles, IMB worker discovers renewal

RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–When Belinda Baker* left to work in East Asia, she planned to settle in, tell her neighbors about Jesus and then leave and go to another place. It would be simple, easy and quick.

But it didn’t quite happen like that.

Two weeks after arriving in East Asia, her father died.

“Please, you don’t have to come,” her mother said of her returning home to attend the funeral. “Serve the Lord.”

Since she was 20 hours away by plane, Baker stayed put and began working on her plan.

Nine weeks passed, and Baker saw no new disciples for Jesus.

“I had never gone this long without leading someone to the Lord,” she said.

Baker immersed herself in the East Asian culture. She rode bikes with them, made friends with as many people as she could, prayed over their houses, ate all their food and got sick — many times.

“I finally met the body mass index [from being sick so much],” she joked of the requirement she should have met before leaving for the field. In order for Southern Baptist workers to go overseas for extended periods of time, all candidates must be healthy with the required body mass index (BMI) for their height and weight.

Still, Baker had not led anyone to the Lord. Frustrated, she prayed. “Create in me a clean heart, oh God, and renew in me a right spirit.”

After nine months, her sister came to visit. Still discouraged, Baker expressed her feelings to her sister, telling her that she stank at being a missionary. Her sister didn’t have miraculous words of advice, but God used her to help Baker get a new focus.

“She taught me so much [just] from loving my friends,” Baker said. “She loved [East Asia]. The Lord wanted to do His work in His time, and I was arrogant.”

Now open to what the Lord had to say, she realized what He had been trying to teach her.

“[The Lord told me] this is not about you; you are trying to convince them (East Asians) of a Savior’s love. There are nations who are lost and dying and going to hell.”

With her attitude adjusted, all of a sudden, it was like “fireworks of people coming to know the Lord,” she said.

But now she faced a new challenge — she didn’t know the language very well. With believers to disciple, knowing the language became even more imperative.

Just as she began digging earnestly into the language, Hurricane Katrina hit her hometown of New Orleans, a year after her father passed away.

“I spent so much time in the hospital [sick]. I wanted to go home. I prayed to go home,” she said. “[I told God] I wasn’t good at this. [I told Him] ‘In the [United States] I know the language and I have ministered there.’”

Meanwhile, one of the young women Baker discipled had led one of her friends to Christ.

When she heard this, the Lord reminded Baker of the millions of people like her in the United States who can minister to others. These two new Christians had only her and her ministry partner.

It became a breakthrough moment for Baker and her ministry. As she continued to love the people of East Asia and to teach them about Jesus, she also continued to grow in her relationship with Christ. A few months ago Baker left East Asia. She had helped start four churches and had seen 20 people come to know the Lord.

Now in the United States, she continues to see God working.

“God [reveals] another thing He did in my heart every time I speak [at different] churches,” she said.

Baker recalls the story of Abraham and how he failed from the beginning but because of his faith was credited with righteousness.

“I failed from the beginning, too, but every day I want to be a woman of faith,” she said. “He is faithful to His promises.”
*Name changed for security reasons. For more information on how to get involved in international missions, visit www.imb.org. To learn more about East Asia, visit http://easia.imb.org.

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  • Marie Travis