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TRUSTEES: Haiti response may require $2 million, IMB trustees told

ROCKVILLE, Va. (BP)–Southern Baptist workers anticipate spending at least $2 million on relief and rebuilding projects in earthquake-ravaged Haiti over the coming months, International Mission Board trustees were told during their Jan. 18-19 meeting in Rockville, Va.

A joint disaster assessment team is in Haiti, comprised of personnel from the IMB, North American Mission Board, Baptist Global Response and Florida Baptist Convention, which has longtime ministry ties to Haiti.

“We’ve already released an initial $150,000, but anticipate over the coming months appropriating at least $2 million for projects in Haiti,” Scott Holste, associate vice president for global strategy, told trustees meeting at the IMB’s International Learning Center.

“Establishing supply lines for water, food and temporary housing will be an integral part of our response. Anticipated needs over the coming months will include cleanup, distribution of food, temporary and permanent construction projects, counseling and medical care.”

As relief projects get under way, Southern Baptist volunteers will be recruited to work alongside Haitian Baptists and others, Holste said. Longer-term education and microenterprise efforts also are being planned to help Haitians get back to work.

Recovery will take years for the impoverished Caribbean nation, where authorities estimate as many as 200,000 people died as a result of the Jan. 12 quake. Hundreds of thousands more have suffered injuries, lost their homes and lack food, water and medicine. Many thousands of homeless and hungry Haitians are streaming out of the shattered capital, Port-au-Prince, in search of food and shelter.

“Southern Baptists are a people who care,” Holste said. “They want to be personally involved in the lives of those affected by this disaster.”

Churches and individuals already have given nearly $500,000 to Haiti relief via IMB funding channels. Money can be donated online at imb.org/haitifund.

“Because of Southern Baptist giving to the Cooperative Program and Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, 100 percent of any money that’s given [through the IMB] to disaster relief in Haiti will be used to address the needs of people” rather than paying for administrative costs, Holste added. Cooperative Program giving and Lottie Moon offering funds pay for the ongoing support of the IMB’s mission workers who are part of the SBC’s relief efforts, he said.

“People in the places where our personnel are serving are dealing in a very harsh reality,” said Gordon Fort, IMB vice president for global strategy. “Some have lost their loved ones. They don’t know where their families are. They’ve lost everything, their homes destroyed. But sometimes their reality intersects with hope….

“We believe the same thing will happen in Haiti as happened in [South Asia] following the tsunami. There are … people in that region who would never have had the opportunity [to hear about Jesus Christ] except that there was a tragedy that swept 250,000 people into eternity,” Fort added. “A door was opened, and in the midst of a harsh reality God sent people called Southern Baptists to extend a message of hope.”


The 15-member trustee search committee continues seeking a successor to IMB President Jerry Rankin, who will retire in July, trustees were told. Search committee chairman Jimmy Pritchard reported the group has completed the “gathering phase” of the search and is beginning the selection process.

“We’ll start going over the resumes, so this is the time we really ask people to pray,” said Pritchard, senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Forney, Texas. “We had over 270 different people make recommendations, and they recommended 74 different candidates. We’ve made contacts with all of them. Some of them have declined [to be considered], but everybody who had an interest we have communicated with.”

Pritchard said he hopes the selection process will move along quickly, but he emphasized the committee members “do not feel pressure to go faster than God would lead us. We will proceed as quickly and efficiently as we can, but we’re not going to rush it. Pray that we would hear God and would be sensitive and would end up with His man, at His time, for His job.”


In his remarks to trustees, Rankin said that before “fading away into the sunset” he intended to use his remaining board reports to review “where we are in our mission task, why we do what we do and the foundational principles of our mission.” He used the first such opportunity to confront four “prominent myths” that “create misinformation and distort perceptions” about IMB strategy and work:

— “Evangelism and missions are one and the same.”

“One does not do missions without evangelism. Witnessing, winning and discipling people into the kingdom as Christ-followers is the heart of the mission,” Rankin stressed. But failing to understand the “subtle distinction” between the two leads many churches and Christians to conclude they are primarily responsible only for evangelizing the people who live right around them — or people around the world who are immediately responsive to the Gospel. It also leads to another assumption that has long hindered missions: Since salvation is the “sovereign work of God, we don’t need to be concerned about results.”

Such misunderstandings continue to lead many Christians to relinquish the mission task to “an elite few ministry professionals and missionaries who work on their behalf,” Rankin lamented. As for concentrating exclusively on responsive regions and peoples, he added, “we could probably double the number of reported baptisms each year by concentrating our missionary force in a handful of open and responsive countries, but that would hardly be fulfilling God’s mission, as it would result in multitudes never hearing the Gospel.”

— “Church-planting movements are a humanly designed strategy to speed the completion of the Great Commission.”

The notion that authentic, rapidly growing church-planting movements — led by lay believers, often amid persecution — are just another mission program or strategy “is a blatant misrepresentation of the work of God,” Rankin charged.

“There will never be enough missionaries to reach the whole world. The only possibility of everyone having access to the Gospel is through a grass-roots network of indigenous, reproducing churches being planted in every community,” he said. “It is a matter of pride to assume that an almighty, sovereign God is dependent on the human instrumentality of educated, mature Western missionaries to teach and train and lead before [local believers are] qualified and capable of sharing their faith with another.

“I find it appalling that there are those who actually advocate slow growth, taking years to disciple new believers to maturity, requiring seminary training of leaders before they can pastor a church or share their faith…. Certainly training is valuable, and our reports reflect the priority that is being given with the number of those being trained [by IMB missionaries and their ministry partners] growing from 30,000 to more than 200,000 in the last decade. We believe in theological education…. But which church is healthier and more spiritually vital — the one reproducing and sharing their faith, or those which never start another church and see negligible numbers coming to Christ?”

— “Our mission strategy of reaching all peoples is based on Matthew 24:14 and a desire to hasten the return of Christ.”

In Matthew 24:14, Jesus Christ declares that the Gospel “will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

Reaching all peoples in order to hasten the end of the age, however, “has never been voiced or intimated by me or anyone responsible for strategic leadership at the International Mission Board,” Rankin stressed. “Yet it continues to be voiced by critics of our passionate devotion to what our Lord has mandated us to do. The time of our Lord’s return is in the Father’s hands, and we will do nothing to change that timeframe. We could never presume to interpret the Father’s criteria for what it means to fulfill the Great Commission. My frequent use of Matthew 24:14 is simply to glorify God that this prophecy is being fulfilled as the Gospel is being proclaimed among all peoples and nations.”

— “Advocating a certain priority or objective nullifies or excludes others.”

Prime examples of this myth, Rankin noted, include the perceptions that because IMB missionaries focus on evangelism, reaching unreached peoples and partnering with Southern Baptist “mega churches,” they are no longer committed to theological training, medical and humanitarian work, aiding established churches in evangelized areas or working with smaller Southern Baptist churches to mobilize for missions.

“Such reasoning is illogical and so far from the truth as to be ludicrous — were it not representing the perception of so many, even among some of the ranks of our missionaries,” Rankin said. “It doesn’t seem to be simply a misunderstanding, but an intentional way of holding on to a narrow, personally convenient position….

“We must realize there will always be critics and detractors,” Rankin concluded. “We must do a better job of communication. We need to be sympathetic and patient with those who resist change. We need to minister to those who are challenged and stressed by change. But we must not be deterred from moving forward in the task our Lord has committed to us.”


Also during the meeting, IMB Executive Vice President Clyde Meador led the trustees’ annual memorial service for members of the greater missionary family who died during the previous year.

Trustees remembered 39 retired missionaries, two active missionaries, five retired staff members and a child of a missionary family who died in 2009. The retired missionaries honored during the memorial served an average of more than 27 years each on international fields.

The trustees’ next meeting is March 2-3 in Memphis, Tenn., with an appointment service for new missionaries scheduled for March 3 at Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis.
Erich Bridges is a global correspondent for the International Mission Board.

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