AUGUSTA, Ga. (BP) — As Leslie Montgomery finished college, her dad asked if she was ready to go to Africa as a missionary. He had heard her speak of that desire often growing up. Her reply was one of frustration.
“No, I was ready for that nine years ago. Not anymore,” she said. She’d felt the call of God to missions at 12 years old. Yet, it seemed God wasn’t opening those doors for her life. In her view, there were too many “messy years in the middle,” she says. She had given up on her dreams of missions.
Still, for Leslie, Africa had always been deeply imprinted on her heart. She changed her mind about the short-term mission trip her dad proposed, and she went. That experience marked a defining season for her. There was a “before Africa” and there was an “after Africa” for her.
Similarly, her husband, Luke, knew God was calling him to missions. But when a short-term trip opportunity presented itself, he said no. While his childhood call was to missions, he still preferred the idea of life in the United States to cross-cultural missions.
Life happened for Luke and Leslie – marriage, a pandemic and a baby. God’s calling on their lives hadn’t changed, though. The couple knew God was telling them it was time to go. They sold their house, quit their jobs and followed His call.
The Montgomerys were two of 24 International Mission Board missionaries who participated in the Sending Celebration on Nov. 13 at Warren Baptist Church in Augusta, Ga. The event was hosted by the Georgia Baptist Convention in conjunction with its annual meeting, as it celebrated its 200th anniversary. Twenty-six missionaries were approved unanimously for appointment in a virtual meeting of IMB’s board of trustees held Nov. 8.
Next March, the Montgomerys, along with their 2-year-old son, Brock, are headed to South Africa to disciple university students. They are being sent from Harvey Baptist Church in Texas.
Power of partnership
As IMB President Paul Chitwood began his time addressing those in attendance, he brought thanks to Georgia Baptists for their cooperative work in solving the world’s greatest problem.
“It is such a privilege to be in partnership with you,” Chitwood told Georgia Baptists. “Thank you for continuing to work together.”
Chitwood reminded attendees why this partnership and the sending of these missionaries is so important. Partnership is crucial, because the world’s greatest problem is lostness. Lostness is eternal, and lostness is universal. The Bible teaches that, and clearly so, in Revelation 20.
“This chapter helps us understand that lostness is the only problem with eternal consequences,” Chitwood said. “Every problem in your life that you experience ends when you die but one. The true magnitude of that problem will only be realized the moment you die.”
Through Jesus, though, God solved this age-old problem of lostness.
“Your church exists to address the world’s greatest problem. Georgia Baptists, you’re here to address the world’s greatest problem. We’re here to address the world’s greatest problem,” he said.
And while there are so many who have never heard the solution, “we’re here because we know the solution, and we’re here to share it,” Chitwood added.
Georgia Baptist Executive Director Thomas Hammond asked Chitwood to take a message to IMB missionaries.
“Tell them we will walk beside them through this, and we will sacrifice as they have sacrificed to ensure they have all they need as they go and take the Gospel to the nations,” Hammond said.
“We have an army of people who desire to do not just evangelism in Georgia, but around the world.”
Each IMB missionary is funded through the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering (LMCO). The missionaries sent out Nov. 13 represent the IMB’s purpose to provide steadfast missionary presence that leads to Gospel access among those who have never heard.
The Cooperative Program, in addition to funding overseas work of Southern Baptist missionaries, funds the support services in the U.S. for those missions. Each dollar of the LMCO, with the 2021-2022 offering exceeding $200 million, goes overseas to bring the Gospel to the least reached.
Sending the senders
Caleb and Trish Spacht were the senders. They’d supported a teenager, Rebecca Joy, from their youth group who was called as an adult to the mission field. They were comfortable serving on a church staff, calling out the called and sending the sent.
Until they weren’t.
“Our call didn’t come in a thunderous, ‘this is it’ moment,” Trish said. “It was a collection of tiny moments, God whispering and weaving through our lives this thread of international missions.”
The couple felt God calling them to something different, Trish said. She describes feeling a “holy discontent” with the level of comfort they were experiencing in their lives.
In obedience, they started conversations with different churches, wondering if God was calling them to leave their current ministry position at a church they’d served for 16 years. Caleb thought maybe God was calling them to be church planters in the United States. Still, they sensed God’s will in none of those options.
Then, God broke their hearts for the people of Europe. With the cultural Catholicism, agnosticism and postmodernism that characterize the region, they knew the people in the picturesque European cityscapes were essentially unreached with the Gospel.
The Lord made it clear to them that He wasn’t calling them to plant a church across the city, but He was calling them to plant a church across the world.
The Spachts, along with their two daughters, Reagan (6) and Camryn (2.5), are headed to Paris to join a church-planting team to impact the postmodern culture with the truth of the Gospel. They are being sent from Happy Valley Baptist Church in Arizona.
The next IMB Sending Celebration will be Feb. 1, 2023, near Richmond, Va.