In a leper colony on Tobago, an island in the Caribbean, Southern Baptist volunteer Jack Hinton, leading music for a worship service, asks the lepers to request their favorite songs. The time comes for one last song and a woman, whose back had been to the pulpit, turns around.
"I saw the most hideous face I had ever seen," says Hinton, a pastor from New Bern, NC. "The woman's nose and ears were entirely gone. Her lips had almost rotted away. She lifted a fingerless hand in the air and asked, 'Can we sing "Count Your Many Blessings"?'"
Overcome with emotion, Hinton leaves the service. Another volunteer follows him out to console him. "Jack," he says, "I guess you'll never be able to sing that song again, will you?"
"Oh yes I will," Hinton responds. "But I'll never sing it the same way again."
That story reveals the impact of the volunteer missions experience. Jack Hinton — and the thousands of other Southern Baptists who have served overseas as volunteers — will never be the same. Neither will their churches. Their eyes have been opened to the world as it is, and as it can be when the hope and love of Christ are shared.
More than 15,000 short-term volunteers went abroad in 1995 through the Foreign Mission Board to work in more than 1,700 mission projects. They work in community health, hunger and relief projects and disaster response. They construct churches, dig wells, cook meals, repair Baptist facilities and equipment. They perform as physicians, nurses, dentists, veterinarians, agriculturists, medical educators and paramedics. They teach English. They help with discipleship training, leadership conferences, stewardship promotion, church planting and preaching.
Once, many Southern Baptists couldn't afford to travel overseas. They were happy to support career missionaries and let them handle the challenge of foreign missions. No more. "The career missionary will continue to be the stack pole for foreign missions, but assignments in short-term missions will increase appreciably," predicts FMB's Thurmon Bryant. "As we move into the 21st century, volunteers and short-term personnel among Southern Baptists will … increasingly demand a work place in overseas missions."
They do more than just help missionaries. In some of the most challenging out-posts of The Last Frontier — the places yet unreached by the gospel — volunteers and longer-term International Service Corps workers and journeymen ARE the missionaries.
Interested in joining the team for two weeks, two months or two years? Call the Foreign Mission Board toll-free at 1-800-866-FMB1.
Where is 'The Last Frontier?'
Where is The Last Frontier? It exists in many places around the globe, mostly in a huge swath of land stretching from northwest Africa to southeast Asia. But it's more than a geographic location; it is a group of peoples almost completely untouched by the gospel.
Most of these people have never met a Christian nor laid eyes on a Bible or church. They live behind walls erected by forces hostile to traditional Christian missions. Their world remains unreached by Christians because of governmental resistance, civil strife, crumbling infrastructures, Islamization, intense persecution of Christians and other minority religious believers, illiteracy, poor health conditions, severe living conditions, and the failure of the Christian world to target them.
Over the last decade Southern Baptists have moved from having one percent to 13.5 percent of their Foreign Mission Board resources and missionaries dedicated to this cutting edge of the Great Commission.
Currently Southern Baptists have assigned missionaries to reach only 69 of the 2,466 unreached people groups worldwide. To correct the imbalance, according to FMB's Avery Willis, will take an additional force of new missionaries equal to the current 4,000-plus missionaries.
The Last Frontier
31.5% of the world's population (1.7 billion people) have no access to the gospel.
• Includes 2,466 distinct people groups (193 of them are mega peoples with more than 1 million people each)
• Number of unreached people groups now targeted by Southern Baptist missions: 69
• Number of FMB missionaries now assigned to these peoples: 429 (13.5% of mission force)