I grew up during the Cold War era, when political tensions between the United States and the former Soviet Union dominated global diplomacy. Missile silos and bomb shelters reflected the paranoia of a massive military conflict between the communist bloc and the free world.
I remember praying for people behind the Iron Curtain, isolated and barred from religious freedom. We heard stories of persecution, secret believers, and accounts of Bible smuggling. No one living at the time can forget the amazement and elation when the Berlin Wall came down, and a short time later, the megalithic USSR disintegrated into fifteen autonomous republics.
The new openness to the West enabled Southern Baptists and other Christians to flood into this formerly restricted part of the world. We were delighted to find far more believers than we had dared to imagine. They persevered in their faith and welcomed Christians from abroad to partner with them in proclaiming the Gospel, training leaders, and planting churches.
For a few years, chaos and competition seemed to define mission strategy, but God prevailed, and many who had been in bondage to hopelessness and despair embraced the Gospel. Even though restrictions on foreign workers began to return and opposition from the Russian Orthodox found government support, the momentum could not be deterred.
It has been fifteen years since God's sovereignty over the nations provided the opportunity for a new mission thrust in the former Soviet Union. Your Southern Baptist missionaries are still there, working faithfully with national Baptists in evangelism and discipleship. Thousands of volunteers continue to seize the opportunity to make a personal impact on this part of the world.
While places like Russia and Ukraine continue to reflect an amazing response to the Gospel and church growth, other republics have reverted to totalitarian control not unlike in the communist era. Islam has reasserted its legacy, along with opposition to a Christian witness, in the central Asian republics to the south.
Gifts to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering will enable more missionaries to go to the former Soviet Union. Many unreached people groups remain. Vast areas of this territory, stretching across eleven time zones, have yet to be touched with an evangelical witness. The tenuous political climate indicates that opportunities may be limited and doors could close anytime. Will we be faithful to press forward and finish the task?
Last year, Southern Baptists gave a phenomenal $150 million to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. One hundred percent of this offering is used in the overseas budget to provide support for more than 5,200 missionaries worldwide who have gone out from Southern Baptist churches in obedience to God's call to places like the former Soviet Union.
This year, the goal of $165 million will allow many more missionaries to go work among remote people groups like the Udmurt and to take the Gospel to places like Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, and Moldova. In the Caucasus Mountains, people groups like the Chechyns are creating ethnic tensions in a struggle for autonomy. But we know Jesus is the answer. Your generous and sacrificial gifts to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering can help assure that someone will tell the story of Jesus to all the peoples and republics of the Soviet Union.
Get to Know the IMB
Jerry Rankin was elected as the 11th president of the International Mission Board on June 14, 1993. Born in Tupelo, Mississippi, Dr. Rankin received the Bachelor of Arts degree from Mississippi College in Clinton and the Master of Divinity degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. He was awarded the honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from Mississippi College.
He and his wife, Bobbye, were appointed in 1970 as Southern Baptist missionaries to Indonesia where they served as church planters.
Later, he served as associate to the area director and then area director for Southern Asia and the Pacific. He brings twenty-three years of overseas service to his current position of leadership.
The Rankins have two children, both of whom are married and have been appointed for missionary service.