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26 new IMB missionaries tell of need for gospel
Don Graham, Baptist Press
June 01, 2011

26 new IMB missionaries tell of need for gospel

26 new IMB missionaries tell of need for gospel
Don Graham, Baptist Press
June 01, 2011

RICHMOND, Va.

— The stench of dead bodies and human waste filled Mike Reid’s* nostrils as he

stepped inside a filthy, rundown medical clinic in the South African bush. A

cholera outbreak was ravaging area villages and the then 18-year-old college

freshman had volunteered to help provide clean drinking water.

So far the job had been easy, even fun — pump river water into large steel

tanks, then add chlorine tablets to kill any germs. Until now, Reid hadn’t

encountered any cholera victims, but the clinic brought a sobering dose of

reality. As he scanned the room his eyes locked on a gaunt, South African girl

lying on a gurney. She was dead, but her eyes were still open.

Dehydrated and exhausted from days of cholera-induced diarrhea, the girl had

collapsed under a tree. By the time she was brought to the clinic it was too

late. Reid didn’t know anything about her — where she was from, how old she

was, not even her name. But as he stared into the girl’s lifeless eyes, God

awakened something inside him.

Reid shared the story of his call to missions at Mandarin Baptist Church in Los

Angeles, Calif., May 22, as Southern Baptists honored 26 newly appointed

International Mission Board (IMB) missionaries including Reid and his wife,

Laura.* The couple will soon trade their Jacksonville, Fla., home for southern

Europe where they will work among Muslims from North Africa and the Middle

East.

Samuel Cheung, music minister at Mandarin Baptist Church in Los Angeles, Calif., leads the congregation in the hymn “O Zion Haste” during the IMB’s missionary appointment service May 22.

“This girl most likely died having never heard the Good News of Christ,” Reid

says. “I was just overwhelmed with an urgency that there are people — real

people — who are dying because they’re drinking dirty water, but they’re dying

into a Christ-less eternity. And as that [truth] sat on me and filled my senses

… God confirmed in my heart that this is what I’m going to spend my life

doing.”

Their son convicted them

Like Reid, many of the new missionaries spoke of first hearing God’s call to

missions as teenagers or even children. For Ben and Olivia Harrison,* God used

the couple’s son, Matthew,* to ignite one of the first sparks that would

eventually lead them to leave their Georgia

home to share Christ in Central Asia.

Two years ago, Matthew caught his parents off guard while the family was

praying for Muslims during Ramadan.

“We were explaining to the kids how there were Muslims in our own community,” Harrison

says, referencing a mosque less than a mile from the church where he serves as

an associate pastor. “My son, Matthew, who was 5 at the time, looks at me and

says, ‘Daddy, we’ve got to go there and tell those people about Jesus.’

“My wife looked at me like, ‘So, what are you going to tell him?’” Harrison

laughs. “Immediately my mind fills up with a million reasons about why that’s a

bad idea.”

Harrison promised Matthew he’d think about it; soon he

found himself face to face with the mosque’s inter-faith liaison who was

curious to know why Harrison wanted to meet him.

“I’ve lived in this community for five years. I drive by the mosque and every

Friday the parking lot is full of cars — I’m ashamed to say I don’t know a

single Muslim in my own community,” Harrison told him.

But that was just the beginning. While Harrison built

relationships at the mosque, the Harrisons’ children

asked if the family could continue praying for Muslims after Ramadan ended. Two

years later, it is still part of the family’s evening devotion, a habit they

credit for “breaking their hearts” for the Muslim world.

“Every night we’re praying for an unengaged, unreached people group and asking

the Lord to send somebody to go. Eventually we came to realize, He’s calling us

to go!” Harrison says.

Lawyer turned missionary

Dustin Jones* was an attorney in Atlanta, Ga., before he and his wife, Miriam,*

answered God’s call to share Jesus in North Africa and the Middle East in 2008.

During the couple’s two years as short-term missionaries, Jones says he learned

God can use anyone to spread the gospel — even a lawyer.

As proof, Jones tells the story of a young Arab student named Fadi* whom he led

to Christ. Introduced by mutual friends, Jones spent months delving through the

Bible with Fadi, meeting at a tea shop every Sunday from 7 p.m. to midnight

— or later.

Fadi wrestled with some of the things Jones was teaching because they were

contrary to the small bit of Gospel exposure he’d received growing up in his

country.

Eventually, Jones and Fadi agreed to go to a priest to

settle the issue. Jones was stunned by what he heard.

“Finally the priest turned to him and said, ‘Here’s the problem, Fadi — you’re

ignorant and you can never understand the Bible. You need to quit reading it

because it will only confuse you. If you have a question, you need to come to

one of us priests and we will tell you what to believe,’” Jones says.

For several months afterward, Fadi would come right to the edge of making the

decision to accept Jesus but would pull back. Finally, after 18 months of

one-on-one discipleship and untold gallons of hot tea, he embraced Christ.

“Since that time, whenever I go out (to share the gospel) Fadi goes with me. He

goes as my interpreter,” Jones says. “We’ll go out for seven to eight hours at

a time and I keep asking him, ‘Is this OK? Is this messing up your school?’ He

says, ‘all I want to do is serve God.’”

Elliff’s challenge

After hearing the missionaries’ testimonies, IMB President Tom Elliff

challenged the crowd gathered at Mandarin with a question: “Does your heart beat

for missions?”

Speaking from Romans 1:14-17, Elliff outlined the qualities at the core of Paul’s

missions-driven heart, calling the Great Commission a “profound and personal

debt” that every Christian must pay.

“Sometimes we think we can discharge the debt by being in a church that does

mission work,” Elliff said. “Soon there will be 7 billion people on this globe.

Over half of them have very little access to the Gospel; 1.7 billion of them

will die without hearing the name of Jesus, unless you and I join (these

missionaries) who go to share the Gospel.”

For missionaries like Reid, that debt often involves personal sacrifice.

The semester after returning from South Africa, Reid remembers wrestling with

his call to missions late one night in his dorm room — a letter of acceptance

from a Bible college in one hand and a contract to play semi-professional

soccer in the other.

“That was always my dream,” Reid says. “Growing up I always wanted to play

soccer at a high, high level and had pursued that in college.”

But he says the image of that South African girl’s face weighed heavily on him —

like an anchor tied to his heart. He turned down the soccer contract and

decided to transfer to the Bible college.

“There were several times in my life when I needed to make a big decision and

that girl’s face would stick out…. It’s something that I’ll remember for as

long as I live.”

*Names changed for security reasons.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Graham is a senior writer at IMB.)