— 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
“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
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
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
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.’”
After hearing the missionaries’ testimonies, IMB President Tom Elliff
challenged the crowd gathered at Mandarin with a question: “Does your heart beat
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.)