Nathan and Aimee Pressley* are not easily deterred. After the International Service Corps program was suspended by the International Mission Board (IMB) in 2010, the husband-wife applicants relocated from their home in Kentucky to a city in the Midwest.
Their goal: to live in the United States among the unreached people group they wanted to serve overseas.
The Pressleys are two of 50 new missionaries appointed Aug. 27 at The Heights Baptist Church in Colonial Heights, Va. They join 4,842 IMB missionaries now serving around the world.
The appointment service capped several days of meetings near Richmond, Va., when IMB trustees elected David Platt, 36, pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala., as president of the 169-year-old mission board. Platt succeeds former pastor and Southern Baptist Convention president Tom Elliff, 70, who has served as IMB president since 2011. Elliff asked IMB’s trustees earlier this year to begin an active search for his successor.
Platt preached from Romans 9 before a nearly packed auditorium, including two new missionaries from his church. “Every saved person this side of heaven,” he said, “owes the gospel to every lost person this side of hell.
IMB photo by Chris Carter
The beauty of the Gospel and the burden for missions go together, said new IMB President David Platt during the appointment service at The Heights Baptist Church.
“What else can we give our lives to that is more important than this?” Platt asked. “We’ve been invited by God to be part of making His salvation known among people that He loves, and we know that when we share this gospel, people are going to be saved … somebody from every tribe, nation and people group.
“They are going to be around the throne that day,” Platt continued to a responsive audience, “which means if we go to the hardest, most resistant, most rebellious people group and preach this gospel, somebody is coming out!”
God promises such an outcome, Platt asserted, “for their salvation, His glorification and our satisfaction.”
Dependent, determined, undeterred
Nathan Pressley, as a seminary student at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kentucky, began researching where he and his wife might serve internationally.
“We identified an African unreached people group with whom we wanted to share the gospel,” Pressley said. “Then we moved our family to a city in the United States that has tens of thousands of refugees from this people group.”
For the past four years, the Pressleys have visited with refugees, eaten their food and learned their language. In the process, they also taught English, tutored and shared the gospel.
“We decided to move to the Midwest because we were unable to move overseas,” Aimee Pressley said. “During the past four years, God has confirmed our calling to spend our lives working among this unreached people group.”
The Pressleys’ story echoes the experience of other new missionaries who could have chosen not to respond to God’s call to share the gospel with people overseas. In 2007, Jillian Oatley* was thrilled with the possibility of serving as an IMB journeyman among an Islamic people group. But three weeks before the IMB conference when she could formally request the position, fear gripped her.
“I had constant nightmares related to serving in this context,” Oatley said. “It was something I had never experienced.”
Because of the nightmares, Oatley attended the conference looking for a job in a different context. But on the second day of the conference, God’s Word redirected her.
“The Lord brought me to Jeremiah 1:7-8,” Oatley recalled. “Paraphrased, it says, ‘Go to the people that I have sent you to and do not fear them.’”
Instantly, “a peace washed over me and I knew the Spirit was telling me to go to Central Asia,” Oatley said. “The nightmares stopped, and I listed that location as my first choice for places to serve.”
Overcoming her fear, Oatley thrived and built relationships with a few Muslim women. One of them became a follower of Jesus. Oatley extended her assignment to serve an additional year to continue discipling the new believer.
‘Worth dying for’
As new missionaries shared testimonies of their willingness to leave jobs, families and comforts to go to the nations, Platt reminded them that, ultimately, “this mission will succeed.”
Quoting Romans 15:21, he said, “‘Those who have never been told of Him will see and those who have never heard will understand.’ … Those are promises.”
Platt also shared Matthew 24:14, which says, “This message will be preached as a testimony to all nations and then the end will come.”
While Platt acknowledged that many people debate the meaning of Matthew 24:14, he quoted George Ladd, a New Testament theologian: “God alone knows the definition of terms. I cannot precisely define who ‘all the nations’ are. But I do not need to know. I know only one thing: Christ has not yet returned. Therefore the task is not yet done. When it is done, Christ will come. Our responsibility is not to insist on defining the terms; our responsibility is to complete the task. So long as Christ does not return, our work is undone. Let us get busy and complete our mission.”
“It’s going to happen one day!” Platt asserted, as the audience responded with applause and cheers. “This is what we work for and strive for! This is the vision worth dying for!”
The next IMB appointment service will be Nov. 9 at First Baptist Church, Olive Branch, Miss.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tess Rivers is a writer for the International Mission Board.)