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IMB appoints 55 despite financial hardship
Don Graham, Baptist Press
November 18, 2009
5 MIN READ TIME

IMB appoints 55 despite financial hardship

IMB appoints 55 despite financial hardship
Don Graham, Baptist Press
November 18, 2009

SHREVEPORT, La. — Despite the rocky economy and a red-line

budget, International Mission Board (IMB) trustees took a step of faith Nov. 10

when they celebrated the appointment of 55 new missionaries at Summer Grove

Baptist Church in Shreveport, La., in conjunction with the Louisiana Baptist

Convention (LBC) annual meeting.

Earlier this year, 25 of the 55 appointees were told they would be delayed

going to the mission field until 2010 because there wasn’t enough money to send

them. The global recession, decreased giving through the Cooperative Program

and a $29 million shortfall in the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering left the IMB

with a limited budget, forcing trustees to restrict new missionary

appointments.

But during the summer, Southern Baptists responded to the IMB’s financial

restrictions with a grassroots effort to raise additional support to send as many

of the delayed missionary candidates as possible before the end of 2009. IMB

leadership determined the extra gifts would be enough to send 25 of the 69

career candidates on hold, including Tim and Audrey Shepard.*

The Shepards had already quit their jobs, sold their house, said goodbye to

family and friends — even given away the family dog — when they got the news

their appointment was being delayed until 2010, potentially leaving them in

limbo for six months or more. But now they won’t have to wait and are already

preparing for their assignment in Asia.

BP photo

A girl carries the banner of Mauritania, West Africa, during the procession of flags at the IMB appointment service at Summer Grove Baptist Church in Shreveport, La. The 55 new missionaries bring the total number of IMB

missionaries to 5,512.

The Shepards previously served 15 years with the IMB but left the field in 2004

so their daughter could attend high school in the United States.

“We’re thrilled to be missionaries again,” Audrey Shepard said. “We have seen

how it is for missionaries that are sent without the support that Southern

Baptist missionaries have, and we know that in this economy they must be really

struggling.

“We don’t have that burden as Southern Baptists…. We can be on the field,

drawing people into the kingdom, and not think about where our next paycheck is

coming from, and that’s a tremendous blessing,” Mrs. Shepard said. “We have

faith in Southern Baptists that they will never let their missionaries go in

need; that they will always support missions, and they’ve proven that

throughout history.”

Zoe Parker,* who also was among the 25 appointees who would have been delayed,

is now getting ready to go to South Asia, where she’ll serve as a church

planter.

Born to an abusive, alcoholic father, Parker became a Christian at age 9, only

to turn her back on God at 16 when her boyfriend committed suicide. Parker says

she was angry at God because He didn’t seem to answer her prayers to heal her

family, and her boyfriend’s death was the last straw. She eventually married

and became a social worker, trying “to fix an unfixable world.” She remembers

sitting on urine-soaked sofas and fending off roaches while visiting clients’

homes — experiences she now recognizes as training ground for her work

overseas.

Then at 34, her life was rocked again by death when her husband, Carl, died

suddenly of a heart attack. But this time, instead of driving her away, the

death brought Parker back into a relationship with her Savior. Fifteen years later,

she is answering God’s call to share Christ’s love overseas.

“God has used everything with a purpose for getting me to this point,” Parker

said. “I’m very excited that God is allowing me to go (to the field) earlier

than expected…. I feel very humbled and very grateful.

“How do you say thank you in a situation like this? … It’s an honor and a

privilege to serve the Lord my God and to go on this adventure with Him,”

Parker added. “It’s not something that I take lightly or for granted.”

As a sign of their commitment to support the new

missionaries, Louisiana Baptists present for the appointment service took up

their own special offering of nearly $8,500. David Hankins, executive director

of the Louisiana Baptist Convention, called it a “second mile” offering, in

reference to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.

“Louisiana Baptists love missions, and we’re going to make a demonstration of

that tonight,” Hankins said, addressing the many church pastors in the audience.

“If someone compels you to go one mile, then you go a second mile. The first

mile is out of duty, the second mile is out of love. The first mile is what you

do under ordinary conditions; the second mile is what you do under difficult

conditions.”

*Name changed for security reasons.

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