IMB couples follow God, find each other
Erich Bridges, Baptist Press
September 19, 2011

IMB couples follow God, find each other

IMB couples follow God, find each other
Erich Bridges, Baptist Press
September 19, 2011

ORLANDO, Fla. – Who says romance can’t blossom in far-flung


For Brent and Lisa Williams*, it began in a tropical location. But it sure wasn’t

a beach or a singles’ resort.

“Deep in the jungles of Central America, we found God’s passion for the lost,

and for each other,” Brent said during an appointment service for 77 new

International Mission Board (IMB) missionaries at First Baptist Church in

Orlando, Fla., Sept. 14.

Both were serving as single missionaries with another evangelical organization

when they met a decade ago. They were following God individually but discovered

they could serve Him even more joyfully and effectively together. Now they’re

returning to missions as a couple.

“As a wife and mother of four, I eagerly accept (God’s) call,” Lisa declared. “Here

am I. Send me. We are His voice proclaiming truth” to the lost.

They aren’t the only new missionary couple who found each other while pursuing

a higher passion: lifting the name of Christ among the nations. Frank and Judy

Bennett* were serving in different countries when they encountered each other

in an Asian megacity.

“God’s miracle: We met, fell in love, returned to the U.S. three years ago and

started a family,” she said.

Added her husband: “Now, we’re excited to head back to Asia, serving together

to expand God’s kingdom.”

For other couples, God’s mission call has opened whole new dimensions in what

it means to serve together. Kate Todd’s* husband Ronald* was an IMB staff

member when he sensed the Lord’s leading to go overseas himself.

IMB photo

Don and Jane Jones of Oklahoma were reappointed as missionaries to Africa after prior service in South America. They joined many other married couples among the 77 missionaries appointed Sept. 14 at First Baptist Church in Orlando, Fla. Some of the couples actually met each other overseas while serving as single missionaries. Others deepened their spiritual partnership by answering God’s call to go together.

“I thought he was crazy,” Kate admitted. “I just wanted a ‘normal’ life. But

after working with missionary families in the U.S. and abroad, God showed me a ‘new

normal’ and a peace about going.”

The single missionaries appointed in Orlando share the same determination to

obey God as the couples do – despite the challenge of going it alone.

“Last year, living in a Haitian village devastated by the earthquake, I was

asked how I could leave home and live in these conditions,” recalled Timothy

Stratton.* “How could I not, when so many are hurting?” His next stop is a

region of the world containing many of the largest and least-reached Muslim

people groups.

Lauren Moses* served as a two-year missionary journeyman in the same region

several years ago. She’s going back, she hopes, for the long term.

“Even in the very difficult days, I had the peace that comes without

understanding,” Moses said. “I knew that I was completely where I needed to be

… I realized this was not just a scary foreign city, but home to Muslim women

I had grown to love. I am God’s heart to these women.”

The new missionaries, commissioned by International Mission Board trustees

during the service, will work among people groups stretched across four

continents. After they spoke of their calling, IMB President Tom Elliff put

their individual stories into perspective.

“God always associates our faith with our behavior,” Elliff said. “Faith is not

works, but faith works. That’s what we read in the Scripture…. Read Hebrews

11, the great roll call of men and women of faith. They didn’t make (the list)

because of what they thought or how they felt. They didn’t make it because they

stayed someplace and nodded in assent. They’re in the roll call because they

did what God said.”

It was the same with Jesus, Elliff reminded listeners. Christ didn’t stand on

the outskirts of cities, pronounce a blanket healing or judgment and head for

the next place. He personally went into the dirtiest, darkest and most painful

places and said, “Stretch out your hand” to the leper, and “Take up your bed

and walk” to the crippled man.

“These (new missionaries) are saying: ‘I’m not interested in carving out some

little comfortable spot in the world and lulling myself to sleep. I am

interested in going to the hardest places,’” Elliff explained.

“We talk about these unengaged, unreached people groups – 3,800 peoples in the

world who, as far as we know, we’re unaware of any strategy to get boots on the

ground among them to evangelize, disciple and plant a reproducing church,”

Elliff said. “But what ought to excite you is that this is the last 3,800

unengaged, unreached people groups in this world out of over 11,000 peoples.

Friends, you don’t even have to stand on tiptoe in this church to see the end,

when every language, people, tribe and nation can be gathered around the throne

of God, knowing and worshipping our Lord Jesus Christ. And these folks are

saying it is a Gospel for everyone in every place. They want you to know that.”

Elliff also issued an invitation to everyone listening in the audience:

“I’m going to ask every person who will embrace whatever else God says to you

about world missions to come and (say) … ‘I will join with my pastor and

church leadership as God leads our church in embracing the unengaged, unreached

peoples of this world,’” Elliff added “Frankly, I cannot imagine saying, ‘No, I

won’t do that. I won’t join the pastor, I won’t lead the church, I will not

embrace whatever else God says to me about world missions.’

“Maybe in the process of these next few moments, God is speaking to your heart

and saying, ‘I have a specific task in mind. I’d like for you to go,’” Elliff

continued. “You say, ‘What in the world does that mean? How does that begin?’

Well, ask one of these new missionaries. Does that mean, ‘I’m on the next jet

out of Orlando’? It might. I doubt it, though. For some of you it might mean to

go. For others it might mean to ‘let go,’ or help somebody else to go….

Missions is not rocket science. Just start with this: If God calls, say yes.”

As the new missionaries lined the front of the sanctuary, hundreds of people

came forward.

“This room has seen a lot of incredible things,” said senior pastor David Uth,

who also is an International Mission Board trustee. “But there has never been

an event, I believe, in the history of First Baptist Church Orlando that has

greater impact on the world than what we are doing here tonight.”

*Names changed.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Erich Bridges is global correspondent for

the International Mission Board.)