As a young girl, as Ashley Sparkman listened to stories of missionaries serving around the world, she told God she would “go” to take the gospel to people who had never heard it. In college, as she studied physical therapy, she began to ask God to expand her horizons to go on mission.
Photo by Matt Jones
Messengers to the 2017 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting pray for 31 new International Mission Board missionaries as they are commissioned. “Southern Baptists, this is part of, if not the primary reason we came together in the first place …” said IMB President David Platt.
Now, years later, Sparkman was one of 31 missionaries, including five families with ties to North Carolina, appointed by Southern Baptist churches in obedience to God’s call to take His gospel to people around the world. Southern Baptist messengers rejoiced with the new missionaries during a June 13 “Sending Celebration” at the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Phoenix.
“From prayerwalking in West Africa, to fitting wheelchairs and sharing the gospel in the Eastern Europe, to Bible stories and dressing wounds in the desert, [God] affirmed His call on my heart to the nations and brought me from a place of timidity to sharing truth,” said Sparkman, who is sent by Calvary Baptist Church in Longview, Texas, to share the hope of Christ in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Eliza Hudson* was in second grade when a friend told her, “I don’t know Jesus. I’m from Lebanon.”
“I knew then, if they didn’t know, I would go tell them,” Hudson said.
Today, the displacement of Middle Eastern refugees gives Hudson and her husband William a new opportunity to engage unreached peoples with Jesus Christ. Their family of three will serve among refugees in Europe.
Sam Moon* is the eldest son in a Buddhist family. But even as a child, “the Lord did not stop me from sharing the gospel with my family,” Moon told messengers. “I faced persecution and disadvantage in the workplace for last 15 years. The Lord did not stop me from sharing the gospel with my coworkers.”
Sophia Moon said she and Sam have shared the gospel with many people groups for the last 10 years. As the first Christian missionaries of their entire family, the Moons are willing to obey God’s calling to serve in Central Asia along with their three children.
The ‘primary reason’
International Mission Board President David Platt said he recently was reminded of the astounding need to take the gospel to a lost world. Just a few days earlier, he was waking up in a remote village high in the Himalayas, in the northern part of Nepal, near Tibet.
Photo by Matt Jones
Kevin and Victoria Singerman were two of the 31 missionaries recognized during the International Mission Board Sending Celebration June 13 during the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting. The Singerman family, from First Baptist Church in Fairborn, Ohio, are going to Uganda.
“For five days, I was walking through village after village, and apart from a few Christians who recently moved to those mountains, there wasn’t one follower of Christ to be found. Not one,” Platt said. “Nine million people spread across 24 people groups in that particular region, and out of those 9 million people, it’s estimated that less than 100 of them are Christians.
“Most of these millions have never heard of Christ. They haven’t even heard His name. You’ll ask, ‘Do you know anything about Jesus?’ and they’ll say, ‘Who’s that?’”
Platt recounted drinking butter tea with one family who had a statue of Buddha on their wall, with silver cups in front of the statue. The family shared how every morning they wake up about 4:30 a.m., and before they go out to work in the fields, they fill the cups with water, place a candle in them, and light the candle to offer worship to the Buddha. And they just assume that everybody worships the same way and believes the same things because it’s the way their ancestors worshiped for generations.
“I just want to remind us that the reason we came together over 170 years ago [as a convention] and the reason we’re here in Phoenix this week is to change the future of little girls and boys and moms and dads like these in Nepal all over the world,” Platt emphasized.
“And if no one goes as a missionary to them – someone sent out beyond where they live to places where the gospel has not gone – then those people will continue for generation after generation without ever hearing the gospel.
“Southern Baptists, this is part of, if not the primary reason we came together in the first place: to send out and support missionaries, men and women and their families going out from our churches for the spread of the gospel where it hasn’t gone,” Platt said.
“The stage is set for limitless Southern Baptists to take the gospel to the nations,” he said. “And my question for us tonight is, Will we send them?”
To learn more about pathways to serve on mission, visit IMB.org.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Julie McGowan is public relations manager for IMB.)