On June 9, the International Mission Board (IMB) commissioned 61 missionaries in a virtual Sending Celebration. The missionaries represent churches in 15 states and will be serving in all nine of the IMB’s affinities. Sending Celebrations provide a forum for Southern Baptists to commission new missionaries and hear their call to missions.
IMB trustees voted on and approved 59 of the missionaries this spring in a virtual board meeting. Two missionaries were appointed in January. The 61 missionaries were to be commissioned at this summer’s SBC Annual Meeting in Orlando, Florida, but the conference was canceled due to COVID-19.
The cancellation of the annual meeting didn’t keep Southern Baptists from celebrating the missionaries. Southern Baptists gathered around computer screens across the country to watch a video of the missionaries’ testimonies of how the Lord called them to the mission field.
IMB President Paul Chitwood said this was not an opportunity to be missed.
“We’re very thankful to be able to gather in a new and different way to celebrate what God is doing among the nations and in the lives of your new missionaries,” Chitwood said.
This is the first Sending Celebration since November 2018 where missionaries will be welcomed by all nine IMB affinities: American, Central Asian, Deaf, East Asian, European, Northern Africa and Middle Eastern, South Asian, Southeast Asian and Sub-Saharan African.
“Throughout our 175-year history, Southern Baptists have maintained an uninterrupted witness among the nations, in spite of famines, wars, civil unrest and even – as we are experiencing right now – a pandemic,” Chitwood said. “We’re grateful God has continued to expand His kingdom and allowed us to join Him in His work. And there is still work to do. That is why IMB is still sending Southern Baptist missionaries.”
At every Sending Celebration, new missionaries briefly share about their call. On June 9, many missionaries shared that they made a commitment to serve because of a short-term mission trip. Several said the Lord called them to international missions before their spouses heard the call of the Lord, so they prayerfully waited for the Lord to work in the hearts of their spouses.
Eric and Heather watch the Sending Celebration on their laptop. Their group of 61 missionaries includes Chris and Sara, who are moving to the Americas, and Paul and Christina, who are moving to Brazil to equip local leaders at a seminary.
This was true of Eric and Heather’s call to missions.
“Life as a husband, father and firefighter was comfortable until I realized God hadn’t called me to be comfortable. After endless prayers, countless trials, seven children and medical school, I wrestled with God and told Him I wasn’t a missionary,” Eric said.
Heather felt differently. After a missionary family visited their church and shared about their ministry, she knew the Lord was calling them on a similar journey.
“I just had to wait on [Eric] to catch up,” Heather said.
Ten years later, God gave both Eric and Heather a desire to serve in Africa. Their family is being sent by Ransomed Community Church in Florence, Ala., to serve in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Melissa grew up on the mission field in Nigeria where her parents served with the Foreign Mission Board (now the IMB). She said the necessity of sharing the good news was instilled in her at a young age, so much so that she wrote to the FMB at age 12 to volunteer to serve.
Melissa’s husband, Nick, studied forestry in graduate school. His life was heading in a different direction until he learned at a missions conference how he could use agriculture on the mission field.
Nick and Melissa are being reappointed after a time back in the U.S. They previously served in Kenya for 15 years and then in East Asia for seven years.
“God’s call never stops,” Melissa said.
They are being sent by Chet’s Creek Church in Florida to serve in Southeast Asia.
Paul and Christina’s journey to the mission field spanned four continents and five countries. Both Paul and Christina’s families emigrated from South Korea to South America, Paul’s family to Brazil, and Christina’s family to Paraguay. They met through Paul’s pastor in São Paulo, Brazil.
Paul and Christina moved to the U.S. and then England to pursue theological training. They are now moving to Brazil to train and develop church leaders at a theological seminary.
The couple said they are thankful for the prayers and training in evangelism and discipleship provided by their home church, Berendo Street Baptist Church in Los Angeles, Calif.
Chitwood said, “These faithful workers are going out to share the gospel to the very ends of the earth. Your prayers and financial support are needed now more than ever. Every church, regardless of its size or resources, has a part to play in reaching every nation with the gospel. And the nations are waiting. Thank you for doing your part.”
Did you miss the Sending Celebration? Watch it below.
Hear the missionary testimonies, including Naya Wilder’s* story of how the Lord led her to serve with the Deaf affinity after meeting a classroom of Deaf children on a vacation to Southeast Asia. Wilder is being sent by Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in South Carolina.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Caroline Anderson is a writer for the IMB. This story originally appeared on imb.org. Reprinted with permission.)
*Name changed for security