On Missions and Missionaries

I have just returned from Watertown, Wisconsin, where the Calvary Baptist Church, led by Pastor Bob Loggans, graciously hosted the 60th annual meeting of the Baptist World Mission on which it has been my privilege to have served as a board member with 30 or so other pastors and Christian leaders for forty of those sixty years. The Deputation Committee and the Fields Committee interviewed about 30 missionary units (either husband and wife, or single missionaries) hearing of and sharing in both their blessings and burdens. As always, the BLESSING was ours, i.e., the committee members who had the privilege of interacting with either appointee missionaries on deputation attempting to garner enough support, including prayer and financial, to go to the field that God has burdened them with to plant New Testament churches, or veteran missionaries, returning home to report to their sending church and to their supporting churches and individuals, who have been involved in the planting, cultivating and harvesting of churches in places that encompass the globe. Ellen and I returned to Indianapolis rejoicing once again to have been able to see and hear first-hand what God is doing in and through the lives of men and women who are living out literally Proverbs 3:5,6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct thy paths.”

Though it would be very difficult if not impossible for me to communicate my heart’s response and feeling for the missionaries we heard from this past week, I am going to attempt to share with you some observations out of my forty years of being vitally involved in world missions through Baptist World Mission. I first met with the board in a small office in Decatur, Alabama when Dr. Monroe Parker and the few of us present then met to discuss the needs, issues and ministries of the ambassadors for Christ that BWM was serving as a service agency with the missionary’s local, sending church enabling through any means available to us to encourage, support, enable and pray for those God-called emissaries of our Lord Christ in the planting of New Testament Churches worldwide. Dr. Fred Moritz succeeded Dr. Parker as the BWM Director and then, Dr. Bud Steadman caught his mantle and has served faithfully and ably for more than a dozen years, assisted by a very capable and dedicated staff of field directors and home-office personnel. There are currently a little less than 300 missionaries who are served through the auspices of BWM as a board that partners with the missionary’s sending church to assist these choice servants in getting to the field, in receiving regular prayer and financial support and, especially through the expertise of the board, in meeting logistical challenges that would be ordinarily most difficult for the sending church to discharge, such as visas, transfers of funds, insurances, emergencies, etc. BWM has a long and sterling history of steadfastness in standing for and on the fundamentals of the faith and of serving churches and missionaries from those churches of like precious faith in doing what we can in our generation to advance the fulfilling of Christ’s commission to “Go and make disciples of all nations….” (Matt. 28:18-20)

It is so very encouraging to witness the dedication of men and women who are still hearing and heeding His call to “follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” Young couples with small children, toddlers and tots, who are anxious and excited about traveling to a hundred or more churches to share their burden for going to East Germany, Hungary, Chile, Ghana, Nepal, Japan, Cameroon, the Ivory Coast, Puerto Rico, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Ukraine, India, Ireland, USA, Albania and other fields in His vast vineyard. Some of the families we heard from have served 10, 20, 30, or even 50 or more years faithfully. I have had the privilege to watch these faithful servants give their lives joyfully in sacrificial service. We have “grown old together!” At each of these annual conferences our director directs the missionary units who are attending the annual meeting in what is called “The Parade of Nations.” Each family or single missionary introduces themselves, dressed in the dress which is common in the culture where they serve or hope to serve stating where they are ministering and how long they have been serving. When the last person has introduced himself and his family , then they join the others, all standing shoulder to shoulder across the front of the church in totality, many of them with flags of the nations where they are serving, and those of us in the auditorium, beholding this incredible work of the grace of God in calling, supporting and sustaining these servants of His, for a combined total of who knows how many years, planting hundreds of “Rescue Missions” (local churches) all across the continents, can only respond with a spontaneous standing (prolonged) ovation through tear-filled eyes.  This is the highlight of our year in participating on, in and through the mission endeavors of Baptist World Missions.

It is without doubt, most encouraging to witness first-hand the enthusiasm of these youthful men and women who have surrendered all to serve Him. One couple we met is going to Cameroon with four children, the oldest being eleven years of age. Hannah Schrock is going to the Ivory Coast with her husband Nathan, where Hannah’s parents have served for decades and where Hannah’s brother and his family are serving with small children. God is still calling and separating for Himself young people to execute in these last days His Great Commission to go and to make disciples in all the world.

But, on a sad note, we are not seeing as many young people answering the call to go today. The trend, unlike a few years ago, seems to be going downward. We pray earnestly the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers, and He does, but not in the numbers of 20 years or so ago when Bible colleges were preparing scores of young hearts to give their lives to world missions. It is an alarming trend and one that the solution for rests solely upon households of faith and local churches where potential 21st century missionaries are growing up. We need, as Jesus exhorted, to continue to beseech the Lord of the Harvest to send forth laborers, for the “fields are white unto harvest.” (Matt. 9:7,38)

Our task is not to bring the whole world to Christ, but to bring Christ to the whole world.” (A.J.Gordon)

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