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

    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.)

    11/18/2009 10:22:00 AM by Don Graham, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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