Mission boards shuffle personnel as war begins
October 12 2001 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

Mission boards shuffle personnel as war begins | Friday, Oct. 12, 2001

Friday, Oct. 12, 2001

Mission boards shuffle personnel as war begins

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor Mission agencies of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) have temporarily relocated field personnel due to security concerns associated with U.S. military action in Afghanistan.

Following the Sept. 11 terrorist assaults against the United States, militant extremists in various parts of the world threatened reprisals against Americans and their assets if the United States attacked Afghanistan. Demonstrations in several countries followed the initial strikes, but most workers in sensitive areas had already relocated when "Operation Enduring Freedom" was launched on Oct. 7.

Clyde Meador, associate vice-president in the operations office of the SBC's International Mission Board (IMB), said some people had been moved temporarily, and "at this point all our personnel are fine." IMB officials were remaining in close contact, he said, and making decisions on a day-by-day basis.

In a statement released through Baptist Press on Oct. 9, IMB president Jerry Rankin said families were temporarily withdrawn from the most vulnerable situations and others in isolated or remote assignments were relocated. "Some public events overseas were postponed, some travel restricted and a few volunteer projects canceled for the immediate future," he said.

Barbara Baldridge, co-coordinator for global missions at CBF, said personnel in the most sensitive areas had moved to safer locations. Some might be able to return soon, she said, based on reports of local conditions. "We're looking at each one on an individual basis now," she said.

In most situations, CBF mission leaders leave the decision of whether to evacuate up to the individual missionary or couple, according to a CBF press release issued Oct. 9. Gary Baldridge, co-coordinator for global missions, said, "We realize the tension between staying to give incarnational witness on site and leaving temporarily to lessen the danger to local friends and to the missionary."

The press release said most personnel in Southeast Asia had relocated, while those in the Middle East and North Africa were on high alert and ready to move if necessary.

Meador said IMB personnel in Central Asia, South Asia and Southeast Asia were watching the situation with special care.

He declined to name specific countries, other than to say no IMB personnel are currently in Afghanistan.

Rankin said Baptists should see the upheaval as a time of opportunity, when people across the world might be more open to the gospel.

"This is not a time for putting missionary activity on hold," he said. "It is a time for seizing the opportunity to proclaim our living Savior in every effort to extend the kingdom of God into the strongholds of darkness."

Avery Willis, IMB senior vice president of overseas operations, recently visited some relocated missionaries who serve Muslim people groups.

"They recognize that they will have to do things in a different way in many locations," Willis said. "But they are focused on the same strategy: reaching every people group and giving every person a chance to hear, understand and respond to the gospel."

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10/12/2001 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments
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