RICHMOND, Va. Before the installation of Paul Chitwood as the 13th president of the International Mission Board on Feb. 6, four missionaries with Texas ties were among 19 commissioned in a sending ceremony at Grove Avenue Baptist Church in Richmond.
The four Texans joined the more than 3,600 Southern Baptist international missionaries.
SBC leaders from national entities, seminaries and state conventions attended the celebration, which included remarks by SBC President J.D. Greear, a charge by former IMB President Tom Elliff and a response by Chitwood. WMU Executive Director Sandy Wisdom-Martin and IMB President Emeritus Jerry Rankin also participated in the service, which featured testimonies from the 19 new missionaries.
Andy and Kesiah Morris, with their daughter, Olivia, are being sent by Travis Avenue Baptist Church in Fort Worth to serve in South Korea.
“As an international couple, it always seemed like we were caught between two different worlds,” Andy Morris said. “While our marriage was strong and our lives filled with reasons to be content, there was something deeper happening in our relationship. It was God who was calling us to go out into multicultural ‘in-between’ spaces.”
“One day last summer, we finally recognized this and made peace with the idea of uprooting ourselves and moving overseas,” Kesiah Morris said. “A few days later, with a divine appointment, [God] opened up the door and gave us a clear and unexpected call upon our lives to go as missionaries.
Arc and Rachel Crownover met as students at Southwestern Seminary, where Rachel was pursuing the study of missions.
“While I was in East Asia on a hands-on assignment, Arc went to missions week at Southwestern and learned about the lostness in Germany,” Rachel said.
“Burdened deeply by that lostness, I knew that we had to help, so when [Rachel] came back, I married her, and when we finished our degrees we spent almost three years in Germany with the IMB,” Arc said.
“We felt God call us to long-term service, so with our four children, we will be headed back to Germany to fulfill this calling,” Rachel added.
The Crownovers are being sent by NewBrook Church in Fort Worth.
The calling to go to the nations is one that Southern Baptists have sought to support since the Southern Baptist Convention’s beginnings. Unity around the Great Commission is core to Southern Baptist identity, Tom Elliff said in his charge to Chitwood and the new missionaries.
“I sat there and cried thinking about how wonderful it is that we have the privilege of joining in this incredible mission of God of sending these people around the world,” Elliff said. “That’s happened thousands and thousands of times as the International Mission Board has, by the grace of God, had the privilege of doing that.”
Preaching from Philippians 2, Elliff reminded those gathered that Southern Baptists share a sacred mission, a solemn mandate that should not be taken lightly, and a specific manner in which we are to live our lives.
Reminding the new appointees that the earliest Southern Baptist missionaries packed their belongings in caskets knowing they would never return, Elliff stressed the importance of the word “together.”
“From the outset, there were people who realized that we can do better together than we can apart,” Elliff said.
In 1925, Southern Baptists came together again to form the Cooperative Program, Elliff said.
“That’s when we realized that if we really wanted to exponentially multiply the ability to send people around the globe, this was going to be the best way to do it. The best way is to do things together.”
Chitwood responded to Elliff’s charge by asking the newly appointed missionaries and members of the home office staff to stand, acknowledging that they, with missionaries around the world and state and denominational leaders, have “made room” for him “in their hearts.”
Concerning lost people around the world “who most of us will never know until and unless we see them around the throne,” Chitwood added, “thank you for making room for them in your hearts, your prayers, your giving, going and sending.”
The Sending Celebration service took place during an IMB trustees meeting in Richmond, Va., that also included the election of Todd Lafferty as the 173-year-old entity’s executive vice president and the affirmation of Roger Alford as vice president of communication.
—with reporting by Ann Lovell