IMB appoints fourth-largest missionary group

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.?Leading Southern Baptists to be on mission with God to bring all the peoples of the world to saving faith in Jesus Christ remained the focus of the May 22-24 International Mission Board trustee meeting as trustees appointed the fourth largest group of new missionaries.

The trustees heard from staff of successes in reaching people previously resistant to the gospel and of an anticipated record-breaking year of giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions.

The IMB mission statement was reflected in President Jerry Rankin’s report as he described his efforts at reassuring a group of missionaries assembled in a region where the work is discouraging due to little response.

“Look at the number of new missionaries,” he recalled telling them, referring to several hundred IMB personnel. “It signifies the commitment of the IMB to reach the lostness of Western Europe. You’re here because it’s important, because of what God is preparing to do here,” Rankin reported.

Board chairman Thomas Hatley of Rogers, Ark., recounted increases in the number of churches taking mission trips, giving to mission offerings, and individual Southern Baptists seeking appointment as missionaries as reasons to celebrate.

In his final report as chairman, Hatley repeated a challenge he delivered several years ago when he asked, “What is it going to take in numbers of personnel, sizes of budgets, and other resources to take the gospel to every unreached people group in the earth of a population 100,000 or more?”

Offering the conclusion reached by staff and trustees, Hatley said, “We will need to grow from about 5,200 missionaries to 8,000 and we will need to grow our budget from $280 million to half a billion dollars annually to reach this goal. This is in our grasp,” he insisted. “We have the resources in Southern Baptist life to make this happen in the next few years.”

Increased cooperation with the seminary community, clarified expectations concerning theological education on the field and “the best training program to date” at the Missionary Learning Center were among other signs of progress, he said. Even times of controversial deliberation led to improved communication with Southern Baptists, new opportunities for dialogue and improved accountability of trustees to one another, he noted.

“Though we are sometimes distracted for a moment we will always find a way to quickly bring our full attention back to the cause,” Hatley said. “We are now back on track, back on message, and back to days of advancement that are encouraging to all.”

Rankin praised Hatley’s two years as board chairman, stating, “I don’t know that we’ve had a chairman that has a shared vision and been so supportive of what we’re seeking to do at the IMB.”

The IMB president described recent travel that included meeting with fellowships of parents of IMB missionaries, Korean Baptists to enlarge partnerships with Korean American Southern Baptists and Baptist Union leadership in Western Europe to envision further ministry in that region. He also spent a day distributing Scripture throughout Muslim villages, he said.

“Beyond the experience in Western Europe, our missionaries around the world are struggling with matters of morale,” Rankin said. While continuing on to visit personnel in East Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, Rankin said he recognized that confusion occurs as a result of conflict, leading to uncertainty or insecurity.

“Our missionaries are aware of all that’s going on in the Southern Baptist Convention. They’re aware of the controversy that’s swirled around our board, creating a sense of uncertainty and insecurity. Where’s it all going to fall out? Where’s it going

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