DALLAS?”We were your typical American family?two kids, a dog and house in the suburbs,” Ryan Williams shared as one of dozens of testimonies offered March 16 at an International Mission Board missionary appointment service hosted by First Baptist Church in Dallas.
Before following God’s call overseas, Williams was a general contractor. His wife, Melinda, was a math teacher. After an evangelism-focused Sunday School series at Cottonwood Creek Baptist Church in Allen sparked their interest in sharing their faith, the Williamses couldn’t imagine doing anything else.
The Williamses are trading their “comfortable Christian life” in McKinney, to share Jesus and plant churches in Romania, where they will serve as logistics coordinators for a small IMB team.
Sebastian Vazquez and his wife, Erin, are carrying on a family legacy, serving among international university students in Toronto, Canada, as fourth-generation church planters.
Nearly 100 years ago, Vazquez’s great-grandfather, Angel, was led to Christ in Argentina by a Southern Baptist missionary from Mississippi. Angel, a baker who immigrated to Argentina from Spain, eventually became a church planter, as did his son, Ramon (Vazquez’s grandfather). Ramon’s son, Raul (Vazquez’s father), became a pastor and church planter in Texas after the Vazquez family moved there.
“At first, I carried it (his family’s legacy) as a burden because I thought that it was something that was pushing me into ministry, sort of like the family business,” Sebastian Vazquez says. “But now I really have peace with it and love to share the story because I really think it shows God’s faithfulness?a missionary 100 years ago who probably never realized that the one little baker he led to the Lord would be the first of four generations of church planters.”
The Vazquez’s, Williams’ and two other couples are the only Texas-related missionaries who can be identified publicly with the other 18 going to areas where their security would be compromised. David and Chara Paul from Grand Prairie will be serving the European Peoples affinity group, having first recognized God’s leading them while seeing him work in Vietnam. John and Suzie Hailes of Commerce will minister among Sub-Saharan African Peoples.
Unidentified Southern Baptist representatives have ties to these SBTC-affiliated churches: Cottonwood Creek Baptist in Allen, First Baptist and Southcliff Baptist in Fort Worth, Mosaic of Arlington, First Baptist in Newark and Northwest in Houston.
For Matt Hartwell,* who pastors a Southern Baptist church in Texas, affirmation of God’s call came on a short-term mission trip to Ecuador with his wife, Lilly.* A year later, on another short-term trip, God revealed where they would be serving. As the Hartwells prayerwalked an unreached mountain village in North Africa and the Middle East, His direction was clear.
“We really felt God speak to both of us, saying ‘This will be home,'” Hartwell remembered. The couple is preparing to return to that same mountain area where they will pioneer Southern Baptists’ efforts to spread the gospel.
Fifteen of the 67 appointees are bound for service in North Africa and the Middle East?a region that’s experienced an unprecedented season of unrest since the beginning of 2011. Those missionaries include Hank and Ruby Greene,* who have the unique challenge of sharing Jesus with Deaf Muslims.
“If governments that have previously opposed the gospel are toppling, this is a pretty good opportunity to go in,” he said. “We may as well take advantage while the foundations are cracked and let the gospel fill the gaps.”
The appointment service was a historic event for Southern Baptists’ Deaf missions work. The Greenes were among six missionaries specifically appointed to reach the Deaf, the largest number in a single appointment service. More than 250 Deaf attended the service, including several Deaf pastors and Jim Dermon, president of the Southern Baptist Convention of the Deaf.
Missionary calling isn’t reserved for pastors and those with careers in ministry. Many of the new appointees came from secular careers with little or no professional ministry experience. Their work won’t necessarily fit the stereotypical missionary mold, either.
George Dyer has spent much of his life in front of a computer. But after a short-term mission trip to Russia, the 50-year-old Nebraska man felt God leading him to give up his job in information technology to serve overseas. Dyer and his wife, Laura, are going to Chile, where he’ll use his computer skills to provide technical support for hundreds of Southern Baptist missionaries working throug