Life-changing moments lead new missionaries

RICHMOND, Va. (BP) -- From a young age, Julie Linfield* thought missionaries were "those" people -- the adventurous types who like to travel to interesting places and eat strange foods. Such a life was not for her, she thought; she never had the desire to eat bugs or anything unusual like that.

Since he was young, Aaron,* Julie's future husband, wanted to be an international missionary -- and he had eaten bugs.

God brought the couple together and showed them that missions is not about radical experiences, such as eating strange foods, but instead about "God bringing together very different people to be united in worship at the foot of the cross," Aaron said. "Now our family is going to make Christ known to the lost in East Asia."

Aaron and Julie Linfield are two of 40 new missionaries appointed by IMB trustees in a Feb. 26 service at Great Hills Baptist Church in Austin, Texas.

Though God calls many people to missions service through churches, Christian camps or short-term mission trips, others sense God's direction through curious circumstances or influences. Other new missionaries shared how their journey –- no matter how unusual or atypical -- led them to be "totally His" in serving God overseas.

God called Michael Love* to missions through the unlikely combination of the Blackwood Brothers gospel band and movie heroes' international adventures, both of which encouraged Michael's interest in God's work in different countries and cultures.

Michael's wife, Mary,* says God "began drawing me to missions when the Olympics -- and the world -- came to Atlanta."

While Mary was in high school and working part-time at a shopping mall in the summer of 1996, she met people from around the world, such as tourists and Olympians. But the people who made the greatest impact on her were missionaries who had intentionally come to Atlanta to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

"And now, we're going in His power to be His heart to the people of Central Asia," Michael said.

Though Grace Winslow* heard God's call to missions at 22, she had some stipulations for God.

"I said, 'South America,'" Grace recalled. "He said, 'No.' I said, 'No teaching and no Muslim countries.' God said to teach English in the largest Muslim country in the world."

It was during her time as a journeyman in Southeast Asia that God gave Grace a love for Asian people, and now she will be His voice to university students in East Asia.

A place of surrender

During the service, International Mission Board President Tom Elliff addressed the families, friends and fellow church members of the new missionaries -- a departure from his typical message geared toward the appointees.

"I want to answer this question that some of you are asking [the missionaries]: 'Why are you going?'" Elliff said.

Elliff pointed to Isaiah 6, where the prophet had a vision of the Lord. If readers dig into this passage, Elliff said, they will find Isaiah was convinced of the sovereignty of God, convicted of his sin and called to service.

"But the thing I want you to see, the thing God wants you to see, is that Isaiah had an experience with God that changed his life -- he would never be the same after this experience." Elliff said. "And these folks sitting down here can say to you, 'Mom, Dad, friend, I've had a life-changing encounter with God.'"

But that life-changing encounter is not "the end of the sentence," Elliff said. The encounter leads to a place of surrender -- not a reluctant, foot-dragging surrender, but one similar to Isaiah's immediate response to God: "Here I am. Send me."

"What a joy to have children, to have friends, to have church members who've had such a life-changing experience with Christ that it's brought them to a place of eager surrender, so that they must go and share the light of the Gospel where it's never been shed before," Elliff said.

"That's the answer to your question."

The next appointment service will be May 14 at First Baptist Church of Spartanburg, S.C.


*Name changed. Laura Fielding is an IMB writer. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).