Promises fulfilled: IMB, churches & 27 missionaries
"One day you will walk those dusty dirt roads," Carter felt God promise her.
Years later, in fulfillment of that promise, Carter is being sent by her church, Calvary Baptist in New Orleans, to train college students to share the Gospel in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Carter was one of 27 new missionaries appointed by the International Mission Board during a special "Sending Celebration" Aug. 24 near Richmond, Va. The celebration featured testimonies from each appointee, a scriptural charge from IMB President David Platt and emphasis on the integral role churches play in sending Southern Baptist missionaries.
Stanton* and Rachel Bender*, from Crosspointe Baptist Church in Vancouver, Wash., spoke of fulfilling the call they felt from God to work where Jesus Christ's name is unknown in Central Asia. When Rachel was 18, she attended a conference when God gave her a desire to share the Gospel among the nations. For Stanton, that desire came on his 14th birthday while he was on a short-term trip to Thailand.
"God showed me that He created me with skills and interests which I should use for His glory among the peoples of the world," Stanton said.
And Patrick and Erin Schwartz from Mill City Church in Lowell, Mass., told the celebration audience of God's call to take the Gospel to European Peoples in a years-long journey of obedience.
"At 15 years old, I placed faith in Jesus Christ," Erin said. "At 20 years old, I went on my first mission trip and saw the God of the nations at work. At 28 years old, my husband and I are moving overseas with our daughter to minister to European peoples."
"As a freshmen in college," Patrick recounted, "the Lord opened my eyes to His heart for the nations and, in turn, opened my heart to the idea of someday going.
"Ten years later as a husband, new father and homeowner, Jesus began to disrupt my plans of comfort with the thought of 'if not now, then when?'"
United in God's saving power
"Why are we celebrating sending missionaries tonight? Because we're united by the Gospel, enthralled in God's worship, and we're focused on mission," Platt said. "This is why we as an IMB, as an SBC, as a coalition of churches represented in this gathering tonight -- it's why we exist: because we believe we can do more together on mission than we can apart."
Platt said the unifying factor of people attending the sending celebration in person or via livestream was "not that we all come from the same background or traditions, the same ethnicity or socioeconomic status. We're not even in the same location. Now, what unites us together is that we've all come face to face with the saving power of God in the Gospel."
Preaching from Acts 13-14, Platt offered 16 ways Southern Baptists can pray for the new missionaries as they obey God's call to the nations:
* Pray that they would be confident in God's Word.
* Pray that they would be filled with God's Spirit.
* Pray for their victory in spiritual warfare.
* Pray for their success in Gospel witness.
* Pray for peace with other believers.
* Pray for favor with unbelievers.
* Pray that the Gospel will be clear through them.
* Pray that God will open hearts around them.
* Pray for their joy in the midst of suffering.
* Pray for their kindness in the midst of slander.
* Pray for supernatural power to accompany them.
* Pray for Christ-like humility to characterize them.
* Pray for their patience.
* Pray for their perseverance.
* Pray that God would use them to make disciples.
* Pray that God would use them to multiply churches.
Platt assured the new missionaries they have the prayer support of not only their 27 sending churches but also members from the tens of thousands of churches comprising the Southern Baptist Convention.
"We have 40,000 churches behind you saying, 'We are with you,' praying for you, giving to support you," he said. These 27 -- and all IMB missionaries -- are supported by Southern Baptists' generous gifts through the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.
Scott Harris, missions minister at Brentwood (Tennessee) Baptist Church and chairman of IMB's board of trustees, echoed that support in the benediction to the celebration, which included a time of fellowship and refreshment for the new missionaries and their families and friends.