FIRST-PERSON: Traveling the world

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (BP) -- People love to travel. Part of the allure of doing something adventurous like joining the Navy, becoming a flight attendant or working as a crew member on a cruise ship is that you get to see the world.

A half-century ago I was a high school student in Korea when I first traveled by air from my hometown of Daegu to the capital city of Seoul. Until then I had never been to the airport. I was amazed to see so many airplanes lined up next to one another!

Since that initial experience, I have traveled to more than 70 countries by air or by sea. In a number of trips as a trustee of the International Mission Board from 1996-2006, I had the wonderful privilege of meeting with missionaries across the globe -- to pray, to listen, to encourage and to have fellowship with them. I am grateful to God that they were being used to spread the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

All those international trips opened my eyes to see how God has been working through Southern Baptists and through the faithful giving of our churches to the Cooperative Program. The fruit of all that travel was not limited to meeting new people and expanding my perspective of the world; it allowed me to come back with a renewed perspective of myself and my home mission field.

God's plan of redemption is for His children to travel throughout the world in obedience to the Great Commission. God called Abraham to be a missionary when he was 75 years old. He had to travel on foot from his hometown to an unknown destination (Genesis 12:1-9; Hebrews 11:8-10). Through his obedience, he became the father of many nations. Abraham was a pioneer missionary and the unknown land became the Promised Land for his descendants (Psalm 122:6-9, 147:2; Isaiah 65:17-25; Zechariah 14:11).

In His heart for the world, God sent His only Son Jesus as a missionary to this sinful world (John 3:16, 20:21). Sin entered this world when Adam and Eve disobeyed God's command (Genesis 3:1-19; Romans 5:12-17). The only way to save mankind from the bondage of sin is God's plan of salvation, in which Jesus died on the cross (Romans 3:23-26, 6:23; 1 Corinthians 1:18-25, 2:1-5; Ephesians 2:1-10; 2 Timothy 2:8-13; Hebrews 9:27-28).

When we repent and believe in Christ's saving work on the cross, we automatically become His missionaries with a commission to be His witnesses to ends of the earth (Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 1:8).

God has a gift for the world -- the free gift of salvation through the planting of the seeds of faith and the labor of reaping the harvest by the church. He called Saul, the persecutor of the church, to become a missionary for the purpose of planting churches (Acts 9:4-9, 9:15-18, 13:1-5). As the apostle Paul, he traveled all over Asia Minor and even to Europe to preach Christ and the message of the resurrected Jesus to the Gentiles. He planted many churches along the way so that through the church, all mankind will come to a saving knowledge of the Lord.

May we catch the missionary vision of our Lord for this world by expanding our hearts in both the act of going and giving (Acts 28:30-31; 2 Timothy 4:6-8). Not only will you benefit the mission field abroad, but you will gain a deeper understanding of yourself, your home mission and the heart of God.

Paul Kim is the Asian-American relations consultant with the Southern Baptist Convention's Executive Committee and pastor emeritus of Antioch Baptist Church in Cambridge, Mass.
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