RICHMOND, Va. (BP) — Twenty-nine Southern Baptists were appointed as missionaries to the nations during the International Mission Board’s trustee meeting Feb. 28-March 1 near Richmond, Va. Trustees also heard numerous reports and recognized 63 missionaries who retired or died within the past year.
During IMB’s Sending Celebration service, new missionaries represented churches that cooperate with 11 state Baptist conventions. The missionaries will take the Gospel to peoples in Europe, Northern Africa and the Middle East, Sub-Saharan Africa, Central Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asia and the Americas.
Newly appointed missionary Carter Finley* of North Carolina said God is providing unprecedented opportunities for her to serve Him among the nations, and “with a degree in fibers, fabrics and handcrafted textiles, along with a desire to take the good news of Jesus to the ends of the earth, the Lord is allowing her to literally and figuratively weave the Gospel of Jesus Christ into the hearts of Central Asians.”
Aaron and Melissa Stormer of Hilldale Baptist Church in Clarksville, Tenn., are being sent to the American peoples. Aaron said they are going “because we know that God’s heart is for all people to know His name.”
Melissa noted she realized God’s heart for the nations while sharing the Gospel in a small mountain village in Haiti.
“I felt Jesus whispering, ‘I died for them as well as you,'” she said during the March 1 celebration. Her husband felt God calling him to the mission field while walking the stone-lined streets and surrounded by blue tiles and the lost people of Porto, Portugal.
“God has called us to go and carry out His mission in order that the lost may be found and His truth proclaimed,” she said.
Jim* and Pam Smith* expressed thanks that Southern Baptist churches work together through the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering to send and support missionaries. Jim said it was as a young Royal Ambassador (a Southern Baptist missions discipleship program) at a church in Virginia that he became aware of God’s heart for the nations. From Panama to China, short-term mission trips were formative in turning his heart toward the nations.
Growing up as a pastor’s kid in Colorado and Virginia, Pam felt God used short-term mission trips from the bush of Kenya to the busy streets of Turkey to awaken her desire to go from short-term to full-time missions. The Virginia couple will share the Gospel in South Asia.
‘A day of wide open doors’
During the trustees’ plenary session, IMB President David Platt implored trustees to lead Southern Baptists away from the deception, diversion, distraction and division that have dominated news not just in American culture, but also in the church, and specifically the Southern Baptist Convention. Rather, Southern Baptists should be looking at what the apostle Paul refers to as a “wide door for effective work” (1 Corinthians 16:8-9).
“We are living in a day of wide open doors here and around the world, and it is high time for Southern Baptists not to divide, but to join together — not to be distracted, but to be resolutely focused on the purpose for which we came together in the first place: the spread of the Gospel in a world of urgent need … a world of urgent need and unprecedented opportunity,” Platt said.
Sharing a video story about Abuk, a young refugee from Africa who obediently answered God’s call to return to Africa to make disciples, Platt praised God for a Southern Baptist church in Amarillo, Texas, that reached out to the immigrant family.
“We hear those words “refugee, immigrant” today, and they’re so politically charged, and if we’re not careful, we can start to picture immigrants as problems to be solved, not people to be loved,” Platt said. “Brothers and sisters, there are wide open doors to love people right around us in a way that leads to love for people all around the world.
“This is a story of a refugee turned IMB missionary! And that’s possible — why? Did you see the news headline in that video? ‘Baptists come together despite barriers.’ Oh, may that be the commentary on our cooperation in this day of wide open doors.”
This story was compiled by Baptist Press staff with reporting from the International Mission Board and is reprinted from Baptist Press (www.baptistpress.com), the news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.
* Names changed.
by David Roach
ONTARIO, Calif. (BP) — International Mission Board President David Platt has apologized to Southern Baptists for the divisive nature of an amicus brief the IMB joined last May in support of a New Jersey’s Islamic society’s right to build a mosque.
“I apologize to Southern Baptists for how distracting and divisive this has been,” Platt said Feb. 15 during a meeting with Baptist state paper editors in Ontario, Calif.
“I can say with full confidence,” he said, “that in the days ahead, IMB will have a process in place to keep us focused on our primary mission: partnering with churches to empower limitless missionary teams for evangelizing, discipling, planting and multiplying healthy churches, and training leaders among unreached peoples and places for the glory of God.”
Platt offered a similar apology to executive directors of Baptist state conventions, who met in the same location.
The apologies occurred amid ongoing discussion of an amicus curiae — Latin for “friend of the court” — brief joined by the IMB supporting the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge, N.J., (ISBR) in its religious discrimination lawsuit against a local planning board. The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission also joined the brief.
In December, U.S. district Judge Michael Shipp ruled the Planning Board of Bernards Township, N.J., violated federal law when it required the ISBR to include more than twice as much parking in its site plan for a proposed mosque as it required for local Christian and Jewish houses of worship.
In his ruling, Shipp acknowledged the amicus brief, stating it “supports” the ISBR’s arguments that unlawful religious discrimination occurred.
Going forward, Platt said, missions is “what I long for the conversation about the IMB to be focused on, for the sake of those who have never heard.”
Platt added, “I am grieved how the amicus brief in the recent mosque case has been so divisive and distracting. And my purpose in bringing it up here is not to debate religious liberty, but to simply say that I really do want IMB to be focused on [its] mission statement.”
In the future, a new process for filing amicus briefs is needed, Platt said, “that will involve my office and our trustees.” He pledged to discuss such a policy during a Feb. 28-March 1 IMB trustee meeting.
Platt also told editors, “Going back to at least 2010, so far before I stepped into this role, our … legal department has filed various similar briefs related to religious liberty. And since 2010, all of those matters have been handled by our legal department.”
Paul Chitwood, executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention and a former IMB trustee chairman, told Baptist Press Platt’s “remarks to state executive directors were very well received.”
Tennessee Baptist Convention Executive Director Randy Davis told Tennessee’s Baptist and Reflector newsjournal, “I greatly appreciate the directness and humility that the leader of our flagship missions organization demonstrated in meeting with Baptist state convention executive directors. I saw the same spirit in one-on-one conversations with Dr. Platt.”
Davis added, “I am very comfortable from having spent some time with Dr. Platt that this will not be an issue moving forward and that it certainly will be with some level of involvement by IMB trustees.”
Tennessee pastor Dean Haun resigned as an IMB trustee in November because he said joining the brief did not comport with IMB’s mission and could be viewed as an improper alliance with followers of a religion that denies the Gospel.
Haun’s resignation was reported in several Baptist state papers last month.
Platt told BP in a statement last month, “As a result of discussions among IMB trustees and staff over recent months, we have revised our processes for our legal department filing any future amicus briefs.”
With reporting by Baptist Press editor Shawn Hendricks and Lonnie Wilkey, editor of the Baptist and Reflector. David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.
by Julie McGowan
RICHMOND, Va. (BP) — Bob and Melanee Gallina invested 18 years in leading The Church at Green Hills in La Habra, Calif. They lived in a comfortable house that was a home base for their children, who are missionaries overseas. After retirement, the couple noted, they planned to serve overseas themselves.
But then they felt God prompting them to consider, “Why wait until you retire? Why not now?” Now the church they once led is sending them through the International Mission Board to take the Gospel of Jesus Christ to American peoples.
The Gallinas were among 50 new Southern Baptist missionaries appointed through the International Mission Board Nov. 10 near Richmond, Va.
The celebration highlighted ways God transforms personal experience into a willingness to make disciples and multiply churches among unreached peoples and places for the glory of God. Lily Llambes’ appointment is a long way from her history involved in voodoo, to the point of almost being personally sacrificed in a ritual. She heard the Gospel on TV and surrendered her life to Christ.
Lily and her husband Carlos joined Iglesia Bautista Estrella de Belen in Hialeah, Fla., where they were discipled. Lily was involved in Woman’s Missionary Union and prayed for four years that God would call Carlos to missions, as God had called her. He did, and the couple will share the Gospel in Mexico City, “grateful to God, IMB and the Lottie Moon Offering.”
When she was 19, Jamie Schilt said, she was “jaded toward the Gospel and indifferent to the resurrection.” But “God brought my dead heart to life. Now, I celebrate the resurrection of my Lord every Sunday and long to see the nations do the same!”
Schilt and her husband Chris are being sent by Relevant Worship Church in Claremore, Okla., to partner with a team in Malawi, Africa, to plant churches, train pastors and gather worshippers among the nations.
“Why are you going? Why are you uprooting your lives, giving away your possessions, altering your future to move to difficult, even dangerous, places in the world?” IMB President David Platt asked the new missionaries.
He extended the question: “Why are we sending them? Why are we sending single sisters and brothers, married couples, parents, grandparents with our support to difficult, even dangerous, places in the world?”
“Why?” is a really important question, Platt said. The answer can be found in 1 Corinthians 15. In the passage, Paul is willingly walking into difficulty and danger for the spread of the Gospel in the world. The first reason, Platt said, is because death is coming (1 Cor. 15:20-22).
“Death is our destiny. And death is our enemy,” Platt said. “It could be today. It could be tomorrow. … We don’t invest our lives here in temporary trinkets. We invest our lives here in eternal treasure. We don’t spend our lives here on fleeting pleasures and foolish pursuits. We spend our lives here on what’s going to matter forever.”
Followers of Christ go to share the Gospel because others’ death is coming, too. “Here’s why it makes sense to go and live your life and lead your family into great risk in another part of the world: because those 2.8 billion people who haven’t heard the Gospel, they’re not guaranteed tomorrow either,” Platt said.
“The second reason we go is because the resurrection is real,” Platt noted, reading 1 Cor. 15:3-8. Christ’s resurrection, he said, is “crazy good. It’s the greatest news in all the world: death has been defeated! … Because Jesus was raised from the dead, risk-taking, death-defying missions in difficult, dangerous-to-reach places is to be envied in this world.”
The Bible gives an outline of history in the passage, and Christian believers go to share the Gospel because of where all history is headed, Platt said.
“All of history is headed toward the day when Christ will put all His enemies under His feet, and we will join with men and women from every nation, tribe, tongue and people to enjoy and exalt Him forever in a new heaven and new earth where there is no more sin, sorrow, or suffering,” he said. “Let’s lead the church for that day. Let’s live and die for that day.”
Pathways to go
The 50 new missionaries represent fully funded, full-time personnel. While IMB is developing ways to send “limitless” missionaries, the organization is committed to continue sending these fully funded, full-time missionaries to the field. This includes funding in the 2017 budget for Journeyman and International Service Corps personnel — those previously called “short-term personnel,” but what IMB soon will call “mid-term personnel.”
“Let me be crystal clear,” Platt told Southern Baptists during IMB’s report to the Southern Baptist Convention in June, “the IMB is still going to send full-time, fully funded career missionaries just like we’ve always sent. They are the priceless, precious, critical core of our mission force.”
Those career missionaries, he noted, will be surrounded with professionals, students, retirees and others who collectively show that global mission “is not just for a select few people in the church, but for multitudes of Spirit-filled men and women across the church.”
Support through the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering make it possible for these new missionaries to be appointed. Cooperative Program and LMCO gifts also sustain the thousands of Southern Baptist personnel already on the field.
The 50 new missionaries are able to go through the sending of all kinds of churches — such as Three Wooden Crosses Cowboy Church in Augusta, Kan., or Imago Dei Church in Raleigh, N.C., among dozens of others. Churches interested in learning how they can partner with IMB to send their members on mission can visit IMB.org/send. To learn more about personal pathways of service, including students, retirees and professionals, visit IMB.org/sendme.
Reprinted from Baptist Press (www.baptistpress.com), news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.
by Julie McGowan
RICHMOND, Va. (BP) — International Mission Board trustees celebrated a balanced budget, unanimously approving the 2017 budget during their Nov. 10-11 meeting near Richmond, Va. Trustees also appointed 50 new missionaries during a Sending Celebration.
“I am pleased to share with you that because of generous giving from Southern Baptist churches to the IMB, disciples have been made and churches have been multiplied over the last year among the nations in truly breathtaking ways,” IMB President David Platt told trustees.
“Furthermore, we are pleased to be able to present to you a balanced budget request for 2017 that projects growth in both fully supported missionary appointments as well as new pathways designed to see multitudes more men and women taking the Gospel to people who have never heard it.”
“We have a sense of glad celebration with responsible projections,” Platt said. “As we are communicating to churches, we want to say two resounding words: Thank you.”
The budget presented to trustees represents a reversal in a trend of recent years that has seen a decline of missionaries on the field. The budget proposes an increase in full-time, fully funded missionary appointments for 2017, Platt said, while also opening the door for missionaries to go through other pathways.
Rodney Freeman, vice president of support services and IMB treasurer, led trustees through a review of the 2017 Fiscal Resources Strategy Plan during their sessions and in the Support Services committee meeting. He recapped the budget proposal during the Nov. 11 plenary session. The 2017 budget request is balanced with receipts and expenses both projected at $270,000,000. Freeman noted the budget proposal reflects short-term financial responsibility and long-term organizational stability.
Key factors presented with the budget include the following:
— The budget relies on the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.
— LMCO giving projections for the 2016 calendar year are on pace to be the largest offering in IMB history, with projections the offering could exceed the 2015 record giving by 10 percent.
— The 2017 budget proposal projects growth in fully funded missionaries plus new pathways that take the Gospel to all peoples.
IMB projects appointing 451 new personnel in 2017, which represents a 3 percent net increase in total field personnel (100 additional field personnel). Of those newly appointed, 351 will replace personnel who retire, complete a mid-term assignment or transition through resignations or other departures. In 2016, 310 missionaries were appointed, bringing IMB field personnel to 3,651.
“We are very excited to have these funds in the budget to send additional personnel, and these funds will only be used to send additional personnel,” Freeman told trustees.
Freeman also reported that IMB contingency reserves are projected to be at five and a half months of operational expenses in 2017. The figure falls within SBC Executive Committee guidelines, which allows for a maximum of six months of operational expenses in contingency reserves.
Platt reminded trustees what the budget numbers represent: 40,000 Southern Baptist churches partnering together through the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering to send and support missionaries around the world.
Trustees also voted to affirm a revised mission statement for the organization, which states: The International Mission Board partners with churches to empower limitless missionary teams who are evangelizing, discipling, planting and multiplying healthy churches, and training leaders among unreached peoples and places for the glory of God.
Scott Harris, missions minister at Brentwood (Tenn.) Baptist Church, presided over the meeting.
The appointment of 50 new missionaries highlighted the meeting during a special Sending Celebration broadcast to churches, families and individuals via live stream. The service recognized both the new personnel and the churches sending them as Southern Baptist missionaries to take the Gospel to the nations.
Platt shared a video of the Cregg Family taking the Gospel to the people of South Asia looking for hope and light. The video represents the upcoming Dec. 4-11 Week of Prayer for International Missions, which launches the 2016 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering emphasis. See related video on how giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering is helping change lives.
Reprinted from Baptist Press (www.baptistpress.com), news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.
by Julie McGowan
RICHMOND, Va. — International Mission Board trustees approved the appointment of 27 new missionaries, welcomed 11 new board members, and announced a vice president of mobilization during their board meeting Aug. 23-24 near Richmond, Va.
Trustees also welcomed a visit from Steve Gaines, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, who serves as an ex-officio member of the board in his SBC role. Gaines is pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn.
IMB President David Platt addressed trustees during the entity’s Aug. 24 plenary session.
“Two years ago at this trustee meeting, by God’s grace alone, this body elected me to lead this IMB family,” he said. “Now, two years later, I find myself standing here at the end of a deeply encouraging two days with trustees during which we have discussed where the IMB is now, and we have dreamed about where God is leading the IMB in the days ahead.
“Standing on the shoulders of faithful brothers and sisters who’ve gone before us, we find ourselves looking to the future where we have a unique opportunity to mobilize multitudes more faithful brothers and sisters to go to the nations with us in the days to come,” Platt continued, drawing from Hebrews 12:1-2.
Platt said IMB leaders are hard at work considering, “How do we mobilize this entire Southern Baptist ecosystem of tens of thousands of churches, local associations, state conventions, seminaries and other entities for the spread of the Gospel to billions of people who’ve never heard it?” Leaders are meeting with state and national entities and local churches of all sizes to explore how IMB can best serve them and send multitudes more missionaries with them. IMB also is launching a new website this fall, and the board is collaborating with the North American Mission Board to organize 2017 SEND conferences in Southern California (Feb. 3-4), Dallas (May 19-20) and Orlando (July 25-26) to cast a vision for multitudes more men and women taking the Gospel from North America to the nations.
“All of this is aimed at connecting more closely with this entire coalition of churches and entities across the IMB, maximizing the cooperative praying, giving, going and sending potential of Southern Baptists for the spread of the Gospel in missions,” Platt said.
“Keep in mind, though, that the goal is not merely more missionaries,” he noted. “The goal is not even multitudes more missionaries. The goal is more men and women in their sin hearing the news of the King who has conquered sin, believing this good news and giving glory to our God. We’re not mobilizing for the sake of numbers; we’re mobilizing for the sake of our God’s glory among the nations. This is the bottom line of what we do, why we do it, and it’s worth giving our lives for it.”
Edgar Aponte, who currently serves as director of Hispanic leadership development and instructor of theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., was affirmed by trustees as vice president of mobilization. He and his wife Sara are members of Christ Covenant Church in Raleigh, N.C.
“Over the course of prayerful conversations with Edgar, we believe that he is the right person to serve IMB as vice president of mobilization,” Platt told trustees, noting Aponte’s desire to mobilize the church in the U.S. for the spread of the Gospel to the nations.
The vice president of mobilization leads in three significant ways:
— He works with other executive leaders in the overall strategy of the IMB with particular emphasis on the board’s mobilization efforts.
— He leads teams and networks to mobilize churches in sending limitless missionary teams who are making disciples and multiplying churches among unreached people and places for the glory of God.
— He leads at the denominational level in developing relationships and communicating who IMB is to Southern Baptists, while at the same time representing those diverse audiences back to IMB. This involves leading IMB to serve alongside state conventions, associations, SBC entities and other stateside partners.
“Edgar Aponte is an incredibly gifted man of God,” said Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. “The Lord has blessed him with a wide range of abilities and talents. He excels at whatever he does. This is a sad day for Southeastern and me personally. However, it is a great day for the IMB and the advancement of the Kingdom of King Jesus among the nations. He goes to our very close sister entity with my blessing and prayers. This is a great thing for Southern Baptists.”
Prior to his work at SEBTS, Aponte served at the ministry of foreign affairs in Washington, D.C., on behalf of his home nation, the Dominican Republic. His role of minister counselor in the political section involved coordinating the political relations between the embassy and the State Department, Department of Labor, U.S. Congress and Department of Defense; advising the ambassador and authorities on a broad range of policy issues from the bilateral agenda; and engaging in meetings with other embassies and interest groups about specific regional issues such as human trafficking and drug trafficking. Prior to that, he worked in banking for five years.
Aponte earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration; a graduate degree in corporate finance; and a master’s degree in business administration (management). He also earned a master’s degree in Christian ministry from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., and is expected to complete a doctorate in theological studies with a concentration in systematic theology from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary this fall.
In a recent visit with IMB mobilization team leaders, Aponte expressed that he sees the team leading IMB in engaging in strategic partnerships with Southern Baptist churches.
“We are Southern Baptists because of missions,” he said. “That is why the SBC started in 1845. Missions is the heart of who we are as a denomination, … taking the Gospel to where Christ has not been preached. Working together, we can do more than working by ourselves.
“As IMB we have to emphasize the centrality of the CP [Cooperative Program, Southern Baptist’s channel for supporting missions and ministry] in our work of cooperation; the CP has shaped Southern Baptist life for almost 100 years, and God has used it as a means to bless our churches and the nations.”
In other business:
— Rodney Freeman, vice president of support services and IMB treasurer, gave a brief update of the board’s 2015 audited financials.
“I am happy to announce that once again we, the IMB, received an unmodified opinion from our external auditors, RSM, which is the highest level of assurance available,” Freeman said.
In addition to requesting an audit annually by an external auditing firm, IMB applies annually for accreditation from the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability. ECFA provides accreditation to Christian nonprofit organizations that faithfully demonstrate compliance with established standards for financial accountability, transparency, fundraising and board governance. Freeman reported IMB recently received accreditation for the 2015 financial year.
— Trustees viewed the documentary film “The Insanity of God,” which will be shown in select theatres nationwide Aug. 30. The film dramatically conveys stories IMB missionary, Nik Ripken* and his wife Ruth,* gleaned through visiting 72 countries to interview more than 600 believers who had suffered persecution for their faith in Jesus. The film is based on Ripken’s best-selling book, “The Insanity of God” (B&H Publishing Group, 2013).
The Aug. 30 showing will feature a question-and-answer time with the Ripkens and Platt, as well as an exclusive performance of the movie soundtrack feature “Dimitri’s Song” by recording artist Todd Smith. More information is available at www.insanityofgodmovie.com.
— Twenty-seven new missionaries were appointed by the IMB during a special “Sending Celebration,” which recognized both the new personnel and the churches partnering with them to take the Gospel to the nations. The celebration featured testimonies from each of the appointees and a Scriptural charge from Platt. The service highlighted the integral role local churches play in assessing and sending Southern Baptist missionaries.
Julie McGowan is public relations leader for IMB.
Reprinted from Baptist Press, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.