International Mission Board trustees approved the appointment of 46 new full-time, fully funded missionaries, while also honoring the service of 87 missionaries and staff during their Feb. 1–2 meeting in Richmond, Virginia.
The new missionaries were honored during a Sending Celebration on Wednesday, Feb. 1, which included a livestream option for families and church partners around the world to join in the event.
‘World’s greatest problem’
In his presidential report to trustees, IMB President Paul Chitwood asked a Send Relief staff member in the audience what his job entailed.
“I address the world’s greatest problem,” he answered.
Chitwood asked an audiovisual staff member the question and received the same answer. He then asked the chairman of IMB’s trustees who gave the same answer.
Chitwood looked out at the attendees with a serious expression.
“The world’s great problem, lostness, is a greater problem today than ever before — literally a greater problem today than it was yesterday,” he emphasized. “As much as it depends on us, we cannot let Southern Baptists remain unaware of the magnitude of this problem nor of the unprecedented opportunities that we have to address this problem with God’s solution, which is the gospel.”
The IMB exists to serve Southern Baptists in carrying out the Great Commission to make disciples of all nations. The IMB president expressed what an honor it is to hold the rope for your missionaries, our missionaries.
“They deserve our unwavering loyalty, our undying support and our unyielding commitment,” Chitwood said. “Thank you for being among those who hold those ropes the tightest.”
Chitwood said evidence reveals that support of Southern Baptists for international missionaries and for fulfilling the Great Commission is, indeed, growing:
- Lottie Moon Christmas Offering gifts are running slightly ahead of last year’s record-breaking pace. Given the economic realities of this year, Chitwood thanked God and Southern Baptists for continuing to give.
- Total local church engagements through the mobilization team have more than doubled from 20,000 last year to 43,000.
- The Church Connections program has resulted in direct contact from IMB missionaries to 86% of Southern Baptist churches.
- Missions opportunities such as praying, giving, going, sending and training have grown over 600%. Applications for volunteers have doubled in the past year, while short-term trips participants have tripled.
- The candidate pipeline includes 1,129 people in the missionary applicant process.
Chitwood noted an area of growing concern in the lag of Cooperative Program giving. Not only is every penny of the Lottie Offering used on the frontlines of overseas mission work, approximately 60% of the CP dollars coming to the IMB is also used overseas. The remaining 40% of CP giving which comes to IMB funds the organization’s vital support systems in the U.S. Just as important, Chitwood reminded the audience, is the need for strong seminaries to train missionaries.
“We need strong state conventions and a strong North American Mission Board to plant churches, strengthen churches and foster partnership with churches,” Chitwood went on. “The IMB directly and indirectly benefits from every CP dollar. When CP dollars disappear, the IMB suffers. That’s why today’s IMB is fully committed to champion the CP.”
Chitwood also stressed a desire to send 400-plus missionaries to the field this year. As Southern Baptists faithfully send more missionaries to fulfill the Great Commission, the need exists to undergird those additional personnel with consistent, concerted prayer and ongoing generous financial support through the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. IMB also is committed to ongoing vigilance in good stewardship — which is a foundational commitment in IMB’s planning and budgeting.
Glenn Steen, chairman of the Logistics, Finance, Travel and Technology Committee, along with the trustee audit committee reviewed the audit. Chitwood reported that IMB’s financials for 2022 have been audited and received an unmodified opinion, which is the highest level of confidence given by the auditors. He noted that no property sales were used for operations and, as always, 100% of Lottie Moon offerings were used for overseas ministries.
Recognition of life service
IMB Executive Vice President Todd Lafferty recognized the lives of 87 colleagues — 72 missionaries and 15 retired staff — who died in the past year. The field personnel’s lives totaled 1,719 years of service through the IMB, and the average age of death was 83 with an average of 25 years of service.
Emeritus missionaries included, among many others who served around the globe: Leo Weatherman, 97, served 44 years in Brazil; Betty Turner, 92, served 41 years in Panama; Eldon Sturgeon, 92, served 48 years in Mexico and Costa Rica; Sue Carter, 92, served 26 years in Brazil; Bobby Evans, 86, served 35 years in Malaysia; Betty Carroll, 95, served 35 years in Argentina and Jamaica; Mary Dann Stampley, 97, served 37 years in Africa and the Philippines; and Dorothy Blair, 99, served 39 years in Argentina.
Retired staff whose service was recognized included, among others: Corella Ricketson, 28 years, with 18 years in Taiwan and 20 years in various staff positions; Linda Bellflower, 29 years as the overseas correspondent assistant in mobilization; Mary Penny, 24 years as administrative assistant of field personal orientation; Ti Kellams, 35 years as lead office technologist and church mobilization assistant; Dan Allen, 43 years as director, media administration; and Doug Floyd, 29 years, with 12 in Bolivia and 17 in the home office in various roles.
In closing, Chuck Pourciau, trustee chairman and lead pastor of Broadmoor Baptist Church in Shreveport, Louisiana, shared about two young girls who decided to raise money for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, which supports the presence of Southern Baptist missionaries overseas. They created a hot chocolate stand and had their mother post it on social media to get customers to visit. The girls deposited $150 in the offering the very next day.
“What excites me is all of the small stories that go into the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering,” the chairman said.
Pourciau pointed out: The resources needed for missions support exists; what is lacking, often, is the “ask.” Southern Baptists need to be asking for the financial resources required to get the gospel to the people of the world, he said, and he challenged trustees to lead out in asking for those resources.
“Most of the time, the desire to give to this work is there,” Pourciau said. “It’s the greatest need in the world. We just need to ask.”
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The next IMB board of trustees meeting is scheduled for May 17–18 in Richmond. The next missionary Sending Celebration will take place at the SBC Annual Meeting in New Orleans in June.
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