A total of 49 individuals who answered God’s call on their lives and were appointed as International Mission Board missionaries during the Sending Celebration Nov. 14 at Idlewild Baptist Church in Tampa, Florida. This Sending Celebration was hosted by the Florida Baptist Convention in conjunction with their annual meeting. In total, 51 missionaries were approved unanimously for appointment in a virtual meeting of IMB’s board of trustees held Nov. 9.
Tommy Green, executive director of the Florida Baptist Convention, welcomed attendees, saying, “We are ‘all in’ in Florida in missions.”
He backed up his claim with facts. Currently, there are 289 Floridians serving as active missionaries through the IMB. Florida is home to 797 retired IMB missionaries. Over the last 25 years, Florida Baptist churches have given $143 million to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. And since 1925, Florida Baptist churches have given $1,321,056,055 to the Cooperative Program.
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IMB President Paul Chitwood brought his appreciation to Idlewild Baptist Church for hosting the Sending Celebration, while quipping that he hasn’t “gotten over Idlewild stealing Edgar Aponte from the IMB.” Aponte, Idlewild’s lead pastor, is former vice president of mobilization at the International Mission Board.
Chitwood thanked Florida Baptists for their continued support and gave good news of large donations that have started a new Lottie Moon Christmas Offering season. “Our goal this year is $200 million, and I believe we can reach that,” Chitwood said. IMB missionaries are sent and supported through generous giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and the Cooperative Program.
Referencing, 2 Kings 7, Chitwood shared the account of the four lepers who, after witnessing the deliverance of God said, “We are not doing right. This day is a day of good news. If we are silent and wait until the morning light, punishment will overtake us. Now therefore come; let us go and tell the king’s household.”
Chitwood said, “God expects that we tell others what He has done. Our world is full of people who don’t know the enemy has been defeated.”
As the Israelites faced a grave problem in the lepers’ day, the world faces the greatest problem, lostness, now. Chitwood reminded the crowd that believers know the solution — the gospel.
“Like them,” he said, referencing the lepers, “let us determine that we will go and tell the good news.”
He added to the crowd in the sanctuary, “If God is calling any of you to go, the IMB is hiring!”
Taking up their cross and following Him
Wang and Hyeonah Lee, who participated in the Sending Celebration, are following God’s call to South America. Hyeonah remembers her first time sharing the gospel. She’d been a believer for a while, and when her church in South Korea invited her to go door-to-door and present the gospel, she was terrified, yet obedient.
“When we knocked on the door, they made me talk,” she shared. Her quiet voice still sounded surprised as she recounted the story.
She swallowed her fears and spoke openly about Jesus. Though the couple who’d invited the team into their home didn’t make a decision for Christ that day, Hyeonah felt something inside her change.
After moving to the U.S. to study piano, she went on a short-term mission trip, and her calling was confirmed. This was how she was supposed to spend her life.
Similarly, her husband, Wang, went on a life-altering mission trip, though the couple laughed at the fact that Hyeonah knew they were called to missions years before he did.
The Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary Ph.D. candidate was teaching an intensive in Asia. He realized there are places across the globe that need theological education. At the same time, within himself, he wrestled with Matthew 16:24.
“What is the meaning of ‘denying myself’ and taking up my own cross? What is my cross?” he pondered. Through the conviction of the Holy Spirit, he came to this realization. “Denying myself means that I need to leave my comfort zone here in the United States and the seminary, and I need to go to the lost.”
“For me, I couldn’t find my cross here in the States and in this very safe zone in seminary,” Wang continued. “My cross is to go to the lost, to teach them Christ and the gospel.”
The couple, both born and raised in South Korea, knew they could live cross-culturally — they’ve been doing it for years. But now, they’re taking on a new culture, this time with three kids in tow.
Wang and Hyeonah, along with their three children, are being sent by New Song Church in Carrolton, Texas, to join the team in São Paulo, Brazil, and provide sound theological education there.
They ask partners to pray for their family during the transition, and that they would “keep our calling and conviction from God so that our family won’t be shaken in fulfilling our task in the field.”
Specifically, Wang expressed that he needs prayer that he remains intentional in discipling his own children as they go to make disciples of the nations.
The next Sending Celebration will be held Feb. 14, 2024.
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EDITOR’S NOTE — This story was written by Myriah Snyder and originally published by the International Mission Board.