Archives For international missions

David Platt

David Platt, president of the International Mission Board (IMB), speaks to 1,350 people who gathered at the IMB dinner to celebrate what God is doing and how attendees can partner with them. BP photo by Matt Jones

The hottest ticket of the night Monday was the International Mission Board’s (IMB) dinner for 1,350 people at the Phoenix Convention Center.

David Platt, president of the International Mission Board, spoke at the June 12 standing room only event.

Quoting Anne Judson: When a pastor feels impassioned for the heathen, their parishioners share that passion.

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Fushicho Daiko, a professional taiko group, performs at the IMB dinner June 12. BP photo by Matt Jones

Platt also shared:

We need to be impassioned for the lost as if their salvation depends on no one else than us.

Before you lay down your head on your pillow tonight, will you kneel and ask the Lord, do you want me to go to the nations?

We have been in decline for years in the sending of missionaries. We are set right now to turn that tide.

-Mark Emerson from Phoenix

‘Why we do what we do’

ib2newseditor —  December 8, 2016

Week of Prayer missionaries take gospel light to dark places

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Rodney and Helen Cregg’s work in a large city helps rescue women from prostitution.

The Indian bride wore blue silk, trimmed with gold. Rich fabrics in brilliant hues are traditional for wedding saris in this megacity.

But the guest list was anything but typical. Among those celebrating this day were 20 prostitutes—women who were like family to Shanti.* She knew them from the years she shared their heartbreaking lifestyle as a prostitute. That was before the ministry of a Christian activity center rescued Shanti from her former life. She is now a believer and has a good job to support herself. And on this day, she even married a Christian man.

International Mission Board missionaries Rodney and Helen Cregg* have partnered in establishing the activity center that offers prostitutes a place to learn basic skills in the middle of a notorious red-light district.

The Creggs are supported by the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, an annual offering facilitated by the International Mission Board and Woman’s Missionary Union in partnership with Baptist state conventions. Many churches will mark the Week of Prayer Dec. 4-11.

“This is why we do what we do, to see these ladies—and other people in [this city]—realize the hope in the gospel and then find victory in freedom,” Rodney says.

Another woman at the center agrees: “Being involved at the center, I am finding the love I didn’t get from my family from people who know the Lord. Through Jesus I am experiencing love. I am blessed.”

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Young men in Southeast Asia meet to study the Bible.

Finding home again
Missionary Layla Murphy* was shopping in a vegetable market in Southeast Asia when she heard phrases she understood. Two women were speaking the language of the Buddhist country from which she had just been expelled, after laboring for years to share the gospel.

Soon Layla learned that hundreds of thousands of migrant workers and refugees from her former country lived in this sprawling urban center. God’s providence had set her right in the middle of the gospel-hungry people that she’d felt called to serve. Then, a national pastor asked her to stay right there to teach, train, and disciple new believers from the country that she can’t live in but calls “home.”

On the first day of class, she planned for 15 students but 50 showed up. “God had put hunger for his Word deep in their hearts and this was the first time that they’d ever had the chance to learn [the Bible].” Though she would rather serve in the country she loves, “this deepened my trust in God.” Her students tease her that she is also a refugee—the American refugee, Layla says.

“That sort of binds our hearts together.”

For more Lottie Moon and Week of Prayer resources, go to IMB.org/lottie-moon-christmas-offering.

*Names changed.

– From IMB.org

Week of Prayer is December 4-11

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Trey Haun, 10, lives with his parents in Ghana, where they serve as missionaries with the International Mission Board

It was near midnight when IMB missionary Dr. Heidi Haun had finished up an abdominal surgery and returned home. Her baby, Karen Jane, and son, Trey, 10, had long been in bed under the watchful eye of her husband, William.

The Hauns serve in Nalerigu, Ghana, and her patient was a woman who sells cabbages under a mango tree on market days in town. Heidi had planned to perform surgery earlier in the day, but the operation was delayed by an emergency cesarean section. Still, after surgery that night, Heidi said the woman reached out to grasp her hand and thank her.

“I think that’s the neatest thing about having patients that live here in town…it leads to opportunities for relationship and gospel sharing,” Heidi explained. “I look forward to the opportunity to share Christ with her—more than just a patient-doctor relationship.”

The Hauns are two of the thousands of Southern Baptist missionaries supported by the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, an annual offering established in 1888. After more than a century, Lottie Moon giving continues its steady growth, including its largest-ever offering last year—$165.8 million.

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Trey’s mom, Heidi, is a physician and his dad, William, works in media.

The goal for the 2016 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering is $155 million. During the week of Dec. 4-11, many Southern Baptist churches will focus on international missions in a Week of Prayer highlighting eight missionaries and missionary families, including the Hauns in Ghana and Zack and Jennifer Dove, who serve in Norway.

Sharing the gospel isn’t a one-time deal for the Doves, who work as church planters. It’s an everyday part of their lives as they deepen relationships and bridge conversations toward gospel truths in Sandefjord, Norway.

“Zack will say often…We don’t need to let cultural norms be the filter,” Jennifer explains. “We need to let the gospel be the filter and so just share a little bit and see where it lands and plant that seed.”

Though Norway has been a Christian nation for a thousand years, in recent decades spiritual life has withered and church buildings often stand empty. Only 2% of Norwegians regularly attend services—one of the lowest attendance figures in Europe. The Doves encourage existing believers and share with others who live without hope. Southern Baptists can join their work through prayer.

“Just knowing that people are praying is such an awesome thing, and then just knowing that people are giving to the Lottie Moon [Christmas Offering], that’s such an encouragement.”

For more on this year’s Offering and Week of Prayer, go to IMB.org/lottie-moon-christmas-offering.

– IMB.org

Taking the risk

ib2newseditor —  November 17, 2016

Serving Christ has always been dangerous. He said it would be. Now, even telling the stories of missionaries puts them in danger.

London | We can’t tell you their names. We can’t tell you where they live. We can’t really even tell you where they work. They are missionaries.

Times have changed. We all know social and cultural values have recently experienced massive upheavals in western nations. Religion has played a major role in these changes. Missions work is no longer tolerated in places it once was. Working to fulfill the Great Commission can no longer be done so openly.

We can’t tell you their names. We can’t tell you where they live. We can’t really even tell you where they work. They are missionaries.

Coinciding with these cultural shifts are changes within the Southern Baptist Convention’s largest missions sending agency. The International Mission Board (IMB) is adapting the way it does missions. When IMB President David Platt stepped into the role in 2014 he soon discovered the agency was facing a budget overspend of more than $200 million. Personnel costs would have to be greatly reduced with action being taken quickly. With a major and largely voluntary staff reduction in 2015, going from nearly 5,000 missionaries and staff to 3,800, IMB expects have a balanced budget in 2017.

The changes included cutting most of the communications team serving in Richmond, and replacing them with a small team of young communication specialists stationed at points all around the world. With them comes new strategies for engaging Southern Baptists with missionaries that take into account the risky business of gospel witness.

Not your mother’s mission magazine
You may have noticed the stories about IMB missionaries have changed. Remember Commission magazine, with its glossy photos and National Geographic style? Today’s mission stories are not written in a long, detailed format anymore. We don’t often see photographs of missionaries’ faces. The name of the countries where they serve may not be reported. There is a good reason for this. A very good reason.

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SHADOW AND LIGHT – This photo from IMB’s
Instagram account shows their new communication strategy: show the missions concept, but protect the identity of the missionary. Posted with the photo is a brief message from the missionary: “Pray for God to provide me with a teammate willing to work in rough, remote places so we can reach the mountain shepherd people.”

Almost a dozen state Baptist convention newspaper editors met with members of the Board’s media network in London recently. The chief topic was security concerns.

“There’s spiritual warfare on the front lines,” a member of the media team shared. “A battle is going on against the spread of the gospel.”

For example, one missionary took all the necessary precautions. But when a photo that had been taken years earlier was found online it led to his undoing. Somehow a person in the country where the missionary was serving connected it with some other information online to learn the missionary’s true identity. It almost cost him his life.

He walked, unsuspecting, into a meeting and found the atmosphere was charged with anger. People once friendly were now menacing as they kept him there for hours shouting, “Is this you? Did you say this?” When he was finally allowed to leave, he gathered his family and they fled the country. His identity had been compromised and it was no longer safe for them to continue to spread the gospel message in that country.

The missionary life can require living in countries where it’s dangerous to be a Christian. But it can also be risky living in “safe” countries among those same people groups that are hostile to Christians. There are parts of Africa and Asia that have always been high risk and high security for missionaries. With the increased mobilization of people, now it’s not just there, it’s everywhere.

“There’s spiritual warfare on the front lines. A battle is going on against the spread of the gospel.”

In other cases, the country may feel it is already a Christian nation and therefore does not need to admit anyone into the country for the express purpose of doing mission work. In those places, missionaries enter as workers who are in the country to do charity work or other vocations.

Tell the old, old story—differently
If you visit the International Mission Board’s website, IMB.org, you can read its mission statement, “Our mission is evangelizing, discipling, and planting reproducing churches among all peoples in fulfillment of the Great Commission.”

In today’s world, technological advance has produced security issues, so can the missions stories be told to the people back home in the pews? It’s becoming more and more challenging. Things aren’t as simple as when Lottie Moon would write about her work in China and send the letter to Annie Armstrong to be copied (and recopied) by hand or typewriter, and distributed across the United States.

For years the National Woman’s Missionary Union’s prayer calendar in Missions Mosaic magazine has contained a birthday prayer calendar for missionaries. It listed their names and the countries where they served. In recent years, fewer real names or locations can be shared. Quite often a pseudonym will be used along with a region of the world, “South Asia,” for instance.

While the IMB remains committed to telling the story back home, they are having to become more and more creative in doing so. Lengthy articles are now less common and story vignettes are better vehicles not only due to safety concerns, but also for ever shrinking attention spans.

“The missionary life, missions sending, it’s always changing.”

This has caused the IMB to shift the way it creates the content of a story, looking more at the concept that describes the missions work. As a member of the media team said, “There are avenues of telling the story without focusing on people in specific locations. We’ve had to shift the way we’re doing content altogether.”

The use of social media including Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter is proving to be a good way for Southern Baptists to stay informed about missions. It connects with younger generations who need also to learn the importance of giving to missions through the Cooperative Program.

The IMB website has undergone a complete retooling and now sports a fresh look that supports this challenging new media world.

Another change is in the reporting on the safety of missionaries after breaking news events. Southern Baptists often express interest in how an event affects missions efforts in those areas. According to their website, “Due to security considerations for IMB personnel and the national believers with whom they work, we usually don’t discuss their locations. However, with any breaking news event, we are in contact with anyone who might be affected, due to travel or other reasons, to confirm their safety and security.”

A media team member summed it up: “The missionary life, missions sending, it’s always changing. There are always new security challenges necessitating a new way of telling their stories. Most of our missionaries, we can’t print their names.”

Lisa Misner Sergent will focus on London, a world city with many people groups, in her next report.

Mission Illinois Offering Devotion Day 3

MIO-box-smallThis spring seven Illinois women set aside their daily responsibilities for a week and said “yes” to a call to South Asia. There they worked with Muslim women. Team member Lindsay McDonald said it was a very dark and oppressed place, “but I think in the darkness, we were also allowed to see hope.” Even in a place of persecution, women raised their hands wanting to become followers of Christ.

“We went expecting to see certain things and then God delivers the unexpected!” said Carmen Halsey.

IBSA aids churches in sending more than 22,000 people each year to serve on mission teams, in their communities and around the world.

Pray for IBSA’s Carmen Halsey and Dwayne Doyle and the teams they help train. And pray for your church’s involvement in missions.

Learn more about the Mission Illinois Offering

Watch Lindsay McDonald’s story, “Mobilizing volunteers worldwide.”

Syrian refugees cross the border from Syria to Jordan. IMB photo by Jedediah Smith

Syrian refugees cross the border from Syria to Jordan. IMB photo by Jedediah Smith


NEWS | Ava Thomas & Eden Nelson
(Baptist Press)

Aman* used to be a banker in Syria, but that’s a life he can hardly remember anymore.

Now three years on the other side of a harrowing escape from his war-torn homeland, he’s stuck in a bleak job market, washing dishes for 10 hours a day to feed his starving family.

And worst of all, he’s starting to wonder if it’s ever going to end.

It’s an exhausting life for Aman and the 3 million other Syrian refugees who have flooded surrounding countries, Don Alan*, a Christian leader in the region, said.

Think back to a day when you missed a meal, or a night when you weren’t sure you were ever going to get home, Alan said. “Multiply that by 100 or 1,000, and that is a portion of what the Syrian refugee feels.”

Alan hopes Christians in the West will take up the cause of their Syrian brothers and sisters and persist in holding them up.

“Pray that we would not become weary of this crisis,” Alan said. “Some of them have been refugees for more than three years. We must persevere in supporting them.”

Aid funds from government organizations are drying up, he said, and Syria’s neighbors are bending under the burden of refugees spilling over their borders.

Lebanon’s tallies indicate that by year’s end, one third of the tiny country’s population will be refugees from Syria. Ross Mountain, the U.N. resident and humanitarian coordinator, called it an “existential crisis” for Lebanon. More than one million refugees have amplified the country’s water shortage into a serious problem.

Refugees are also straining the country’s economy, accepting jobs for less pay than Lebanese, Mountain said.

To the north of Syria, many Turks are also growing weary of absorbing more and more waves of their neighbors.

Though the Turkish government has extended health care and other continuing aid to Syrian refugees, in a January poll 55% of Turks indicated they would like to see the borders closed to fleeing Syrians. Going further, 30% of those wanted to send back the Syrians already living in Turkey.

“Surrounding countries continue to seek ways to find stability in the midst of such a crush of refugees,” Alan said.

Those countries also face fresh challenges, thanks to the emergence of the Islamic state spanning parts of Syria and Iraq, he said.

The militant group ISIS, which recently declared the Islamic state, is exacerbating the region’s refugee problem at an extraordinary rate through broad violence and religious persecution, Alan said. Iraqis are now joining their Syrian neighbors in pouring over the borders – especially Christians.

In mid-July, ISIS gave thousands of Christians in northern Iraq an ultimatum to leave the region or face execution. As a result, Christians are being forced to leave homes and villages where they have lived for centuries, Alan said.

Thousands have fled, and many people are asking if this signals the end of Christianity in Iraq (see sidebar).

The ramifications of the Middle East’s refugee crisis will be “felt for decades to come,” Alan said. It’s a bleak situation, he said, but he hopes Christians around the globe will pray that in the midst of the darkness God will do “something new in our day.”

“Pray that we would be courageous and bold. The Gospel is one of peace, even in the midst of pain and turmoil,” he said. “Pray that we would respond with open hearts and open hands. There are ways we can help today by giving, praying and speaking of the hurt of those fleeing this conflict.”

When the Bible is so clear about helping the marginalized, Alan said, how can Christians not respond to “one of the greatest crises of our time?”

“The question to you and me is will we catch His vision for what He is doing?” Alan said. “As Jesus reminded us, if we do it to the least, the one most forgotten, then we do it to Him.”

*Name changed

Baptist Global Response is providing food and hygiene kits to refugee families. For more info, go to www.gobgr.org

Ava Thomas and Eden Nelson are writers for the Southern Baptist International Mission Board. Story excerpted from Baptist Press.

Port-au-Prince | The Illinois volunteers are back home, but still thinking about their experiences in Haiti. Check out the images below, and pray with us for people who heard the Gospel last week, for Haitian pastors and leaders, and for Christians in the country who are reaching their families and friends with the truth of Jesus Christ. And read more about the trip in the August 12 issue of the Illinois Baptist, online at http://ibonline.IBSA.org.

We spent our first night away from home in the Miami airport, waiting to catch an early Sunday morning flight to Port-au-Prince.

We spent our first night away from home in the Miami airport, waiting to catch an early Sunday morning flight to Port-au-Prince.

New Life Children's Home, our oasis and home away from home for the week.

New Life Children’s Home, our oasis and home away from home for the week.

New Life's guest house coordinator, Lisa, shares the rules with the team. (The bus behind her was our transportation from the airport to the children's home.)

New Life’s guest house coordinator, Lisa, shares the rules with the team. (The bus behind her was our transportation from the airport to the children’s home.)

Moses, our first new friend at New Life. The kids there loved to interact with the team, despite our language barrier.

Moses, our first new friend at New Life. The kids there loved to interact with the team, despite our language barrier.

Abby Fleischer speaks a universal language - funny faces - with a child at New Life.

Abby Fleischer speaks a universal language – funny faces – with a child at New Life.

"Jesus Loves Me" in English and Creole painted on an open-air classroom at the children's home.

“Jesus Loves Me” in English and Creole painted on an open-air classroom at the children’s home.

Autumn Wetzler from Waterloo makes a new friend. (This photo was taken right before he colored her face with a blue crayon.)

Autumn Wetzler from Waterloo makes a new friend. (This photo was taken right before he colored her face with a blue crayon.)

New Life takes care of several kids with special needs, including Christine, pictured here with Illinois volunteer Chris Flynn.

New Life takes care of several kids with special needs, including Christine, pictured here with Illinois volunteer Chris Flynn.

Our first day at our work sites: Kids were waiting at the church in Bigarade when we arrived.

Our first day at our work sites: Kids were waiting at the church in Bigarade when we arrived.
Last November, volunteers from Illinois helped build this church.

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Pastor Estaphat, who leads Gosen Church, led us in a few songs before we walked to our construction sites.

Pastor Estaphat, who leads Gosen Church, led us in a few songs before we walked to our construction sites.

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Bob Elmore, our leader.

Bob Elmore, our leader.

Many of the houses in Bigarade were built by Baptist Global Response after the January 2010 earthquake.

Many of the houses in Bigarade were built by Baptist Global Response after the January 2010 earthquake.

Late last year, Hurricane Sandy caused this river to flood, damaging homes in Bigarade and sweeping away some of the land built up around the river.

Late last year, Hurricane Sandy caused this river to flood, damaging homes in Bigarade and sweeping away some of the land built up around the river.

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To make mortar, we sifted soil to get rid of the largest rocks and mixed the remaining material with concrete and water.

To make mortar, we sifted soil to get rid of the largest rocks and mixed the remaining material with concrete and water.

Our Haitian bosses and their helpers ran the construction sites during the week.

Our Haitian bosses and their helpers ran the construction sites during the week.

Thomas Ogens, who helped coordinate the building projects and deliver supplies, with Pastor Estephat's daughter.

Thomas Ogens, who helped coordinate the building projects and deliver supplies, with Pastor Estephat’s daughter.

The kids loved to fix the volunteers' hair...

The kids loved to fix the volunteers’ hair…

...and play clapping games.

…and play clapping games.

And look at pictures of themselves.

And look at pictures of themselves.

The team also had the opportunity to read the Bible and a discipleship book with our Haitian friends.

The team also had the opportunity to read the Bible and a discipleship book with our Haitian friends.

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One day after lunch, Sarah Harriss led worship songs with her guitar.

One day after lunch, Sarah Harriss led worship songs with her guitar.

And the team walked through Bigarade singing praise choruses and hymns.

And the team walked through Bigarade singing praise choruses and hymns.

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Some of the great faces we met in Haiti.

Some of the great faces we met in Haiti.

Preparing to put a roof on one of the new houses.

Preparing to put a roof on one of the new houses.

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One of the homeowners standing in his new doorway.

One of the homeowners standing in his new doorway.

Bob Elmore leads "Our God is so big, so strong and so mighty" during worship and prayer time on our last morning at the job sites.

Bob Elmore leads “Our God is so big, so strong and so mighty” during worship and prayer time on our last morning at the job sites.

Each morning, we had one prayer in English and one in Creole.

Each morning, we had one prayer in English and one in Creole.

On our last full day in Haiti, we visited Pastor Evens and his church in the rural mountain community of Blanquette.

On our last full day in Haiti, we visited Pastor Evens and his church in the rural mountain community of Blanquette.

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