Vast multitudes live in spiritual bondage, with no idea of God's love or the price He has paid for their freedom, the President of the International Mission Board told 45 newly appointed, long-term missionaries during a Sept. 15 ceremony at First Baptist Church in Roanoke, VA.
"Everywhere people are in spiritual bondage and darkness because they do not know the light of the world," President Jerry Rankin said. "God has chosen you to carry that light, to set them free.”
Rankin, who had recently returned from completing a three-month Sabbatical, told the new missionaries who were appointed for long-term service that there is no greater thrill than to have the opportunity of being the first one to tell someone about Jesus.
"You cannot imagine the thrill of seeing their eyes begin to sparkle and the light of understanding begin to dawn that there is a God who loves them and has given His Son to save them from sin,” Rankin said. "It's a message that the world is waiting to hear."
One of the newly appointed missionaries who will serve in Western Europe with his wife and their two young children said during the ceremony that once a person understands how lost the world is, it's almost impossible not to respond.
"For years I was told that there is one way to God: Jesus Christ," he said. "It took a long time, but once this reality set in, I was utterly overwhelmed by the incredible lostness of the world. It seemed like a powerful disease for which I was one of the few who knew the cure. How could I not go? How could I tell God no?"
His wife said her heart broke during an overseas trip as she watched a young mother gently fold her daughter’s hands together and show her how to bow before the idol in front of them.
She recalled, "As I watched, the Lord of Lords said to me, 'This one I want to bow before me. Go! Reach out in My name to those in darkness.'"
In addition to appointing 45 new missionaries for overseas service, trustees heard a report from Rankin on his just-completed three-month sabbatical, during which he rested, visited with children and grandchildren serving overseas and worked on writing projects.
The time off included a visit to the city in Indonesia where he and his wife, Bobbye, served their first church-planting assignment as IMB missionaries more than 25 years ago.
The city has grown to about 2 million people, and the increased influence of Islam is very evident, Rankin said.
"I guess the most emotional part of it was just being there and thinking, 'I wish we could have done more,'" he said. "We were in the midst of what is still one of the largest unreached people groups in the world, but we ignored them, looking for pockets of response," Rankin said. "And now we're sending out missionaries with a vision and strategies to impact that people group.
"I am so grateful for where God has led us, and that we've embraced some new, challenging strategies, that He's given us a global vision," Rankin said. "I wish we had been equipped and knew what missionaries know now about how to impact unreached people groups.
"I see how God is working throughout our world. We must continue to be focused on being obedient to Him and never lose sight of that vision of all the peoples of the world knowing our Lord Jesus Christ."
During the Sept. 14-15 meeting in Richmond, Va., the trustees also received 10 recommendations to clarify the methodology and purpose of overseas work, strengthen the vision for reaching a lost world and improve partnership with the six Southern Baptist seminaries.
The next trustee meeting is scheduled for Nov. 15-17 in Oklahoma City, with a missionary appointment service Nov. 16 at First Southern Baptist Church in Del City.