During the April 26-28 meeting of the International Mission Board (IMB), an “extremely promising” outlook for the 2004 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering convinced trustees to send an additional 200 workers overseas this year.
David Steverson, IMB vice president for finance, told the board that prospects for the 2003 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions looked “extremely promising.” He said he believed the final total May 31 would exceed the base goal of $133 million.
In June 2003, the IMB was forced to limit appointments and cut statewide staff because income from churches was not keeping pace with the strong growth in the number of new missionares coming forward for overseas service. IMB President Jerry Rankin had promised to loosen restrictions on appointments if Southern Baptists rose to the funding challenge. So far, receipts for the offering appear to be running more than 18 percent ahead of last year’s offering during the same period.
In the end, the trustees adopted a recommendation from their Financial Committee to add $13 million to the 2004 budget, including an additional $5 million to send 200 long-term and short-term missionaries. Another additional $4 million in funds was allocated for capital expenditures such as missionary housing and vehicles. The remaining $4 million was added to missionary support.
IMB trustees also appointed 76 new long-term overseas workers in an April 27 service at Two Rivers Baptist Church in Nashville. After the appointment, Rankin challenged the new missionaries to imitate Abraham, who followed God even though he didn’t know where he was going, to be like Moses, who rejected the comforts and riches of Egypt to identify with his people, and to emulate the heroes of faith who refused to shun suffering and death because they valued God’s higher purpose even more than their own well-being.
Also during the meeting there were several recommendations that were adopted with the intention to streamline and sharpen the focus of IMB’s overseas structure. The board’s Western Pacific and Southeast Asia and Oceania regions were consolidated into one Pacific Rim region. The Eastern Africa and Southern Africa regions into one Eastern and Southern Africa region.
A motion to also consolidate four other regions into two was also brought from the floor. The motion was to unify the Middle America and Caribbean Basin regions, merging the Western South America and Eastern South America regions and transferring Venezuela and Colombia from the Middle America and Caribbean region to the new South America region. Proposals to consolidate the regions had been discussed the previous day in three regional committees, however none of the committees had been asked to vote on them. The committees reported that they had not yet come to a consensus about the proposals.
The motion was met with opposition from a member of the Eastern South America committee, however the trustees voted for the additional consolidations on a show of hands by a margin of 43 to 29. Rankin said the question of who would lead the combined regions would be addressed during the board’s May meeting. The meeting will be held in Atlanta, Georgia on May 17-19.