Posted on : Wednesday December 3, 2008

By Shannon Baker, BCM/D National Correspondent

COLUMBIA, Md.—When Mark and Diane (names changed for security reasons) realized God was no longer leading them to Scotland, they made the quick decision to follow the course God was putting in front of them.

They had been really excited about being a part of the partnership between Baptist churches in Scotland and the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware. They dreamed of ongoing ministry in the plush mountainous regions of Scotland.

But when Rick Hancock, then director of partnerships for the convention, offered for them to go to the Middle East instead, the couple felt an unusual excitement.

So much so that they have taken several more trips throughout the Middle East to pray over the land and to engage people with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

In fact, Mark soon became the coordinator for the Middle East partnership, in charge of the planning and development of subsequent trips to the region. So far, he has been eight times to this challenging part of the world.

In a recent turn of events, God has opened a tremendous door in front of the couple… a second career as Masters missionaries with the International Mission Board (IMB) of the Southern Baptist Convention.

The Masters Program is designed for those 50 years of age or older who are available to make a two or three year commitment to serve overseas, utilizing the maturity, skills and experience they have gained over a lifetime.

Beginning in 1999, this newest missions service program provides an opportunity for mature Southern Baptists to serve alongside career missionaries in a variety of assignments from all around the world.

Designed especially for people who want to serve God through international missions as their next career, the Masters Program enlists Southern Baptists who have invested their lives in business or another field, have retired early, and now can offer IMB career personnel support and encouragement in a variety of ways.

“I am so glad I was obedient,” Mark said, marveling at the unexpected change in mission location.

He also marvels at how the Southern Baptist Convention helps missionaries.

“We’ve come to a new appreciation for the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon offering,” he said. “We are doing something that God has put on our hearts to do. It may have not been possible without the well-organized International Mission Board.” The couple’s greatest desire is for indigenous churches to be planted in the country in which they will serve. With the entire region primarily Muslim, it won’t be an easy task.

“The Lord put me in lots of situations, where I’ve had the opportunity to sow the seeds,” he noted. He is praying for more specific opportunities to share God’s truth.

“Please pray that we will have the Lord open doors to share,” he asked, “that the Lord will put us into divine places to reach people.”

As before, there is a special tour going to a restrictive access country in the Middle East. The 2009 dates are Mar. 27-Apr. 5, cost is approximately $4,300 and includes airfare from a gateway city, airfare and most domestic transport in the country, 4-5 star hotel accommodations, breakfast, some dinners, visa and visa service, English-speaking tour guide and traveler’s insurance.

For more information, contact Freddy Parker, director of BCM/D’s Acts 1:8 ministry at 800-466-5290, ext 215 or [email protected].