By Catherine Finch
On Feb. 3, the International Mission Board celebrated the appointment of 33 missionaries who will be sent to the nations in a virtual Sending Celebration streamed on imb.org, Facebook and through the IMB: Advance the Kingdom app. Approved by IMB trustees, the missionaries represent 12 states and will serve in eight of IMB’s nine affinities.
The event was streamed from the sanctuary of Mount Vernon Baptist Church in Glen Allen, Virginia. After an opening time of worship, Paul Chitwood, IMB president, thanked Southern Baptists for their support in sending missionaries.
“While we are very sad that we can’t gather together for this Sending Celebration in person, we are also very grateful that we can continue the work, continue to send and even celebrate online,” said Chitwood.
Josh Franklin, pastor of Mount Vernon Baptist Church, prayed for the missionaries.
“Lord God, I pray that you would empower each family, each missionary, to do the work that you’ve called them to do. Give them courage, give them peace of mind,” he prayed.
Every IMB missionary works among a designated people group, a population of people that shares a language, history or culture. The IMB has categorized the world into nine major affinity groups, a collection of people groups with a shared culture and often a shared language.
Eric and Lauren Coale responded to God’s call to serve the Czech people of the European Peoples Affinity.
“We had our American dream all planned out, but through short-term mission trips and studying God’s Word, He made it clear to us the lostness in this world and the great need for the gospel among the nations,” said Eric in a recorded message shared during the online event.
“God has given us a heart to live amongst and share with those who might not yet realize their need for Him,” Lauren added.
The Coales are being sent by First Baptist Church of Arnold in Arnold, Missouri, to serve as church planters in the Czech Republic.
“Sitting in a seminary classroom, we learned that the process of making disciples is not complete until new disciples are also making disciples,” shared Matthew Hirt during his brief testimony.
Matthew and Heather Hirt are answering God’s call to train and equip seminary students to fulfill the Great Commission. Matthew will serve as a seminary professor and the couple will work alongside the Nigerian Baptist Convention to train and equip believers to make disciples.
The Hirts are being sent by Bethel Baptist Church of North Vernon, Indiana, and Faith Baptist Church of Youngsville, North Carolina, to serve in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Daniel and Tara Rice were both called to serve on the mission field before they were married and are now living out their callings together in East Asia. The couple wrapped up their first three-year term with the IMB and are excited to return to the field.
“When we return, we will be serving all of our teams across Japan through project management and administration,” said Tara. “We will also partner with local Japanese churches through ministry and church planting.”
“We just can’t wait to see what the Lord will do in Japan in the next years,” she added.
The Rices are being sent by North Wake Church of Wake Forest, North Carolina, to serve in East Asia.
Available job positions for each affinity were shown after the individual missionary testimonies. Positions available include a missions mobilizer for the European affinity, a media strategist for the Central Asian Affinity and a church planter for the Deaf affinity.
Chitwood concluded the Sending Celebration with a challenge and encouragement. He asked those watching to consider their role in fulfilling the Great Commission and offered thanks for Southern Baptists’ partnership in sending the 33 missionaries commissioned.
“Thanks to your generosity, through praying and giving through the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering®, we’re able to send and sustain missionaries serving all around the world,” said Chitwood.
Visit imb.org/send today to learn how your church can send missionaries like the Coales, Hirts, and Rices. Downloadable missionary prayer cards are also available.
Catherine Finch is a writer for the IMB.
Cover photo: Joseph and Elizabeth Blandeburgo, members of Olgetown Baptist Church in Newark, Delaware, were among 33 new missionaries as part of the IMB’s Sending Celebration on Feb. 3. The couple will be serving in the Philippines. Read more about the Blandeburgos next week’s at BaptistLIFE.