By Suzanne Rhodes
Union University news office
JACKSON — Paul Chitwood, president of the International Mission Board, gave an address on the IMB’s missions throughout the nations, encouragement to Southern Baptist supporters and updates on its international responses during Union’s annual W.D. Powell Missions Lecture on April 26.
Union president, Samuel W. “Dub” Oliver, said he was delighted to host Chitwood on campus as he challenged the community and spent time with students interested in serving with the IMB.
“Taking the gospel to every area of the globe in every walk of life is central to our mission at Union, so we are glad to partner with the IMB for these lectures,” Oliver said.
While considering the magnitude of problems throughout the world today, Chitwood began by reminding the audience the world’s greatest problem has and will always be lostness — being separated from God because of humanity’s sin.
Therefore, the IMB’s mission is to share the great hope of the gospel to a world affected by the universal consequence of sin.
The IMB currently has over 6,000 missionaries and missionary families sharing the good news among the nations with 91 percent serving in “unreached” people groups — people groups who have less than 2 percent of evangelical Christians among them.
“We see God at work in so many different places in the world, and we know God is at work in some of the more horrific conditions of the world,” Chitwood said.
Reflecting on the crisis in Ukraine, Chitwood shared the story of conversing with a Ukrainian refugee near the border of Ukraine and Romania. While fleeing from bombs with her mother and 7-year-old daughter, the refugees met a Baptist pastor at the border of Romania who housed them in the basement of his church with fellow Ukrainian refugees.
Through the love of the Romanian pastor and other IMB volunteers caring for her and other refugees, the woman came to hear the gospel message for the first time. She told Chitwood she came to realize that up until the war, she had simply been living her life oblivious to the fact that there was a God in heaven and that she was a lost sinner. She told him her life and her eternity have been changed through this war and through the love of those who have shared the gospel.
“Amidst pain that I don’t think could be measured as her father and her husband fight the war in Ukraine and she has no idea about their condition, she’s come to know the Lord through the ministry of those who are sharing hope that comes from the gospel,” Chitwood said.
Southern Baptist churches across the nation have raised nearly $9 million to support the IMB and its work to share the eternal hope of the gospel through overseas relief compassion ministries for places such as Ukraine. While the IMB celebrates these numbers, Chitwood also reminded the audience the staggering reality of those who remain lost in the world today.
Reflecting on Revelation 7, where people of every nation and tongue stand at the throne of Jesus Christ, Chitwood said the IMB strives to continue its mission of addressing the problem of lostness. According to the most recent research conducted by the IMB, 157,690 people die every day with no indication they have heard or believed in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
“Our work is not yet complete; we have much work to begin to do,” Chitwood said. “But we know the vision will be fulfilled, and we work together to see its fulfillment.”
Named after a Union alumnus and a pioneer Southern Baptist missionary to Mexico in the late 1800s, the W.D. Powell Missions Lecture Series is cosponsored by Union’s School of Theology and Missions and the IMB to honor Union alumni who have served in international missions.
“The lectures named after ‘the apostle of Mexico’ are a centerpiece of our efforts to keep the task of world evangelization before the Union community,” Van Neste said. “We were deeply honored that Dr. Chitwood delivered our lecture this year.” B&R