By Paul Chitwood
President, International Mission Board
Looking back on my first full year as your IMB president, the words that come to mind are: “Thank you.”
Thank you, Lord Jesus, for saving souls across the globe daily amid hardship and persecution, and for upholding Your servants as they go forth to share Your gospel.
Thank you, Southern Baptist family, for placing your confidence in me to lead our missionary force. It is an incredible privilege to lead the choice servants of God whom you have sent out.
This year has been marked by many victories but also by massive cyclones in Sub-Saharan Africa, political and humanitarian crises in the Americas, and large-magnitude earthquakes in Southeast Asia.
Through it all, God is opening doors for the gospel, and your Southern Baptist missionaries are making the most of the opportunities to lead people to faith and to plant churches.
After the recent earthquake in Southeast Asia, IMB missionaries prayed for a young man with two broken legs who had fruitlessly sought help from the local shaman. Jesus healed his legs, and now he and his parents are baptized believers attending a local house church.
In Central Asia, a neighborhood bully who regularly spewed anger and abuse on everyone around him studied the Bible with IMB missionaries and gave his life to Christ.
He is learning each day to show more of the fruit of the Spirit in his life, and he is a bold witness for Christ in his workplace and neighborhood.
These are just two stories of the thousands I could share that show God at work through your missionaries this year.
- 562,865 people hearing the gospel this past year means that 3,700 missionaries shared and trained and led and invested so that more than half a million people could hear.
- 77,605 new believers and 52,586 baptisms means that those missionaries remained persistent in their praying and witnessing, in planting seeds of the gospel and watering those seeds, until such a time as the Spirit of God gave an eternal harvest.
- 13,898 new churches planted represents thousands of Southern Baptists who have stepped into their calling and given their lives to share the gospel, disciple new believers, and then do the all-consuming work of leading those new believers together in such a way and for such a time that a church is birthed.
- 28,213 people receiving advanced theological training, a number that increased 48 percent over the prior year, means that men and women studied to show themselves approved, to such an extent that they not only have been entrusted with truth, but also have been found qualified to teach others.
My family and I were privileged this year to visit almost 2,300 of our missionary personnel, including more than 1,600 missionary kids.
Time with our missionaries is so important to me as I seek to lead the IMB. God is using your prayers and generosity through the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering to support our missionaries and change lives in every corner of the globe.
Walking the dusty roads and city streets with our missionaries in Sub-Saharan Africa helped me understand how we can better support them — seeing their need for reliable trucks to reach outlying villages and a place to live and to homeschool their kids.
Those things are being provided through the generous giving of Southern Baptists like you. I was reminded how vital your support is to the work that is taking place all around the world.
As we celebrate these victories, we are mindful that the only thing that prevents an even greater harvest is the lack of more laborers in the Lord’s fields.
IMB’s senior leadership has set a goal of growing the Southern Baptist international missionary force by 500 new missionaries by 2025. That would take our total field personnel count to 4,200, which we believe is the minimum number of missionaries we need to make a maximum impact.
Every church has a role to play in reaching every nation. Your church, regardless of size or resources, is vital to the mission before us. Your gifts through the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering are the lifeblood of the Southern Baptist system of missions.
There is no cause more urgent, no cause which impacts the Lord’s kingdom more, than working to fulfill the Great Commission. And I believe there are no greater avenues for supporting that cause than the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.
Let us rise to the occasion and give of ourselves and our resources to see that the gospel gets to the ends of the earth, to hasten the multitude worshiping our Lord around His throne.