I am privileged to be writing this from the International Learning Center of the International Mission Board (IMB) outside of Richmond, Va. My fellow executive directors from across the United States are being hosted by Tom Elliff and his fine staff. Southern Baptist cooperative work around the globe has been the focus of many hours of reports and updates.
I wish all of you could have the joy of hearing our mission leaders tell story after story of God’s mighty work. Today, God is opening hearts to the Gospel in some of the darkest places on Earth. Indeed, in the past, many nations and people groups have been seen not only as unreached but also unreachable. Yet, God has performed miracles and mighty deeds for the propagation of the Gospel. Nothing is impossible for God! No government or potentate can build walls high enough to stop the Gospel. He opens doors that no man can open.
One of the challenges of reporting on our international mission work through the Cooperative Program is that we cannot tell all the stories. Sixty-two percent of our international missionaries serve in high-security places. Many live in the shadow of danger every day for the Gospel’s sake. New converts often face death or severe punishment when they embrace Christ as Savior. These realities are far removed from us and are almost incomprehensible. We have no frame of reference, but be assured—multitudes in this world literally abandon all, including their lives, to follow Jesus. The blood of martyrs truly is the seed of the church.
One unique blessing of my time here at the IMB has been to meet some of the finest young adults from our Oklahoma churches who are preparing for the mission field. My heart was filled with joy to meet a young lady I had baptized when she was a child. Today, she and her husband are ready to carry the Gospel to hungry souls in need of a Savior.
This time has reinvigorated me and reaffirmed my commitment to our “together” ministry and missions as Oklahoma Baptists. Let me illustrate. One couple told a familiar story—she came to Christ at Falls Creek; he answered God’s call to ministry at Falls Creek. Three individuals told me they received their education at Oklahoma Baptist University. Others spoke of the influence of Baptist Collegiate Ministries in discipling and helping them hear God’s voice and call to missions.
David Steverson, an Oklahoman who serves as the Chief Financial Officer of the IMB, is a trusted leader and one worthy of our trust. In presenting the financial report, Steverson said something very strong. He indicated he was very grateful for the generosity of Southern Baptists in giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, but he stressed the great need to strengthen the Cooperative Program. Why? Because the Cooperative Program is stable and undergirds all the work.
He stated he would rather see Cooperative Program as the higher percentage of the IMB budget than the Lottie Moon offering because the Cooperative Program is constant. Don’t misunderstand; our goal should be greater sacrifice in both cooperative giving and our individual giving to Lottie.
Elliff is leading our international mission enterprise with the same integrity, passion for a lost world and dedication we in Oklahoma have observed across decades of local church ministry. I give thanks to God because He has called Elliff to lead Southern Baptist international missions for such a time as this. We are a blessed people.