The recent drawdown of International Mission Board (IMB) missionary personnel should hurt the hearts of all of us. Whether we agree with the strategy or think it the best approach, our hearts break for these missionaries.
We would be hard pressed to find one of these missionary families leaving the field who are not facing the grief of leaving ministry and friends. In addition, they must now begin the process of developing a new plan for life.
Think of some of the challenges. These missionaries must establish new homes, which means among other things, the purchasing of furniture and appliances. As with anyone who has moved to a new or different home, there are a myriad of incidentals that will be needed. Every family will need to purchase at least one automobile. While the severance package will carry them for a period of time, new ministries or jobs must be pursued.
If I know Oklahoma Baptists, there is a great love and respect for our returning missionary families. There is also a longing to see these missionaries served and a desire to minister to them.
I have asked Kelly King, Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (BGCO) women’s missions and ministries specialist, to lead the way in the convention reaching out to Oklahoma-related missionaries. Only recently have we received information on those missionaries who will be returning to Oklahoma. I assure you, the BGCO will make every effort to serve these families on your behalf.
In March, the BGCO is planning a retreat for our returning Oklahoma missionaries. The retreat is being designed so that we have an opportunity to love on them, give them time to spend together, and help them in adjusting to the new life that is before them.
Here are some things that you can do. First, pray for these families. Just as you have prayed for God’s sustaining grace and hand of blessing on them while on the field, realize they need your prayers more than ever in this transition.
Second, some of you are searching for a pastor or staff member. I would recommend you consider one of these returning missionaries. I have already seen where some of our churches have called one of these choice servants to serve them. I pray that calling these returning missionaries as church staff members will increase in the days ahead. The BGCO can help you get in contact with the returning missionaries. For more information, you can call King’s office at 405/942-3800, Ext. 4324.
I am so proud that many Oklahoma Southern Baptist churches have gone out of their way to love on these missionaries. Many of these churches have mission houses that have been made available to our missionaries for the transition period.
Thank you, Oklahoma Baptists, for your concern for these missionaries. You mean so much to these families. We, at the convention, will seek to serve these missionaries and their families well on your behalf and alongside you.