Missionary surgeon and longtime healthcare missions advocate Dr. Rebekah Naylor was honored at the annual International Mission Board dinner on Monday evening during the 2023 SBC annual meeting in New Orleans.

IMB President Paul Chitwood announced a ministry fund being named in honor of Naylor.

“In honor of Dr. Rebekah Naylor’s commitment to getting the gospel to the nations through healthcare, we are creating the Dr. Rebekah Naylor fund for Global Healthcare Strategies,” Chitwood announced. “Every time someone gives to this fund, they will not only honor Dr. Naylor’s legacy of service, but they will also create opportunities for hurting people to receive physical help and eternal hope.”

Naylor was appointed to India 1973 and has more than 50 years of service with the IMB. During her years of service in India, she helped supervise the growth of the former Chicken Coop Clinic into Bangalore Baptist Hospital as surgeon, chief of the medical staff, administrator and medical superintendent. She also served in pivotal roles on church-planting teams.

In 2009, Naylor retired from her work on the field and became IMB’s global healthcare strategies consultant. Today, IMB has more healthcare missionaries than ever in its history, largely due to her efforts. She has announced her upcoming retirement in September of this year.

In presenting a plaque accompanying the announcement, Chitwood shared that the inaugural $10,000 gift to the fund will come from the IMB.

Chitwood also recognized IMB President Emeritus Jerry Rankin, who was president for 17 years and served a total of 40 years with the IMB. Both Rankin and Naylor received standing ovations from the crowd of close to 2,000.

Lostness is the problem, prayer is key

Jeff Ginn, the IMB’s global engagement leader for the Americas and incoming vice president of mobilization, shared some of the stark realities of global lostness.

He personalized it, recounting a story from his time in Colombia. His wife, Nell, realized their son was missing. Stopping everything to search for him, she and a national friend discovered that a woman was trying to kidnap him. The friend rescued the boy and returned him to his mother.

“I still get weak in the knees when I think about how our lives would have been forever changed had she not had a concern for the lost,” Ginn recounted.

Ginn went on to tell how he had witnessed the power of the gospel among the lost, before moving to the stark reality of lostness — the world’s greatest problem. More than half (59%) of the world’s population is unreached. This means there are less than 2% evangelical Christians within their people group or nearby. In addition, 3,072 people groups (287 million people) are considered unengaged and unreached. These people groups have no missionary presence and likely no access to the gospel.

“This cannot be ignored, this cannot be tolerated, this cannot stand,” Ginn said, as he encouraged the crowd to faithfully pray for missionaries and unreached peoples.

At each table, attendees were given an 18-month prayer calendar to help them pray for the lost. During the dinner, IMB staff led attendees in a dedicated time for prayer for unreached peoples.

Southern Baptists living in the Great Pursuit

Another emphasis at the dinner was Project 3000. Through this pioneering initiative, Project 3000 will create 100 new jobs each year over three years. Each of these new missionaries will be exploring 10 people groups over a two-year period.

This announcement continues IMB’s theme of a Great Pursuit for those who remain without gospel access. IMB leaders have repeated this message, driving home why the IMB and the Southern Baptist Convention exist.

Chitwood commissioned attendees to take action as they left the dinner.

“As your missionaries continue the work of addressing the world’s greatest problem – spiritual lostness – with God’s solution – which is the gospel, they need your prayers, your continued generosity and more reinforcements,” he said.

“The number of missionaries who have applied and are walking through the process to go to the field has grown to 1,200,” he said.

“But, we need more missionaries to go. Will you consider how God is calling you and how God is calling those in your churches?” he poised to attendees.

“From the Great Commission in Matthew 28 to the Great Multitude that we see in Revelation 7:9, we have been called to unite in this Great Pursuit: To reach every nation – no matter the cost,” Chitwood closed.