BY KIMA JUDE
photography by john swain
For every Christian, answering Gods call means being on mission wherever we
find ourselves. But for some Christians, answering His call means becoming a
missionary, one who intentionally crosses cultural, geographic or other
barriers to proclaim the gospel.
The North American Mission Board has identified the deployment of
missionaries as a key strategy in reaching the lost of North America. With
5,126 NAMB missionaries already serving the United States and Canada, the task
of capturing the soul of North America is both a great challenge and an
If we take a hard look at the continent, one lost soul at a time, 5,126
missionaries seem scant manpower to meet the enormity of the challenge. Yet if
we focus on the missionaries, recognizing their personal sacrifices, we cant
help but be inspired: surely God will claim the heart of North America, because
Hes put the vision and desire in so many hearts.
For missionaries, the compulsion to move from ones
comfort zone to live out a witness for Christ begins with His call. But the
form of that call can be as unique as the individual.
Ramy James serves as a church planter in Riverdale,
Maryland. Born in Liberia, he immigrated to the United States during a civil
war in his native country.
As a child in Liberia, he became acquainted with missionary work through two
Episcopal ministers who told him Bible stories. Later, in college, he accepted
Christ through the ministry of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.
In 1983 he encountered more missionaries returning from London. Thats when
God planted in my heart that this was something He was calling me to do. When a
visiting pastor extended a call to missions at the Southern Baptist church he
attended, James quickly responded.
Counseled to get training to maximize his effectiveness, he enrolled at an
extension center with Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Four years later he had finished his schooling and received funding from
NAMB to start a cross-cultural church.
In Fresno, California, missionary Ron
Climer is a psychologist who works with juvenile offenders. A former
drug addict, Climer tried everything but God and suicideand I decided to try
God first, just in case. I found everything I was looking for.
He refers to his early, untutored efforts at evangelism as hard core.
It was turn or burn. I scared a lot of people out of hell. Eventually, he
discovered the importance of emulating Jesus approach. So he changed tactics
and decided to get involved at their point of need.
He was working construction but approached his state missions director with
the desire to do what he did. It took nine years of study. Jointly funded by
NAMB, the Mid-Valley Southern Baptist Association and the California Southern
Baptist Convention, Climer runs a needs-based counseling center, where he
trains Christian couples to be family mentors and provides internships for
Christians training in the mental health field.
His work with the juvenile court has produced impressive results.
Working in conjunction with Air and Army National Guards, Climer runs boot
camps for juvenile offenders coupled with a follow-up program that has resulted
in recidivism rates as low as 0.8 percent compared to the usual 80 percent.
Ongoing support for missionaries comes through financial support, including
the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering, and prayer support from Southern Baptists.
Ramy James, a former accountant, depended on that kind of help to respond to
Gods call. I wasnt born or raised here, and I dont have family. He needed
Jack and Virginia Robbins are newly appointed associational missionaries who
are serving in Lafayette, Indiana.
The call to missionary service can begin early in life. To nurture that
initial response among students, NAMB has developed a Missions Prep Network
(MPN) to help students answering Gods call to define both their calling and
place in this world.
One of the primary things we attempt to do is connect students with
opportunities already available through NAMB, says Donald King, a Missionary
NAMB identifies high school, college and seminary students exploring a call
to ministry or missions in order to raise their missions awareness, develop
leadership skills and provide field experience. More than 11,000 students have
been contacted since the program was initiated in 2002, and more than a
thousand students are taking advantage of MPN.
All aspects of MPN are tailored to meet the needs of students at their
particular stages of life, King says. For example, seminary students may be
referred to state convention personnel to learn about needs and missions
strategies in their state. Baptist Collegiate Ministries may be notified about
college students who can be integrated into leadership.
By networking, students who are interested in missions will get
opportunities to develop their ministry skills and meet people or connect with
groups that will help foster their work in the field, so eventually they can
hit the ground running. Through MPN, NAMB potentially can connect with students
from their freshman year of high school through seminary.
Student contacts come through signups at camps, World Changers, Centrifuge,
youth evangelism conferences or the like. Students also may be referred by
pastors or may contact NAMB directly at www.answerthecall.net/MPN or 800-462-8657.
Samuel Caballero was one of 88 new North American missionaries commissioned
November 7, 2004, with his wife, son and daughter-in-law. Father and son are
both starting churches in Colorado.
When answering His call, missionaries may discover several options of how
that service takes shape in North America. NAMB missionaries work under three
broad categories, according to Jane Bishop, director of Missionary
Mobilization: appointed, limited term and Mission Service Corps (MSC). All
categories of service require an application with specific eligibility criteria
depending on the category and service. All applicants must be NAMB-approved.
(Visit www.answerthecall.net for specific opportunities.)
Appointed and limited term (such as US/C2) missionaries are jointly funded
by NAMB and state conventions. Appointed missionaries are vocational or career
missionaries while US/C2 missionaries are usually younger candidates or college
graduates willing to gain experience or fill a personnel need that is less
costly than the long-term, fully funded position. Kind of like on-the-job
training, Bishop says.
NAMB president Dr. Bob Reccord sends missionaries into the North American
mission field with words of encouragement at the November 7, 2004 commissioning
MSC missionaries serve in a ministry capacity at least 20 hours a week, four
months or more. MSC personnel provide their own funding, although their
ministries may receive funding through the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering. MSC
personnel typically serve in areas where traditional funding is unavailable but
where NAMB strategies or state strategies are already in place.
Within the broad categories are additional classifications, itemized by job,
although Bishop points out that, within those sub-categories, both traditional
and non-traditional mission work is being accomplished.
For example, NAMB recently appointed Meredith
Day as a US/C2 missionary. She serves as a communications associate
for New Hope New York as part of the Strategic Focus Cities initiative.
Although her responsibilities, which include researching and writing stories
about Gods work in Metro New York and managing the New Hope NewYork website,
may not fall within traditional categories of missionary work, she filled a
Likewise, Victorya Rogers mission field is Hollywood. After working several
years as a talent agent in Beverly Hills, she now consults from Oklahoma. As an
MSC missionary, Rogers was already becoming involved in large-scale events that
would draw entertainers to Christ when she met NAMB President Bob Reccord. He
invited her to consider enlisting the support of NAMB. As Gods witness, she
continues to travel monthly to Hollywood to pray and counsel with people in
entertainment. But now she does it as an MSC missionary to Hollywood and with
Southern Baptists prayers backing her up.
And it makes a big difference, says Victorya.
Kima Jude is a writer in Beavercreek, Ohio.
A Southern Baptist Convention entity supported by the Cooperative Program and theAnnie Armstrong Easter Offering® ©Copyright 2013 North American Mission Board, SBC