For many people, the best part of being a Southern Baptist is supporting the work of the International Mission Board. The IMB is the centerpiece, the central reason our denomination exists. We were founded to combine the efforts of many churches to share the gospel with as many people as possible in as many places as possible. The IMB helps us fulfill that original mission.
Central to the strategy of the IMB is sending missionaries. These men and women (and a large number of their children) relocate to challenging places—learning languages and adapting to culture to share the gospel. Making life work in these varied settings around the world is difficult. Missionaries are special people, but they are not exempt from medical problems, concerns about the well-being of their children, and the emotional/psychological toil their demanding jobs take on them. For this reason, the IMB has extensive “member care” services for missionaries and their families.
Part of member care, as well as part of their training and on-going professional support, are periodic gatherings of all missionaries and their families. At these “annual general meetings,” missionaries get to relax for a few days, spend time with their peers, enjoy focused time with family, and receive spiritual encouragement. At these meetings, American churches bring teams to provide Vacation Bible School and Youth Camp experiences for missionary children. Other churches send worship leaders and practical workers to take care of meeting logistics so missionaries really can disengage from their responsibilities for a few days.
Over the years, it has been my privilege to speak at several of these annual meetings. These are cherished opportunities, even while feeling appropriate spiritual pressure to “get it right” in preaching to these special people. It is my privilege to fulfil this responsibility again this week in Mexico with missionaries from the Americas.
Member care for missionaries—including spiritual support, practical training, and relational infusions—is essential. I am glad the IMB recognizes this need and affirms investing in missionaries as a primary asset for gospel expansion around the world. Gateway is partnering to make this happen this week by sending me to this meeting. The Gateway family is a mission-focused, missionary-sending movement. I’m glad to be doing my hands-on part this week.