International (MNN) — International Mission Board trustees were told recently that significant cutbacks would need to be made regarding the Southern Baptist international mission field. Due to financial strain, the ministry may need to draw back as many as 600 missionaries in 2010.
No missionaries will be recalled from the field, but other significant changes will cause setbacks. An IMB press release says, "The drawdown in the missionary force during 2010 will be accomplished through natural attrition, completion of service, retirements and limiting appointments."
Some cutbacks will be inconvenient, and others detrimental. The 2-3 year Masters Program will now require participants to provide some of their own support package. Benefits have already been reduced for missionaries and staff of IMB. The ministry will also be forced to send out fewer missionaries than planned.
The substantial cutbacks at a time when there is so much fresh soil for missions to grow was decided based on a variety of financial stresses. The Lottie Moon Christmas offering of 2008 came in $29 million short of its goal. The goal for the 2009 Christmas offering has been raised, but even assuming all of that comes in, the operating budget for 2010 will now be $23.2 million less than 2009. To even balance the new budget, $7.5 million will be pulled from contingency reserves, leaving IMB with only six weeks of reserves in case of unexpected expenses.
Gordon Fort, vice president of global strategy for IMB, is distraught by the necessary cutbacks. "When doors are swinging open all over the world, when our work force is finding great harvest in some of the most difficult places in the world, we are drawing our force down from 5,600 to 5,000. It just shouldn't be," Fort grieved in an IMB press release.
IMB will of course continue its work overseas and do the best they can with what they have been given. The ministry mourns the fact that the harvest is still plentiful but the workers will now be fewer.
Pray that the Lord would multiply the efforts of the missionaries as the cutbacks are made. Pray that He would provide peace for IMB and the missionaries and staff affected. Pray that the Gospel would continue to spread even more rapidly despite hardship.
To learn more about the financial strain and cutbacks for IMB, click here.