Empty shoes are a reminder of the need for mission funding in the U-S.

By October 22, 2003

RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–Rows of empty shoes served as a solemn reminder that about 100 missionary hopefuls must be deferred until next year.

The shoes were displayed during a recent chapel service at the International Mission Board in Richmond, Va., where IMB staff were encouraged to give to this year’s Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. Last year, staff pledges averaged $450 per person.

Lloyd Atkinson, vice president of mission personnel at the IMB, told about the recent hardships missionary hopefuls deal with and the heartbreak staff face in deferring them.

“There was a pastor who was appointed … but because of budget, his orientation had to be delayed until January,” Atkinson said. “His church didn’t understand that, and they were unwilling to keep him on. And so here he is, living with in-laws, living without a job.”

Atkinson told of another man who used his supervisor at work as a reference while going through the missionary process. During that time, plans were put into motion for him to leave a position that he had been in since 1991.

“When the delay came, [his supervisor] refused to change that schedule,” Atkinson said. “So again, caught. There are many stories like that.”

Despite record numbers of Southern Baptists coming forth to fill the empty shoes, church giving has not provided the money needed to put them on the field. The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering fell $10 million short of its $125 million goal last year.

Delays and deferments have impacted approximately 100 long-term missionary candidates, says Atkinson. The number of new short-term personnel also will be reduced by 30 percent this year.

“I look at all these shoes and I just think of all the needs on the field,” says Atkinson. “And I believe that we need to pray that Southern Baptists would give as never before that we can fill these shoes, and that they would go to the field.”

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