Pray, give and go the message to Southern Baptists

By June 18, 2004

USA (MNN/BP) — When God is moving in great power all around the world and others are giving their lives to advance God’s kingdom, Southern Baptists must be found faithful to pray, give and go in obedience to Christ’s command. That was the message conveyed during the Southern Baptist Convention that came to an end this week.

For 10 years, God has been calling out record numbers of church members to serve as missionaries overseas, International Mission Board President Jerry Rankin told the assembly in the Indiana Convention Center. In 2003, Southern Baptist missionaries and their national Baptist partners reported an historic 510,000 baptisms and a near doubling of the number of churches started.

“Yet this has not been without cost,” Rankin said. “There are more and more places that do not welcome a missionary witness. Our personnel have become vulnerable, not simply due to their missionary witness but because they are Americans living in a hostile world.”

The four Southern Baptist workers who were killed in Iraq March 15 — Larry and Jean Elliott, Karen Watson and David McDonnall — were willing to go in spite of the risk because of their conviction that Jesus alone is the answer to humanity’s spiritual need, he said.

“Amazingly, these tragic deaths have inspired others to follow in their steps, and their example calls us all of us to a greater sacrifice and obedience.”

Rankin introduced Carrie McDonnall, the fifth member of the team that was attacked that day. McDonnall’s husband died in the attack, and she was critically injured. She moved onto the stage with the help of a walker, her leg in a cast and her arm, hand and face visibly scarred.

After a sustained standing ovation, McDonnall thanked the audience for their prayers during the ordeal. She told the story of a teenager who heard about the attack and her critical injuries and asked her classmates to pray for McDonnall. Told by her teacher that her action was inappropriate, the student countered, “It’s the least I could do.”

“Make no mistake, David and I went to Iraq out of God’s call on our lives to see his name glorified among the nations,” McDonnall said. “That includes the hard and violent places.

“My Jesus bears scars on his body from the violence he endured. How could we sit back and say ‘I can’t go because it’s too hard,’ especially when the world is saying, ‘You just can’t do that’?

“Trust me, for my Jesus, it’s the least I could do.”

In spite of many barriers — from traditional religion to mountaintop isolation — God’s message of love is spreading from heart to heart, sometimes multiplying in an amazing fashion, a series of missionaries told the congregation.

People turn to Christ in great numbers even when it means suffering and death, Rankin told the crowd.

Like the Scripture says, God is doing a work among the nations that is hard to believe even when you hear the testimony firsthand, Rankin said.

He closed with a prayer that Southern Baptists would rise to meet the challenge.

“I pray that You would find us faithful, that we would continue to challenge our people and our churches to go, that we would join with these in volunteer projects to share the Gospel and the power of God with a world that is desperately searching,” he said.

“I pray that we…would not be ashamed of the Gospel of Christ.”

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