International (MNN) — Hundreds of people are responding to
God's call to long-term missions, but economic conditions are making it more
difficult to come up with the necessary financial support. The International Mission Board has made the "very
difficult decision" that it cannot commission as many new long-term
missionaries this year as it has in the past, said spokesperson Wendy Norvelle.
"It's a heartbreaking situation because there are still…about
1.6 billion people who still don't even have access to the Gospel," she said. "And there are people here who have said, 'God
has called and I want to go,' and yet the funds just won't allow us to be able
to send and support them at this time. So
it really means that the Gospel will be delayed in getting to some people who
have never heard the name of Jesus."
Last year, the IMB sent 1,088 new missionaries to the
mission field. This year's number will
be significantly smaller.
"Just last week we had an appointment service and appointed
101 new long-term missionaries to go join our folks overseas," Norvelle
explained. "But in the rest of this year,
we're only going to be able to send probably fewer than a hundred more
A "phenomenal" amount of interest in foreign missions has
been manifest in recent years, Norvelle said. But now, when so many people are responding to
the call to the mission field, there is no money to send them.
The economic difficulties have impacted not only long-term
missions, but also short-term missions. Assignments
to serve overseas for two or three years through the International Service
Corps and Masters Programs had to be completely suspended. Short-term missionaries who have already begun
their assignments will finish, but no new missionaries can be appointed.
Missionaries with the IMB do not have to raise their own
support because they are supported through the Southern Baptist Convention's
cooperative program and Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. In 2008, Southern Baptists gave over $150
million to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. The 2009 offering will probably be
"There's been a slight decrease in the offering that's come through the regular
church budget and then…there's a decrease in the Lottie Moon Christmas
Offering, which we anticipate," Norvelle explained. "Another source of our funding, though, that has
been hard-hit just like everyone else, is investment income."
Christians can pray "that those who are called out will be
sent, and that the Lord of the harvest will continue to call out those who want
to go and take the Gospel to a lost and dying world," Norvelle said. If you would like to support IMB missionaries
financially, click here.