In addition to our written report for the KBC Book of Reports, I am invited to bring a brief oral report each year on behalf of Kentucky WMU. The report is often a time to highlight some significant area of our work or to promote a new missions initiative. This year’s report was different and I share it here in hopes that you will share it with others.
WMU Report to KBC Annual Meeting – November 10, 2015
In my report today I would love to dwell on the great things that have happened this year such as having 979 participants in 4 weeks of Kentucky Changers doing 76 projects, with 101 decisions made by students, adults, and homeowners. Or I could tell you about how excited we are about Mission Adventure for Kentucky Kids, a mission trip experience for children in grades 4-6 and their leaders. How we saw children learn to lead and share their faith. Or I could focus on the re-launch of Creative Ministries Festival and how students not only learned skills in creative arts, but how they met missionaries and learned ways they can use creative arts in missions and evangelism.
But my heart has been broken since we received the news that due to revenue shortfalls, that 600-800 missionaries serving with the International Mission Board will be coming home. While this has worked out well for some, it is still not what they had planned on and all are grieving the closing out of their ministries far too soon. Our prayer is that national believers and missionaries still on the field will be able to carry on. We also pray that those returning home will find new places of service here and that the tremendous language and cultural skills that they bring will indeed help us to reach the nations in our midst.
At the Kentucky WMU display we have a handout that says at the top, Revenue shortfall will bring 600-800 missionaries home. On the left side, there is a list of ways you can help returning Southern Baptist missionaries. On the right side, there is a list of ways you can help ensure this never happens again.
In a recent address to the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention, Wanda Lee reminded us of the words of Annie Armstrong who said “After study of God’s Word comes study of the fields. Then people pray. Then they give.” Wanda called us to account for the fact that many of our churches, including churches in Kentucky, have abandoned the part of what Annie said between study of the God’s Word and praying and giving – that is the study of the fields.
Wanda correctly pointed out that mission study is the driving force between how much we pray and how much we give. She said, “We can lament the churches that haven’t given, we can lament many things….But one thing we have failed to do in our churches is to embrace the missions assignment of helping our children and our youth understand God’s field.” As Wanda rightly pointed out, when there’s no understanding of the depth of lostness, there’s no passion to give and when a church tilts toward entertaining their children and youth, or abandons Wednesday missions night activities in deference to other programs or sports, we have let that overshadow the priority of equipping the next generation for missions.
I cannot tell you the number of times I have received calls from people who are upset because their church is cutting the Cooperative Program because whoever was elected treasurer or another key leader did not know what it was or why we support it. Study of the fields not only includes a study of lostness, but it also includes teaching our children, students and adults the ways we send and support missionaries so that they can go and push back the darkness.
I am a blogger and a few weeks ago I shared an email from a missionary who will becoming home from a warm weather climate. In response to that blog, I received this note:
Dear Joy, I appreciate getting your notes from missionaries who are going to have to “come home”. What a TOUGH DECISION TO MAKE. I have been praying for them ever since I heard about it happening…… I REALLY FEEL FOR THEM AND PRAY FOR THEM IN SO MANY OF THE SITUATIONS THEY FIND THEMSELVES IN, ESPECIALLY THEIR CONCERN FOR THEIR MISSION FIELD AND THE LOST ON IT. I would be willing to share my winter clothes, which are nice, with someone who is returning and has no winter clothes and I am sure other Baptists would do that. I am so old (92) there are not any more missionaries on the field that I knew as they have “all retired, Ha!” or they are deceased. I just want the missionaries to know I pray for them having to leave just like I prayed about them going over there to serve the Lord, and their safety while they were there and their work with the lost. I WILL CONTINUE TO PRAY FOR THEM DAILY.
As Wanda said to the SBC Executive Committee, “we can’t go through this again.” In WMU we invite you to go with us. Quit entertaining children and young people. Lead them to study God’s Word and then expose them to the lostness of the world. Our children and youth long for deeper meaning and purpose and they will commit their lives to service and the call of God to the fields that are white unto harvest if we teach them. And when we do, money and needed resources will follow.