Missionaries who raise their own support are often called "faith" missionaries in contrast with those sent out by denominational agencies such as the International Mission Board (IMB), which provides support and benefits.
However, the IMB does not generate income to support the more than 5,300 missionaries overseas receiving financial support. We are totally dependent on the gifts of Southern Baptists.
It takes faith to believe God will provide $170 million through a once-a-year missions offering named after a 19th-century missionary. It takes faith to trust Southern Baptists to have a mission heart and allocate a percentage of their church gifts to the Cooperative Program.
Last year, the International Mission Board sent out 841 new missionaries — none were delayed in leaving for their field of assignment because they couldn't raise funds. They followed God's will, confident God would provide for their needs through our churches.
I recently had the privilege of meeting three young missionaries on our Xtreme Team in the jungles of Peru's Amazon Basin. After a flight to a city in the northwestern part of the country, we flew in a chartered plane to a remote landing strip near the border with Brazil. Following a five-hour ride in a motorized canoe, we reached a Yaminahua village where the journeymen had been living for a couple months.
Missionaries — like these journeymen — who have been sent out by the IMB are able to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth because of the faithful giving of Southern Baptists. Your support through the Cooperative Program and Lottie Moon Christmas Offering enables these young men to live among this indigenous people group, where there is now a thriving church.
It is a joy to represent the entity that serves the churches of our denomination by channeling support to those sharing the Gospel among the nations.
Never forget, it is a challenging world to which God is calling us to go and tell the Gospel. We cannot wait while multitudes enter eternity without Christ. I pray that we as Southern Baptists will be found faithful and obedient in our giving and will challenge the next generation to be faithful in fulfilling our missions task.
Lottie Moon: A Legacy of Sacrificial Giving
Today's China is a world of rapid change. It is home to 1.3 billion individuals — one-fifth of the world's population. Village dwellers flock to trendy megacities with exploding populations. And China holds its own in the world's economy. It's very different from the vast farmland Lottie Moon entered in the 1800s. But one thing hasn't changed: China's need for a Savior.
Lottie Moon — the namesake of the international missions offering — has become something of a legend to us. But, in her time, Lottie was anything but an untouchable hero. In fact, she was like today's missionaries. She was a hard-working, deep-loving Southern Baptist who labored tirelessly so her people group could know Jesus.
When she set sail for China, Lottie was thirty-two years old. She had turned down a marriage proposal and left her job, home, and family to follow God's lead. Her path wasn't typical for an educated woman from a wealthy Southern family. But Lottie did not serve a typical God. He had gripped her with the Chinese people's need for a Savior.
For thirty-nine years Lottie labored, chiefly in Tengchow and P'ingtu. People feared and rejected her, but she refused to leave. The aroma of fresh-baked cookies drew people to her house. She adopted traditional Chinese dress, and she learned China's language and customs. Lottie didn't just serve the people of China; she identified with them. Many eventually accepted her. And some accepted her Savior.
Lottie's vision wasn't just for the people of China. It reached to her fellow Southern Baptists in the United States. Like today's missionaries, she wrote letters home, detailing China's hunger for truth and the struggle of so few missionaries sharing the Gospel with so many people. She shared another timely message, too: the urgent need for more workers and for Southern Baptists passionately supporting them through prayer and giving.
In 1912, during a time of war and famine, Lottie silently starved, knowing that her beloved Chinese didn't have enough food. Her fellow Christians saw the ultimate sign of love: giving her life for others. On Christmas Eve, Lottie died on a ship bound for the United States.
But her legacy lives on. During the past five generations, Southern Baptists have been motivated by Lottie Moon to plant their lives in missions by going or supporting others who are carrying the Gospel light into the darkness. And today, when gifts aren't growing as quickly as the number of workers God is calling to the field, her call for sacrificial giving rings with more urgency than ever.
Jerry Rankin a member of Grove Avenue Baptist Church in Richmond, Virginia, and is president of the SBC International Mission Board.