Testimonial about “Christmas in August”

Editor’s Note: We at BtT would like to thank all of those churches and entities who participated in the Christmas in August drive to raise funds for the IMB. We have received letters from more than a few missionaries and missionary candidates, and decided to post portions of one of them below. Although this particular letter is written in the form of a thank you to SEBTS, we know that in spirit it is also a thank you to all of our churches and entities who participated.

Dear Drs. Akin, Ashford and Nelson,

I am an online student at SEBTS and I have had the privilege to take classes from each of you and listen to your messages in the chapel podcast. It was my hope to attend SEBTS on campus, but the Lord had other plans.

I was one of the IMB career missionary candidates put on hold this year due to lack of Lottie Moon and Cooperative Program giving. When I heard of how sacrificially the students and staff at SEBTS gave during Christmas in August, it gave me great joy and hope that my appointment would not be delayed by a year or more.

Because of Christmas in August and prayer, I and many other candidates who were put on hold are now being appointed in November. Instead of a year or more additional delay, I now only have a delay of three months to get on the field.

I am going to Central Asia, to a people group that has been persecuted by Muslims and Communists. There is no gospel in their language yet; I hope, with God’s grace and wisdom, to remedy that! But time is so short in this country and its government unstable, getting on the field as soon as possible is vital. That was what was so devastating when I was put on hold indefinitely. Praise God that is not the case now!

I thank-you for the passion you have for Christ and your ceaseless support of the Great Commission. I am so thankful to be a student at SEBTS. I hope that I can attend on campus when I return from the field after my first three years.

Thank-you for your love for His Church and the unreached peoples,

S_____

Southeastern Family Gives Over $60,000 So That “All Peoples May Know Him”

Southeastern family gives over $60,000 so that ‘all peoples may know him’

8/28/2009

by Lauren Crane

Southeastern Seminary students, faculty and staff were blessed this week to be able to donate money and gifts in excess of $60,000 to support the International Mission Board in a time of economic hardship.

The school, under the leadership of President Daniel Akin, was challenged to give to the International Mission Board during a special time of offering. On Tuesday, August 25, and Thursday, August 27, the Southeastern family gave financially to support the work of foreign missions, hoping to provide some relief to a nearly $30 million dollar giving deficit.

The most poignant gift to appear in the offering plates was a diamond engagement ring, a matching wedding band, and a note, featuring a picture of Lottie Moon, with the words, “For Lottie.” The ring set, which is being appraised, was only one example of the sacrifice students made to make sure that all people who have been called may have the chance to go to the nations, so that all the nations may have the chance to hear of salvation in Jesus Christ.

“I have always known that Southeastern is a Great Commission seminary that has the nations on her heart. Still, I underestimated the sacrifices this family is willing to make to see that the unreached peoples of the world have the opportunity to hear the gospel of King Jesus,” Akin said.

In June, Akin announced his intentions to host a special offering during the convocation service at Southeastern, and the opportunity to give to the IMB was extended into Thursday’s chapel service. During Tuesday’s service, which was led by David Nelson, senior vice president for academic administration, those gathered gave $22,410. On Thursday, the giving amounts increased, with the offering buckets being filled with $24,735. Additionally, more than $11,000 was given to Southeastern by donors and designated for the offering.

“The fact that gifts to reach the lost included an engagement ring and wedding bands caused me to weep tears of joy. I am still rejoicing!” Akin said. “I do not have the words to express my thanksgiving for what happened this week on our campus.

“God is doing something wonderful among his people as we refocus on His glory and the good of the nations,” Akin said. “My prayer is this spirit will spread like a wildfire across our nation and around the world – that all may know of a savior whose name is Jesus.”

More Christmas in August @ SEBTS

At Southeastern we continually challenge our students not to ask ,”should I go to the nations who have never heard the gospel?” Rather our consistent encouragement is, “why should I stay?” With almost 3.5 billion people with either no or very limited access to the gospel, the reason we raise the latter question is clear. It is the one we should be asking as Southern Baptists. It is the question we should be asking as devoted followers of Jesus.

Now we have a new challenge staring us in the face. We have brothers and sisters willing to go but we lack the sufficient funds to send them. You will find an article below that tells the tragic story of a Southeastern family ready to go to an unreached people group with a short window of opportunity to get into this country. They have been put on “missionary hold” because the financial resources are not available. Their story could be multiplied dozens of times. This is simply unacceptable. I fear it may be sinful. So a new question is before us. It is not, “should I give to reach the nations?” No, the question is, “how much should I give to reach the nations?” Next week Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary will be observing a special “Christmas in August.” We will be taking this offering to help make up the shortfall this year in the Lottie Moon offering. I want to urge you with all of my heart to pray and ask God what He would have you do. As you do, let me encourage you to reflect on two particular text of Scripture: 2 Corinthians 8:9 and 9:15. Meditate on these and then give as our Lord leads. God will honor the intent of our hearts. He will bless our faithfulness. He will delight in our passion for the nations that His precious Son shed his blood to redeem!

Danny Akin

Missed opportunity? Giving shortfall risks chance to re-engage closed Asian country

Posted on Aug 20, 2009 | by Don Graham

RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–A rare opportunity to place missionaries in a highly restricted Central Asian country may slip through Southern Baptists’ fingers due to a serious shortfall in missions giving.

The country — which can’t be named without risking missionaries’ chances of obtaining a visa — is home to several million people, mostly Muslim. Only about 2,000 are believed to be evangelical Christians.

Shane and Melanie Johnson* were on track to become the first Southern Baptist personnel to serve inside the country in nearly a decade. But now that plan is in jeopardy.

On July 10, the Johnsons received word from the International Mission Board that their missionary appointment had been put on hold.

“It hurts,” Melanie said. “It’s really sad that in times of crisis [giving to] the church and charities is the first thing to go.”

“We want to go to one of those places on the map of lostness …,” Shane said. “We know the Bible is clear about the Great Commission. We are to make sure that someone from every tribe, tongue and nation bows before the throne of God and praises His name.”

The Johnsons are among 69 long-term missionary candidates who have been delayed because of a lack of funds to send them to the field. That’s in addition to an estimated 350 short-term candidates who also are on hold.

In May, the International Mission Board announced it would severely limit the number of missionaries sent in 2009 due to reduced giving through the Cooperative Program and a $29-million shortfall in the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. More than half of IMB’s annual budget to support the 5,600-plus Southern Baptist missionaries overseas comes from the Lottie Moon offering. The goal for the 2008 offering (which funds the 2009 budget) was $170 million, but only $141 million was received, $9 million less than last year.

But even if there were no shortfall, getting the Johnsons inside that Central Asian country won’t be easy.

Southern Baptist missionaries began spreading the Gospel there for the first time in 1993 following the collapse of the Soviet Union. But by the year 2000 all missionaries had been asked to leave. That left behind 500 new Christians and a young church struggling to survive under intense persecution.

Since that time, missionaries have been painstakingly training and discipling national believers by flying them in and out of the country. Though that strategy has seen success, it’s also slow, cumbersome and expensive, which is why the IMB wants personnel living in country again.

WINDOW OF OPPORTUNITY

Kris Plummer* leads Southern Baptists’ efforts to spread the Gospel in this area of Central Asia, including the country where the Johnsons want to serve. Once inside, he said their goal will be to lay the groundwork for the IMB to re-establish a presence there.

Before they were delayed, the Johnsons planned to arrive in early 2010. But due to the financial shortfall, it isn’t likely to happen until that summer — at least a six-month delay.

“Right now we have a window of opportunity to try and place them in [the country],” Plummer said. “But we don’t know how long that window’s going to be open…. We’re ready to take advantage of this opportunity, but if this delay stretches out too long the window may close on us.

“It’s a disappointment because we’ve been trying to get back into [the country] for so long…. When we got the word the Johnsons were delayed, it’s just one more barrier to cross. And it’s a barrier that really shouldn’t be there.

“It’s not a question of Southern Baptists having money — even in this financial crisis Southern Baptists have money,” Plummer said. “It’s more of a question of what’s their priority for spending that money.”

Maybe even rarer than the window to enter the country, Plummer said, are missionaries willing to restart the work there — alone.

“Like most things in Central Asia, you never know until you try, and even when things look very wide open they can slam shut very quickly,” Plummer said. “The glorious thing is we’ve got somebody like the Johnsons who are willing to try. Those kind of people don’t come around every day, and I want to take advantage of their heart and desire.”

PERSONAL HARDSHIP

Besides risking their chance to enter the country, the Johnsons say the delay is causing them significant personal hardships as well.

They’ve both just graduated from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., and were planning to transition straight to the mission field. But now, without jobs, they’ll have to live with Melanie’s family in order to save money.

“Because of the delay we’ve rescheduled our whole plan for the next eight or nine months,” Shane said. “It was tough to come to terms with, but it’s water under the bridge at this point.”

Adding to their stress is the impact the delay will have on their growing family. Midway through the application process the Johnsons found out they were expecting their first child. They were counting on IMB salary and medical benefits by the time the baby arrived, but the delay makes that impossible. They have some health insurance available through GuideStone Financial Resources, but the rest will have to come from Medicaid and their savings.

“The bottom line is that God has always provided for us,” Shane said. “We’re not in debt at all; we’ve made it through seminary…. He’s going to take care of us just like He always has.”

TRUE COST OF DELAY

The greatest impact from the delay, the Johnsons said, will be on the peoples of Central Asia that God has asked them to serve.

“We’ll never know what the time we missed overseas might have resulted in as far as yields for the Gospel,” Shane said. “Even one believer can multiply exponentially and have a tremendous impact for the Gospel…. That’s the true cost [of the financial shortfall], and we’ll never really know what that is.”
–30–
*Names changed. Don Graham is a writer for the International Mission Board.

© Copyright 2009 Baptist Press. All Rights Reserved. Terms of Use.