During the past several weeks, Southern Baptists have learned that the International Mission Board is facing especially challenging times as it seeks to deal with stark financial realities.
As part of the path forward, the IMB has offered to many employees the option to accept a VRI (“voluntary retirement incentive”) that will have perhaps hundreds of personnel departing the IMB and returning to the U.S. While the precise number of those accepting the VRI is not yet known, they do need our prayers.
Also in need of our prayers, as always, are those thousands of missionaries who continue in service to our Lord through the IMB, sharing the Gospel around the world, sometimes at great peril to their own lives depending on the locale. Let me encourage you to:
- PRAY. Make IMB missionaries, their families and ministries an intentional prayer priority, especially in November and December. Consider participating in observances of the Week of Prayer and Mission Study for International Missions and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, November 29 to December 6, 2015.
- GIVE. Please consider your largest gift ever to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. This will help strengthen the IMB’s ministry worldwide and ameliorate the financial challenges they’re facing. (As I’ve indicated in previous blog postings, my wife and I plan to make our largest gift ever to the Lottie Moon offering.)
Also, pray for those who will be returning to our nation, which may well be markedly different from the nation they once knew. Pray that doors of ministry will open for these returning missionaries to share the Gospel in our own nation. Many of these returning IMB personnel can assist Alabama Baptists in a variety of ways, such as developing highly effective missions strategies to reach people and cultivating passion, vision and a heart for missions outreach.
The departing IMB personnel will return to a number of states, including Alabama. Your State Board of Missions, in partnership with Alabama WMU and an IMB Transition Task Force, is seeking practical ways to help those missionaries and their families who choose Alabama as their new residence.
The State Board of Missions – on behalf of Alabama Baptists and thanks to gifts through the Cooperative Program – can help connect returning missionaries with potential ministry opportunities. As the personnel begin to return, we will listen carefully about other types of help they may need.
We have had a number of reports of church-owned residences and missionary housing being made available for returning IMB families. Some churches are planning “welcome home showers” to provide returning personnel with basic household needs. Many are returning to the U.S. with very few possessions that can be used to furnish a home in the U.S. since, for example, most electrical appliances that will work in other nations won’t work here due to differences in electrical wiring.
Others are planning to provide automobiles for returning IMB missionaries. Others may provide access to financial counseling and help with the process of buying a home and applying for a mortgage after many years of living abroad.
The ways to assist these returning missionaries, choice servants of God, are numerous.
If you or your local church would like to offer some form of assistance to these returning missionaries, I would encourage you to make contact with State Missionary Scotty Goldman who chairs a State Board of Missions work group that will match resources available with needs of returning missionaries.
For more information about this ministry of hospitality, Scotty may be contacted at 1-800-264-1225, ext. 387, or (334) 613-2387, [email protected].
For promotional materials and other information about the Lottie Christmas Offering for International Missions, please contact Dawn Watkins at Alabama WMU at 1-800-264-1225, ext. 226, or (334) 613-2226, dwatki[email protected], Materials may also be ordered online at http://AlabamaWMU.org/freeresources