Twenty-three years ago today, December 9, 1986, my wife Linda and I were appointed as missionaries with the then Foreign Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. (Today known as International Mission Board, or IMB.)
I was just looking at the appointment certificate signed by R. Keith Parks and recalling much of the drama that accompanied our appointment. Actually the "drama" was spread out over nearly ten years...
As a college student at the University of North Texas I struggled with God's call upon my life during much of the 70's. I was pretty open to doing whatever God wanted with me, but always shut the door on foreign missions.
Strangely enough, this was due to my great admiration for missionaries. Growing up as an MK on the mission field (here in Ecuador) my heroes had always been missionaries. I truly admired them and considered my own missionary parents some of the finest people I have ever known. I knew in my heart I was not that caliber of person! The idea of ME being a missionary was beyond my comprehension. I couldn't preach, teach, sing, counsel, administrate, evangelize, or do ANYTHING as well as my missionary aunts and uncles. I didn't even necesarrily LIKE doing many of those things anyway. I was more into the music scene and interested in the communication arts.
The years went by in college with me praying continuosly that God would "reveal His will for my life."
As a college student I was active in the University of North Texas BSU program. I was involved in many mission endeavours during my college years from 1974-1979. One of the frustrations I experienced was how few of my fellow BSUers or home church members seemed interested or responsive towards global missions. We would go to missions emphasis meetings geared for college students and hear wonderful speakers and great music. During the invitation I would "peek" and see only a small handful of people responding to God's call. It didn't matter that my own heart was bursting on the inside. All I could see and understand was that all the OTHERS were NOT responding. What was wrong with THEM? Didn't THEY know there was this huge world out there and all they seemed interested in was their own little world?
Slowly it began to dawn on me that maybe, just maybe, God could use me in some small way. As a music major, I could play the guitar and piano, and could manage to sing in tune. Through my minor, Mass Communications, I knew a bit about radio, TV, film, drama, etc.
Christmas of 1977 I went home to Quito, Ecuador to spend the semester break with my missionary parents. While there I decided I would try and get a reaction out of them by announcing that I thought maybe God was calling me into foreign missions. I intended it to be just an opening to discuss with them and hear their thoughts about what they sensed God's will might be for me, especially since my graduation was less than a year away.
Much to my astonishment and surprise they made the comment, "well, son, it's about time you finally figured out that God has been calling you all these years...we've known this for a long time now...we're so happy for you..." I was totally floored! We did talk about the matter during those days and I sensed God speaking to my heart through the words of my parents as they related all the "signs" God had worked in my life over the years. Only a fool like me wouldn't have seen the Hand of God at work in my life!
When I got back to Denton, where Linda and I were members of Grace Temple Baptist Church, I went forward on a cold winter's Sunday night during the general invitation and told the pastor, Bro. Robert Richardson, that I felt God was calling me into missions. There were no fireworks or lightening flashes. I don't even recall anyone coming forward after the service to shake my hand. But the deed was done in Heaven.
Not too long afterwards, on April 11, 1978, there was an appointment service at the Tarrant County Convention Center in Ft. Worth, Texas with the full board in session (William L. Self, presiding.) Dr. Baker James Cauthen was then President of the Foreign Mission Board. That man could preach a missions sermon like no other living person of his day. The hymn of invitation was "Take My Life, and Let It Be." By that time there was absolutely NO DOUBT in my heart that God was calling me to serve him overseas. I was one of the first to make it down to the front!
That night three couples were appointed to Ecuador. Little did we know that years later we too would end up in back in Ecuador and actually serve alongside two of these couples, Jim & Dawn Packwood, and Jack & Karen Ables!
Well, thanks for reading my story. There is more to tell, in fact--a lot more, including my wife's call into missions and how that got us together, but I'll stop here for now.
If you think there is even the remotest chance that God might be leading you to serve Him overseas, my prayer for you is that you would consider Dr. Cauthen's paraphrased words as I recall them, "unless God has specifically told you to stay put, He has called you to go." International Missions is a big step of faith, but in our 23 years so far, I wouldn't trade any of it for the world.