Recently, I told you about the Voluntary Retirement Incentive and the reasons for the necessary cuts in personnel. We have been dealing with all of the fallout from that here in the Zambezi cluster, and trying to pick up the pieces in so many places. In some countries we will no longer have personnel and in others we will only have a handful. In two of our countries, though, we still have many passionate and vibrant missionaries who are ready to do whatever it takes yet still left wondering what the future will hold. For them they are mourning the loss of their mentors, but they are also wondering what God might be up to in all of this.
I have been wondering the same thing. As their leader I have been praying and thinking about where we should go from here, and like all grieving processes I am reaching a stage where I can see the positives (and not just the negatives), and I am beginning to consider what it will look like once the dust settles. For us, I believe this is a time to get back to basics. We have gotten spread pretty thin of late, and we were trying to do too much with too few personnel. I am coming to the realization that we can’t do it all, and so the question is “What can we do and what is the Lord directing us to do?” For me, 2016 will be a time of refocusing, retooling and retraining our personnel to get us back on a laser focus. In short, this traumatic occurrence has caused me to take a fresh look at our work and that is always a very good thing.
What do these changes mean for you, our prayer partners and advocates? First, I think it means that you are about to get 600-800 retired missionaries who are coming your way, and they will be coming with a passion and love for the nations. I would encourage you to minister to them and to let them minister to you. It is my prayer that the sending of our best and most experienced back to the U.S. will have the effect of revitalizing the church in America. The church needs to remember why it exists and how it should be about winning, discipling and empowering the lost. Second, it means we need our denomination back home, the SBC, to take this as a wakeup call and get back to basics and supporting the IMB. So many churches have expressed disbelief at our financial woes and have said they never knew. That has been surprising to us (as an organization) because we have been shouting this for years now. It is my prayer that SBC churches will renew their commitment to giving to the cooperative program and to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions. Please don’t think “Okay, they sent home 800 missionaries so now they are financially okay and we don’t need to step up our commitment.” To the contrary… WE SENT HOME 800 MISSIONARIES… we need you to step up your commitment so we don’t have to send more home, and so that we can someday replace what we have lost. This was a step backwards and we need to realize that, renew, recommit and move forward again.
With that said, let me remind you that this is the Christmas Season, and this is the time for giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas offering through your church or directly to the IMB. My prayer is that the traumatic events of the last two months will shake Southern Baptists to the core and that we will see a revival in giving and praying for International Missions. Unfortunately, we have replaced WMU with Baptist Women, we have replaced RAs and GAs with AWANAS; in short we used to be a denomination defined by working together to reach the world… now we are often defined by developing programs to meet our own needs and maybe attract more new members. As I review who we are, why we exist and what our task is here in the Zambezi cluster, my prayer is that you and your church will do the same as you consider who you are, why you exist and what your task is in the world. Thank you for partnering with us, and remember you do that when you give to Lottie Moon, when you pray for us and when you come and join us in the harvest fields.
We love you all,