By Laura Fielding, IMB Communications
[img_assist|nid=8037|title=Praying for missionaries|desc=Family and friends gather around the International Mission Board’s newest missionaries to pray for them during a special service March 21 at Trinity Baptist Church in Lake Charles where 61 new missionaries were appointed.|link=none|align=right|width=640|height=427]LAKE CHARLES (BP) – He was a rebellious punk rock skateboarder who openly renounced his family’s faith, telling his parents that “God was a joke.”
But God had a plan for Charles Drake*. [* indicates name changed for security reasons.] During college, he met a friend who also listened to punk rock but didn’t act like a punk rocker. He was loving, kind and compassionate – and he invited Drake to join a men’s Bible study group.
“[I] started reading the New Testament and was blown away by Jesus – His power to raise the dead, to calm storms … His compassion to forgive sins, to die on a cross for my sins,” Drake said. “He saved me.”
Charles and Renee* Drake, who now have two children – they plan to live among an East Asian people group – were among 61 newly-appointed missionaries honored March 21 during a service at Trinity Baptist Church in Lake Charles.
Though many of the IMB missionaries were called to vocational ministry early in life, several candidates, like Drake, came from unusual backgrounds. Others made radical shifts from previous life plans as God called them to missions.
HEART FOR ARAB MUSLIMS
When Jermaine Willis* was serving in the Middle East with the U.S. Marine Corps, he didn’t just see a combat zone – he saw people who need the Gospel.
“They just had absolutely no hope,” Jermaine said. “I could just see it on their faces, I could just hear it in their voices and [watch it] in their lifestyle…. [T]hey just were lost and had nothing.
“That’s always kind of burdened and impressed me that I wanted to go back, if not to the exact same people, to the same types of people [Arab Muslims] in the Middle East and be able to offer that hope … that can only come through the Gospel.”
Though Willis felt called to missions before joining the military, seeing the reality and needs of Middle Eastern people confirmed that call.
Growing up, Suzanne Willis* had one specific life ambition – to work as a Christian in politics and constitutional law – but found herself at a Bible college in Dallas, Texas.
“I just realized that it was more important to follow Christ than it was to do things for Christ,” Suzanne said. “So I just said, ‘OK, if You lead me to do anything – it doesn’t matter what it is, anything in the world – I will do it.’ … He [God] still didn’t tell me, at that point, what He wanted; He just wanted that complete surrender and submission to Him.”
Months later, God brought Jermaine into Suzanne’s life; he told her about his call to missions. As their relationship grew more serious, Suzanne began to discover her own missions calling. Now, the Willises and their three children will be serving among North African and Middle Eastern peoples.
Ryan and Kelley Day were living the “American Dream.” After college, they started their careers – he worked for an environmental engineering firm and she was an architect.
After short-term mission trips to Thailand and Taiwan, God began to reveal His plan for their lives.
“It really broke our heart to know that we were so focused on ourselves here in the U.S.,” Ryan said. “We had amazing redemption stories, both of us, and then we just fell right into the track of job, family, house, cars – the whole thing – and just forgetting that there’s millions of people out there who need that same redemption story.”
God burdened both of their hearts for “investing in eternity,” Ryan said. The Days left their jobs behind and are now preparing to serve as Southern Baptist missionaries in Japan.
IMB President Tom Elliff spoke to the new missionaries and their families about the importance of sharing the Gospel and challenged the appointment service audience to “embrace” an unengaged, unreached people group (UUPG).
“Of the 7 billion people on this globe, about half of those people have virtually no exposure to the Gospel … 1.7 billion of those could actually die without ever hearing the name Jesus. [It’s] tragic,” Elliff said.
To embrace a UUPG, “it doesn’t take a big church, it takes a big-hearted church,” he continued. “So you’re that person – you’re to be His heart, His hands and His voice in that church.”
Elliff also spoke about the necessity of Jesus’ death on the cross and the responsibility of all believers to share the news of that sacrifice.
“... That’s what the Gospel is – it is Good News,” Elliff continued. “News has to be told.”