In an alliterated outline worthy of Sunday morning I will give you a brief report of today's events.
The day began with my wife attending a breakfast hosted by Mrs. Rankin for trustee spouses in honor of emeritus missionaries. She enjoyed visiting with several of the retired missionaries around the table and made several new friends.
When I picked her up from the breakfast I met one of the missionaries with whom she had been visiting. He had served as a missionary in Rome, Italy for many years, and about ten years ago, home on furlough, his wife had just finished giving a report in one of our SBC churches when she sat down in the pew and suffered a fatal heart attack. This man's soft heart, desire to return to the field, and dedication to his call to missions was really an inspiration to me.
Joni, from the Florida Baptist Witness, was the only state reporter at the IMB meeting today. She and I talked about how beneficial it would be if every Southern Baptist could experience a day at the International Learning Center meeting the missionaries in training and visiting with the retired missionaries who are periodically on the campus for various events. It would only increase giving and participation in the mission endeavors of the SBC.
During the Plenary Session this afternoon we heard several testimonies from administration and staff. Two of the most vivid were those from the Richmond Associates in Africa and South America as they shared some wonderful stories of how God used our missionaries to bring people to faith in Christ in unique ways. In addition, we received an update on our Disaster and Hunger Relief Funds. Southern Baptists gave 16.8 million dollars to help the nations that suffered through last year's tsunami. I continue to be amazed at all that the IMB has been able to accomplish through the generosity of our Southern Baptist people.
We also heard from David Steverson, the IMB's chief financial officer that we are surpassing last year's pace in Cooperative Program receipts, and of course, we received a record amount in the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions.
In short, the testimonies today hit a home run.
Two ladies with the International Mission Board received very appropriate tributes from the Board of Trustees.
First, Nellie Walters is retiring from the President's office of the IMB this summer. She has served the President of the IMB for several decades, and she is the person who is most responsible for putting together our six trustee meetings a year.
Nellie has always had a smile on her face and a very sweet spirit. We all are going to miss her, and tonight we had a banquet in her honor and gave her a couple of special gifts to enjoy.
The second lady honored today, in more of an unofficial manner, was Wendy Norvelle, the acting interim Vice-President for Mobilization. Ken Winter has been hired as the Vice-President for Mobilization, and Wendy will relinquish those duties to Ken, but I think it can be safely said Wendy has done a phenominal job. She is one of the most gifted ladies in the Southern Baptist Convention, and we are fortunate to have her on staff at the IMB. She will continue in her role with Public Relations for the IMB. One of these days I will tell a story regarding Wendy that will give evidence of her tremendous Christian character, genuine humility, and desire to honor God in everything she does.
Tom Elliff reported that the missionaries he has been training these last two days are a wonderful group of men and women that will soon be on the field. The goal of the IMB is to reach every people group, tribe and language in the world, and the Lord keeps sending the IMB some wonderful people who represent us on the front lines.
Seventeen new trustees have joined the IMB. Thirteen are present this week going through the orientation training. I met several of them and they seem to be a great group of men and women.
Dr. Frank Page, President of the Southern Baptist Convention will be speaking to the IMB staff and all the trustees at Richmond headquarters at 8:30 a.m. in the morning. There is no additional trustee business that needs to take place tomorrow, but there will be a commissioning service tomorrow afternoon at the ILC. I need to be back in Enid, Oklahoma by tomorrow night, so I will be unable to stay for the service.
Overall the trustee meeting this week was one of the better ones I've attended. The spirit was good, and the focus was on missions. We did not seem to get sidetracked on peripheral issues. There are a few items of interest.
(1). The panel being appointed by Chairman Floyd to investigate the concerns referred to the IMB by the Southern Baptist Convention will be made known to the trustees via mail, unless the Chairman chooses to reveal the names of the members of the committee tomorrow.
Comment -- I am very glad this panel will not take up time at Board meetings. They will function outside our regular meetings.
(2). Blogging was again mentioned in the Chairman's report, with a statement being made to the effect (summarizing) that blogging lowered the morale of missionaries on the field.
Comment --- The Chairman must talk to different missionaries than I do.
(3). A subcommittee, chaired by Jerry Corbaley, comprised of trustees from the Overseas Committee, was approved to research our missions operations overseas operations through the gathering of information from field personnel, seminary presidents, theologians, administrators , and others to establish a system whereby trustees can be continually updated with the progress and success, and in some instances problems associated with, our missionary work around the world.
Comment --- I think our IMB staff and administration has a very good handle on what is needed on the field, and the problems we face, and have displayed an uncanny ability to change tactics, adapt methodology, and alter focus as needed. This subcommittee should rely heavily on our administration as it conducts its work. We must be careful that we know the boundaries of our work as trustees. I'm not sure we are the best people to determine the indigenous success or failure of our missionary personnel on the field. We hire professional missiologists to do that work, and I think we can trust their assessments. Maybe that is exactly what this committee will determine in its report to the Board.
Overall, the IMB is on the right track. It's a good start on a new year.
In His Grace,