Kentuckians serving as overseas missionaries urge offering support in order to reach the nations

By Chip Hutcheson

Published: November 1, 2020

The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering is considered unique from other mission offerings. That's because 100 percent of gifts help meet the needs for Southern Baptist missionaries across the globe.

This year the goal is $175 million — reflecting Southern Baptists' 175-year history of reaching the nations with the gospel. The International Mission Board points attention to Rev. 7:9 in the quest to reach the nations with the gospel. The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering (LMCO) is "vital to reaching the vision of a multitude from every language, people, tribe and nation knowing and worshiping our Lord Jesus Christ," according to the IMB website.

The global need for missions is said to be more urgent than ever — statistics say there are 154,937 people dying daily without Christ. By giving to this offering, the generosity of Kentucky Baptists helps take the gospel to the unreached.

Consider the investment that Living Hope Baptist Church in Bowling Green has in world-wide missions.

"We are a church on mission with a passion to see God's glory spread throughout the whole earth," said Jason Pettus, senior pastor. "Sending and partnering with missionaries is a significant part of who we are at Living Hope. A fundamental aspect of our strategy is to raise up leaders from within the church family who God is calling to go overseas and serve."

The church receives a special offering — "The Gift of Christ" — and this year's goal is $300,000. "These dollars provide for our people to go overseas and minister alongside our partners," Pettus said. "It also enables those who are being called to give their lives to global missions to get a personal experience of how God is at work in them and how God desires to work through them."

There are six missionary families that have been called out of the church. In a typical year, Living Hope members will participate in more than 25 short-term mission trips to serve alongside its ministry partners. "We commission every team on Sunday morning, during worship," Pettus noted. "This helps our people know to be praying, and it also reminds them that we are a missional church — joining God in His work in the world."

One of the missionary families from Living Hope has served in a southern European country for the past 10 years. Will (last name withheld for security purposes) and his wife, with their five sons ages 11 and below, are able to "completely share the gospel" with a massive influx of refugees in that country.

The orthodox religion that exists there, by government decree, makes it illegal to share the gospel with anyone under age 18. For those over that age, evangelism "can be tricky," Will noted. "Thus far, missionaries have not been deterred from evangelistic efforts," he said, but they do find opposition from the culture. Also, those who convert to Christianity may be blacklisted by family and community.

"The refugee movement is a reality from God," Will said. "God has allowed a mass movement of people, as you see in Acts, 17, so some may seek Him and find Him. That is what we experience today.

"We see the opportunity the Lord has given us to witness to very hard-to-reach people. And they have the ability to respond and gather together, which is nothing like the situation in their home countries — such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, Syria and the Congo."

Will says the global pandemic has affected life there, but there have been some positives as a result. "It has forced some of our larger gatherings to split up, so we are able to raise up more leaders." It has also prompted online training — once refugees go through the training, they can launch training in their home countries.

However, evangelizing "on the street" has become more difficult. But Will notes the country, in general, had difficulties pre-COVID because of the deflated economy and refugee crisis.

"But as difficult as the recession and refugee crisis are, we still see God at work," he said. And that results in Lottie Moon giving being needed "more than ever," Will said.

"We need more resources, more personnel. This is an exciting time to join God in what He is doing. We are seeing God orchestrate this mass movement so His kingdom will grow." He said refugees make it to Europe, then spread to Canada, the U.S., Middle East, south and central Asia.

"We say a huge 'thank you' (to those who give through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering). We love what we do, and we couldn't do it if Southern Baptist churches didn't give." In addition to supporting the LMCO, Will asked Kentucky Baptists to pray for its five national partners. "Four of them were refugees, and we have worked with them for years. Pray that God will continue to use them. Pray He will give them strength, encouragement and fruit. It impacts their hearts, knowing about people in volatile, suffering situations — that can be draining on them."

Mark Phillips and his wife, Parker, and their children served at Living Hope before going to the mission field. His father, Don, was a long-time minister of music at First Baptist in Franklin, Ky. Mark and his family have served in Niger, West Africa, since 2006, and are grateful for faithful giving through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.

"Your faithful and sacrificial giving in times of calm positioned us to faithfully and sacrificially serve the nations in a time of crisis," Phillips said. "We cannot say thank you enough for your constant support, which makes what we and thousands of other IMB missionaries do possible. Because you give, people who had never heard are hearing the gospel, disciples are being made among former imams and witch doctors and the church is being planted and growing as light begins to shine in a dark place."

He observes that the Niger region is "becoming an increasingly dangerous place to live." Previously they could travel as they wished, but now they must have an armed escort to leave the capital city. "We live where wisdom and faith intersect — to be wise but cowards or to be faithful but foolish is not helpful. We don't want one without the other, so we covet your prayers for us to be faithfully wise."

Niger is overwhelmingly Islamic. He said they are free to share openly and boldly. Personally, there has been no persecution for believing or preaching the gospel. However, for a Niger man or woman to profess Christ as Savior, it is different. "It is a costly thing — those who do follow Jesus pay a heavy cost."

The COVID outbreak necessitated greater use of social media and other media platforms. "It was a great time of creativity and many resources were produced that otherwise may not have been. We've had lots of great gospel conversations with people as they walk through these unprecedented days."

An overseas worker from Living Hope who could not be identified for security reasons faces severe opposition that takes various forms. There is opposition from the government as well as shamans and witch doctors. "However, we have always seen that persecution never has the intended effect of the persecutor. Persecution simply gives believers a chance to show a watching world that what they say they believe is worth suffering for." He notes that persecution has always resulted in a stronger, more vibrant and multiplying church.

"We have seen persecution scatter believers out of towns to surrounding villages where believers then led family members and neighbors to Christ and started churches. This isn't limited to (accounts in) Acts, God is still — in His sovereignty — using evil men to scatter His church for the purpose of kingdom growth."

The missionary said the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering has allowed his family to be "an incarnation witness to people who have little to no access to the gospel otherwise. The generosity of Southern Baptists puts literal rubber to the road to villages and people groups that have never heard the good news of Jesus before.

"Further, it allows us to disciple new believers and strengthen church leaders. Then, when persecution and opposition come and a time comes when we are no longer able to be there ourselves, the gospel continues forward — carried on by the believers we have had the privilege of discipling and training."

Their ministry partners report that COVID has caused "an opening of hearts in some areas unlike anything they have ever seen." He noted that COVID "is helping people to accurately see that some of the things and people they believed they could trust in are not trustworthy and are not sources of true, lasting hope. Doors are opening to the gospel in a new way, and believers are running through those open doors with the hope that is only found in Christ!"

The missionary reports that the biggest challenge in that area now is access. He encouraged Kentucky Baptists to pray that 2 Tim. 2:1-2 would be lived out in that area of the world. "Pray that those who we have gotten to be a part of seeing 'strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus' would continue to 'entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.'"