Joining thousands in prayer for the International Mission Board’s recognition of its 175-year history has been a joy in 2020. For seventeen and a half decades, Southern Baptists have maintained an uninterrupted witness among the nations, in spite of famine, plagues, domestic and world-wide wars, presidential elections, economic downturns, depressions, recessions, inflation, and civil unrest.
This commitment has not come without sacrifice. Strike the flag to half-mast! During the course of 175 years, about 60 men, women, and children have died due to violent circumstances while serving with the International Mission Board.
The causes of death include accidents such as drowning, automobile and aircraft crashes, and ships lost at sea. They also include deaths as a result of war and criminal or terrorist acts. In some cases, the missionaries were targeted specifically because of their faith or missionary service. Hundreds more sustained physical harm because they were called to be gospel servants to the nations.
According to IMB sources, more than 20 Southern Baptist missionaries lost their lives as a result of human hostility toward the gospel. The first was J. Landrum Holmes, who served in China. Holmes and his wife, Sallie, were appointed by the Foreign Mission Board (as it was then called) in 1858 and arrived in China in 1859.
Less than three years later, Taiping rebels murdered Holmes. Although family members encouraged Sallie Holmes to return to the U.S., the young mother chose to stay in China with her newborn son. (Read Scott Peterson’s 2017 article at imb.org.)
Sallie Holmes went on to mentor one of IMB’s most famous missionaries, Charlotte Digges “Lottie” Moon, for whom IMB’s annual missions offering is named. Lottie Moon also died while in active service aboard a ship docked in Kobe Harbor, Japan, on Dec. 24, 1912. Although both Landrum Holmes and Lottie Moon died while in active service, neither is necessarily considered a “martyr.”
“The IMB does not typically refer to or describe our personnel who have died in active service as martyrs,” Peterson wrote. “In many cases, it is difficult, if not impossible, to determine if our personnel (who died due to violence) were targeted because they were missionaries or Christians. We memorialize all of our personnel who die in active service regardless of the cause of death. Each of those is a sacrifice because of a life lived in obedience to Christ.”
These dear saints surrendered to the call to leave their families, their stuff, and their culture to strategically reach a different, often unreached culture. And when they die, it would do us good to strike the flag to half-mast in their honor.
Better yet, it would be a good thing for us to think about their service and our role of sending. By giving through our local church to the Cooperative Program and a designated gift to the Lottie Moon Offering for International Missions, we are part of the team, a team with a vision to share the gospel with every people group in the world.
You may not see or know the missionaries you send (there are more than 3,800 of them), but you are sending them to places that are often risky. Consider this: You are part of a team that sends people to places considered “high security risks” for the sake of the gospel.
In the midst of Covid-19, we need to send a record 2020 Lottie Moon offering. For Missouri, that means we need to figuratively look at the 60 flags flying at half-mast and give a worthy offering.
Some may be able to give an offering equivalent to what they would spend for Christmas on one or all of their kids. Some may give a double tithe, or a tithe of their annual tithe. Whatever you do this season, or how creative you become with a generous gift, remember the high price for taking the gospel to the world.
The year-end is exceptional time to give. The benefits of generosity from a tax perspective may not ever come again.
(Excerpts included from the Dec. 3, 2020, IMB 175th Anniversary prayer initiative. See complete story online at https://mbcpathway.mobaptist.org/2020/12/03/remembering-lives-given-for-the-cause-of-christ/.)