Rankin: Thousands 'swept' into God's Kingdom
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--The huge tsunami waves that devastated Asia's coastlines six months ago shrink in comparison to the waves of lostness -- and God's Spirit -- sweeping the world, Southern Baptist Convention messengers heard during the International Mission Board's report June 22.
"In an instant 250,000 lives were swept into eternity without Christ," IMB President Jerry Rankin told messengers. "Yet our missionaries are reminded constantly of a massive tsunami wave of lostness that continues to envelop our world. Every week a quarter of a million lives are swept into hell in South Asia alone. Every month a quarter of a million lives are claimed by the AIDS epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa. A tsunami wave of postmodernism is sweeping over Europe."
But an even more powerful wave of God's Spirit is moving across the world, Rankin said as he introduced a video presentation about the global waves of light and darkness. Southern Baptist missionaries saw 607,000 new baptized believers "swept into the Kingdom" in 2004, almost a 20 percent increase over the previous year. One of them was the president of Zambia. Some 21,000 new churches -- 400 a week -- were begun. Massive people groups in China and South Asia are hearing the Good News for the first time, he added, and openness "is stirring even across the Muslim world -- that last formidable barrier to world evangelization."
Rankin thanked Southern Baptists for giving more than $133 million to the 2004 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, almost matching the "phenomenal" $136 million given for the 2003 offering. The support enabled the International Mission Board to send out 692 new missionaries last year, he said, multiplying Southern Baptist witness in 184 countries. They also initiated work among 163 new people groups -- 131 of them "previously untouched by the Gospel of Jesus Christ."
The remaining mission task challenges Southern Baptists to much greater commitment, according to several missionaries who reported on work in their regions.
"Peter" is the first believer among another people in East Asia, according to missionary Larry P.
"As Peter, I'd just like to say, 'Thank you for praying, for giving, and sending people like [the missionary] who shared the Gospel with me,'" Larry said, representing the historic convert. "I'm now a believer in Jesus Christ. Now more than 70 of my people are also believers and followers of Jesus. But I have a question: How long will others have to wait?'"
Ron H., who serves in West Africa, asked the crowd to imagine 1,000 people groups spread over an area the size of the United States -- with only 50 small missionary teams among them.
"What criteria determine who will hear the Gospel?" he asked. "Should a mega-people group who introduced Islam into West Africa be the first? But what about a micro-people deep in the forest living day by day in fear of spirits? Should influence and size be a determining factor? Well, praise God, church planting is flourishing among both people groups.... But there are still many waiting to hear. How will we respond?"
One in every 10 people on earth is a Muslim woman, reported Liz M., who works in North Africa. They are the teachers, the guardians of family and religious traditions, she said, but they are hungry for truth.
"Aiesha is a teacher who I have met with for the past two years," Liz said. "She is seeking the truth. She has read the Bible, because the Quran [Islam's holy book] tells her to read the Gospels and the books of Moses. I walk alongside her weekly and our conversations turn to her religion and my personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
"It is said that it takes seven years and over 100 times hearing the Gospel in a way they can understand it for a Muslim to come to Jesus Christ. Will it take that long for my friend Aiesha to hear the truth and for the truth to set her free?"
David Garrison, regional leader for South Asia, reported via a live video feed from Sri Lanka, where Southern Baptists have helped in relief and reconstruction since the tsunami hit. The region also includes Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and Maldives.
"There are 1.4 billion lost people in this region," Garrison said. "That's why we call it the greatest concentration of lostness on earth."
Still, it's a "great harvest field. Last year we saw more than 150,000 new believers baptized [and] the majority of these new believers are coming from the Muslim world. More Muslims are coming to faith in South Asia today than anywhere else in the world at any time in history.
"Even though we have 344 workers serving right now in South Asia, we need at least 1,000 to begin to engage the massive lostness here. Right now there's only one Southern Baptist worker for every 7 million people.... For every square mile in South Asia, there are 873 lost people."
A closing video dramatized the true story of "Hayati," a Muslim woman who dreamed disaster was coming the night before the tsunami. When it hit, she led a group of terrified villagers to a mosque for shelter. They desperately called upon Jesus for protection -- and the water stopped a meter from the mosque. Bodies surrounded them, but they were spared.
"There's nothing we could have done to save the victims of that tsunami wave," Rankin said, his voice cracking, as he concluded the IMB report. "But there is something we could have done to keep them from going to hell. Will we respond to the pleas of our Lord to go to the uttermost ends of the earth, to be His faithful witnesses?
"Everyone can give and pray and go, because we are His hands and His feet to fulfill His mission."
For a compelling story of how one Christian woman called out in the name of Jesus Christ to save her village from the tsunami, watch "Hayati's Story" at http://imb.org/asx/sbc2005/hayati_lg.asx
Watch "Scope of Catastrophe" to learn about the devastation from the 2004 Tsunami will be felt for years to come at
To learn more about "Southern Baptist Tsunami Relief" watch this video about how Southern Baptists are offering aid and the love of Jesus Christ to those hardest hit by the Tsunami:
In "A Wave of Lostness" you will learn that more than 200,000 people die everyday without a relationship with Jesus Christ as there is quite literally a wave of lostness carrying souls into a Christ-less eternity: