WEEK OF PRAYER: Couple 'loses' themselves for lost

EDITOR'S NOTE: This year's Week of Prayer for International Missions in the Southern Baptist Convention is Dec. 2-9 with the theme "Every Church. Every Nation." The theme undergirds the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions. The offering, in tandem with Cooperative Program gifts from Southern Baptist churches, supports international workers in seeking to fulfill the Great Commission. Gifts to the Lottie Moon offering are received through local Southern Baptist churches or online at IMB.org/lmco, where there are resources to promote the offering. This year's goal is $160 million.

International Mission Board worker Sally Pepper (left) visits with new mothers in the maternity ward of Kigoma Baptist Hospital in Tanzania. Through meeting the needs of these women, Sally has seen many get back on their feet and find faith in Jesus.
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AFRICA (BP) -- Larry Pepper thought he had been open to God's leading. He had been praying through the missions book Operation World. And he had been thinking more and more about his impact on eternity as he sat in church every Sunday. But one day the words came clear as a bell right where he sat in Houston, Texas -- "You've committed everything to Me except your job."

Larry knew the thought had come from God. He took a deep breath, and he told God to put him and his family wherever He wanted them to be.

"I was beginning to see the world through God's eyes in terms of lostness," he said. "For me, that meant seeing if I could use my medical skills in a way that had more kingdom impact."

Larry's current work was his dream job. He was a flight surgeon for NASA, providing medical care for pilots and crewmembers. But it soon became evident that God was drawing him to walk away and move his family to serve with the International Mission Board in Africa. To step out in obedience, he had to stomach some major sacrifices -- for one, he was selected as a finalist candidate for astronaut duty in space. That was hard to leave.

International Mission Board medical worker Larry Pepper (left) talks with a villager in a remote part of Tanzania about health needs there. For him, offering medical help and sharing the hope of the Gospel go hand in hand.
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His wife Sally had some reservations too.

"For me, the hardest part was just wrestling with the fears that kept creeping back in -- mostly the fear of homeschooling my kids in Africa," she said. "But in a moment, God changed those fears, and I had a complete peace that Africa was where we were supposed to be."

That peace followed her as she, Larry, and their three children moved to Uganda for 12 years, then Lesotho for two, and then Tanzania for eight more.

Through the years, they have spent countless hours at the bedsides of the hurting, leading them to the pages of the Bible and bringing them to lasting hope in Christ. They have discipled university students. They have helped brand new mothers get on their feet and find faith. They have started AIDS clinics and planted churches. They have seen people find life, and they have buried the ones whom death has overcome.

Larry and Sally Pepper drive through Kigoma, Tanzania, the city where they've planted their lives as International Mission Board medical workers. The Peppers followed God's call to Africa more than two decades ago, even though Larry’s job at NASA had him on a path that could've led to a space mission.
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And through it all, they have seen God move in amazing ways, Larry said. The sense of the Father's loving sovereignty has never left them, from the early 1990s in Texas all the way to today.

"It doesn't make a whole lot of sense to use weak, sinful human beings in kingdom work, but that's what God does in our lives," Larry noted. "We have seen His faithfulness throughout all of these years as we've worked here. It has been humbling and incredible to watch."

Pray for

-- Larry and Sally to maintain endurance in their medical ministry and have open doors to disciple the people they meet.

-- God to call out more workers to leave the United States and serve among the unreached overseas. Pray for them to be sensitive to his leading and obedient to the call.

IMB staff released this story. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists' concerns nationally and globally.
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