Missionaries’ sacrifices noted at commissioning

Wanda Lee, far left, executive director and treasurer of Woman’s Missionary Union, leads prayer for 81 new missionaries commissioned March 20 at First Baptist Church, Brandon, Fla. Photo by John Swain. Download
NAMB President Kevin Ezell greets some of the 81 new missionaries commissioned at First Baptist Church, Brandon, Fla., on March 20. Photo by John Swain. Download
Stephen Griffin, with wife Julie and daughter, Tierzah, was commissioned as a U.S. Navy chaplain during a March 20 commissioning service at First Baptist Church, Brandon, Fla. Photo by John Swain. Download
Betty Barham Newsom, 81, recently became one of the oldest NAMB MSC missionaries ever commissioned during services at First Baptist Church, Brandon, Fla. She will serve in southwest Mississippi. Photo by John Swain. Download
Among those commissioned recently at First Baptist Church, Brandon, Fla., were Edward and Donna Villarreal, Nehemiah Church Planting missionaries serving in Salinas, Calif. Photo by John Swain Download



By Mickey Noah

BRANDON, Fla –  The North American Mission Board (NAMB) commissioned 81 new missionaries and chaplains at a special commissioning service attended by some 800 at First Baptist Church in Brandon, Fla., on Sunday, March 20.

 In his first-ever missionary commissioning sermon, Larry Wynn, NAMB’s new vice president for evangelism, drew the crowd’s applause when he looked out over the pews of missionaries and told them that “you are the real heroes.

“You are sacrificing to go where God is calling you. You’re leaving family, friends, familiar surroundings, your comfort zone and the things you love to go and make a difference. We’re going to reach North America because of men and women like you,” Wynn said.

Arnold and Teresa Wong were commissioned as Mission Service Corps (MSC) missionaries for church planting in Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada. The Wongs were formerly International Mission Board missionaries in China.

“We’ll be planting churches among the 60,000 Mandarin-speaking Chinese in the Richmond Hill area,” said Wong, “99.9 percent of them are non-Christians. They’ve never been exposed to the gospel. It’s a challenge to make them understand the gospel. First, we have to be their friends because being from Communist China, they’re suspicious of other people. They have to trust us first. We have to win the right to share the gospel.”

Among those also commissioned was U.S. Navy chaplain Stephen Griffin, 30, and his wife, Julie, of Portsmouth, Va. Stationed at Norfolk Naval Station, Griffin soon will leave Julie and their two-month-old daughter, Tierzah, for active duty in Afghanistan, where he will minister to U.S. Marines there.

“Julie and I prayed and cried over my assignment but finally, we just came to the conclusion that it’s an opportunity God is putting out there for us. We just said, ‘Roger that God, we’ll do it.’ But we’re sober about the difficulties.”  Julie and Tierzah will stay behind in Portsmouth during her husband’s six-month deployment.

Kyle Yocum was commissioned as a NAMB US/C2 missionary, based in Peoria, Ill,, where the single, 26-year-old will combine church planting and collegiate evangelism in an effort to plant a a new collegiate church in the area, the home of  Bradley University.

“I’ve been looking forward to being commissioned,” Yocum said. “It’s nice to talk to other missionaries who are going through the same things you are – to know you’re not out there by yourself. And it’s wonderful to have people who don’t even know you to pray for you. That’s totally empowering and reassuring.” 

Edward and Donna Villarreal were commissioned as Nehemiah Church Planting missionaries in Salinas, Calif. They’ve planted His House Christian Fellowship, ministering to a hardcore group of unchurched bikers and gang members, who come with their addictions, tattoos and body piercings.

“Because of the hard lives they’ve lived, they also come with hard hearts,” Villarreal said. “Before we get them, they’re heavy into clubbing and partying. They try to be family guys through the week but party all weekend.

“I started going after the men because if you can get them into a men’s group, you can get their families,” he said. Villarreal started by forming a house church that grew to 30 members -- baptizing new believers in the apartment complex’s hot tub. The church now meets in another church’s building for free. His House Christian Fellowship currently runs 50 on a typical Sunday.

Betty Barham Newsom was only one of the 81 NAMB missionaries commissioned but she stood out. Revealing she was 81 years old, Betty left the applauding congregation of 800 in both awe and surprise -- one of the oldest MSC missionaries ever commissioned by NAMB.

Based in Brookhaven, Miss., Betty drives a seven-county circuit in southwest Mississippi, mobilizing churches to get involved in and to support the WMU, the Cooperative Program, the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering® and mission education.

 “This is what I want to do because of my love for the Lord Jesus and His love for me,” she says in her sweet Mississippi drawl. “Last year in this area, I went to 44 different churches, large and small.” 

North American Mission Board president Kevin Ezell thanked First Baptist-Brandon for hosting the “Send North America” commissioning celebration and for the church’s “weekly investments to plant churches across North America.

“We in the South think everywhere is like us,” Ezell said. “In Florida, there is one church for every 6,800 people. But in New York, there’s only one church for 59,000 people. In New Jersey, there’s one church for 76,000 people. And in Canada, there’s only one church for every 123,000 people.”

Tommy Green, the 5,100-member church’s senior pastor for the past 15 years, called First Baptist a church “committed to missions in terms of giving, going and praying.

“We’re committed to the Cooperative Program and to Annie Armstrong. Just to be host for this service is an honor for our church, and a chance for us to love on these folks and let them know how thankful we are and prayerfully excited about what God is doing in their lives,” Green said.

Two NAMB missionary couples commissioned during the service – Greg and Victoria Shawgo, US/C2 missionaries in Missoula, Mont., and Matt and Amber Peavyhouse, church planting missionaries in Hollywood, Fla., -- are former members of First Baptist-Brandon.

Mickey Noah writes for the North American Mission Board.


Date Created: 3/24/2011 6:05:55 PM

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