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Year in Review: IMB’s 2013 top newsmaking stories



RICHMOND, Va.—Each year, listing the most newsmaking global events can sound like a rerun of the previous year — more bad news, larger losses of life.

The more catastrophic the disaster or horrifying the atrocity, the more these types of stories grab immediate headlines.

Within global stories of tragedy and loss can be individual stories of hope and redemption, all the more influential because they are lights shining amid darkness.


In 2004, an earthquake and resulting tsunami in the Indian Ocean produced waves nearly 100 feet high, killing more than 230,000 people in 14 Asian countries, including Thailand.

Oklahoma Baptist disaster relief teams were among the Southern Baptist responders to help the Thai people during their time of need. This summer, Thai Baptists were able to return the help after Moore, Okla., was hit with an EF-5 tornado, the strongest category of tornado with peak wind speeds of more than 200 miles per hour. Baptists in Thailand initially collected nearly $7,000 for Oklahoma Baptist disaster relief efforts. By the end of August, Thai Baptists had collected another $7,000 for Oklahoma Baptists’ disaster relief teams.

After seeing pictures of the tornado damage, the president of the Thailand Baptist Convention said he “knew that Thailand churches could not sit still. We needed to help.

“When one part of the body of Christ is suffering, we all suffer,” said the pastor, Thongchai Pradabchananurat. “There are so many Oklahoma Baptists that have sacrificed their time, money and lives for the sake of the Gospel reaching Asia and Thailand that we needed to show our love and support.”

Pray about how you can be a glimmer of hope to someone in need.

This year’s prayer emphasis for international missions focused on the theme, “Totally His … heart, hands, voice,” from Matthew 22:36-39. Each year’s Lottie Moon Christmas Offering supplements Cooperative Program giving to support Southern Baptists’ nearly 5,000 international missionaries and initiatives to share the Gospel. To find out more about the offering, go to


  • Mali conflict affects Christian communities

Christians stand firm during persecution in Mali

Posted on Jan. 28, 2013: Most IMB missionaries assigned to the West African nation of Mali have left the country due to the continuing conflict between Islamist rebels and Malian military supported by French forces. Early last year Islamist rebels used widespread instability created by warring factions in the north to impose Shariah law in areas where they gained control. They reportedly destroyed church buildings and sought to eliminate any hint of Christianity. IMB personnel are concerned for believers who have been forced to leave their homes and villages. IMB personnel are hoping and praying that these believers can do “as much as they can to reach out to their peoples in these surrounding countries where they have now been evacuated.” Despite the fighting, “Many believers are demonstrating their faith and care to their Muslim neighbors like never before.”

Mali Christians send relief to displaced northern countrymen

Posted on March 13, 2013: Throughout the conflict in Mali, Christians in the south have embraced their fleeing northern countrymen with compassion and helped provide basic necessities. “The Christian community in Bamako rallied together and, despite many missionaries being called to return to their sending countries or choosing to evacuate temporarily, the Malian believers began collecting offerings to support their brothers and sisters from the north,” said Debra Fields*, an American Christian living in Mali. (*Name changed)

  • SBC president calls for more African American missionaries

SBC president: We need African Americans out on the foreign mission field   

Posted on Feb. 13, 2013: The SBC’s first African American president, Fred Luter, is encouraging ethnic minorities, particularly African Americans, to look to international missions as a means of expanding God’s kingdom. Of IMB’s 4,900 missionaries, 27 are African American, 79 are Hispanic and 317 are Asian. For African Americans, that’s one-half of 1 percent of the total IMB missionary count, explains Keith Jefferson, IMB’s African American church missional strategist. When compared to an estimated 1 million African Americans included in the SBC’s 16 million members, “that’s a disproportionately low number of African Americans serving overseas,” he said.

Visiting Africa inspires Luter to issue missions challenge

Posted on June 20, 2013: “It’s just hard for me to believe in the day and time that we’re living in, people are living in such conditions,” said Fred Luter of the isolated island in Africa without electricity. “And, to get off the boat and to walk among the people — how receptive they were to us. That says a lot about the missionaries who are here ... the relationships that they have made,” he continued. “It was a very humbling time to walk around that village.”

IMB workers, SBC president share need for black missionaries

Posted on July 30, 2013: After his election as SBC president, part of Fred Luter’s role included going on an international trip. He spent two weeks in Africa. “It was one of the most rewarding times in my life,” he said. “Ask God right now, ‘God, put upon my heart and upon the heart of my church a passion to go onto the highways and byways of life,’” Luter said. “Let’s take up the commandment and the commission of our Lord Jesus Christ. Let’s make disciples.”

  • Egypt’s military ousts president

Egyptians once again seek a voice in running their country

Posted on July 3, 2013: One year after becoming president of Egypt, Mohammed Morsi was ousted from power July 3 by the military, calling to memory the removal of his predecessor, Hosni Mubarak, as a result of Arab Spring protests. His removal came following days of protests that brought millions of Egyptians to the streets and resulted in multiple deaths, injuries and atrocities. Many people feel conditions in the country have worsened in the past year under Morsi. Patrick Stein*, a Christian worker living in Egypt, said a sense of lawlessness has abounded. As kidnappings and robberies escalated — unemployment, gas shortages, electricity cuts and rising food prices affected people’s everyday lives. (*Name changed)

Seizing opportunity – the people of Egypt have, we must too

Posted on July 8, 2013: The day after Mohamed Morsi was deposed as Egypt’s first democratically elected president, the country’s streets once again filled with millions of Egyptians exercising their right to protest.

Baptist church destroyed as violence spreads across Egypt

Posted on Aug. 17, 2013: Attacking churches across Egypt, pockets of supporters of ousted Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi continue to retaliate against a deadly crackdown by government security forces. So far, nearly 70 churches, Christian institutions and businesses have been attacked, burned or destroyed.

Fragile calm over Egypt belies churches’ fears

Posted on Aug. 20, 2013: One Egyptian Baptist pastor, who asked to remain anonymous for security reasons, said, “The situation is volatile. Our country is in desperate need for prayers.... Our main concern at this point is that we overcome those relentless attempts to place the future of this nation into the hands of radicals.”

Posted on July 10, 2013: The picture on Ginger Foss’ Facebook wall spoke volumes — crushed and splintered wood, mangled siding and battered belongings peeked out from odd spots beneath the giant pile. Foss, of Moore, Okla., survived the EF-5 tornado but her house did not. Foss’ story quickly spread among Thailand Baptists, and church after church responded by giving a love offering on behalf of Oklahomans affected by the tornados that destroyed more than 4,000 businesses and homes. Foss had served as a Southern Baptist missionary in South Korea. Thai Baptists also felt a kinship with Oklahoma Baptists after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami when Oklahoma Baptist disaster relief teams responded to needs in Thailand.

Posted on July 23, 2013: Security forces in Sudan reportedly are focusing on the removal of foreigners who work for hundreds of foreign aid organizations within its borders. The concern follows a report on religious freedom in predominantly Muslim Sudan released July 9 by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom. July 9 was the second anniversary of South Sudan’s independence from Sudan. USCIRF chair Katrina Lantos Swett expressed fear for South Sudanese living in Sudan, saying they are “stateless” and face severe religious freedom violations.

  • Syria civil war refugees continue to suffer

No longer is the Syrian crisis a ‘simple humanitarian emergency’

Posted on July 25, 2013: A Christian worker involved in ministry among Syrian refugees makes a heartbreaking observation: “Every family has a tragic story to tell of their journey that got them to where they are now.” Don Alan*, the Christian worker, is trying to determine how to respond to the needs he confronts among Syrian refugees — needs that are outpacing the funding his work receives. (*Name changed)

Syria conflict creates regional crisis; two million refugees

Posted on Aug. 31, 2013: “I am staying,” a Baptist pastor in Syria said. “They tell me to travel, to leave, to emigrate, but I tell them I am staying.” He is one of several pastors who serve in Baptist churches throughout Syria caught up in civil war.

Posted on Sept. 23, 2013: It was easy to spot a Christian in Pakistan on Sept. 23. Normally they tend to keep a low profile for fear of persecution. But this day, they wore black bands around their arms as a sign of mourning and solidarity following Sunday’s church bombing. The Christian community declared three days of mourning after what is regarded as the deadliest attack on a minority religion in Pakistan to date, with 81 people killed and more than 130 injured.

  • Terrorists kill 67 bystanders at Nairobi mall

IMB missionaries caught up in Nairobi crisis now safe

Posted on Sept. 24, 2013: As sporadic gunfire continued to echo through sections of Nairobi and smoke hovered over Westgate Shopping Mall, IMB announced all its personnel were accounted for. “All of our folks, including spouses and children, are now safe,” IMB spokesperson Wendy Norvelle said. “Please pray for them, though, since some were caught up in the tragic events of these past four days.”

IMB missionaries recount terrorists’ seizure of Nairobi mall

Posted on Sept. 27, 2013: IMB missionaries Chris and Jamie Suel, along with their five children, had walked into the mall shortly before the terrorists, who burst in and began firing automatic weapons and throwing hand grenades. They were able to escape unharmed. While both the terrorists and Kenyan security forces used social media to propagate their victories during the siege and hostage situation, IMB missionary Bert Yates extolled social media’s value for raising prayer support. The prayer value of social media also was affirmed when news of the Westgate mall being on fire was posted on Facebook and in various blogs, including IMB’s CompassionNet page on Facebook, Yates said. “Based on what I can document and intelligent guesses, more than 10,000 people viewed this prayer item within a few hours,” she said.

It was like the whole world was praying'

Posted on Oct. 11, 2013: Since the Walton family’s rescue from Westgate Mall, they have done numerous interviews and talked endlessly to reporters. But the story that isn’t always told by the secular media is that Walton and her husband, Philip, are the children of International Mission Board missionaries. They relied on the prayers of believers around the world during the horrifying hours of Sept. 21 being trapped in the mall.

MK differentiates between the terrorists and the Africans

Posted on Oct. 11, 2013: Jessie Yates grew up in Africa as the daughter of IMB missionaries and went back as an adult to teach Somali refugees in Nairobi. In her musings on Facebook titled “We Are One” — a phrase that has become an expression of solidarity since the mall attack — Yates tells readers that Kenya and America are not so different. “That’s the thing about Kenya — so many tribes and languages and customs. But we are all one. We are all Kenya. One people, one nation,” she writes. Yates says the outsiders — the ones who don’t fit in — are the terrorists.

  • Record-breaking typhoon rocks Philippines

Typhoon tears through the Philippines

Posted on Nov. 8, 2013: They chose to return. IMB representatives Carl and Suzie Miller were in another Filipino city when they heard the news that their home in Tacloban City on the island of Leyte was in the path of Typhoon Haiyan. Sustained winds of 195 miles an hour and gusts reaching 235 miles per hour made Haiyan the strongest recorded storm in the world, according to news reports. Called Yolanda in the Philippines, it registered as a Category 5 typhoon, with 25 million people in its trajectory.

Southern Baptists begin relief efforts

Posted on Nov. 10, 2013: Southern Baptist relief efforts are underway in various islands of the Philippines. Typhoon Haiyan ripped through the island nation on Nov. 8, leaving thousands devastated and cut off from food, water and outside communication.

IMB missionaries share story of miraculous survival

Posted on Nov. 13, 2013: Suzie Miller sat on her mattress, floating on the second level of her flooding home, not knowing whether she and her husband would survive Typhoon Haiyan. But Suzie and her husband Carl — among 26 IMB missionaries in the Philippines — knew they were exactly where God wanted them: in their home in Tacloban during the massive storm.

Community rises up from Typhoon Haiyan

Posted on Nov. 15, 2013: A Baptist pastor found Michael and Jesusa Booc with their four children in the ruins of a destroyed chapel, taking cover under a table covered by a tarp. The walls of the chapel were blown off during Typhoon Haiyan and lay in a stack on the side of the building. Villagers have started rebuilding their makeshift homes using building materials scavenged from the wreckage left in the storm's wake.

Philippine typhoon sparks global Baptist relief effort

Posted on Nov. 26, 2013: Less than 24 hours after Typhoon Haiyan roared through the Philippines, Southern Baptist missionaries and disaster relief specialists were delivering aid to dozens of towns and villages devastated by the super storm. Their efforts are just part of a larger, global response to Haiyan by the international Baptist community that is multiplying Southern Baptists’ impact.

  • Nelson Mandela dies at 95

First person: Reflections on Nelson Mandela’s legacy 

Posted on Dec.6, 2013, First person article by IMB missionary who served in Africa for 20 years: Mandela expertly navigated the turbulent times that characterized South Africa emerging from apartheid. I was as thrilled as my national friends when Mandela was elected as the first black president of South Africa in 1994. Living in southern Africa during the events later depicted in the film “Invictus,” I was encouraged by seeing Mandela make decisions based on what he thought best for South Africa and all its peoples.

WorldView: Mandela and the power of forgiveness

Posted on Dec. 7, 2013, First person article by WorldView columnist, Erich Bridges: There’s no need to idealize Mandela, as many have done, to appreciate his greatness. The smiling grandfather of later years was once the angry young revolutionary. He once was regarded as a dangerous enemy of the United States. Like other world leaders, he sometimes made questionable decisions. He unapologetically supported several notorious international tyrants. He failed to solve some of South Africa’s deepest problems, including violence and widespread poverty, which continue to afflict the nation. He was human, but he changed the world through perseverance, forgiveness and a resolute refusal to harbor hatred in his heart.

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