Every Church, Every Nation: Giving Thanks for One Another

There are a number of reasons it’s great to be a part of the Southern Baptist Convention. The pinnacle, however, is 47,000 churches working together to get the gospel to people all around the world who haven’t heard it. Every church and every church member has a role to play in reaching every nation.

Through giving to the Cooperative Program and Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, sending your members to be full-time missionaries, and mobilizing many short-term teams from your church, local church partnerships are vital to the work of IMB missionaries as they take the gospel to unreached peoples. Every church plays a significant role in reaching every nation for the glory of Jesus Christ.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, we would like to share with you just a few of the reasons we are thankful for the partnerships between local churches and IMB missionaries.

Every Church

Marshall Blalock
Pastor of First Baptist Church Charleston, South Carolina
For our members who are on the field, I am thankful that the IMB is so effective in supporting those we have sent out. Whether it is health care, training, or encouragement, I know our people have personal support that makes it possible to extend the gospel to the ends of the earth. Some of our members are near what I would consider “the end of the earth,” and we never worry about whether they have the support and protection of the IMB on a daily basis.

“They epitomize the true character of our IMB workers, committed to extending the gospel to every nation while leading a team with the deep love of God.”

On a more personal level, I am thankful for one of our couples who lead a team in one of the toughest places on the planet. They are such amazing caregivers and encouragers to their team. I am thankful for the way they quietly go about reaching people in places that were long considered unreachable. Their team members are routinely exiled from their homes simply because they are sharing Christ with their neighbors. These team members are often wounded, both physically and emotionally, but this couple is so amazing in how they bind the wounds of the broken hearted. They epitomize the true character of our IMB workers, committed to extending the gospel to every nation while leading a team with the deep love of God.

Danny Davis
Associational Mission Strategist, Tates Creek Baptist Association, Kentucky
Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of meeting, knowing, and partnering with many who serve on the front lines of our collective SBC global mission effort. Working alongside these servants, I’ve been inspired by their faith, humbled by their dedication, and challenged by their passion. These diverse men and women—no two alike—are among God’s best and brightest. I have been grateful for the opportunity to work in concert with them in seeking to advance God’s kingdom. I thank God for their obedience to his call and their faithfulness to the task to which he’s assigned them, realizing no ministry field is easy.

Micah Fries
Senior Pastor, Brainerd Baptist Church, Chattanooga, Tennessee
A year ago I was in South Asia, a country filled with Hindus and Buddhists. We were standing in the middle of an outdoor crematorium. In this country, when one dies their body is washed and then burned. The remains are then dumped in the river. As I stood in that place, alongside members of our church who serve with the IMB, I was overwhelmed with the sound of crackling and the presence of ash in the air. I realized the crackling sound was bodies burning and the ash was the residue of the bodies in the air.

In that moment I was more overwhelmed than I have ever been before of the reality of hell and the need for the gospel to advance. The physical experience I was in the middle of was a real and terrible illustration of the eternal experience those in that country who died apart from Christ were experiencing. I am so thankful for our partnership with the IMB, which helps us push back the lostness around us, advancing the gospel among unreached people in the hardest places.

The book of Philippians reminds us of the importance of partnering together with other believers for the purpose of gospel advance. I love the IMB and our partnership with her not merely because it’s effective—though it is—but more so because it’s biblical. Every time we work together with the IMB and her personnel, we are hearing the words of Paul echo in our ears, “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you . . . because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now” (Phil. 1:3, 5 ESV).

Lesley Hildreth
Women’s Discipleship Director, The Summit Church, Raleigh, North Carolina
I am thankful for the constant encouragement and challenge from missionaries to take God’s Word seriously and to put Jesus first in every area of our lives. I am also thankful for the way missionaries serve as an example of how we should listen to God’s call and adjust our lives accordingly.

Every Nation

Phil Bartuska
Our family is deeply grateful for Southern Baptist churches and the cooperative efforts of getting the gospel to the nations. Our first term was interrupted by visa issues, and we found ourselves back in the States for six months. During that time of uncertainty and confusion, our sending church (The Summit Church) cared for us, gave us places to serve, and sent us out again with gospel-saturated hearts. Southern Baptist churches not only helped to train us theologically but they also helped us learn what it means to be the hands and feet of Jesus. Now they are holding the rope for us through their encouragement, support, and prayers.

Emelee Austen
I know people on the field who don’t have regular contact or support from a home church. Their lack of connection reminds me of how grateful I am for how God pours his grace on me through my church. My home church is always watching over me. My care coach contacts me each week and tells me how she’s praying for me. My advocacy team prays for me weekly, calls me every couple of months, and makes sure I have what I need when I’m on the field and in the States. And every quarter I’m asked to send the missions office an update about my three h’s: health, happiness, and holiness. They don’t just file that report away. They pray and respond. My church won’t let me go under.

“Our sending church’s encouragement and unwavering support help me to stay focused and to abide in the Father daily as I seek to share the good news with those the Lord brings in my path.”

George Watts
North Africa and the Middle East
I’m thankful for the relationship we have with our sending church because it is more than just a one-sided support system. It’s a continued, though modified, life-on-life interaction. The body’s encouragement and unwavering support help me to stay focused and to abide in the Father daily, as I seek to share the good news with those the Lord brings in my path.

Alison Watts
North Africa and the Middle East
It is hard to put into words just how much we need our sending church. It is through the financial support of the body of Christ that we are able to physically be here and our needs are taken care of, but it is through prayer and encouragement that we are sustained in our presence here. If there is one thing the Father is teaching me in my time overseas, it is that he chooses to powerfully work through the prayers of the saints.

For us specifically, this has meant physical healing after sending out prayer requests, an unbeliever getting in touch with us after specific times of prayer for them, and immediate responses to needs. When our churches pray, the Lord hears and moves powerfully to display his glory. We literally could not be here without our sending church.

Kevin Singerman
Sub-Saharan Africa
Our job requires us to drive out to remote refugee settlements on rough, rocky, and jarring roads. We make the trip several times a week to share the love of Christ and lead trauma-healing seminars. We are so thankful for our supporting churches in the US that have provided us with the tough vehicles we use here. Otherwise, our ministry would surely be broken down on the side of the road. Thank you all for the continued blessing of your prayers and support.

Samantha Conners
I am thankful for the discipleship and love my family received from our sending church. Without a firm foundation of biblical knowledge and the confidence we get from knowing our church family supports us, we never would have followed God’s guidance to the mission field. And now, it’s their support and prayers that sustain us as we serve.

“I’m thankful for the church. I’m thankful we are on this race together. I’m thankful for more light in this darkness.”

Madison Strauder
South Asia
Living each day surrounded by palpable darkness is heavy. We walk down streets and see people bowing to false gods and hear the call to prayer coming from the loudspeakers of the mosques and the bells being rung by people at the Hindu temples. We see the desperation and the hopelessness. We feel it to the core of our hearts, and we long for everyone around us to know the one, true God. We pray for their salvation, and we speak the truth that can set them free.

When brothers and sisters from our stateside churches come and walk these streets with us and lift up the people around us in prayer, they carry that burden with us. They cry with us over the lost, and they rejoice with us as God brings people from death to life as the lost choose to follow Christ. They take ownership of the task of seeing people come to know Christ. They pray. They give. They labor alongside us on their knees and by our side. I’m thankful for the church. I’m thankful we are on this race together. I’m thankful for more light in this darkness.

Meredith Cook is a content editor for the International Mission Board. She has an MDiv in missiology from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. She and her husband live in Houston, Texas. Find her on Twitter @MeredithCook716.