2023 Staff favorites

Stories, videos, photos and designs from IMB MarCom

As our staff looks back at 2023, we’re thankful and awed at the ways our great God moved around the world this past year. From evangelism in virtual reality in Japan to prayerwalking on mission trails in Oklahoma, to canoe rides in Senegal to reach unreached people groups, IMB missionaries and Southern Baptists are solving the world’s greatest problem—lostness.  

Here are some of our team’s favorite stories, photos, graphic designs, promotional materials and social media posts:  

An overall staff favorite from this past year took place in VR (virtual reality). Well, not completely in VR. 

Justin and Michaela Knippers, IMB missionaries serving in Japan, maneuver through a virtual reality world. Justin used to practice theories for evangelism and strategic gospel engagement while taking seminary classes in Virtual Reality Chat (VR-Chat). Now, Justin and his wife, Michaela, use virtual reality as part of their ministry in Japan. IMB Photo

“I find the ministry of the Knippers in Japan simply incredible and ingenious. Of course, it’s one of those no-brainer type things when you really stop to think about it, the world in which we play or relax in, our downtime from life’s day to day realities, should also be the one we are trying to connect and relate with others to reach for the gospel. There is no downtime from being obedient by sharing the gospel,” Kathleen Sparks, senior photo archivist 

“The NextGen Guide was one of my favorites! I really enjoyed the collaboration and all the hard work put into this guide so that we can invite the next generation of missionaries to serve on the field in some way,” Joy Lee, graphic design intern 

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“Seeing Ukrainians’ daily struggle to survive in harsh winter conditions in person made me feel their pain and helpless in the reality of such great need.  Many Ukrainians are flocking to churches where they can receive both physical and spiritual help and IMB and Send Relief along with national partners are responding to meet their needs,” Luke In, photograper

South Carolina church turns ‘trash into cash’ for missions

“One of my favorite stories from 2023 is the story, “South Carolina church turns ‘trash into cash’ for missions” and the accompanying video. It’s a great example of how seemingly small actions can add up to make a huge difference for the Kingdom! I also love the creative use of photos and audio recordings to tell the story,” Dakotah Forbes, corporate communications specialist 

“My favorite project was the Falls Creek Missions Trail. I loved that we could create an interactive prayer walk for youth to pray through the nations, and that it honored a young woman who had a heart for the lost. This also had a bunch of collaboration between our team members,” Caitlyn Jameson, graphic designer  

Missionary kids spread gospel seeds in the Netherlands

Sue Sprenkle, a writer with the IMB, said the story of Missionary Kids sharing the gospel in the Netherlands was a memorable story because of the great lengths photographer Luke In went to capture photos of missionary kids in the Netherlands who were biking through the country and sharing the gospel as they went.

“Since I hadn’t ridden a bike for long time, I knew it was going to be a challenge just to keep up with them,” In said, “let alone photograph while riding. It can’t compare to Tour de France, but I certainly had my share of legs tiring, lungs screaming for air, and few close calls to falling off the bike. Difficult as it was, I’m very thankful that I rode along with them to capture some images. It was joy to see TCKs bond and work together in sharing their faith in not so welcoming environment to Christianity.”

“Moses (the missionary) told me that I’d be going out to the island with him, and we had to go on canoes, and when I got there, he told me that he didn’t know how to swim, and that he was terrified of water, yet he’s been doing this ministry for years. For me, that became kind of the focal point of the story: him overcoming his fear to do ministry and planting this church among people who are animistic and live in fear of upsetting the spiritual world. I thought that was just a really neat tie in, and a great witness that he had that he could overcome that fear to do with the Lord called him to do,” William Haun, videographer and photographer

New age to new life, art ministry in Spain leads to salvation

“I loved New age to new life. Not only because it started with a prayer request from the field, but also because it’s just a beautiful story of God putting IMB missionaries in the right place at the right time to help a woman, Henar, hear and understand the good news about Jesus. I love the creativity of these missionaries to reach the Basque people, particularly the art community there. This story made me feel really proud to be part of this work,” Emily Hall, prayer content specialist

“I loved making “Missionary Explorers Needed” as I got to hike alongside the explorers and see firsthand the training they’d be receiving to reach the unreached in remote places,” Nick Seitz, videographer

‘My family’ needs Christ

“The story about Ézéchiel warms my heart because it tells how a teenage young man was so moved by his encounter with the gospel that he insisted on finding a way to cross significant language barriers in his everyday world to make sure that someone could tell his family the life-changing good news,” Julie McGowan, associate vice president of public relations and corporate communications

“Can I trust you? This is just an excellent, powerful story. As a kid growing up in the 90s, I remember hearing about Kuwait and Iraq and the subsequent war, but I didn’t fully grasp what was happening at that time. It is neat to hear about what God was doing on an intimate level so many years later,” Tristan Brink, video editor

IMB missionary recalls sowing gospel seed with unknown harvest

“As Nathaniel Creed shared the story of his dear friend Henry, I saw a bearded, outdoorsy man with tears in his eyes, heartbroken. Spoiler alert: This story doesn’t have a happy ending. As I wrote, I realized something important that day. Nathaniel persists in his call for the same reason that 3,500 other IMB missionaries persist—because of his friend Henry and the countless others like him who need to know Christ before it’s too late,” Myriah Snyder, writer and editor

Song of the Cyrene, Christianity’s long history in North Africa

“I love the reminder that our faith has strong roots in North Africa and that God still loves these people. Having worked in North Africa, I know that the people there have a strong cultural identity that is not easily shaken. They also have a long memory, with many knowing that there were Christians there long before the Arab invasion. The reminder that God loves and can reach these people is so important, especially in a place like Libya that seems so closed to the gospel,” Bailey Sullivan, prayer strategy implementation manager

The first Burmese-American Southern Baptist missionaries sent through IMB speak during their commissioning service December 7, near Richmond, Va. “We have a chance to go to an unreached nation,” they said. “We will carry on that vision.” IMB Photo

Our staff celebrated the sending of the first Burmese-American Southern Baptist missionaries during their commissioning service this December. It marked the first time in history that Burmese Southern Baptist churches sent missionaries through the IMB.

Ukrainian believers find fellowship, purpose in church

“My tip to Poland in January of 2023 feels like eons ago—both in terms of what has happened in the world since then—an earthquake in Syria and Turkey, floods in Libya and the current conflict in the Holy Land—and what has happened in my life. I was five months pregnant at the time of my trip, and my daughter is now six months old.

Ukrainian husbands, fathers and brothers are still missing from pews in refugee churches across Europe. For them, the conflict has not subsided or faded from memory—it’s an ongoing ache. Rereading this story is a reminder for me to not let the distance of time allow the Ukrainian refugees I met and worshiped with to fade from memory,” Tessa Sanchez, writer

Graphic designer Philip King had two favorites.

“I chose this project because of the in-depth cultural study that was required to accurately portray each distinct people groupings in a minimalistic format. Working closely with each affinity group, I was able to land on a specific image that pointed to a specific aspect of the culture. All of the images were built from a composite of photographic sources.”

“I chose these portrait illustrations of Liele and Lottie because I had to the chance to take a new look at how to visualize them. Using a vibrant color scheme and illustration style, I hoped to bring new life to these foundational personalities.”