by Erich Bridges
RICHMOND, Va. (BP) — As they plan creative new ways to reach the lost, International Mission Board and Woman’s Missionary Union leaders expressed gratitude to Southern Baptists for the generous support churches gave to the 2014 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions.
Finalized in early June, the 2014 Lottie Moon offering totaled $153,002,394.13 — the second-highest total in the 126-year history of the offering. While it fell about $1 million short of 2013’s all-time record offering of $154 million, the 2014 total surpassed the previous record, $150.4 million in 2007, by more than $2.5 million.
“We have so much grace from God to celebrate in this offering,” IMB President David Platt said. “This is the second-largest Lottie Moon offering ever. It will supply more than half of our total IMB budget. We are deeply grateful for the faithfulness and obedience of the countless churches and individuals who have given sacrificially to this offering. Because they love God more than the pleasures, possessions and pursuits of this world, and because they want to glorify His name among all nations, we’ll be able to partner with them and missionaries sent from Southern Baptist churches around the world to take the Gospel to people who have never heard it.
“Every dollar given to the Lottie Moon offering will enable a man, woman or family to stay on the field, to lift the light of Jesus Christ amidst some of the darkest, most dangerous and difficult-to-reach places, and to make disciples among unreached peoples,” Platt noted. “God has given His people wealth for the sake of His worship, and I praise Him for how this money will serve as a tool in His hands for the multiplication of the church and the magnification of His name.”
Wanda Lee, executive director/treasurer of Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU), which promotes the offering in partnership with IMB, also expressed gratitude.
“We are grateful for the continued strong financial support and fervent prayers of Southern Baptists for international missions,” Lee said. “Praying for our missionaries and giving of our resources to aid in the work of overseas missions is at the heart of who we are in WMU. As Southern Baptists learn how God is at work around the world, they give of their resources and offer more informed prayers for those who have committed their lives to following the Great Commission into all the world so the Gospel will be proclaimed among all people.”
Platt, who was elected last year to lead Southern Baptists into a new era of international missions, wants to greatly expand pathways for churches and individuals to participate in God’s global mission — especially in cities and difficult places. Those avenues will include many new ways for congregations, professionals, students, retirees and others to join “limitless teams” to reach the unreached.
Full-time missionaries are more important than ever in new approaches. They will lead many of those teams and continue to be the key strategic workers in some of the toughest areas on earth. That’s why the Lottie Moon offering is so crucial: More than 4,700 IMB missionaries depend on it to pay day-to-day expenses and fund their efforts to spread the Gospel.
The Lottie Moon offering — and regular missions giving by churches through the Southern Baptist Convention’s Cooperative Program — fund missionary salaries, housing, medical care, children’s education, field transportation and other expenses. Supporting one fully funded missionary overseas costs an average of $141 per day, or about $51,000 per year.
Every penny of the Lottie Moon offering, named for Southern Baptists’ most famous missionary, goes to the IMB overseas budget, which directly supports missionaries and their work. The 2014 offering will account for more than half of the total 2015 IMB budget of $301.1 million.
The offering enables missionaries to go into areas untouched by the Gospel, engage people groups with no believers or Scriptures, start churches and make disciples.
IMB missionaries and their ministry partners communicated the Gospel to more than 1.7 million people, led nearly 275,000 people to faith in Christ, baptized more than 190,000 new believers and started more than 13,000 churches and many more believer groups that will become churches, according to IMB’s 2014 annual statistical report (reflecting 2013 year-end statistics). Beyond that, trained disciples among 235 people groups engaged their own people inside their countries. Disciples among 62 people groups engaged different groups or cities within their countries — and workers representing 26 peoples went beyond their own countries to reach different groups.
Two hearts burdened
Two of the missionaries supported by Lottie Moon gifts represent the commitment of many others:
Robert and Maridith Lane took a major risk when they moved to South Sudan, a battleground nation in northeast Africa. But they see it as a risk worth taking. When the Lanes first visited in 2010, their hearts became burdened for the more than 400,000 people unreached by the Gospel in South Sudan, which became independent of Sudan in 2011. They came back for good in 2013.
Now, the Lanes and their missionary teammates are learning to live a life more difficult than they ever imagined as they reach out to the Dinka Rek people group, who number nearly 3 million. See related video.
“We need to be ready for those hardships, ready for those difficulties, ready to be used as a sacrifice for Christ as we try to make His name famous,” Robert said. “The Dinka are very strong and proud. In tradition, they’re extremely warlike. They say, ‘We hate our enemy, we hate this other people group, we hate people who try to take anything from us or keep us from political power.'”
However, the Lanes have no doubt South Sudan is where God has called them. Getting into the country is usually difficult, but they’ve been able to gain access, set up a house and build relationships with local people in a short period of time. “It’s not been easy by any stretch of the imagination,” Robert said. “But in a lot of ways we’ve been able to do something that should really be impossible, and I see that as a very big confirmation of God’s will to have us in South Sudan.”
They stay there with the Lord’s help, the support of their missionary co-workers — and Southern Baptists’ prayers and giving through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and the Cooperative Program.
Multiply their story by several thousand, and you get a glimpse of the real impact of the Lottie Moon offering in the ministry of more than 4,700 missionaries worldwide.
Erich Bridges is an IMB global correspondent.
Reprinted from Baptist Press (www.baptistpress.com).
Baptist Press (BP) is the official news service of the Southern Baptist Convention and provides news to the 42 state Baptist papers. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists’ concerns nationally and globally.