DULUTH — The Georgia Baptist Convention is the first state convention to offer a helping hand to International Mission Board missionaries and staff who will accept the agency’s voluntary retirement package.
IMB President David Platt announced on Aug. 27 that the agency will reduce its missionaries and staff by 600-800 people over the next six months.
He explained the Richmond, VA-based agency spent a combined $210 million more than people have given to the agency since 2010. He stated, “By God’s grace, we have been able to cover these costs through reserves and global property sales. But we don’t have an endless supply of global property to sell, and our cash reserves are no longer at a desirable level for good stewardship going forward.”
Platt is to be commended for his commitment to be a good steward of IMB resources, but Southern Baptists are grieved at having to reduce the number of administrative and missionary personnel by such a significant number.
The IMB president added, “Our aim is to make this process as voluntary as possible, starting with a Voluntary Retirement Incentive, and then moving to an opportunity for their personnel to say voluntarily, ‘I believe the Lord may be leading me to a new assignment.’”
The GBC has responded by writing an open letter to the missionaries and staff, explaining, “Dr. White and all the staff of the Georgia Baptist Convention want to express our appreciation for your Kingdom work in and through the International Mission Board. We count you as a hero, and want to welcome you home with arms wide open! We anticipate that recent decisions were probably unexpected and the next few months will be especially difficult.
“We want to do all that we can to help you transition to life in the states as smoothly as possible. To that end, we are developing several services that we hope and pray will prove beneficial.”
The assistance offered includes, but is not limited to: resume service, ministerial placement, transitional pastor training, locating housing and transportation, and coaching.
GBC state missionary Stuart Lang suggests that there are three things Georgia Baptists can do to assist IMB missionaries who are returning to the states. Lang states,
• “First and most importantly, is the matter of prayer. We need to pray for the president of the International Mission Board, because he is having to make some very difficult decisions. We also need to pray for the missionaries as the wrestle with tough decisions. Some of them are dealing with sorrow and grief, because the prospect of leaving a calling and a field of service is traumatic both emotionally and spiritually.”
Within days of the GBC announcing its intent, 15 missionaries returning to the states expressed gratitude for the offer. One missionary wrote, “I am currently looking for a job, and have submitted my resume to several places. I haven’t looked for a job for 23 years, so this is all difficult.”
• Secondly, Lang continued, “If you are a GBC church and have a house or an empty pastorium, you may be able to provide a missionary family with a temporary place to live; or if any church or Georgia Baptist family has a vehicle that they would provide to a returning missionary for a period of time that would be extremely helpful.
• “Finally,” Lang commented, “Please let us know if your church or association is open to a returning missionary serving as a pastor, missions pastor, or staff member. These missionaries are champions of our faith, have been called to serve and many of them are now available.”
Lang’s full commentary is below. For additional information email firstname.lastname@example.org.