Chris and Casey Willis, along with their four children, are preparing to deploy to Africa through the International Mission Board.
By Roger Alford
NASHVILLE – Chris and Casey Willis had been living the American dream in Augusta, Ga., with their four children.
Chris had a good job working for the Social Security Administration. Casey was homeschooling the kids. But when they realized God was leading them toward foreign missions, they made the decision to give up the typical American lifestyle, join the International Mission Board, and settle into a new life in Uganda where they will work with refugees fleeing war-torn South Sudan.
Chris, 40, and Casey, 37, said they had felt change was on the horizon for a few years leading up to Monday when the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board gave them and 62 other new missionaries a celebratory send-off in Nashville, one day ahead of the SBC Annual Meeting.
“We had settled into a comfortable life, and God began to tug on our hearts that there was something else he had planned for us,” Casey said. “It’s been a long process. We’ve always loved missions, and I think even when we were younger, we thought that might be something we do one day. But it wasn’t until 2015 when we knew for a fact that the Lord was calling us.”
Short-term mission trips with Augusta’s Warren Baptist Church, their home church, helped to confirm God’s calling. In time, Chris said, it became very clear that God wanted him, his wife, and their children, ages 7 to 14, to move to Sub-Saharan Africa.
The decision to give up their home and life in Augusta and move to another part of the world wasn’t made quickly. It was a process they had to work through together.
“We’ve seen where God’s hand has been with us through all of that,” Chris said.
International Mission Board President Paul Chitwood said the 64 missionaries celebrated on Monday will join 3,631 of their peers, along with their 2,700 children, serving around the world. He said the training and deployment of missionaries continued despite the Coronavirus pandemic of the past 15 months.
“I admit that I questioned at times that we would be able to do everything that is necessary to appoint, train and deploy new missionaries in the midst of that global pandemic, but by God’s grace and with his help, you’re sending of more missionaries through the IMB has not ceased,” Chitwood said. “We’ve had plenty of hurdles, more than a few disruptions, but more than 500 new missionaries have been appointed since the pandemic began. Our work has not been thwarted.”
The following is a list, by state, of other new IMB missionaries who were part of Monday’s sending celebration. Those who are going into countries not flagged for security concerns are listed by name. Others who are going into high-risk countries have been identified by pseudonyms. Those are denoted by the * after their names.
Kal and Madalyn Jones* — Southeast Asian peoples.
Anne Marie Decker – American peoples – Channel Church of Richmond, Calif.
Eric and Su-Jeong Kuykendall – East Asian peoples – Monterey Park Chinese Baptist of Alhambra, Calif.
Chris and Casey Willis – Sub-Saharan African peoples – Warren Baptist of Augusta, Ga.
Dan and Tara Byrd – European peoples – Milestone Church of Natick, Mass.
Matt and Tricia Young* — East Asian peoples
Adam and Lauren Yeargin – European peoples – LifePoint Church of Ozark, Missouri
Caleb and Katie Huhmann – Southeast Asian peoples – Pleasant Valley Baptist of Liberty, Missouri
Conner and Grace Collins* — Central Asian peoples
Emmett and Sylvia Sunday* — East Asian peoples
Michael and Ashley Fadden* — Central Asian peoples
Scott Bubp – American peoples – First Baptist Las Cruces of Las Cruces, New Mexico
Beau and Annabelle Pitre* — Central Asian peoples
Cash and Kiera Mercer* — South Asian peoples
Chuck and Chelsea Nubbage* — Central Asian peoples
Eleanor Hatcher* — Central Asian peoples
Grey and Shari Baldwin* — Central Asian peoples
Jacob and Autumn Shepherd* — Northern African and Middle Eastern peoples
John and Ellie Smith* — Northern African and Middle Eastern peoples
Manley and Shelley Tackett* — Central Asian peoples
Phil and Becca Bartuska – European peoples – The Summit Church of Raleigh, NC
Theodore and Sophie Doyle* — South Asian peoples
Joshua and Audrey Parsons* — Southeast Asian peoples
Harley and Caroline Walker* — European peoples
Merrel and Cali Roe* — Northern African and Middle Eastern peoples
Ben and Jenny Johnson – American peoples – Bartlett Baptist Church of Bartlett, Tenn.
Brian and Amy Johnson* — East Asian peoples
Casandra Rodriguez* — South Asian peoples
Eloise Marks* — South Asian peoples
Emily Borden – European peoples – Paramount Baptist of Amarillo, Texas
Laurence and Debbie Hubert* — Northern African and Middle Eastern peoples
Meggie Hixson – Sub-Saharan African peoples – Houston’s First Baptist of Houston, Texas
Patrick And Libbie Anderson* — Central Asian peoples
Will and Jordan Becknal – American peoples – Emmanuel Baptist of Weatherford, Texas
Brandon and Lisa Gregory – European peoples – Reliance Fellowship of West Richland, Wash.
Lucy Yeager* — East Asian peoples