Published July 17, 2008
RICHMOND, Va. (BP) — Journeyman Trevor Yoakum lay face down in mud on the side of a narrow highway in Nigeria. Gunfire exploded in his ears. Squealing tires followed and then the crunch of cars crashing.
As Yoakum lay undetected, the shouts of highway robbers reverberated around him. He was afraid, but his love for the Nigerian people did not waver.
“Why go back? Why subject your wife and children to the same risks?” people have asked Yoakum about his family’s return to the region where he served in the late ‘90s. “Because we bear in the body the death of Jesus, that the life of Jesus may also be manifest in our bodies.”
The Yoakums were among 72 new International Mission Board missionaries appointed at Bon Air Baptist Church in Richmond, Va., June 25 and Southern Hills Baptist Church in Oklahoma City June 27.
Also included were Michael and Michelle Allen, who will be serving as church planters and evangelists in Madagascar. Michael, a native of Decatur, said the couple is eager to hit the field.
“We’re called to fulfill the Great Commission and ready to go,” he said in an interview with The Index. “There are a lot of lost people there.”
Michelle Allen said the calling to overseas missions has been a process.
“At 24 I was working full time for a company when one day on the beach I felt God redirecting my path,” she explained. “I knew I was supposed to do missions in some way, but wasn’t sure how. God put people in my path and led me to serve as a Journeyman to Germany. It put a desire for missions in me.”
Michael Allen worked as a warehouse manager in Norcross and then construction contractor in Decatur, splitting time in the latter position with youth minister responsibilities at Westside Baptist in Snellville. From September 2005 to April 2007 he was associate pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Lilburn. For nearly a year beginning in June 2006 Michelle served as the church’s youth and children’s minister.
Into a diverse country
“Madagascar is the fourth-largest island in the world – the size of Texas,” Michael Allen said. “Its people worship a mixture of animistic and tribal religions. It’s a diverse island with desert, rain forest, and mountainous areas.”
Allen added that he and his wife of three years would likely be serving in a city of 200,000-300,000 that could be a 2-3 days’ drive from other missionaries. “In addition to establishing the presence of Jesus in the city,” he said, “we’ll also be riding bicycles into the surrounding areas and witnessing there.”
The main method of evangelism, he added, would be through chronological storytelling of Bible stories.
“Most of the people are illiterate. They’re used to oral learning so you have to tell them the whole story of Jesus. We’ll go to one village and spend a couple of weeks there, starting with Creation and telling key stories through to the Gospels.”
The newly appointed missionaries join more than 5,300 others from 28 states and four countries serving around the world to complete the Great Commission task.
Speaking from Luke 4, IMB president Jerry Rankin encouraged the new missionaries appointed in Richmond to be like Jesus as they begin their overseas ministry. “He determined the priority of His purpose, He demonstrated the power of His presence, and He demanded participation in His program,” Rankin said of Christ’s ministry example.
Referencing 2 Kings 2, Rankin urged the new missionaries to not “stop short.” Letting anything distract from the Spirit of God, he said, is like going around in circles but never really getting anywhere.
“Don’t be satisfied with just being busy,” Rankin said.
“There is no greater thrill than to lay your life on the altar, continually sharing Jesus with someone who has never heard,” he said. “There is no greater thrill [than] ... to have the privilege of seeing the Kingdom of God planted and extend among people ... where no Christian witness has ever existed.”
Emilee Brandon is a writer for the International Mission Board.
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