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Rankin leads final appointment services as IMB president


RICHMOND, Va. (BP) — Shawn Smith* remembers hearing God audibly confirm his calling to missions at age 18 while attending a youth camp.

“My Bible study leaders encouraged us to focus on prayer as a two-way conversation with God. One night, as we were singing, I was praying to God about my future,” Smith says. “I told Him that I wanted to go to the mission field, but that I would not unless He led me there.


Jerry and Bobbye Rankin reflect during the opening of the missionary appointment service at First Baptist Church in Jackson, Miss., May 6. This was Rankin’s final appointment service as IMB president.

“I asked God if that was His will for me. Then I waited in silence. After some time passed, I heard an audible ‘Yes.’ Startled, I jumped up and looked around. Everyone was still singing. I realized that God had spoken.”

Smith and his wife Elise*, along with their three children, are now bound for Central Asia. They were among 46 Southern Baptist missionaries appointed by trustees of the International Mission Board (IMB) in two services, May 5 at Broadview Missionary Baptist Church in Broadview, Ill., and May 6 at First Baptist Church in Jackson, Miss. The appointment services were the last for IMB President Jerry Rankin before his retirement July 31.

The appointment services marked a milestone for Rankin, bringing the number to 101 he’s been a part of during his 17 years as IMB president. In that time Rankin has seen more than 10,000 men and women sent out as Southern Baptist career and short-term missionaries.

“I want to thank you, Southern Baptists, because of your faithfulness in praying, for your heart for a lost world, for your faithful giving to the Cooperative Program [that] has enabled them to go in obedience to God’s call,” Rankin said.

He challenged the new missionaries to stay focused on their vision and passion for sharing the Gospel, something he found essential during his 40-year service with the IMB.

“It’s so easy [to get distracted] living in a foreign country where you get caught up in just surviving, taking care of your family and all of the bureaucracy and red tape and hassle of congested crowds,” Rankin said.

Of the Apostle Paul, Rankin noted, “Even though he was threatened, stoned, beaten, imprisoned, eventually martyred ... [he] was undeterred because he had a passion for a lost world to know Jesus Christ as Savior. You’re here tonight because you had a very distinct sense of God’s call to the mission field.

“As [Paul] expressed in that final message of farewell to the Ephesian elders, ‘I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, in order that I may finish my course, and the ministry I’ve received from the Lord Jesus Christ.’ That was [pioneer missionary to China] Lottie Moon’s life verse. My life is of no account; my only purpose, my only passion, is to faithfully fulfill the calling of God to share Christ with the lost world.”


*Names changed. Don Graham is a writer for the International Mission Board.



The choir at Broadview (Ill.) Missionary Baptist Church provides a rousing chorus of praise during a missionary appointment service May 5. Two appointment services in two locations were held for the 46 missionaries.