IMB’s 2023 in review: We cooperate so they can go

Let’s look through highlights of how God worked through your missionaries this year as they went to the edge of lostness to share the hope of Jesus among 59% of the world considered unreached.

From the more than 1,300 missionary candidates in the pipeline to the host of veteran missionaries training and equipping others on the field, 2023 has been filled with stories of how God is using your International Mission Board missionaries to impact lostness, globally.

Because of the cooperative spirit of Southern Baptist churches, we are equipped to reach the lost, together. Today, 173,451 people will die without the hope of Jesus. The IMB exists to address this problem of spiritual lostness.

Let’s look through highlights of how God worked through your missionaries this year as they went to the edge of lostness to share the hope of Jesus among 59% of the world considered unreached.

Missionary presence

IMB remains committed to long-term presence among the lost. Southern Baptists are unified through their generosity.

Southern Baptists exceeded last year’s Lottie Moon Christmas Offering® goal of $190 million with $196.1 million for the 2022-2023 offering season. Because of big and small churches working together to generously give last year, missionaries and their local partners shared the gospel with 728,589 people.

Today, there are 3,515 missionaries, plus their families, and 103 global missionary partners deployed, addressing the overwhelming problem of lostness and planting churches. They’re equipped and encouraged through Southern Baptists who band together to pray, give, go and send.

Missionary pipeline

In March, we reported there were 1,200 missionaries in the pipeline. Most recent numbers indicate there are now 1,300. This number has more than quadrupled over the last 4.5 years.

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Sending Celebration

Sending Celebrations are a highlight of what we do. We send your newly appointed missionaries to the nations. Southern Baptists rally around the appointees, hearing their stories and praying for them as they embark on a mission to share the good news with those who have never heard. Nearly 250 full-time missionary appointees were honored in the four Sending Celebrations conducted in 2023.

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Great Pursuit

Bringing the gospel to the world’s lost through missionary presence has always been a part of the IMB’s 178-year history. A call for renewed commitment, however, includes an urgency to find people groups with no missionary presence and no known gospel access.

“With the support of Southern Baptists, IMB is launching a pioneering initiative called Project 3000, through which we will send out 300 missionary explorers over five years to scout out 10 unengaged, unreached people groups each,” explained John Brady, IMB vice president of global engagement, when he announced the initiative in June.

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Missionary emeriti

At the IMB, we not only celebrate those who are going, but we honor those who have answered the call and are now back in the United States. This year’s retiring missionary emeriti represented service in more than 40 countries. They set the bar high, as IMB President Paul Chitwood noted in a sermon addressing both missionary emeriti and new missionaries preparing for their first term.

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Crisis response

Every day, IMB missionaries see the devastation of natural disasters, war and lostness. This year has been marked by crisis response. Because you give through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering®, the Cooperative Program and Send Relief (the joint compassion ministry arm of IMB and the North American Mission Board), your missionaries are ready to respond in regions around them. Send Relief continues to provide aid to survivors of each of these crises.

Turkey/Syria earthquake

When a deadly magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck southern Turkey and northern Syria early on Feb. 6, Send Relief was there.

Working with local partners in Syria and Turkey, they responded to immediate needs following the earthquake and subsequent aftershocks. In the first 24 hours of the response, partners distributed 1,000 blankets and 5,000 bottles of water.

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Sudan violence

On April 15, fighting broke out between the Sudanese army and the Rapid Support Forces, a paramilitary group. An observer outside of Sudan who is familiar with the situation said the fighting is so devastating and all-encompassing that they think the winner of the conflict will stand on a pile of rocks.

In June, it was reported that an estimated 1.15 million people have been internally displaced or are refugees due to the conflict in Sudan.

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Morocco earthquake

We grieved the thousands of people who entered eternity after a devastating 6.8-magnitude earthquake on Sept. 8 in Morocco. Together, we cried out to God for the people of Morocco.

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Libya flood

Two stories worth of water wiped out land with Christian history and tradition dating back millennia on Sept. 11. Rain from Storm Daniel overwhelmed the dams in Derna, Libya, and the deluge claimed entire neighborhoods and the lives of thousands.

Through the devastation, we praised God for North African believers like Youcef. And you prayed with us for those whose lives were forever changed by the floods.

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Holy Land crisis

As we continue to watch devastating events taking place in the Holy Land, we are not mere spectators. We don’t just see headlines. We see people. They are injured, frightened, missing. They are lost.

As this crisis unfolded, we did not ignore it, and we did not stand still. Instead, we continue to cry out to God on their behalf, asking Him to bring true peace as only He can.

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Field features

IMB missionary presence cultivates gospel access, gospel belief and church planting and multiplication. What that presence looks like is as varied across the globe as our missionaries are unique. Whether they are seasoned missionaries in the heart of a Brazilian megacity or a young couple making initial contact with the lost largely online in a virtual reality world in Japan, our readers love stories about their missionaries. Here are two of the most-read stories from 2023.

The Reese family

The Reese family’s ministry is now in São Paulo, Brazil, where Eric is the City Team leader. The São Paulo team is poised to be one of the most diverse teams of IMB missionaries, as more workers are added to the team in this truly global city.

With Eric Reese’s decades of experience in Brazil, he’s well-equipped to lead and train the new missionaries. We shared a book excerpt from Eric’s book so you could hear one of his stories in his own words.

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The Knipper family

As part of the Week of Prayer for International Missions, an update on the life and virtual reality ministry of Justin and Michaela Knippers was released.

Recently, they visited a Japanese language-only virtual world and invited many to an “in real life” video game party. Veteran missionaries and local Japanese believers gather once a month to play all types of games and engage in gospel conversations. One young adult the Knippers invited was told by his parents he needed to get out of the house and be with real people. His parents are against anything religious but were more than happy to have him go to the party for social interaction. The missionaries have slowly introduced aspects of the gospel to the young man, in person and virtually.  

This young Japanese adult is a reminder that although virtual reality isn’t the real world, there are real people inside it who need the gospel. Michaela asks you to pray for him and the many others searching for hope in the virtual world.

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EDITOR’S NOTE — This article was originally published by the International Mission Board.

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