Bridging the gap across the world: IMB missionaries prepare to go as Sending Celebration emphasizes unity

Bart Barber emphasized the unity that is displayed to send fully funded missionaries. “I not only have hope for people in Central Asia, North Africa and the Middle East, Sub Saharan Africa, and eastern Europe because of you, but I have hope for Southern Baptists because of you,” Barber said.

Peter and Tina Kim know that Asians in the growing city of São Paulo, Brazil, are in a unique position. As second, third and fourth generation immigrants, many Asians in São Paulo never quite fit into the culture of those around them. They don’t really fit the culture of their, or their parents’, countries of origin either.

The Kims feel burdened for those who feel like outsiders. The already diverse São Paulo city team for the International Mission Board hasn’t been able to connect with the one million Asians there. The Kims know how the Asians in the city feel, and they are on their way to help the team.

As second-generation Asian Americans, Tina explained, “Our native home country doesn’t necessarily see us as one of them. But the country where we live – where we grew up – doesn’t really see us as one of them, either.”

“In a way, we have the shared experience with the Asians living in Brazil,” Tina continued. “I think that will help us bond with the immigrants we’re seeking to reach in São Paulo and bridge the gap.”

Peter and Tina were approved by the International Mission Board’s trustees on Sept. 27, along with 70 other missionaries. The Kims were commissioned at the Sept. 27 Sending Celebration at Swift Creek Baptist Church in Midlothian, Virginia. Two of the other missionaries participating in the Sending Celebration are being sent out by Swift Creek. Their church family rejoiced as they shared their testimony from the platform.

Local churches rallied around the missionaries at the event. Few seats were empty as people filled the sanctuary to celebrate with missionaries and hear a message from Southern Baptist Convention President Bart Barber, who traveled to Virginia for the occasion.

Reaching people

From the platform, the Kims shared they knew they were called to missions, but God didn’t open the door for them to go right away. While still in the U.S. they attended seminary, started their family and served on church staff at their sending church, Christ Community Church of Ashton, Maryland. They prepared their hearts to go to the field and began the process, then tragedy struck the family. Tina’s dad suddenly passed away.

Not wanting to leave her mom during this time of grief, they paused their plans. Her mom, who had raised Tina to love the Lord and follow His calling, gave the family her blessing to continue in the process to go to the nations.

“Please don’t stop because of me,” she said. “How can I stop the Lord’s work?”

In obedience, the Kims will be headed to Brazil this fall. They have three children: Evie (5), Oliver (3), and Lottie (almost 2).

Steven Kunkel is another IMB missionary who is using his uniqueness to reach people not everyone understands.

Kunkel is a missionary kid (MK), the son of IMB missionaries Tim and Iracema Kunkel. Like the Kims, he understands the feeling of not always connecting to the culture around him in more than one way. Not only is he truly a third culture kid, but Kunkel is on the autism spectrum.

Kunkel, who is Brazilian American, has been serving with the IMB in Japan and is now being appointed as a career missionary. Although he grew up serving in his parent’s ministry in South America, years ago he fell in love with Japanese culture.

Through the influence of anime, manga and Japanese video games, his interest in Japanese culture grew. Always a curious learner, he researched the religious side of Japanese culture, and he soon realized that less than 2% of the Japanese were considered reached with the gospel.

That fact unsettled him, and he knew he was called to reach them.

Using culture

After college, he went to Japan through the IMB’s Macedonia project. Through this program, someone with a call can go to the field and serve on a church-planting team while they take seminary classes. Macedonia project workers serve 3-4 years and are funded through the IMB.

Kunkel, who is now proficient in Japanese in addition to speaking Spanish, Portuguese and English, is using his deep knowledge of the culture and penchant for art to produce manga – Japanese cartoons – that explain the gospel and summarize Scripture.

In addition to his manga projects and church liaison role, he’ll head next month to Tokyo to reach out to parents of kids on the spectrum, like he is.

“In Japan, a lot of people don’t understand autism,” he explained. “I think that because Japan is a culture of isolation from families, children tend to grow without their parents, and parents tend to not understand their children. There’s just this huge gap.”

Kunkel wants to bridge that gap, especially for families with kids on the spectrum. “One of the things that I plan to do through the IMB is educate parents in how they can raise their children with autism, children that need their parents’ love, by sharing with them the love of Christ.”

Kunkel has the full support of his family, friends and church as he embarks on this next step of his call to reach the unreached.

‘One mind and one voice’

Bart Barber, Southern Baptist Convention president, addressed the missionaries and attendees with a challenge from Romans 15, emphasizing that God brings believers to be of “one mind and one voice.”

Barber emphasized the unity that is displayed to send fully funded missionaries. “I not only have hope for people in Central Asia, North Africa and the Middle East, Sub Saharan Africa, and eastern Europe because of you, but I have hope for Southern Baptists because of you,” Barber said.

As the crowd erupted in applause, he said, “I don’t believe that there is one thing that [Southern Baptists] could do to one another that could be the wedge that would break us apart, as long as we know that you’re counting on us to keep everything in place that you need to have to go and do what God’s called you to do.”

Keith Evans, newly appointed IMB board chairman, closed the evening by asking for prayer over the new missionaries. The next Sending Celebration will be Nov. 13 in conjunction with the Florida Baptist Convention Annual Meeting in Tampa.

EDITOR’S NOTE — This story was written by Myriah Snyder and originally published by the International Mission Board.


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