‘The cannibals! The cannibals will eat you!’ That was how an elderly brother warned John G. Paton as he was about to set off as a missionary to the South Sea Islands in the nineteenth century.
Undeterred, off he went, facing many difficulties and distresses, and laboured there for 40 years.
Cannibals are no longer a worry, but dangers still abound: travel on precarious roads and rivers, diseases such as malaria and dengue fever, terrorism, kidnapping, authoritarian regimes opposed to the gospel, and civil wars, are all among the threats mission work faces today. Nonetheless, men and women persist in going forth to tell of the Saviour’s love.
On the last Saturday in October 2017, it was a privilege to gather in Friends House, Euston, London, with 700 believers from Grace Baptist churches from all over Britain, to meet with missionaries sent out by these churches and hear reports of their work.
Mission sessions started at 11.00am and ran throughout the day. For those appointed as delegates by their churches there was a business meeting in the morning.
Pastor Keith Johns, in the opening devotions, spoke from Esther, reminding us that, as in her case, we are where we are in God’s purposes and we have our responsibility to discharge the commission the Lord has given us. Knowing we are in the Lord’s will brings peace, despite any difficulties and dangers we face.
Annual report and feedback
The annual report on the work of the missionaries was presented and the difficult financial situation facing Grace Baptist Mission (GBM) was discussed. During the day, the Lord’s servants working in the UK and Poland, in Kenya and the Far East, told of efforts being made in evangelism, church planting and training.
New missionaries were also introduced, as they prepared for their work in France, Zambia and Latvia. A report was given of visits to encourage and help local pastors in India where the work of GBM first had its roots.
There was news too of radio work and the encouragement it is to many, from pastors combating paganism, to prisoners hearing broadcasts in jail.
Programmes produced at Abingdon are sent out and transmitted locally, often in very difficult situations. Booklets covering the content of the transmissions are also sent and this has proved beneficial. Poorer pastors in many countries are encouraged and helped by books sent to them through the literature work of GBM.
These individual sessions allowed those who attended to meet the missionaries, to hear about the areas of their particular interest and to ask questions. GBM encourages young men and women to consider service for the Lord and, to this end, under their Envision programme, teams are sent out to various countries for one or two weeks, to help in evangelism in different ways.
Also, longer term apprenticeships are arranged where someone is seeking to clarify their desire to serve the Lord in mission. This work was also reported on in its own session.
As well as these personal presentations, there was full coverage in the annual report of advances in technology being used through mobile phones to spread the Word of God.
There were reports of translation work on the Scriptures for the Fulani people in Africa, and of ministry in Brazil, including TV programmes and training and teaching in an Indian tribe in the Amazon region.
The work of the gospel in the darkness of France and the UK; leadership training of the deaf in Austria; the growth of the church in Riga in Latvia; continued support for and fellowship with the church in South India; help for student outreach in Central Asia and developments in the work in Peru and Colombia, were all detailed.
There was an excellent audio-visual presentation covering the great themes of the Reformation and how these relate to contemporary issues in mission.
In the closing meeting, Pastor Matt Gamston preached on 2 Corinthians 1:1-11, talking of the task of bringing the light of the gospel into the darkness of this world. To do so will involve suffering and make us keenly aware of our weakness.
However, this will drive us to the Lord in dependence upon him and there we will find the power to fulfil the task. This same power was demonstrated in the raising of the Lord Jesus from the dead. As we will also be raised from the dead, this perspective should decide our actions now.
It was a most encouraging day, in which the fellowship of churches in mission was evident, and a blessing to those who attended. Surely we returned home with our prayers strengthened and quickened by what we heard and learned.
Some perhaps will respond by preparing to go and take the gospel to the lost throughout the world.