This is a tough week for my IMB family. Plans are in full force to reduce the number of missionaries and staff that are serving by 600-800 people. The process has begun with a voluntary retirement incentive offered to all workers over 50 years of age and 5 years of service. Many are stepping into “retirement” this week at a time well in advance of what they ever anticipated. Some are stepping away from decades of faithful service. i spoke to a dear brother recently who shared that serving overseas is all that he and his family have known for twenty-seven years, and he wasn’t really sure how best to pursue God’s next step. As we spoke, i heard him express the deep sadness that so many are experiencing. The sadness extends to those who remain. It is hard to say farewell to co-laborers. Hearts have been knit together through their passionate pursuit of God’s call for the sake of the gospel and the advance of His Kingdom. There is no higher calling. There is no greater purpose. And each member of this family has given his/her all. So when family members leave, there is loss – and it is deep.
i am grateful to the Lord for the awesome privilege to have served with this family for almost eleven years. They are more than friends and co-laborers – they are family. So i too am saddened by these events as they unfold. i share in their loss.
But in the midst of these events, there is an even greater sadness. That sadness flows out of the reality that today there are more people who are dead in their sin and headed for an eternity separated from God than at any other time in history – many because no one has told them the Good News of the Gospel. In a day when the harvest is ripe and the opportunities are the greatest – when we need to be sending more, we’re taking steps to send less. Do we need to pursue other models of sending and be faithful to new ways that God is placing before us? Unquestionably! But is that what we are doing – or as a people, are we pulling back as a result of our disobedience?
i rest in the assurance that our God is sovereign. His plan will not be thwarted. There will be a multitude from every tribe and nation gathered around His throne. But how many alive at this moment in history will perish because they have not heard?
i rest in the reality that our God will continue to work in and through these faithful family members who are leaving IMB in ways that will continue to further His mission and His purpose in and through their lives. He who has called them is faithful. But is this His best? Or does His plan involve more going instead of less? Is their sadness and loss the result of our unwillingness to support those that have gone? Are we missing the moment to be faithful to what God has called us to? Have we failed to steward the resources that He has entrusted to us to accomplish His work, support these workers and further His mission?
i fear so! God forgive us for the sadness we have caused – among our IMB family – but even more the sadness – and eternal anguish – of those who may not hear in this moment as a result! And lead us to take the steps You would have us take to truly join You in Your mission and Your purpose. i pray that we will.