RICHMOND, Va. (BP) — International Mission Board senior leaders have directed IMB missionary personnel around the world to postpone hosting any ministry volunteer groups through June 30, leaders announced Wednesday (March 25). The directive will be reassessed May 1.
“We’re instructing our personnel to postpone all volunteer efforts at this time due to the uncertainty of health and travel for those traveling internationally, and also to comply with the State Department’s guidance,” said IMB President Paul Chitwood. “We strongly recommend that Southern Baptist volunteer teams postpone any travel during this time, particularly overseas travel.”
Chitwood said setting a parameter about volunteer teams is a complex issue because of the global nature of the virus, including with the United States being greatly impacted and movement becoming more restricted.
“We highly value all our field personnel and their partners — our long-term personnel; our mid-term personnel, including Journeymen; and the faithful mission volunteers,” Chitwood said. “Throughout this situation, we are continually assessing local situations in the context of the global crisis and doing our best, at both the local and global levels, to make good decisions for our personnel’s health and safety, and for those who desire to serve alongside us as volunteers for a shorter time.
“Ministry overseas, however, hasn’t stopped as many of our missionaries are making the same efforts to move to online discipleship training and other types of meetings to ensure that Southern Baptists’ work and witness among the nations remains strong.”
Chitwood said every Southern Baptist and other partners have an opportunity to support missions now, even while being restricted in their travel, by committing to a concerted time of prayer.
“We believe that prayer not only paves the way for the Lord to work, but following Jesus’ example, we know that prayer itself is, in fact, part of that vital work,” Chitwood said. “What an incredible opportunity to step into the gap for millions of unreached people while our eyes are on the condition of the world.”
Prayer requests on IMB.org/Pray provide a window on the world, and IMB leaders urge those who are committed to prayer to join IMB’s 175 Days of Prayer, planned for May 11-Nov. 29, 2020, at IMB.org/175.
Olympics volunteers affected
The postponement of the 2020 Summer Olympics is affecting volunteers planning to share the gospel and serve other ways through the international event in Japan. IMB’s Olympic ministry coordinators shared a message online as well as through a YouTube video for those volunteers.
“We want you to know that the IMB and our partners here in Japan are still committed to the Tokyo Olympics [when they take place],” said Daniel Rice, who is coordinating IMB’s 2020 Olympic ministries. Between now and then, “our team will continue working hard to keep things moving forward in order to bring the good news of the Gospel to the Japanese. We will make the necessary adjustments to continue our [ministry] plan when the Olympics take place. Our hope is that many of you will be able to join us.
“In the meantime, we ask that you continue to pray for the Japanese people. Many Japanese may feel disappointed and are even concerned that the Olympics’ postponement reflects negatively on them as a nation.”
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Source: Baptist Press