It was 1996, and Palmer, then a high school freshman, had come to Nicaragua with his youth group to raise a building for a poor, rural church near Managua. But instead of working, he'd spent the afternoon stuck inside a leaky tent, reading his Bible, while the team waited out a tropical storm parked off of Nicaragua's coast. It was Palmer's first mission trip, first airplane ride and first time outside the United States. That afternoon was also the first time he understood God's purpose for his life.
"As I was reading, I just remember hearing ... this small voice inside of me saying, 'You're going to be doing this for the rest of your life. You're going to go out and tell others around the world about Me,'" Palmer recounted. "I'll be honest ... it scared me."
Little did he know that after wrestling with that call for the next 14 years, Palmer and his wife Charity eventually would find themselves among a group of 57 new missionaries appointed by International Mission Board trustees Nov. 10. The Palmers and others relayed their missions calling during an appointment service that evening at Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, N.C.
"I'm glad I listened to that voice and that it was persistent that long because I wonder how many other people hear that voice and just keep denying it," said Palmer of Ridgecrest Baptist Church in Durham, N.C. "It's like this internal battle inside of my head; I've got my doubts and my fears and then I know what God has said to be true.... I know I have to be obedient."
The Palmers will soon leave their North Carolina home to share the Gospel and start churches in Slovakia, a Central European country of 5.8 million people. The IMB's Global Research Department estimates that less than 2 percent of its population is evangelical Christian.
For Marcie Seagram* of Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, Calif., the desire to serve overseas is closely tied to the story of her own salvation experience. As a rising college sophomore, Seagram took a summer job in Texas selling books door to door. The work was hard and required a thick skin. But her life changed the day she knocked at the home of a woman named Nancie Galloway.
Galloway was a believer whose genuine kindness and warmth caught Seagram off-guard -- so much so that Seagram had to know where it came from.
"I just asked her, 'What is it that gives you such joy?'" Seagram said. "I'm certain it was the Holy Spirit because I had been looking for God."
That search had started when Seagram was a girl. She vividly remembers being deeply troubled by a conversation about death with her father.
"I was probably somewhere around 11 ... and the thought of death just really weighed upon my heart," Seagram said. "I remember asking my dad what would happen when we died.... Was there anything else? And he said, 'I don't know.' I just couldn't accept that."
Galloway confronted Seagram with the very question that had haunted her all those years -- "If you were to die tonight, do you know for sure that you would have eternal life?"
"No one had ever shared with me before," Seagram said. "So Nancie sat me down on her couch and for two hours she explained the Gospel.... I felt this was the truth and what I had been looking for and I accepted Jesus right then and there.
"She was a complete stranger.... She took the time, gave up whatever she was doing that day, just to share the Good News. She was obeying the Great Commission where she was; she was being a missionary."
Seagram, her husband Daniel* and their two pre-school children are now bound for the Ukraine, where they'll serve as church planters.
Clyde Meador, interim IMB president, addressed the new missionaries at the appointment service, noting that they came from a myriad of personal and professional backgrounds but had now been united for a common purpose. Daniel Seagram flew Seahawk helicopters for the Navy. Other former occupations include engineer, nurse, mailman, graphic designer, kindergarten teacher, fireman and computer programmer.
"From before the day you were born, this has been His purpose, this is His plan," Meador said. "You have been set aside, you have been consecrated. Not simply by the International Mission Board, but by the Lord God Almighty, the God of the universe. He is the one who has called you. And your task is to be a prophet to the nations. And the nations need to hear what you have to say."
Meador spoke about the urgent need for missionaries, emphasizing the 6,600-plus unevangelized people groups around the world -- as many as 1.5 billion people -- most of whom have little or no access to the Gospel.
"You go to destroy false beliefs. You go to destroy false idols. You go to destroy hopelessness," Meador said.
Comparing the new missionaries to the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah, Meador also warned them that their work wouldn't be easy.
"I recently read again ... through the entire Book of Jeremiah, and I cannot remember a moment when his task was easy. It was always difficult. Was he successful? He was obedient. He was faithful. That was God's call on his life. That's God's call on your life," Meador said.
Like new missionary Jason Palmer, Meador challenged those in the audience to consider the excuses they may be using to fight God's call to take the Gospel overseas in person.
"How about the rest of you here tonight?" Meador asked. "What are your reasons for saying, 'Not me.'
"Jeremiah's reason … was that he was 'but a youth.' … Your reasons might be different. … But God's response to those reasons is simply, 'Don't tell Me about it. I don't want to hear that.' The point is not your qualifications. The point is His enabling. The point is His strength, which matches your weakness."
The IMB will honor seven of the new missionaries at a commissioning service Nov. 16 at Oklahoma Baptist University in Shawnee. The commissioning is being held in observance of the university's 100th anniversary and in conjunction with the annual meeting of the Oklahoma Baptist Convention.
The IMB's next missionary appointment service is scheduled for March 16 at First Baptist Church in Dallas.
*Name changed. Don Graham is a writer for the International Mission Board.
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