by Erin Curry
While reports say Sept. 11 had little impact on the spiritual lives of most Americans, the terrorist attacks have served to open doors for the gospel in many nations throughout the Muslim world, according to Jerry Rankin, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board.
“The aftermath of Sept. 11 of last year made us realize through reports that were sweeping across North Africa and the Middle East that God was moving and shaking the hearts in the Muslim world, that those barriers were beginning to crumble,” Rankin told the SBC Executive Committee.
“There was an openness to people looking for that which would give them hope and security that they had not found in their Islamic faith, and I report to you today that [the SBC] now has over 1,200 personnel assigned to more than 300 Muslim people groups in 75 predominantly Muslim countries around the world,” Rankin continued. “We call this a ‘Beyond the Wall’ emphasis because God is giving us an opportunity that we never envisioned [being able] to carry the gospel beyond that wall, that barrier, that stronghold of Islamic resistance.”
Rankin also recalled the testimony of Dana Curry and Heather Mercer last year. The two women were arrested for showing the Jesus film in a private home in Afghanistan. “They were on trial by the Taliban, facing a possible sentence of death for proselytization,” he said. “Last month, the Jesus film was shown on national television in Kabul, Afghanistan. God is on His throne….”
Rankin also noted that 34,000 Southern Baptists participated in volunteer missions projects overseas last year even though most of the volunteer program was closed down immediately after Sept. 11.
“This will be the second consecutive year we have sent out and commissioned more than a thousand new missionaries,” he said. Last year, Southern Baptist missionaries reported more than a thousand new believers being baptized each day for a total of 395,000 new believers baptized and 5,775 new churches started in 2001, Rankin said.
“Five years ago, when we began to see the challenge of bringing all the peoples of the world to saving faith in Jesus Christ and recognized the multitude of ethno-linguistic peoples that had not even heard the gospel, we really didn’t know how many were currently engaged by our personnel and later found out a little over 500 strategic population groups and ethnic people groups were being engaged by your Southern Baptist missionaries,” he said.
By the end of last year, more than 1,700 people groups were being engaged with the gospel, Rankin said, and this year 68 new people groups have been entered for the first time.
“We pray that [Christians] would be faithful to continue to send out the flow of missionaries that are responding to God’s call until Jesus Christ is made known to all the peoples of the world,” Rankin said.