The Ultimate Reunion

Posted on September 18, 2012 by Dr. Jerry Rankin in Down Home in Mississippi

Every five years the International Mission Board hosts a “Celebration of Emeriti” at Ridgecrest Baptist Assembly in North Carolina. The conference used to coincide with Foreign Mission Weeks at Ridgecrest and Glorieta, but since those weeks have been discontinued, this massive periodic gathering provides an opportunity for missionaries from the past to fellowship and stay connected with more recent developments of the IMB.

With more than 1,000 emeritus missionaries reminiscing and celebrating seeing God work in previous years, it was a reunion like no other. Colleagues who labored on pioneer fields and laid the foundation for the current harvest being seen around the world were overjoyed to see each other. Some were in their 90s and went to the field at a remarkable time of post-World War II growth. They were there with their walkers and in wheel chairs; bodies were not as strong and minds not as sharp as they once were, but memories of God’s faithfulness and grace characterized the testimonies of all.

Some had pioneered work on new fields, sowing the seed of the gospel without seeing results, but they labored faithfully and rejoiced to hear how God was moving today through a new generation of missionaries. The hugs were prolific and it was difficult to keep the program on schedule and get to conferences on time as chance meetings turned into occasions for these heroes of yesteryear telling their stories.

An afternoon was provided for breakout groups of various mission fields. It was nostalgic to gather with more than 50 others who had served with us in Indonesia (pictured). Most of the group were already on the field when we arrived in 1970 and were our mentors; they encouraged, trained and supported us as novices. We were a family, and our children knew them as aunts and uncles.

After the conference many of them stayed over an extra day for fellowship and to share, pray, cry and sing together. We talked about those who had gone to be with the Lord since we were last together and how much they meant to us. Having shared in raising each others children, we caught up on where they were and what they were doing, exchanging pictures of grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Praying for one another was like being transported to a prayer retreat on the field 30 years ago.

We had visited most of those in attendance in our travels around the world, but there were so many special friends that we worked with personally as well as the larger network of missionaries we associated with throughout Southeast Asia during our years of field leadership. Time was a challenge as we attempted to drop in on gatherings from the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia-Singapore and South Asia. It was especially gratifying to spend time with Ed and Missy Moses (pictured), our son-in-law’s parents who served for 34 years in Zimbabwe and South Africa.

Travel over recent weeks has resulted in neglect of our postings, but I hope you will read the new blog post this week on the phenomenal trend of church planting in America. I will resume the Friday devotional postings with a series of reflections on the prayers of Paul. We are looking forward to riding Amtrak to Chicago for a North American Mission Leadership Conference this week before finally having a few days at home.

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