Last year marked the first time since the Great Depression that the International Mission Board (IMB), the missionary-sending agency of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), had held back foreign missionaries in the United States. Jerry Rankin, president of the Richmond, Virginia-based IMB, told CT that 100 long-term missionaries and more than 200 short-term missionaries were delayed in reaching the field.

The sobering news of the delay prompted thousands of SBC churches to give sacrificially, Rankin said. As of March 31, the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering (LMCO)—the primary fundraising method—had risen 22 percent above a year earlier. "This ought to enable us to eliminate any restraints on sending," Rankin said. The SBC currently has 5,411 fully supported overseas missionaries, an increase of 1,000 over the last eight years.

Edgewood Baptist Church in Columbus, Georgia, with 1,500 members, set its mission budget goal at an all-time high of $44,000 a year ago. But giving actually rose to $152,000.

"We realized maybe we had set our sights too low," said Larry Lunceford, missions pastor at Edgewood. "My prayer is that we can sustain it—and increase it."

Only once since 1981 has the SBC achieved its LMCO target. But the $133 million goal for this year's deadline of May 31 is clearly attainable.

Meanwhile, year-to-date contributions through the SBC's Cooperative Program are up 2.52 percent from last year. The program is the denomination's method of supporting missions and ministry efforts of state and regional conventions and the SBC.

Related Elsewhere:

The Southern Baptist Mission Board has more information about its missions efforts.

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