Occasionally I have the opportunity to cover a missionary appointment service for Southern Baptists. Typically held in large churches where hundreds of denominational workers and sister church members gather–the service is both celebratory and solemn. There is a parade of flags, hearty singing, and a challenging message.
And then there are the testimonies of the appointees themselves. Young and old, couples and single–and of every tribe nation and tongue–it seems, they come as they are going–to share the Good News of Christ’s love to the nations. It’s an emotional time for me as I listen to their brief stories, stare intently at their expressions, and note their devotion, piety, determination and calling.
This week was no exception and all that to which I am accustomed occurred. But there was more. On this special night, a youngster of about four caught my eye along with other children.
As the appointees walked in to the strains of an anthem–two young children seated close by shifted over their father’s knee to eyeball the missionaries as they took their seats. With rapt expressions that had me swinging my camera around, FAST, they were totally caught up in the moment and their dad was encouraging them. As I happily snapped the camera, further down the bench, where another group of children were sitting, one youngster, the four-year-old, abruptly stood on the seat frantically criss-crossing his arms atop an orange guitar-band t-shirt. His smile was eaten by the dimples below his twinkling brown eyes.
On the other side of the aisle, a tall, young, bearded man wearing a suit gave the boy an unembarrassed wave and sat down next to a dark haired beauty. My heart swelled. I had just witnessed a precious family moment. But there was more.
Later in the service, after the missionaries had given their testimonies, they were readying for another procession. I felt rather than saw an orange ball fly by before I realized it was the child, again, traversing the long pew, darting into the aisle, and finding the loving arms of his father. I had to hold my hand over my mouth this time–and judging from the gasp that went up around me and in pews across from us where I saw some initial reaction–others felt the same way.
When Tom Elliff, president of the International Mission Board reminded us to pray for the 4,911 missionaries worldwide AND their 4,000 children, you had better believe I will.