RICHMOND, Va.(BP) -- International Mission Board trustees unanimously elected Todd Lafferty as the 173-year-old entity's executive vice president during their Feb. 6-7 meeting in Richmond, Va.
Trustees also appointed 19 new missionaries for service around the globe; affirmed Roger Alford as vice president of communication, and recognized 48 emeriti in memoriam.
Lafferty, 59, most recently has served as pastor of mobilization for Shades Mountain Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala. He and his wife Susan previously served with the IMB for nearly 29 years.
IMB President Paul Chitwood described Lafferty as a strong leader, humble servant, and sincere Christ-follower with a burning passion for the lost. "The Lord is kind to bring him back to the IMB," Chitwood said.
Lafferty said he was honored and humbled to be considered as the candidate for EVP.
"Many have not asked, 'Why are you going back to the IMB?' Almost to a person they have said, 'This makes perfect sense. God has been preparing you for this all of your life,'" Lafferty told the trustees.
"It is my desire to work alongside Dr. Paul Chitwood and the other vice presidents to do all that we can to have the most visionary and strategic missionary force on the face of the earth," he said. "And we need to make sure they have the resources they need to get the job done.
"I believe that God calls missionaries to the cross-cultural task of reaching the nations, but he also calls others to serve alongside and enhance all that we are doing to reach the nations," Lafferty noted. "So we call on our Southern Baptist churches to partner with us in reaching the nations, and we call on our international partners to lock arms with us in the greatest endeavor on the planet -- to take the good news to the ends of the Earth."
New missionaries, new VP
Trustees approved the appointment of 19 new full-time, fully funded missionaries, who were honored during a Sending Celebration on Wednesday, Feb. 6, at Grove Avenue Baptist Church in Richmond. The service included a formal installation of Paul Chitwood as IMB's 13th president.
Trustees also affirmed Chitwood’s selection of Roger Alford to fill a newly created role of vice president for communications. The role is designed to build and maintain an optimum communications approach, operation and staff to best serve the needs of IMB and the SBC. Alford will begin serving alongside the existing senior leadership team in March.
"I'm thrilled that Dr. Chitwood and trustees have entrusted me with the privilege of telling the stories of IMB missionaries," said Alford, who has been the Kentucky Baptist Convention's communications director for the past five years. "These are truly modern-day heroes of the faith who have committed their lives to working in difficult and often dangerous places around the world."
After more than three decades as a newspaperman and an Associated Press correspondent, Alford joined the Kentucky Baptist Convention in January 2014. In that role, Alford, 56, created the online newspaper Kentucky Today, wholly owned by the KBC. The initiative was intended to expand KBC's ability to communicate with its 2,400 churches and 750,000 members.
Alford has broad experience in managing all aspects of communications, including writing and editing, all aspects of traditional and social media, web development, marketing strategies, media relations, graphic design and mass mailings. He and his wife Susan are members of First Baptist Church in Owenton, Ky. They have three grown children.
Celebration of service
Meador recognized the lives of 57 former colleagues -- including seven staff, two current missionaries and 48 emeritus missionaries -- who died in the past year. The field personnel's lives totaled 1,365 years of service through the IMB, with an average age of 88.5 and an average of 28 years of service. "Thank you, Lord, for your grace to us through the lives of these men and women," Meador prayed at the conclusion of the memorial recognition.
Former staff who were recognized in memoriam included Tom Williams, who served 34 years as a missionary to Thailand, regional leader for Western Pacific, regional leader for Western Europe, and as vice president of the Office of Global Personnel; and Jim Slack, who served 51 years as missionary to the Philippines and in Global Research. Meador also recognized Randy and Kathy Arnett, ages 62 and 61, who served 31 years in Togo and Cote D'Ivoire, as regional leader for West Africa, and in theological education leadership in Sub-Saharan Africa. They died in a traffic accident, March 14, 2018.
Emeritus missionaries included, among many others who served around the globe: Faye Taylor, age 100, who served 39 years in Hong Kong, China, and Indonesia; Pauline Moore, age 105, who served 38 years in Yugoslavia, Switzerland, and Germany; Virginia Winters, age 94, who served 40 years in Brazil; Etta Jean Phillips, age 87, who served 39 years in Botswana, Lesotho, and Zimbabwe; and Charles Whitten, age 96, who served 40 years in Argentina, Equatorial Guinea and Spain.
In his first presidential report to trustees, Chitwood stated he has a growing gratitude to Southern Baptists for their faithful giving and support of their International Mission Board.
"Just shy of three months since I was elected president by the trustees, I am even more in awe of the place that God has given this remarkable organization in His kingdom work around the world," Chitwood said. "And I am even more appreciative of the commitment that Southern Baptists long ago made, and still keep, to cooperate together that Christ is proclaimed among the nations."
"Cooperating churches with 10 members to those with more than 10,000 members, local associations of a handful of churches to those with hundreds of churches, state conventions with 100 churches and those with thousands of churches, and SBC entities with budgets of a few million to those with budgets of hundreds of millions: this is the beauty and the brilliance of the Southern Baptist system of cooperative missions," he said. "It is a system that today maintains an overseas force of more than 3,600 missionaries serving in more than 100 countries. The Gospel will be heard today where it would not have been heard if it weren't for Southern Baptists making and keeping a commitment to cooperate together."
Chitwood reported a strong commitment by IMB's overseas personnel and staff to see the entity's vision fulfilled.
"As grateful as we are for the financial resources that Southern Baptists and their Lord have provided to support the work of the IMB, by far the greatest resource that Southern Baptists and their Lord have provided is their sons and daughters, their grandchildren, their mothers and fathers and even their grandparents," he said. "Whether on staff in Richmond or overseas in a far and distant land, Southern Baptists have sent us their very best.... As Michelle and I have now answered the call upon our lives to once again serve and help lead this organization, we stand in awe of the quality of servants whom God has brought to the IMB and sent out through the IMB."
Linda Cooper, president of National Woman's Missionary Union, from Bowling Green, Ky., brought partnership greetings to the trustees during their plenary session. She reported how WMU has partnered with IMB, such as providing missions education materials to local believers in East Asia, working through Southern Baptist personnel, and by continued promotion of the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for international missions.
"This is such an exciting time in the IMB," said Rick Dunbar, IMB trustee chairman. "Last night we saw the Southern Baptist Convention coming together as represented by many key leaders of the SBC in support of God's new missionaries who are being sent out, and also in celebrating the inauguration of our 13th president, Paul Chitwood."
"We thank the SBC for their support of the IMB and trust that to who much is given, much is expected," Dunbar noted. "We take that trust seriously and commit ourselves to being good stewards of that trust. We are optimistic for the future and feel good things are ahead. We feel a tremendous responsibility to our Lord and the SBC and seek to glorify Him though our work through the IMB."
The next IMB board of trustees meeting is scheduled for May 22-23 in Richmond. The next missionary Sending Celebration is scheduled for June 11 during the SBC Annual Meeting in Birmingham.
Julie McGowan is public relations manager for IMB