Jaclyn S. Parrish worked as a writer for the International Mission Board in South Asia. She currently serves in the United States as a writer, editor, and social media associate for the IMB. You can follow her on Twitter at @JaclynSParrish.
I think I sat in my car for a solid twenty minutes. Shoulders hunched. Head hanging. I’d come to the post office to mail a book back to one of my professors. But as I sat staring through my steering wheel, I couldn’t seem to care about late fees, or term papers, or seminary, or Thomas Merton’s Notes on Contemplation, or anything, really, apart from the news I’d just gotten.
David Platt is leaving the International Mission Board.
We at the IMB have been working so very hard for so very long. We’ve been wearing ourselves out building an incredible team dedicated to leveraging every skill we have to support Southern Baptist missionaries, and now our leader is leaving us? How will we move forward? Are we going to lose everything we’ve built?
Several deep breaths, some wise counsel, a few days of prayer, and a shamefully large brownie sundae later, I believe I can answer a few of those fears.
We are going to move forward. We aren’t going to lose what we’ve built. We’re going to stay the incredible course set for us, because the International Mission Board, brothers and sisters, is too beautiful a thing to lose.
A Brand New Day
When David Platt became our President, I was a part-time IMB employee responsible for maintaining a handful of grassroots social media accounts. Each month, I received a set of photos, videos, and stories in my inbox. Then, I dutifully went about planting my little media seeds on Facebook and Twitter, hoping that maybe some of them would sprout into something that would somehow result in the missionaries I loved getting the support they needed.
I was doing the best I could with what I had, but I very little, and I had very little idea what to do with it. Then came David Platt, with his wide eyes, his wider gestures, and his scary words like “organizational reset.” Suddenly, the accounts I’d so passionately nurtured were uprooted, my little social media garden was gone, and in its place stood two new enterprises of terrible beauty: The IMB Media Network, and the new IMB.org.
Now, IMB missionaries with media expertise are united across the continents to use their massive array of skills to facilitate the missionary task. Every day, writers, photographers, designers, editors, and videographers all over the world are dreaming and collaborating together to build groundbreaking tools for Southern Baptist missionaries to better carry out the Great Commission.
Teams in the United States and across the globe have come together to cultivate a platform for missions conversation where we can boldly and biblically explore how believers can missionally engage difficult topics like racism and sexual abuse. Four years ago, I could not have dreamed I’d be a part of something this incredible. I can’t wait to see where we go from here.
SBC 2017 was my first Southern Baptist convention. I stepped off the plane in Phoenix with an IMB shirt, a pair of heels, and a can-do attitude, determined to showcase the full breadth of my Southern Baptist family with nothing but an Osmo Mobile and a color-coded Google Doc.
Then reality hit.
I started to hear words I didn’t understand, like “Alt-Right”, and “white supremacy.” On Twitter, I saw the #SBC17 hashtag flooded with vile, racist vitriol. In the halls, I saw my white and black brothers and sisters begin drawing together in monochromatic clumps, murmuring and suspicious.
I’d come for a family reunion, and my family was breaking apart.
Then came the Sending Celebration. In the middle of that cloud of fear and confusion, David Platt and our newest group of Southern Baptist missionaries rose up and gave us what we desperately needed: something to celebrate.
As each missionary stood and delivered a testimony, the atmosphere began to change. We blinked like people woken suddenly from a nightmare. And when our new appointees scattered into the crowd to be prayed over, I stood with tears running down my face as I watched those black and white clusters break, mingle, and re-form around our missionaries.
In that moment, the IMB made us family again. It unified us and gave us eyes to see what our brothers and sisters needed, at the exact moment we needed to see it most. That day, I saw that God is using the IMB to change his people, as well as build his kingdom, and I can’t possibly give up on a dream that beautiful.
More than a Moment
If I’d been doing my job properly during that Sending Celebration, I would have been scampering around with the aforementioned Osmo, writing quotes for Twitter, taking pictures for Instagram, and shooting video for Facebook. Instead, as soon as the new missionaries began moving out into the crowd, I tossed my equipment to my supervisor, told him he was on his own, and started shouldering my way through the crowd to one of the appointee couples.
I can’t say their names, but they are two of the best friends my husband and I have ever had, and we were about to lose them to the mission field. But as I stood there, hand-in-hand with my friends, sobbing through my prayers over them, I remembered what I always say when people refer to the IMB President as my “boss:” I don’t work for David Platt. I work for Southern Baptists—the ones who are sent and the ones who send them.
I work for Eliza, whose son was nearly killed by feral dogs in Central Asia. I work for Samantha, who’s raising her children oceans away from her homeland. I work for Leif, who’s serving in the midst of famine in Sub-Saharan Africa. And I work for every church who gave, sent, and continually supports each one of them.
They are the ones I, David Platt, and all the IMB staff have committed to serve and support—each pastor, each church, and every individual or family giving their lives to serve the unreached. Even now, as I write this and you read it, they are evangelizing, discipling, planting, and multiplying healthy churches, and training leaders among unreached peoples and places for the glory of God. They are the International Mission Board. And their work will continue.