“For He has broken the gates of bronze, and cut the bars of iron in two” (Ps. 107:16). In the 1990s, the formidable Iron Curtain was split in two, leaving an opening for God’s truth to again flow into former Soviet nations. Cold-War-era operations to bring Bibles and material aid rapidly moved from covert to public.
The drought of God’s Word left people thirsty. In August 1990, Germany missionary Ruth Buerer taught an English camp in Hungary, where Bible studies started at nine p.m. and often went until midnight. Almost nightly, someone accepted Christ. Europe missionaries such as Rich Visser, John Haskell, and Tom Ruhkala made periodic trips into Eastern Europe to strengthen believers. Others served full-time, taking up new opportunities in Romania, Russia, Slovakia, and Poland.
As far away as Newfoundland, Canada, church planter Edgar Mitchell had a thriving ministry among Russian fishing crews docked in his city. On two occasions, Mitchell led more than 20 to Christ.
James and Joyce Garlow set their sights farther east in another kind of pioneering work. After having to leave a 45-year ministry in India due to governmental restrictions, the Garlows coordinated Asian National Ministries to strengthen national believers with Christian literature and training. The Garlows also founded GLEAM, a ministry that has shipped tons of literature into Asia.
It was a decade where new ground was being broken, and opportunities came from all corners. Seeing Utah’s booming population growth, our Mormon Focus Ministry Team (MFMT) seized the opportunity with Project Utah outreaches. Gathering volunteers of all ages, the MFMT canvassed thousands of Utah neighborhoods. The evangelistic literature they introduced to LDS homes brought many salvation decisions and extensive contacts.
When the Summer Olympics came to Atlanta in 1996, BMM’s North America missionary team jumped into action through the Medals for Glory outreach. Evangelistic booklets were printed in 12 languages, and volunteer teams were trained to share Christ among the Games’ two million spectators. Volunteers witnessed to people from 165 nations at Olympic venues and visitor attractions and on public transportation. Organizers recorded 597 decisions to receive Christ, and follow-up was carried out through our international contacts. Salvation decisions were not the only fruit. Volunteers grew bolder to share their faith and returned home with a re-energized missionary mindset.
As a decade of global changes, the 1990s brought new missions challenges. In 1997, Great Britain restored Hong Kong’s sovereignty to China. To prepare, our missionaries fully nationalized all church plants. Although the future of religious freedom was uncertain, the national pastors went into the transition determined to do all they could to continue spreading the gospel.
In 1990, BMM’s mission property in Bangui, the capital of Central African Republic, was looted and destroyed during political unrest. Several missionaries were assaulted. The Bangui missionaries relocated to other stations while they waited for stability to return. In Liberia, a civil war that began in 1989 continued for seven brutal years. All missionaries had to leave the country. Many moved across the border into Côte d’Ivoire to minister to Liberian refugees taking shelter there. Others moved to Staten Island, New York, where they continue ministering to displaced Liberians.
Missionaries and staff members who received awards at the 2019 Family Conference marking years of service
We’re looking ahead to the most momentous time in the history of Baptist Mid-Missions: Our 100th anniversary.