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Antioch, TN— The Board of Free Will Baptist International Missions met December 6-7, 2017, in the Antioch, Tennessee, offices. Board chairman Jeff Manning summed up the two-day meeting, saying, “This year’s board meeting brought tears to our eyes several times, not because of deficits or disturbances, but because of stories about the undeniable, providential hand of the Lord working in the lives of our missionaries, staff, and board members.”
The board heard reports from each of the leadership team, interviewed candidates, reviewed financial reports and budgets, considered and acted on proposals, approved handbook changes, and set the dates for the annual meeting in 2018 for April 16-17.
The reorganization of staff over the last several months necessitated changes in the Mission’s Official Handbook of Operational Policies and Procedures. The board reviewed and accepted the proposed changes
The December 2015 adoption of a designated-funding system with individual missionary accounts also required new policies. Missionaries who retire or resign often have a balance left in their accounts. The board voted to funnel any remaining funds into a “restricted reserves” account. Missionaries who resign or retire with a deficit account will have their deficit “erased” through the restricted reserves funds. At the end of each calendar year, any balance over $50,000 in the restricted reserves account will be dispersed among missionary accounts at the direction of the general director and leadership team.
“The student debt crisis headlines news on radio and television as well as print. Candidates for missionary service are far from immune to the growing trend,” General Director Clint Morgan explained. “While the Mission continues to encourage candidates to make every effort to graduate without student debt, we also desire to provide a student debt relief system for those pursuing overseas, cross-cultural service with IM.” The board voted to allow (within parameters) missionaries to include a budgetary line item to offset student debt.
“By far the highlight of this year’s board meeting was hearing the intern candidates express how God has led them in each minuscule detail to overseas service,” Morgan stated. The board approved two couples as two-year interns to work with Heath and Joni Hubbard in Tokyo, Japan. They plan to begin a bilingual (English/Japanese) church plant in the Tokorozawa City area of greater Tokyo. Daniel and Shelby (Blake) Culwell split their time between Arkansas and Tennessee. Daniel, a 2015 Welch College graduate with a degree in youth ministry and minor in business, also studied mechanical engineering at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tennessee. Shelby completed a year at Welch College before transferring to Austin Peay where she earned a degree in graphic design with a business minor. The couple works with youth at Bethel FWB Church in Ashland City, Tennessee, and Mt. Bethel FWB Church in Rose Bud, Arkansas. The Culwells have two sons: two-year-old Easton and one-year-old Barrett. Jack and Ashley (Carter) Ketteman, both originally from Nashville, Tennessee, reside in Bristol, Virginia. A 2001 graduate of Welch College with a B.S. in Bible, music, and youth ministry, Jack serves as family pastor of the First Free Will Baptist Church in Bristol. Ashley, a registered nurse, attended Welch College for two years before transferring to Aquinas and graduating in 2006. The couple has three children: daughters Jane (10) and Callie (7), and son Carter (2).
The board approved Daniel and Katie Speer for a second two-year internship in Tokyo, Japan. Their first internship period ended in August 2017. However, their daughter Audrey’s battle with bacterial meningitis and other critical health issues, as well as Katie’s health struggles, complicated the last eight months of internship. After returning to the States, the Speers reaffirmed their desire to pursue career missionary service in Japan. The couple will work primarily with Don and Ruth McDonald at the Good News Chapel in Tokyo during this internship.
The board regretfully accepted Dale and Sandra Bishop’s request to retire. In a letter dated October 1, 2017, Dale and Sandra reflected on 44 years of service with IM saying, “It has been our privilege to minister with you for these many years.” The couple will live in Georgia and care for Sandra’s mother. They requested their retirement be effective as of December 31, 2017. “We desire your prayers for God’s wisdom and leadership as we venture into this next segment of our journey,” the couple wrote.
General Director Clint Morgan affirmed, “It is thrilling to see new missionaries join the team in Japan. This is especially important as we say goodbye to some long-time missionaries.”
The board approved an operational budget of $6.35 million for 2018. Projected self-funded programs carry the total budget to $9.9 million. IMpact projects, The Hanna Project trips and projects, student missions, etc. require fundraising separate from the operational budget.
All board members (Jeff Manning, chairman, NC; Jeff Nichols, vice-chairman, TN; Mark Price, secretary, OH; Janice Banks, OK; Nelson Henderson, AR; Robert Posner, TX; Will Harmon, AR: Cameron Lane, AR; Rodney Yerby, AL) were in attendance.