More than 40 former International Mission Board journeymen who were appointed in the second year of the two-year overseas missions program celebrated the 50th anniversary of their commissioning Oct. 13-16 at the International Learning Center in Rockville, Va.
This group has held a reunion every few years over the last 50 to renew acquaintances, stay in touch, share updates and reflect on their experiences.
A special guest the group honored during their meeting was Louis Cobbs, who helped develop and lead the program when it began in 1965. He was the developer/friend all the way. The group recognized Cobb, now 90, for his special direction, love and insight.
The former journeymen chose Leviticus 25:10 as their scripture text for the anniversary meeting: “And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all inhabitants thereof: it shall be a jubilee unto you….” (KJV)
Special music, sharing times and unique stories from the mission fields enriched every day. In addition to Cobbs and several of the journeymen, the IMB’s Gordon Fort preached on the spirit of jubilee.
Another highlight was the unveiling of a unique Book of Stories from the group’s experiences as journeymen, stories of adventure and memories shared by those who made the journey.
On Oct. 14, the group attended an IMB commissioning service, now called a sending celebration, for new missionaries at First Baptist Church, Richmond, Va., on the steps where they were commissioned in 1966.
A year ago, 31 of the 46 members of the first class of the Missionary Journeyman Program — commissioned in 2015 — celebrated the 50th anniversary of the inauguration of what was at the time an effort to tap the energy and enthusiasm of college graduates to spend two years on Southern Baptist mission fields around the world to lend assistance to career missionaries.
Motivated by the Peace Corps and the summer missions program of Baptist colleges, Jesse Fletcher, head of what was then the Department of Missionary Personnel, envisioned a short-term program for young college graduates with limited language skills to be involved in missions.
“One of the things these last 50 years has really showed to me is the staying power of the people who put their hearts and their Christian commitment to this task,” Fletcher said.
During the first 50 years, nearly 6,000 individuals served. More than 1,000 journeymen went on to serve as career missionaries, a side benefit to the innovative program.
Over the years, journeymen have served in 165 countries in such roles as teachers of missionary children, writers, videographers, photographers, English language teachers, evangelists and church planters. They serve in sports, youth and children’s ministry.
With IMB and Baptist Press reporting of the 50th anniversary in 2015 of the first journeyman class. Nan Olmsted, member of the Word & Way Board of Trustees, was part of the second journeymen group commissioned and served her two years in the British crown colony of Hong Kong. In her group’s Book of Stories, she wrote about her own experience as secretary in the Hong Kong-Macau mission office, where she came to treasure family times with missionary families, learned to try new foods, and observed and learned to appreciate Chinese culture.