Miss Laura Belle Barnard draws water in India
Although international missions activities under Free Will Baptists date back to 1833, the organization, as it now stands, came into existence only after the formation of the National Association of Free Will Baptists in 1935. Miss Laura Belle Barnard became the first Free Will Baptist missionary to go out under the newly organized body.
She had sensed the call of the Lord while attending Columbia Bible College and submitted to go to India in spite of the minimal support Free Will Baptists were able to gather. Fifty dollars per month seemed to be more than could be raised in those days. Only a few Free Will Baptists were convinced an overseas mission outreach was even needed.
Within the next year (1936) Thomas H. Willey, Sr., and his family left for Panama, where they determined to serve. Due to political circumstances they were forced to leave Panama, but the Lord opened a new door of opportunity for them in Cuba in 1939. Cuba developed into a fruitful harvest field before Fidel Castro took over and missionaries were forced to leave in 1961. Cuba is still a fruitful field under the leadership of Cuban national pastors.
Thomas H. Willey, Sr.
From these two initial efforts, Free Will Baptists have grown and spread out around the world. Over 100 overseas missionaries and affiliates are now serving in 20 countries.
The various field councils are requesting many new missionaries. New countries are being opened to mission work. Mission teams are targeting unreached people groups. Established fields are experiencing indigenous Church Planting Movements. God is truly blessing our efforts to obey His command to “go into all the world.”
While a tightening economy in our own country and rising inflation abroad have posed a threat to the missions program, God is still working miracles to spread His Word around the world.