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 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. 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.
From these two initial efforts, Free Will Baptists have grown and spread out around the world. Over 120 missionaries and affiliates are now serving in more than 20 countries.
Workers in many countries are requesting new missionaries. New countries are open to mission work. Mission teams are targeting unreached people groups. Established fields are experiencing indigenous Church Planting Movements. Partnerships with national workers are being formed.
“Free Will Baptist International Missions exists to labor with the Body of Christ to fulfill the Great Commission.” Our mission statement drives everything we do. It has been the focal point of our efforts from the first missionary sent out in 1935 to those sent today. This mission statement is not limited by location, ethnicity, race, language, or any other criteria. The gospel is for all people.
You can order a copy of Into The Darkness to learn more about the history of IM, Inc. This publication contains stories and pictures from the last 75 years which honor the unique contribution of Free Will Baptists who have taken His Truth to the regions beyond.
“A faithful reading of Scripture will always lead us to the conclusion that sharing the gospel with those who haven’t heard is of ultimate and eternal value to God. We trust Into The Darkness will reinforce that truth.“
– James F. Forlines, Former General Director of IM.
The Free Will Baptist Historical Commission exists to preserve Free Will Baptist historical materials and to educate Free Will Baptists regarding their heritage.