The oldest international Baptist mission agency in North America, International Ministries (IM) has been responding to the call of Jesus Christ since 1814.
The first known missionaries to emerge from the newly formed United States were George and Hannah Liele, emancipated slaves who went to Jamaica in 1783 to share God’s love. Nearly thirty years later, missionaries Adoniram and Ann Judson joined the Baptist movement. After Ann’s early death, Adoniram continued to serve in Burma (now Myanmar) for nearly forty years. Luther Rice, a missionary originally sent to serve with the Judsons, fell ill and had to return to the United States. He dedicated himself to organizing financial support for the Judsons and other missionaries. International Ministries honors those churches and individuals who demonstrate leadership in giving to mission through our Luther Rice Society.
Inspired by Rice’s passion, the General Missionary Convention of the Baptist Denomination in the United States of America for Foreign Missions (popularly known as the “Triennial Convention”) was formed in Philadelphia on May 21, 1814. This is the date IM celebrates as our founding anniversary. The General Missionary Convention appointed a committee called the Baptist Board for Foreign Missions to manage what would become the Baptists’ first unified missionary sending effort in the United States. Our name has changed over the years—the American Baptist Missionary Union (1846), the American Baptist Foreign Mission Society (1910, also when we became a registered nonprofit), the American Baptist Board of International Ministries (1973), and now International Ministries.
The diversity of our missionaries and leaders is a pillar of IM. In 1815, we appointed Charlotte White, the first woman in America to be appointed as an international missionary by any denomination or sending agency. That same year, Rev. Lott Carey formed the African Baptist Missionary Society after purchasing his freedom from slavery. In partnership with the Society, we appointed Carey to serve in Liberia in 1821. In 1886, we appointed Louise Cecelia Fleming, one of the first African Americans to graduate from the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania, for service in the Congo.
Our two centuries of mission are marked by countless servants who risked their lives to stand with those facing unjust situations and profound difficulty. Through world wars, pandemics, political unrest, and economic depression, we have developed resilience and sustainability, adapting our methods and approaches while remaining faithful to Scripture. We serve together with and learn from our many international partners in ministry around the globe.
Adoniram Judson is known to have said, “Our future is as bright as the promises of God.” God promises to be with us, never to leave us, and that through God, anything is possible. The story of International Ministries is seeing the impossible become God’s promises realized.
Read about more historical figures in mission: