More missionaries followed: Jim and Olena McLain in 1967; Mirial Gainer in 1972; Jerry and Jan Banks in 1974; Dale and Sandra Bishop in 1975; Judy Smith in 1976; Ken and Judy Bailey in 1983; Don and Ruth McDonald in 1986; Debbie Griffin in 1986; and Nathan and Linda Snow in 1992.
Free Will Baptist ministries have been concentrated in two areas of Japan: Hokkaido and the Sayama area just outside Tokyo. Churches in Hokkaido include Abashiri, Bihoro, Kitahiroshima, Ainosato, Koinonia, and Miharashidai. Ken and Judy Bailey worked in the Iriso church in Tokyo and subsequently began to work on other preaching points in the area. Don and Ruth McDonald spent several years in Hokkaido before moving to the Tokyo area to work at the Good News Chapel church. By the grace of God several Japanese pastors have taken over leadership of most of the Free Will Baptist churches in Japan, and the missionaries now focus their efforts on new works such as Miharashidai Chapel, Good News Chapel, new preaching points in Tokyo, and the larger Ebetsu Alive project. Short-term missionaries increased after 2000, coming to Japan to fill teaching positions or music education needs.
History of FWB International Missions
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.
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.
From these two initial efforts, Free Will Baptists have grown and spread out around the world. Approximately 100 foreign missionaries and affiliates are now serving in nine countries.
The various field councils have asked for over 80 new missionaries. The possibility of opening new fields also is being explored. Open doors in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe pose a challenge.
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.