The Muslim uncle of a 17-year-old girl under demonic influence was upset when local missionaries arrived at the door of their home in a Syrian refugee camp.
It was the Islamic month of Ramadan, and she had reacted violently when a Muslim cleric attempted to help her, according to a report by Christian Aid Mission.
“The cleric had been met by the young woman’s screams and her aggressively pushing him away from the home,” a local ministry’s leader says. “As he began to leave, their daughter encouraged his quick movement from the property as she picked up stones and began throwing them his way. He left promptly and did not return nor seek out her parents.”
The girl’s parents mentioned she often would shout at no one and for no apparent reason, and she would throw objects at others. Being Muslims, the family requested a visit by a Muslim cleric for three days. But when he finally showed up, the girl repulsed him.
The Muslim parents then decided to seek help from Christian missionaries. When they showed up, the girl’s uncle was none too happy. Muslims often detest Christian missionaries.
Reluctantly, the uncle… Read the rest: demon-possessed Syrian refugee girl
In high school, Charlie Foreman was a chanting Buddhist. Then he took LSD, read Carlos Castaneda and hoped to meet a Yaqui Indian witchcraft guide. But because he was high or drunk every day, he joined the Air Force to clean up his act.
“Nothing really worked,” he says.
Stationed at a radar site in the Philippines, he fell back into partying. “A lot of the officers partied like we did. I got in trouble; there were some drugs in my car.”
When he returned Stateside to Nellis Air Force Base, he was supposed to report to the Social Action of the Air Force to continue his rehabilitation. But his records took forever to catch up to him, and he didn’t mind because he didn’t want to be known as a dopehead.
What he did do was work hard and steer clear of drugs and alcohol. He wanted to go straight “but life was so boring. There was no purpose,” he says.
Ever since his mom died of cancer when he was seven-years-old, Charlie was on a quest to find the meaning of life. One thing he knew for sure, “it wasn’t Christianity. It was something mystical, maybe Transcendental Meditation.”
That’s when a man came into his barracks and shared his testimony.
“I was listening to Pink Floyd, “Charlie recalls. “I wasn’t really interested. This guy started talking and was fighting with the noise, so he asked if could turn it down. He seemed like a nice guy, so I turned it off. And listened. I really related to him. He had gone through similar experiences like me.”
He accepted Jesus.
“It was incredible. I felt like I was high. I had joy and peace. Immediately I was delivered from the drugs. Whereas before I had tried to quit and fell back, I was completely delivered. I had no interest in drugs. I was sauced on Jesus.”
In the Air Force, he was given the job of keeping and clarifying bombing range scheduling for pilots, a job that required three telephone calls a day “if it was a busy day.” The rest of the time, he read his bible voraciously.
But when he married his Filipina girlfriend and brought her to the United States while he was still in the Air Force, things went sour. At first, she got “truly and wonderfully saved. God just whacked her,” Charlie says.
“But she held on to a lot of things from Catholicism. She would not let go of the idea that you shouldn’t be fanatical about God, and she was insanely jealous,” Charlie says.
When he got out of the Air Force, Syvia decided she wanted an airman so she could go back and forth to the Philippines. One day she came home with a hickey. Charlie encouraged her he could forgive her if she would stop.
After years of learning the language, developing an alphabet, teaching literacy, missionary Brooks Buser and team gave the YembiYembi tribe in Papua New Guinea copies of the Bible five years ago.
“It has been a long time, almost 2,000 years, that we the YembiYembi church have waited for this translation of the Bible into our own language,” says a tribe leader on a Radius International video.
Waving palm-like branches (or feathers) and dancing, about 100 tribe members received the printed and bound Bibles – the labor of nine years delivered by small prop plane – with fanfare, preaching and jubilation.
The YembiYembi live in the Lower-Sepik Swamp of remote Papua New Guinea. With an estimated 5,000 members, the tribe with only three villages is so small that it’s not even in Wikipedia. You can reach it by plane or paddling 270 miles upriver. Their language is Bises.
Once the translation was finished, Radius International missionaries sleft trained local pastors to take charge of the church. From the video, it appears the majority of the tribe accepted Jesus, but a “vocal minority” remains in opposition to abandoning the customs of its elders.
“The Bible is important,” preached Brooks, 37, in Bises, which the video translates into English through subtitles. “But what’s more important is what you do with it as the church, the body of Christ. The Bible is here to help believers grow. I will visit you, but this Bible will guide you now.”
Brooks was a missionary child who grew up in Papua New Guinea evangelizing another remote tribe in the lush jungle. “The seeds of missions were planted in my mind,” says the man who counted San Diego as his American hometown.
As a child, Brooks spent half his time in the mud of the jungle with native friends and half his time at the missionary school, playing basketball and learning a traditional Western education.
“I remember getting on the plane here at 9 o’clock in the morning and flying to school and playing a basketball tournament that night in the gymnasium, looking down at my leg and I still have a little bit of mud on my leg from the tribe,” he remembers. “It wasn’t a normal upbringing. The blending of these two worlds was a unique way to grow up.”
Armed with an accounting degree from San Diego Christian College, he married Nina and pursued a career counting numbers. He became finance manager and even traveled to Paris, “on track for the American Dream,” he says.
But on a visit to his parents in Papua New Guinea, the newly married couple’s hearts were stirred. “She got to see where I grew up,” he explains. “God began to lay on our hearts the nation. We felt an incredible level of comfort leaving the American Dream behind and coming back here as missionaries.”
In 2001 with their newborn Bo, they began training with New Tribes Mission where they learned how to set up solar panels and build airfields. “There’s no power, there’s no stores” in these isolated areas where they reach tribes, Brooks says.
“During the class there was a lot of things that brought us out of our comfort zone,” Lynn says. “There was a class on animal butchering which was not my favorite.”
They learned phonetics and grammar to learn and codify the language. They launched into Third World life in Papua New Guinea in 2003. The Busers began surveying and exploring land to find an ideal unreached tribe to work with. Tribes actually write letters requesting missionaries be sent, probably because they have heard of the benefits of civilization and medicine that missionaries bring.
Because the airstrip was flooded at their first choice on the day of their launching into the mission field, the Busers went to their second choice, the YembiYembi. They flew to the nearest airfield, traveled by canoe and then hiked – a five-hour journey – to arrive.
The tribe was so excited and received the missionaries with a welcoming ceremony. “In 2004, we started building our houses,” he says. They had a team of fellow linguist missionaries. They had batteries for their laptops and a two-way radio to communicate with their base.
They began building an airstrip with the help of 1,000 Yembis, removing stumps with power tools. After days of intense labor, the mission group sent a barge with a tractor to finish clearing the field.
“That gave us our lifeline back to base,” Brooks says.
Simultaneously, they learned about their language and culture, hunting in the jungle late at night.
“The callouses on our feet got a lot thicker,” he says. “We learned how to throw a spear and hunt pigs, basically live like a Yembi in their environment.”
Missionaries are routinely criticized by secular intellectuals for altering native people’s customs and “Westernizing” them. The Yembi were animists.
To get to some of the most remote Liberian villages, a native missionary walks seven hours through the jungle.
“Sometimes we encounter mosquitoes, snakes or lions, among other animals,” the unnamed missionary told Christian Aid Mission (CAM). “We get sick. Idol worshippers sometimes threaten us, saying that if we don’t leave their village, they will kill us.
“We have to contend with all of that relying on God, the author and finisher of our faith.”
His willingness to endure hardship to bring the gospel to the unreached shows the value of “native missionaries” – locals who carry out the Great Commission to their nation. As a general rule, they are willing to suffer more than foreign missionaries and have the capacity to reach more people.
“In some places we go, there is nowhere to sleep; we just lie on the dirt floor,” says the unnamed ministry leader. “There may be no good, safe drinking water or light. When the battery in the flashlight I carry is finished, there’s nowhere to get additional light at all. There are no shops or stores in the jungle.”
In Liberia, 43% of the population follows an ethnic religion. About 40% are Christian, 12% of which is evangelical. Islam holds 12%.
But the labors of native missionaries are improving those statistics. Within a recent six-month period, the missionary and team led 270 people to confess their belief in Christ, the report says.
One recent convert formerly had lived like a prodigal. As a young girl, she wasted most of her life abusing drugs, alcohol and smoking.
“When I shared the gospel with her, I told her the story of the two sons in Luke 15, then I told her, if you will only believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and ask Him to forgive you, He will. Without hesitation, she immediately accepted the Lord Jesus, and she was baptized and is serving in the church as an usher, doing it with joy.”
How do the local missionaries make inroads into remote villages that are resistant to the Gospel? Sometimes, by farming… Read the rest: Missions in Liberia.
Full of youthful energy and untiring passion, German Gastellum wanted a bigger ministry challenge to pour his indefatigable self into, the mission field of Villa del Rosario, Colombia, just across the border from socialism-scourged Venezuela.
He was a spry 72.
You read that right. Seventy-two years old. That’s when he started. Now, he is 75.
“God gives me the strength through the Holy Spirit,” he told God Reports at a June Bible conference in Tucson. “And the body is healthy. I have been through sicknesses and Covid and all that, and I have survived that because of the high defenses I have. One, I have spiritual defenses; I have prayer and the power of the Holy Ghost working in me, and then I have normal defenses and they’re kind of synchronized.”
While the only adventure of many of his fellow septuagenarians is snuggling up in the overstuffed chair to watch Bachelor in Paradise, German is putting people half his age to shame by chasing souls in the rigors of missionary life.
“The other thing that keeps me healthy is working for God,” he confides. “It’s being a witnessing machine to people. God is pleased with that, when we take the gospel to the poor, when we go to the places that Jesus would go, then He meets us there. He says, ‘Take my yoke upon you, for I am gentle and my burden is not heavy.’”
German (pronounced Her-MAHN) carries a burden for the Venezuelans condemned to languish under the withering chokehold of socialism. Poverty and hunger are so chronic and acute now that vast swathes of society are resorting to crime to feed themselves.
Colombia, which sent civil-war-refugees into Venezuela in the 90s, is returning the favor by welcoming Venezuelans into its country. The border is open, and Venezuelans walk for miles, barefoot and hungry, to reach the helping hands of Colombians in German’s town, which sits on the Tachira River separating the two countries.
A Daasanach warrior chief named John was outraged that the Roman centurions were killing Jesus on screen in his Ethiopian village, according to a Timothy Initiative Vimeo video.
“I couldn’t believe that while Jesus was being tortured, my people sat idle,” John recalled. “I threw a stone at the soldiers and even ran behind the screen with my knife drawn.”
Some remote people groups who still live out of touch with civilization and technology don’t immediately discern between the acting in the Jesus Film and reality. So John attempted to engage the Roman soldiers to defend “an innocent man.”
Of course, John didn’t find anything behind the screen. He had never seen a movie. When he understood that the film’s action scenes were only on the screen, he took his seat on the ground and watched with horror and anguish as the Romans crucified Jesus.
While John found no one behind the screen that day, he did find Jesus. A member of the team that projected the film led him in a sinner’s prayer and began to disciple him.
Her husband beat her every time he drank, and Anh become so desperate she was ready to end the hell that was her life, according to a report by Christian Aid Mission (CAM).
When Anh first met her future husband, Ngoc, she saw his charm and swagger and was smitten by love. She didn’t realize that he hung out with buddies who drank, gambled, and smoked opium.
After they married, he often came home inebriated and was physically abusive.
“Every time Ngoc got drunk, he beat his wife.” a local ministry leader told CAM.
One night, she took refuge at a friend’s house. When she returned the next morning, her husband had burned her clothing and her university degree.
In the depths of despair, Ahn fetched a bottle of insecticide was was going to drink it, but her children began tugging at her and crying. For the sake of her children, she didn’t kill herself that day.
Instead, she worked on a plan for someone to care for her kids after she ended her life.
Before she could finish the plan, a Christian missionary knocked on her front door, came in, and presented the Gospel.
Moved by the power of the Word and the Spirit, she surrendered her life to Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior.
“Everything was changed and renewed,” the ministry leader reported.
Anh invited her husband to receive Christ, but he rebuffed her. “No, never,” he declared.
However, he began to witness changes in his wife because of the filling of the Holy Spirit.
After pleadings from Anh and the children, Ngoc finally acquiesced and attended church. He was received warmly by the congregation and ended up accepting Jesus.
“The Holy Bible is very good,” Ngoc told his wife later that night. “But I can’t understand it. Can you teach me the Holy Bible?”
For four months he learned the Bible, aided by the patient instruction of the missionary. He even got baptized.
Stephen almost forgot to give Emily his normal goodbye kiss that morning in a rush before the day’s labors in a dangerous area of northern Africa. But he came back and gave her an extra-long hug. Sadly, it was their last hug together.
“That morning he ended up giving his life for Christ,” Emily says on a 100 Huntley Street video. Stephen, a loved and respected servant of Christ, became a victim of jihadist terror.
Emily first visited the unnamed country on a short-term mission trip. It was five weeks of ministering amidst poverty and hopelessness.
She longed to return to America where she could enjoy a decent cup of joe. The hopelessness attached to Islam was omnipresent in the women’s prison, where ladies were jailed for seemingly minor offenses, such as getting pregnant out of wedlock, she says.
After five arduous weeks, Emily waited for the plane to arrive that would whisk her back to America. While she waited, God spoke to her heart: If I called you to this country to serve, would you go?
Emily was more than ready to leave. But God was challenging her to give up much more than she could imagine.
So, after years of praying, Emily and her husband, Stephen, returned to the forlorn desert nation as humanitarian aid workers. To state on the visa application their true calling as ministers of the Gospel would result in a flat denial of entry, so they came in officially as aid workers.
Specifically, they granted microloans to collectives of women to help them launch tiny businesses. Each month, when Stephen collected payment, the people would invite him into their homes with incredible hospitality.
Over tea and milk, they had long talks together. This was customary in their culture, and it afforded Stephen many opportunities to introduce Jesus.
As the years rolled on, Stephen and Emily grew bolder.
“We just did not feel comfortable with being undercover. That would be like putting our light under a bushel,” Emily says. We found creative ways to be who Christ wanted us to be and that is speaking about Christ, his life, his teaching.”
Stephen was growing increasingly bold with proclaiming Jesus. He even began to hand out Bibles and the JESUS Film liberally. Other missionaries grew concerned that he would go too far. Extremist Islam might retaliate.
“Other workers got very nervous,” Emily says. “They felt we had gone a little too far, that it would make us a little too conspicuous. They were fearful for us but also for themselves because they didn’t want to be labeled as proselytizers.”
Their fears proved grounded. One day, Islamic extremists attacked and killed Stephen – who ironically shares the name of the first Christian martyr.
It was the day he went back for an extra-long hug to his wife – his unwitting goodbye.
After Stephen’s death, Emily and the children were escorted by authorities to the other side of the city, where they hid until they could be flown to the States.
It didn’t even occur to Yeonmi Park to ask why there would be no fee to smuggle her and her mother across the North Korean border into China at night over the frozen Yalu River. Constant hunger smothered that question.
Quickly, she found out why, as the human traffickers immediately demanded sex from the 13-year-old girl, once in China. But her mother stepped in to save her.
“No, you cannot!” Mother shouted. “Take me instead.”
Their desperate escape from North Korea and their entrapment in China’s sex trafficking, followed by their harrowing journey to South Korea and eventual coming to faith, is chronicled in Yeonmi Park’s 2015 book In Order to Live.
Yeonmi’s predicament was devastating. As horrifying as rape was, it was preferrable to starvation, so she remained in China. “There was more food in the garbage can than I might see in a week in Heysan,” Yeonmi says. “I was very happy with my decision.”
Yeonmi Park grew up in Hyesan, North Korea and was taught to revere Great Leader Kim Jong Un. She never questioned the propaganda: North Korea was the most prosperous nation in the world. Kim Jong Un was practically immortal and supremely benevolent. It was the long-nosed Yankees and the Japanese who were evil imperialists destroying the world.
She whole-heartedly believed North Korea’s lies. They were drilled constantly in school and in block meetings in which citizens criticized themselves and others for not obeying the dictator sufficiently.
Never mind that across the river, the Chinese clearly had electricity at night and fireworks during New Year’s while the North Koreans lived in darkness and couldn’t enjoy holiday festivities. Yeonmi, like most North Koreans, never questioned the sincerity of the government or the veracity of their affirmations.
Years later when free, she found in George Orwell’s Animal Farm the term describing her mental state: doublethink. That is how she could watch pirated videos from South Korea and America and, seeing the luxury displayed, still not question Kim Jong Un’s description of reality.
And you could never utter the slightest hint of criticism of the government. You would be overheard and turned in to the state police. “Even the birds and mice can hear you whisper,” mother told her daughters.
“They need to control you through your emotions, making you a slave to the state by destroying your individuality and your ability to react to situations based on your own experience of the world,” Yeonmi writes.
She calls this an “emotional dictatorship.”
All things considered, Yeonmi had it pretty good. Her dad was a smuggler and stole items of value, bribing officials all along the way, to re-sell in the black market.
Then dad got caught, and the family descended into shame and extreme poverty. Mom left Yeonmi and her sister, Eunmi, alone for months at a time while she did her own black-market business to scrounge money for her girls. Dad was condemned to intensive labor in a prison camp that starved inmates so that they died.
“My only adult ambition was to buy as much bread as I liked and eat all of it,” Yeonmi writes. “When you are always hungry, all you think about is food.”
Yeonmi’s older sister eventually found a “broker,” who could smuggle her into China. Yeonmi and her mother followed soon after.
“We never thought to ask why these women were helping us, and why we didn’t have to pay them anything,” Yeonmi says. “We didn’t think that something might be wrong.”
The reason why there were no fees to get spirited across the border is because the smugglers were also sex traffickers. Women were usually sold as slave brides for $2,000, supplying the vacuum of women caused by China’s one-child policy combined with the preference for boys.
Sometimes, they were sold into prostitution.
With resourcefulness, Yeonmi and her mother escaped worse treatment. She couldn’t turn herself in to Chinese authorities; they would only deport her back to the prison camps of North Korea where one might starve to death.
So Yeonmi learned Chinese and fought off her would-be rapists by biting, kicking and screaming. She negotiated with her pimp to be his mistress in return for favors: she bought her mom back from being a “slave bride.”
“I realized that there was a force inside me that would not give up,” she says.
In 1984, China was cracking down on foreigners on its soil in preparation for the Summer Olympics. So, the sex trafficking business dried up. Yeonmi’s pimp let her be taken by a mafia gangster with a harem. It seems that the sex traffickers were particularly pleased to keep her for themselves because of her young age.
Initially, Yeonmi fought the mafia man off when he tried to have his way with her.
“Why, God?” Helen Roseveare asked after being brutally beaten and raped by Congo rebels for five months while she served as a missionary doctor in 1964.
Can you thank me for trusting you with this experience even if i never tell you why? was the answer she received.
It was a strange answer. But also, God gave her a striking revelation about surviving a dungeon of torture.
“It’s external! You’re sinned against. It’s not your sin. It can’t touch your spirit,” she explained on a 100 Huntley Street video. “It’s only your body. But it can’t get into my mind or soul.”
Helen has used her captivity to encourage others who feel powerless to defend themselves against unimaginable acts of evil.
Helen Roseveare became one of the first females to graduate as a medical doctor from Newnham College, Cambridge in 1945. She became a Christian because of the testimony of some of the girls in her school and almost immediately set off to the mission field in the “Heart of Darkness.”
She tended to patients, built hospitals and trained Africans in medical science indefatigably. While serving the population she was taken captive in the Congo during the tumultuous 1960s along with other foreigners. As was always the case, she turned into the leader, even in captivity.
“When the awful moments came in the rebellion you almost felt, no, this has gone too far. I can’t accept it. It seemed that the price was too high to pay,” she says. “And then God seemed to say, Change the question from ‘Is it worth it?’ to ‘Is He worthy?’”
During her captivity, she was called upon to help 80 Greek Cypriots, workers abducted by the rebels. One lady was in pain, seven months pregnant, so Mama Luca — as she was known — was called upon to attend to her.
With rebel guards on either side of her, she stepped among the cowering Cypriots until she found the needy lady. She didn’t speak Greek, so she went through the languages she knew one by one to ask if she was hurt: English, French, Swahili, Lingala.
Finally, she found someone who could translate into Greek and eventually led not only the lady but the whole prison hall of captives in a sinner’s prayer. As the only area doctor, she had attended to the Cypriots for years but had made no headway in evangelizing them.
But suffering brought a new openness to the Gospel.
“When I eventually left the house, they’re all looking up and smiling and they want to shake my hands,” she remembers. “It was wonderful. God, you are marvelous.”
As was their custom, the rebels subjected Mama Luca to a mock trial. The people in the area were orchestrated to participate in the judgement of “colonial, imperial crimes” committed by foreigners. Under the threat to the rebels’ guns, the locals had to join their voice in a chorus of condemnation, calling for the death sentence.
Responding to the beating of the drums, 800 locals came to her trial. You didn’t dare ignore the calls of the rebels because only they had guns. At a certain signal, they all shouted, as was the custom in these roughshod trials: “She’s a liar! She’s a liar!”
Then they would shout “Mateco! Mateco!” which meant “Crucify her! Crucify her!”
“You knew you would die. You didn’t know how,” Mama Luca recalls. “There came the moment in the trial scene when they must have been given the sign. Suddenly these 800 men suddenly, instead of seeing me as the hated white foreigner, they saw me as their doctor and they rushed forward.
“They pushed the rebel soldiers out of the way and they took me in their arms. In that wonderful moment the black-white barrier had gone and they said, “She’s ours.” They used a word in Kibbutu, which really meant, “She’s blood of our blood and bone of our bone.” The rift between dark skin and pale skin was driven away and we were reunited as one.”
“God used so many things that He’s working out his own wonderful purposes,” she says. “Many, many came to the Lord through those days of suffering. The walls of division were broken down, and the kingdom was expanded.”
Helen had refused to read Foxe’s Book of Martyrs assigned by her missionary field director. “I said if God ever asks me to be burned at the stake, I’ll say yes, but I won’t be singing,” she remembers. “I just couldn’t take it all.”
When a light flashed around him and his bonds fell off miraculously, Prince Kaboo heard a voice to run from his captors, the warring Grebo tribe on the coast of Liberia.
So when he wandered into church on a coffee plantation and heard the story of Paul’s conversion on the Damascus Road, he burst out: “That happened to me!” and began to share about his daring escape, his wanderings through the jungle and his coming to Monrovia.
It was his first time in a church, so he didn’t know to keep quiet. But he was thunderstruck by the obvious parallels and was overcome with wonder. He immediately became a believer in Jesus Christ.
Ultimately, Kaboo — renamed Samuel Morris — became essentially a missionary to America. At a time when African missionaries are emerging as God’s antidote for “post Christian” Europe, Kaboo was a forerunner for this reversal of roles, when developing countries bring renewal and revival to First World nations.
For years in Monrovia, Kaboo painted houses to make money while he learned to read and was instructed in the principles of Christianity from his tutor, missionary Lizzie MacNeil. He immediately consulted his Father in prayer for everything and had a voracious appetite to learn more about the Holy Spirit.
One day, Lizzie teasingly informed him that she possessed nothing further to teach him about the Holy Spirit and that if he wanted to know more, he would have to go to New York and learn from her mentor, Stephen Merritt.
It was a joke, but Kaboo took her seriously. As soon as it was said, Kaboo concluded he needed to go. So he planted himself on the shore near the place he expected to confront the captain of a 300-ton trading vessel in port, a ship he found out was headed for New York.
“My Father tells me that you’re supposed to take me to New York City,” Kaboo told the surprised captain.
The captain, a rough and gruff seaman, however, had no time for idle talk and nonsensical freeloaders, so he kicked him aside.
Kaboo stayed on the beach for the remainder of the days the boat was in port. When it was about to embark, the captain discovered that some of his crew had abandoned ship, so he decided to take Kaboo on as part of the crew, assuming he knew the intricacies of rigging because he belonged to a tribe that often supplied crewmen.
Kaboo had no seafaring experience whatsoever, and when he climbed the rigging to trim the sails, he was absolutely terrified as the masts, 100 feet in the air, pitched from side to side and nearly touched the surface of the stormy seas.
Seeing his evident terror, the cabin boy, who wanted to graduate to sailor, proposed they switch jobs. But nobody consulted the captain, so when Kaboo showed up to attend the cabin, the captain grew furious and rose to beat him.
“All Morris knew to do was to fall on his knees and pray for God to calm the heart of this angry man,” says Charles Kirkpatrick, professor emeritus at Taylor University. “When he saw that boy kneeling in prayer, the captain was moved to recall the days when he had grown up on a farm in New Jersey in Christian home and had been taught the scriptures and how to pray by his mother.”
Over the next few days, the captain’s heart softened. He asked Kaboo about God and became a believer. He was Kaboo’s first convert from America.
After the captain, Kaboo turned his attention to the crew. Sailors at the time were picked up and dropped off in any port around the world. They were often dagger-wielding brigands closely resembling outright pirates. On Kaboo’s ship there was a Malay who had an unbearable temper and threatened people at will.
On a certain occasion, the Malay moved in to slash a fellow sailor. While others stepped back, Kaboo stepped in between the attacker and his victim and boldly told him to put away his dagger.
“The Malay didn’t like that interference and was about ready to use the sword on Morris,” Kirkpatrick says. “But his arm was seized and he could not bring it down. The captain witnessed that and realized that something truly miraculous had occurred in their midst. The result of that incident was that several people trusted in Morris’s God and became believers as well.
“By the time the journey was over about half of the crew became believers,” he adds.
When they sailed under the newly-constructed Brooklyn Bridge, Samuel — the missionary-given name he now used — embarked immediately to find Stephen Merrit among New York’s two million inhabitants.
The first person he asked, probably a vagrant, just happened to know him and offered to take Samuel to his mission eight blocks away.
“That this one person would happen to know Stephen Merrit is part of the miraculous nature of the story,” Kirkpatrick says.
Merrit told him to wait for him in the mission while he went to a prayer meeting and forgot him until hours later. When he sought Samuel at the mission, he found the young African had already converted 17 men in the mission to Jesus.
Merrit invited Samuel to live at his house.
One day he dropped Samuel off at Sunday School. “The altar was full of young people, weeping and sobbing,” Merrit found, when he returned for him.” I never found out what Samuel said, but the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit were so present that the entire place was filled with His glory.” Read the rest: African missionary to America Samuel Morris
To chop off an enemy’s head and carry it back to the village to be put on display was a great honor for the Konyaks, a tribal people on the Northeastern edge of India.
“I marked my enemy like a sniper,” says Wangloi Wangshu on a National Geographic video. “And when I got him, I chopped their heads off with a knife. If I happened upon an enemy, it didn’t matter if it was man, woman or child, I chopped the head off.”
“We used to compete with each other. We said, ‘This one is mine!’” Hongo Konyak says. “The person who took the head gained power in the community.”
Once a Konyak scored a kill, he got a tattoo on his face. It was a rite of passage, says Aloh Wang, chieftain of the Shengha Chingnyu tribe. “In those days, killing each other was part of the education.”
Today, the Konyak are no longer headhunters. They’ve left behind their ancient warfare and converted to Christianity, the last of the tribes to do so in the region. About 90% adhere to the teachings of Christ.
At a time when secular thinkers find it offensive to describe native people as “savages,” the Konyak are a reminder that the term was less offensive than the customs that gave rise to the term.
“When the Christian missionary came to the Konyak tribes, some people said they weren’t going to accept the religion,” says Wanton Kano, a Konyak pastor in the village of Lungwa. Read the rest: Headhunters come to Christ
When the communist Eastern Bloc dissolved, Mongolia saw a resurgence of Buddhism. But another religion has taken root and is steadily growing, Christianity.
Newfound religious freedom after decades of communist/atheistic repression led to thousands coming to Christ, with over 50,000 followers of Jesus in a country of 3.2 million, or roughly 1.8% of the population, according to Joshua Project.
The growth of the evangelical community at 7.9% a year is outpacing most countries.
Surprisingly, young people see Christianity as hip, according to a Jouneyman Pictures video, “From Genghis to God: Christianity takes Mongolia by Storm.”
“Christianity, never destroys a culture; it will remove things from a culture that are holding it back, essentially that are killing its people, that are making life miserable.” says Paul Swartzendruber, with Eagle TV.
Land-locked Mongolia in East Asia was the birthplace to Genghis Kahn, who conquered all the way to Europe during the Middle Ages. After his decline, the region fell into oblivion and remained a nation of nomads and herdsmen.
In the 1920s, the Soviet Union annexed Mongolia and promulgated a “worker’s paradise” led by government. The religion of Marx and Lenin admitted no competition, so they stamped out all other religions. Buddhists were systemically decimated; a bloody purge wiped out 17,000 monks.
Then, communism fell in 1990 and religious freedom suddenly became a reality. People were free to practice Buddhism. Christian missionaries, eager to preach on virgin soil, arrived in droves.
Eagle TV, with American funding, usually outperformed the national channels in terms of computer graphics and snazzy programming. One show featuring Christian rock videos became very popular with young people.
They saw Buddhism as the religion of the older generation. Christianity emerged as the faith of the younger generation.
Christianity’s growth is seen mostly clearly by the criticism directed by “His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama,” the Tibetan people’s foremost leader and revered Buddhist leader.
“Whenever I give some Buddhist explanation in the West, I always make clear that Westerners, European or American, better to keep their own tradition in religious faith like Christianity. It’s better to keep their own tradition rather than change to a new religion,” he says. “Similarly, the Tibetan and Mongolian are traditionally Buddhists, so it’s better they keep their own tradition.”
Bolarchimeg was 16 years old when she started attending Hope Church in Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia.
“My mother was against me going to church,” Bolarchimeg says. “She said, ‘You are wasting your time on these useless activities like reading the Bible every day. Wouldn’t it be better to spend that time on your study?’ God gave me the power to get through.”
A Muslim extremist tried to kill Ramazan Arkan in Antalya Evangelical Church, the only Christian church in Turkey’s fifth largest city.
“One nationalist guy, he came to our church service to assassinate me and he was planning to kill me, but we had police protection during that time,” Ramazan says in a Stefanus video. “Police realized that guy was there and they arrested him and they put him in jail.
“After that, police thought that behind this guy there is some group that wants me to be dead. When I was single, I didn’t care very much. But now I am married; I have two kids. When you face persecution and when you know that there are people that want to kill you, that is scary. Sometimes I feel scared and sometimes I feel worried.”
There’s a price to pay for converting to Christianity from a Muslim background in Turkey. Sometimes your family disowns you. Sometimes you can’t find a job because of religious discrimination. When the church first opened, Muslims threw stones at it, Ramazan says.
But the 200 Christians who attend Antalya Evangelical Church remain undaunted.
The only thing Ramazan knew about Christianity was what the Muslim propagandists had told him, for example, the Bible was corrupted and unreliable.
So, when a co-worker came out as Christian, Ramazan was curious to ask for himself.
“I was a member of one of the conservative Islamic groups,” he says. “I practiced my faith five times in a day, and I was a very serious, devout Muslim. I never met any Christians until that time, and then we start to talk about Christianity, he told me a lot of things about Christianity. I was shocked by what he told me because what I had learned all those years from my society about Christianity, everything was wrong.”
At the time, there wasn’t a single church in Antalya, a city of 2 million and a resort destination on the Turkish Riviera. So Ramazan started one in the year 2000.
“Jesus changed my mind and he changed my life,” Ramazan says “Now my goal is to serve Him. I’m pastoring this church, I’m teaching and preaching. But most of my time is more like spending time with people, and there are a lot of visitors that they are coming and visiting our church during the weekdays and I usually sit with them and talk to them hours and hours, because Turkish people are very much interested in spiritual stuff.”
Order up a Turkish coffee and while away the time with Christian apologetics.
Alper Gursu was one of the Turks who engaged in long conversations with Pastor Ramazan about spirituality. Today, he is one of the leaders of the church.
“I had dozens of questions, like is the Bible real? Because I heard that’s changed,” Alper says. “So he started explaining that starting from the third century and the Nicene council he explained to me all the history. He gave me this circle of evidence. All my questions were being answered.”
Pastor Ramazan gave Alper a Bible, and he started reading and ended up getting saved.
Melis Samur is now one of the worship leaders. She got into God because she liked architecture and studied churches. When she found one in her city, she begged her parents to let her go.
“It was a really peaceful, really really beautiful place,” Melissa says. “They got really upset at me. They were like, ‘Why do you need another religion?’”
The Gospel has grown by 10,000% in more than a century in France, evangelicalism’s holy grail in Europe.
In the year 1800, there were 2000 Protestant evangelicals, in 2019 there were more than 700,000, according to statistics in a FOCL Online video and news reports.
In 1970, there were 840 evangelical churches, today there are more than 2,440. Every 10 days, a new church opens, said David Brown, chairman of the Evangelism Commission of the French National Council of Evangelicals (CNEF).
“Their numbers are no doubt increasing with the evangelical churches’ emphasis of personal conversion and a direct relationship with God,” says anchor Stuart Norval of France 24 English news in a “Focus” report which characterized the growth as “surprising.”
The news is cheery since evangelical Christianity tails Islam and secular humanism in France. The humanist viewpoint that God is a “construct” used by the rich to suppress the poor was practically born in France. About 8% of the country is Muslim while evangelicals barely make up 1%.
Despite sobering demographics, evangelicals have been growing at about 2.4% a year, in line with most countries in the world, according to the Joshua Project.
Francois Loury is a recent convert in the Porte Ouverte Chrétienne church in Paris. He recently was baptized and brings his whole family.
“It feels like a church that belongs to the modern world,” François says. “That’s what’s so good about it. That’s what makes it stand out. The pastors wear jeans. They don’t wear suits. They like to have fun; they tell jokes. Sometimes we even find ourselves laughing about religion. I think that in today’s world, that’s important, to have an open mind.”
Porte Ouverte Chrétienne, which means Christian Open Door, stands out compared to the mass offered by the Catholic church. Porte Ouverte’s worship is dynamic and heartfelt, activities are family oriented, and they reach thousands with simultaneous streaming over social media.
“When I attended Catholic mass I felt like a spectator,” says Eric Richter. “Our faith is a bit like for a fan in a soccer stadium. They’re in it together; they have faith in their players. And we have faith in God.”
Daniel Lietchi presides over CNEF’s committee to foment church planting praises God for the growth but prays for much more.
“If we continue like this with a new church established every 10 days, we’ll never accomplish our goal of having one church for every 10,000 French citizens,” Lietchi says. “We want things to progress twice, even three times, as fast. But the outcome depends on God’s will. For example in Spain, a new church opens every three days. Here in France, that’s what we’re aiming for.”
Much of the current church growth stems from a surge of immigrants from Africa and the Caribbean, where people in their native countries have a higher level of openness to the gospel.
Monique Kapinga immigrated from the Democratic Republic of Congo when her husband died. She found a similar worship style and the same earnestness of her native land in the l’Arche de Paix Church, which after 25 years has over 500 members.
“I came to the Arch of Peace because it is a church of truth,” Monique says. “We pray like we pray back home.”
But the spiritual support is not the only help she found at the Parisian church. She also received money and assistance with renewing her immigration status. It’s no wonder immigrants, lonely in a foreign land, congregate together for camaraderie and social networking.
CNEF’s Brown tracks the history of current growth of Christianity in France in the follow epochs:
>From 1935 to 1960, Assemblies of God led the charge with successful church planting
>From 1980 to 1990, the Charismatic movement brought a surge
>From 1990 to 2010, immigration brought a boon.
>Since 1995, native church planters are taking the lead.
Personal evangelism fuels the growth, but white French resist the gospel with a “double insulation.” He says: “They rebuff evangelism by saying they are Catholic or believers in secular philosophy, which is strong in France.
“A person says, ‘Well, I’m not really a believer,’ so you start talking about philosophy and try to convince them,” Brown says. “And then they suddenly say, ‘I’m a Catholic and we can’t believe that.’” Read the rest: Gospel in France
Some of them walked 10 days to cross the border into Colombia in search of food or medical supplies they could take back to socialism-starved Venezuela.
Johnny Huerta and a team of six doctors, eight nurses and 24 other volunteers were in Cucuta, Colombia, on a temporary medical and feeding mission to show the love of Christ in a tangible way.
“We were swarmed by people,” said Johnny, who’s a painter and baseball player from Santa Monica. “They were grabbing us, grabbing us, like, ‘Pray for me. Pray for me.’”
The pleas for prayers grew to a fevered pitch after some miraculous healings and exorcisms, Johnny says.
The Lighthouse Medical Mission, which got its start 25 years ago in war-torn West Africa, landed on the border of Venezuela on March 7th — before most of the U.S. got locked down over Coronavirus fears. The humanitarian crisis of 40,000 daily border crossings there has been essentially eclipsed.
The Santa Monica-based team provided medical attention and drugs and handed out 3,000 meals a day in conjunction with World Central Kitchen in three areas: in Cucuta, in a Yukpa village on the outskirts of town and in nearby Pamplona. The 39 people divided up in teams to minister in each area.
Johnny Huerta shares fun with the kids.
Johnny was assigned logistics, took pictures, but mostly got roped into translation. The stories he heard of dead family members and left-behind family members appalled him as well as the squalor he witnessed. In the Yukpa village, there were no bathrooms and people lived in huts fashioned with tree limbs and plastic tarp.
“People can live with little and still be happy, but this was not healthy,” Johnny says. “They bathe in an unsanitary river, and that’s why they get lots of infections. They also drink out of that river.
“They have makeshift huts built out of garbage. Babies are walking around naked. They pretty much have nothing. It was one of those shocking situations where you say, ‘Wow people are waking up and living like this every day with unhealthy conditions.’”
The team brought two chefs, but they were prevented from serving until they scrambled to obtain Columbia food preparation licenses.
When they arrived at the border on the first day, “we weren’t sure how they were going to respond as we got out of the van to serve the food,” Johnny says. “They were desperate for food and outnumbered us. Immediately they ran over and we tried to get them in a line, which eventually became a crowd.
“As we tried to transport apples from the back of the van to the food serving area they began to crowd the back of the van as well. We ended up handing out the apples from the van as we were never gonna get through. The next couple of times we fed at the border we organized police protection in advance and were a bit more organized. Even then it was still a bit chaotic.”
Short-term missions are highly recommended because they can impact American church-goers forever: they broaden horizons, impart vision and erode entitlement.
“I was just thankful they gave me the privilege of being able to go with me,” Johnny says. “You feel like you get more out than you put into it. I’m more mature in my faith and in my life than I was before.”
As busy as he was being pulled this way and that, Johnny still found time to share his passion for painting with the kids. It was a personal connection he’ll treasure for life.
In Pamplona, the team attended 3,000 patients.
Many people are losing their eyesight because of rampant infections, Johnny says.
While the doctors saw patients, the pastors and lay leaders were praying for people, many of whom got healed even before they received medical attention, Johnny says.
That’s when they started getting swarmed.
Because witchcraft is widely practiced in the region, several people were delivered from demonic spirits, Johnny says.
“One lady was released from demon possession. She looked super oppressed beforehand and was all smiles afterward,” Johnny says. “They practice witchcraft and spiritism because of their circumstances. They’re reaching out for help. But when we came to them with the gospel, they were open.” Read the rest: Venezuelan refugees Christian response
Nestor Kouassi had seen the voodoo priests and witches do unutterable things: make statues move, bury people alive who later come out of the jungle, send bird spirits to kill enemies.
So when he accepted Jesus in 1997 and started what became a high-stakes spiritual battle with them in his town of Houndjohoundji, Benin, it was a fearful thing.
“A lot of people didn’t like it that we were calling with fire and praying all night,” Nestor says. “They threatened us they would kill us. They make false accusations. Anything to get us in trouble.”
Nestor got introduced to the gospel even when there wasn’t a single Christian church in his village of 1,400 people. His nation, Benin, is renowned for being the worldwide birthplace of voodoo. Even the name of his village was a satanic incantation.
People feared the voodoo lords. Christianity couldn’t crack the town.
But then one Christian, a certain Mr. Lawson, when he came to visit his mom in town from time to time, would preach and share the gospel with anyone who wished to listen.
“We would mock him,” Nestor remembers. “People would insult him.”
Then his best friend, Cyrille, accepted Jesus to get cured of a nasty, prolonged stomach pain. Cyrille was a “rough man” who would steal and fight for nothing, so when Nestor saw an authentic change in him after two weeks, he became convinced.
“He completely changed,” he says. “I said, ‘If this guy can change, there must be a God. I want to get to know that God.’”
But Cyrille didn’t remember the “sinner’s prayer.” So they just read the Bible together 4-5 hours a day. After one week, Nestor was born again.
“Something happened in my life, and I knew that I knew that I knew that I had met the man Jesus,” Nestor recalls. “It felt like a liquid fire going through my soul, and all of my fears of witchcraft and voodoo disappeared and the river flowed from the inside.”
The nearest church was seven miles away. When they couldn’t attend service there, they devoured the Bible together. After two weeks, they were inspired to share their faith.
“We could not hide it anymore. We took to the streets and wanted to share with people our new discovery: Jesus of Nazareth, woo!” he recounts, relishing the memory.
The power of Jesus began to be proclaimed and demonstrated with healing miracles in town, and the town chief and ruling class — all priests and witches of satanic magic — didn’t like the competition.
“Our preaching was met with hostility like you’ve never seen before,” Nestor says. “What made them furious is that we would pray for people and they would get healed. People would say, ‘If you’re sick, go to the Jesus guys.’”
Another friend, Valentin, converted and the three friends read the word and ministered in the streets together. But nobody else dared cross the powers of the town and join their group, even though they viewed them favorably.
The prayers of Nestor and his friends began to disrupt the voodoo power, he says. So the witches attacked them.
“They didn’t want real Christianity. It disturbed them,” Nestor says. “They wouldn’t be able to operate anymore. If we’re calling upon Jesus, there is a power struggle. The witches cannot operate when we are calling upon Jesus.”
The witches had a technique they called a “spiritual gun,” and the victim target of their incantations would writhe in pain from what felt like shards of glass cutting his insides. But the gun didn’t work on Nestor and his buddies, he says.
The priests had a special “founder drum” that when they beat it and pronounced their incantations, lightning would strike the targeted victim even when there was no thunderstorm. Again, it didn’t work.
For six or seven years, the arm-wrestling match continued. Nestor was going to high school in the biggest town in the area nearby, Grand-popo. He would face off with the voodoo priests on weekends and vacations.
The voodoo festivals began to misfire. Things didn’t work. The supernatural tricks fizzled. The town was abuzz with the goings-on.
“People began to question the witches’ power,” he says. “They said, ‘These Jesus guys must have something.’ They were scared. They listened to us, they admired us, but joining us was a real problem.”
Tensions were rising and the threats were increasing. When the chief witch threatened Nestor’s mother with her son’s death, Nestor went to confront him. He found all the witches together in their afternoon gathering in the public place.
“They told us they would reduce us to nothing. I told them nothing would happen,” Nestor remembers.
When the Sierra Leonean rebels swept through Kabala torching houses and government buildings, Pa Gbani decided not to run. In his room, he read his Bible, prayed and waited for the inevitable.
As a detective at the police barracks, Pa was among the targets as 30 rebels trained by Libya’s Colonel Muammar Gadaffi doused buildings with gas and fired rocket-propelled grenades during the 1994 attack.
Pastor Ralph’s church Kabala, Sierra Leone, circa 1994
Miraculously, the fire died down before reaching his room. In fact, the same thing happened for everybody in his church.
“Nobody was killed or injured or had property loss that was in our church,” says Pastor Ralph Bowen, a missionary from Santa Monica at the time in Sierra Leone. “God just protected them. It was a day of miracles.”
It was Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego all over again.
One church member hid in a banana tree. Two guys lay quietly on top of a thick wall hidden in the dusk. Pastor Ralph had the good fortune to have a vehicle, in which he fled with his wife and a few disciples.
Pastor Ralph and Brenda Bowen
At one point on the road out of town, a total stranger came out to him and warned him to head down an alternative route. The rebels were ahead, he warned. Ralph found out later it was true.
There were an estimated 50 deaths in the rebel attack on Kabala.
The deliverance of the American missionary’s church members was extraordinary because they weren’t known for caution. The fact of the matter is that Ralph and his street-preaching disciples courted danger as a result of their boldness. Read the rest of the dramatic details of American missionary under attack by Sierra Leonean rebels in 1994.
The Michigan native never thought he would amount to much. He did not have any career ambitions, and he never even thought he would be successful, because as he says on a “This is Me” video on YouTube, “I didn’t have anything to give.”
He hung out with fellow skaters, smoked weed and took six months to learn how to do an ollie, one of the easiest tricks. He loved being on a board and loved to go out and film with his friends, but did not think he would ever be a pro skateboarder.
Yeah, it’d be great to become a pro skater, but that’s not possible, he remembers thinking. Looking back, he says, “That was a bunch of insecurity. And lies. And I believed them.”
Nevertheless, by his late teens, he found himself sponsored. He was a professional. Skateboarding was more than a hobby or even a job. “It was my identity,” he says.
When he turned 19, he found his other identity. He decided to read the Bible his brother gave him two years earlier.
“At the time time, I thought it was the worst birthday gift ever,” Hover says. “But now, I’m pulling this Bible off of the shelf and I’m like, ‘ God, I don’t if you’re real. I don’t know if I believe. I don’t know if I’m talking to anyone right now. But I’ve heard this is your Word. I’ve heard that You are faithful to deliver on your promises. If this is You, will You speak to me?”
Growing up, he had parents who believed in God and went to church, but he says, “I just didn’t grab ahold of it.”
But his brother’s gift opened his eyes to the Gospel of Jesus. The Word and the Spirit moved powerfully on his heart and he told God he wanted to turn his life over to Him, and wanted to trust Him with everything.
Hover was born again and received a new identity in Christ!
“As soon as I started reading the Bible, He gave me this hunger for his Word that has not left. I couldn’t put it down,” he recalls.
Shortly after that a friend called him on the phone. “Hey you wanna hang out, skate and smoke weed like we do everyday?’
“I’m reading the Bible right now,” Hover replied.
He knew that God might not call him to skateboard anymore, but he turned that part of his life over to Him anyway, saying, “It was like, I’m giving You my identity. If You want me to skate, if You don’t want me to skate, whatever.”
Clearly, he perceived that God wanted him to skate and he started skating more. He won contests, got a sponsorship with DC Shoes, and moved to Los Angeles.
He loved Jesus and skating! What more could he do with his life but marry the two in ministry? He started connecting to Youth With a Mission.
At first, he didn’t have a vision of how he could use his skating for Jesus. “People would say to me, ‘You need to start a skateboarding discipleship training class.’ And I would say, ‘That sounds so lame.’”
It was unusual to think about a skateboarder school that doubled as a discipleship class.
“I was going to our local skate park every Friday. We’d have barbecues. We’d have a skate contest. We’d hang with the skaters,” he says. “Skateboarding to me was just like a side ministry. But the more I spent time at this local skate park, the more the Lord was growing my heart for skaters.”
Then God spoke “in a gnarly crazy way.”
Don’t you see that I’ve been preparing you for this? God impressed on his heart. Don’t you see that skateboarding is a people, it’s a culture? It’s a community that I want to reach.
God told him to multiply the skate barbecues for “the entire planet,” he says. Read the rest of skateboard missionary
Bitwell grew up in Lusaka, the red-soiled capital of Zambia. Along with his friends, the fatherless teenager assaulted people to fund his drinking habit. They also engaged in hooliganism at the local soccer stadium and fought rival fans.
His mother, a Christian, tried in vain to control her son.
Then a pastor moved in across the street and fasted for seven days for the neighborhood. The Spirit moved on Bitwell’s heart. At 24, he was tired of endless crime and alcohol, so he began attending church.
“I wasn’t really converted,” he says. “I just went to church.”
Then Bitwell got struck with Cupid’s arrows. He saw Mary walking to the store and struck up a conversation with her. Mary was a more serious Christian and refused his advances. He persisted, and Mary laid down an ultimatum: Either he go to church seriously or give up hopes for her.
Bitwell still drank, but he worked hard to hide it from Mary. The first time he went to Mary’s church, he was hung-over. Three years later, they were married.
Seeking a better life, Bitwell and his wife applied for and were granted a tourist visa to visit a friend in Chandler, Arizona. Bitwell flew to the U.S. three months before his wife.
He was on a layover in New York on 9/11 when the Twin Tower terrorists struck and he was grounded at the airport. Eventually, Bitwell took a Greyhound bus to Chandler to join his friend, a zealous believer at the Door Church.
Bitwell accepted an invitation to attend church. He never heard preaching like that before. After hearing moving sermon after fiery sermon, he decided he needed to get serious about God. With his wife at his side, he gave his life to God and was born again.
Pastor Joe Campbell became a father figure to Bitwell and Mary. He gave them a car and was constantly checking up on them. They matured in the Lord and participated in ministry for four years.
One day, Pastor Campbell called them into his office. Would they go back to Africa to pioneer a church? They belonged to a group of churches that focuses on church planting.
It was no light matter. They had overstayed their visa and were “illegal.” If they left the country, under current rules they would not be granted a visa to America for at least 12 years.
“God called me to go,” Bitwell says. “When I was in America, God provided for me. So I thought that if I went to Africa, God would still provide for me.”
Jesus says to count the cost. For every Bitwell, there are hundreds of illegal immigrants who get saved, called, and decide not to return to their home countries. The American Dream often holds greater sway than the dream of ministry. Don’t miss the surprise ending of pastor returns to Africa.
IT’s been nine months since I visited my old church in Guatemala City. This time I was able to bring five people from my new church in Van Nuys AND my pastor from Santa Monica, Rob Scribner of the Lighthouse Church. It’s exciting to see how God is rescuing people.
To many observers, it appeared foolhardy to send such a fruitful worker to such a hopeless nation. A lot of church planters in the Christian Fellowship Ministries, following prevailing wisdom, looked to plant churches in resource-rich England and South Africa.
But Pastor Harold Warner didn’t flinch when he launched firebrand preacher Alvin Smith into Sierra Leone in 1989. He had heard from God. And nearly three decades later, the results are dumbfounding.
The original church in Freetown has exploded to 80 churches. The nation that once was classified as the second poorest in the world now has planted churches in Liberia, Guinea, Gambia, Senegal, Togo, Benin, Congo, Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast.
Pastor Desmond Bell, from Sierra Leone, in Marseille France.
They have even sent three missionaries to Europe.
“To take people, to take young men and women from one of the poorest countries in the world and (for God to) say, ‘I’m going to shape and I’m going to fashion them because they are going to accomplish my purpose not only in their own nation but also beyond the boundaries,’ is one of the greatest privileges of life,” says Warner in a 2018 conference video. “I just sit back and chuckle because this has to be God.”
Not even the African pastors could believe how God would use them when, as young men, they converted to Christ in a ramshackle school building with no lights where they listened intently to Pastor Smith preach his heart.
Pastor Harold Warner from the Door Church in Tucson
“Pastor Smith was instilling into our spirit that we were going to all the world to preach the gospel. In the minds of many of us, we were like, ‘This is an impossible dream,’” says Edward Saffa, who took over the headquarter church in Freetown. “All of us were from nothing — nothing.”
Sierra Leone was a diamond rich nation racked by government corruption and successive civil wars. The average life expectancy was into the 30s, and people ate only one meal a day. The worst kind of malaria wreaked havoc on the population, and the guerrillas chopped off limbs of civilians to sow terror.
That’s the milieu into which Alvin Smith, a retired US Air Force helicopter pilot, injected himself with his wife Renee.
“We owe something to Pastor Smith who left America. He came in the time during the war. That was a lot of sacrifice,” says Aruna Bangura, now pastoring in Marseille, France. “When people are too educated, they become logical when it comes to serving God. But for us, we were just explosive. We want to go to church everyday. Whenever it is time to go to church, we were running to go to church. We were coming from distance.
“I can still remember that old rugged, dirty building. All the windows were battered. We were using candles. But there was a life coming out of that building. That’s how God works. God likes to do things the way man cannot do it.”
The young men who attended Smith’s sermons often lacked adequate clothes, but they didn’t lack zeal. Or maybe it was the absence of material distractions that helped them to center all their attention on God.
They had nothing, so they had nothing to lose when they put their faith in God. Pastor Smith challenged the youth to get married, regardless of their financial situation. Some of the leaders today set up cardboard partitions in their parents’ living rooms to consummate their wedding. Read the rest of the story of improbable revival from Sierra Leone.
When Howon Chun showed up at Lighthouse Christian Academy in Santa Monica, he was a confirmed atheist.
“I thought religion is for those who are weak psychologically,” said the Korean foreign exchange student. “Christianity was just one of many religions, and I was not really interested at all. I thought Christians were unstable and just wasting their time going to church. I thought the church was corrupt and only wanted to get their money.”
His perspective changed after a year of hearing Bible class and then voluntarily attending a Bible conference in Tucson with his host dad (who happened to also be his principal and teacher).
He was surprised by the thousands of people whose joy was evident. He decided he should at least re-evaluate his atheism.
If this many people believe they are saved by Jesus, how can I ignore what they believe? he thought.
“I liked their energy. I wanted to have a purpose in life like them. I learned that Christians weren’t weird. They have a loving community. They weren’t corrupt.”
Howon wound up hanging around for three more years at Lighthouse. He just graduated, acing the SAT math with a perfect score, and enrolled in Cal Poly San Luis Obispo to study business. Part of his college choice based on accompanying his host dad, who is planting a church nearby Pismo Beach.
Howon’s story upends the traditional missionary model of sending workers into the foreign field. Here’s a vein of gold. The Christian Examiner reported that 300,000 Chinese students alone enrolled in American schools in 2016, and they prefer Christian schools, regardless of their government’s atheistic values.
There’s much discussion about how the surge in foreign students, who pay higher tuition than natives, has been a blessing to struggling private schools (public schools have strict limits on the amount of foreign students they can receive).