Category Archives: Mission Reports

Being Instant

In 2 Timothy 4:2 the Bible says, “Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season…” As Christians God calls us to be ready. On mission trips plans often change—sometime at the last minute but God always provides the strength and grace we need to be ready to share. In these situations you can rest in His resources.

On Sunday morning Mary Beth had not planned on sharing with the children during the worship service but during the singing, they asked if she could. She said yes—She simply took my backpack of resources and off she went.

Today we shared at two schools. Both had told Sunil that we could talk about Jesus and share the Gospel but 10 minutes before the first assembly he came to me and said, “The principal gave us permission to share but she is not here today. The man in charge says we can only talk about God since both Hindus and Muslims attend the school.” As I did on Monday, we shared God’s truth, knowing that when we are limited, God is not. We challenged the students that the One True God has created them for a reason and shared the story of a young man here in India who had been confused by so many different beliefs. He felt empty and knew there had to be more to life. He prayed that the One True God would reveal Himself and He did. We challenged these students to do the same.

A Christian teacher came up to me afterwards and said, “Thank you. I could feel the Holy Spirit moving.”

At the second assembly, I was told that I could talk about God and that one mention of Jesus would be fine at the end. This excited me but as I was walking to the microphone, in front of all the students, Sunil quickly came up to me and said, “Pastor (which is what he calls me) we have a problem. The principal just told me that they are concerned about trouble. They don’t want you to mention either God or Jesus.”

I committed my words to the Lord and in the few steps to the microphone God re-wrote what I needed to do and say. I shared how they are special and that there is more to life than breathing and feeling. It was similar in some regards to the school assemblies we do in America and I have no doubt that God translated His message in their hearts and that they heard far more than what I said.

Afterwards we sat down with the principal. She thanked us and expressed that she is a Christian and wants her students to know Christ. Then she told us that she would pass out the cards we had given her. We created these cards because it’s a token of respect In India to give a business card with your picture on it—So the card has our photo, a link to our YouTube channel so that English-speaking students (which all of her students are) can see more stunts and illusions (and hear the Gospel explained in a variety of ways). It also has links to the Bible in their native language, etc. Not all of the schools have agreed to give these. One school said that they would give them only to the Christian students.

The principal continued to say, “I can give these out but you cannot.” She pointed at Sunil. “He can give these but you cannot.” That’s when we began to realize that she wasn’t concerned about trouble coming on her for us sharing the Gospel—She was concerned about the trouble that might come on us.

Then I reflected back to the first school. The same man who told us that we could not mention Jesus also told me, “You have a beautiful family. You remind me of another missionary family (whose name I didn’t recognize) who was martyred by Hindu extremists for sharing the Gospel.” I wonder now if his intention was the same.

Either way, God is moving. We’re planting seeds as best we can and praying that those seeds land on good soil where they will grow and produce a great harvest.

Pray for these children that to whatever extent they heard the Gospel that God will begin a search in their heart, a hunger that won’t be satisfied until they find Christ.

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The Slum

Mary Beth and I have been in slum areas in several countries and it’s always moving. I’ll never forget watching a child in Mexico dig through trash looking for food or entire families in Cambodia squeezed into one small room that served both as their home and their shop during the day where they would resell items they had repurposed from the city trash dump. In Caracas we saw thousands of shacks packed in together and heard stories of the kids who lived on the streets.

Here we have continually been in and out of the slum areas. The picture below is a home for old people who have no where else to live. The building behind it is an orphanage, both run by a Christian family.

Down the street we shared at a school that is located here.

Railroad tracks are at the end of the street where several pigs were digging through the trash.


Other photos are below. Pray for the people who live here and pray for the churches and ministries that are reaching into these areas to share Christ.

One of the churches where we shared on Sunday provides food for needy children.

 

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Training Children’s Leaders

Tonight we led training for leaders who teach children. It was a highlight for me to see the deep love that these leaders have for kids. It is also a blessing to see multiple churches working together and helping each other. Sunil, who has been coordinating the Hyderabad part of our trip, has created a resource library of lessons and teaching helps that is available to all.

Pray for them as we will continue to equip them with resources once we get home. We are also giving them all of our curriculum (over 350 Bible lessons and activities) and we’ll be leaving our equipment with them—the Gospel illusions, balloon animals and other tools we’ve been using on this trip.

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Our Home Away from Home

God is good and has blessed us greatly. We’ve been in India for 5 full days. We’ve shared 13 times with around 2,400 people. We are all in good health although I can’t say that we have fully adjusted to the time change.

I had posted earlier about our hotel experience with a bed bug and since we prayed God has kept us bug-free. In fact our hotel room has become a very comfortable refuge. After two days Mary Beth also brilliantly discovered that a switch marked “Geyser” turns on the hot water. So with hot water, good air conditioning (since it was around 85 degrees today), plenty of bottled water and some really good tasting fruit, God has created for us a temporary home away from home. We only have one night in this hotel before we head to Guntur City.

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Evening Meetings

Wifi is slow this morning and I’m having trouble uploading pictures but the past two evenings we shared once in a church and once in a home. There were about 50 or more people in the room where I taught in the house and I didn’t realize that there was another room where people were listening that I couldn’t see until almost halfway through the meeting.

In these services we’ve been able to get to know the people more. I met a Baptist pastor and his family who have a deep love for the Lord and their church has such a sweet spirit. I wish I could have videoed  them singing to the Lord last night. Their love for Christ is obvious. I don’t know what decisions are being made after these services–there is a lot of praying, which I think is the custom here. I individually prayed for about 20 people last night. Several wanted prayers for lost husbands or lost family members. Other ask for prayer about health issues, jobs, their children and more.

A Bible meeting in the home of a church member.

We are getting ready to leave for two more school assemblies and tonight we’ll lead a training on how to draw children and share Bible truths in a way they will understand and remember.

Thank you for your prayers.

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Sharing in the Schools

So far we’ve shared in five schools with over 1,500 students. Four of these schools gave us full freedom to share the Gospel. The fifth school wanted us only to talk about God in more generic terms because they are afraid of trouble if students go home and tell their parents that we’re trying to convert them to Christ. The interesting part is that this school is a private Christian school. They are trying to be a light in darkness but are living under the fear of being shut down. About 80% of their students are Hindu. They said that I could bring a moral message and talk about God in generic terms but not to mention Jesus. I have to admit this gave me a bit of a struggle. In my gut I don’t agree with this approach because if they’re scared they’ll be put out of business by students getting saved, are they never going to encourage students to get saved? I gave this over to the Lord and I remembered that Brother Andrew, who ministered illegally in communist countries a number of years ago, said he didn’t always agree with the decisions of people in persecuted countries but he also didn’t find it his place to judge because he had never been in their position. So I gave all of this over to the Lord and He gave me a peace about how to carefully honor their authority but walk a very fine line to point to the truth of Christ. After I finished sharing a Christian man said to me, “You did a great job sharing Jesus and how to be saved without mentioning his name.”

We have had more freedom at the other schools. We have shared openly about how Jesus died and rose again. We have shared our testimonies and explained how a person can be saved. But, being a school setting, we cannot give an invitation here. Nevertheless, we have planted seeds and have told the students what they can do to become a follower of Christ. The rest in the God’s hand and we’ll probably never know the result until we stand in Heaven. 

The pictures below are from some of the school assemblies. Pray for these children. Some are from Christian homes and they will grow up in a culture that gives them no respect and if persecution worsens here, they might face very hard times as a follower of Christ. Others of these kids are not saved. They hear about the Gospel but they haven’t received Christ. I started one school assembly by boldly saying, “Before we begin I want you to know that Jesus Christ changed my life and I have come today to tell you that he loves you and has plans for your life.” The best way I can describe their response is to imagine a person who has just heard a stunning announcement—their eyes get wide and they pull back a little. Their response was so physically noticeable that in my head I said, “Lord, I shouldn’t have started that way. Now they won’t listen to what I have to say because they know I’m a Christian.” We had been told that with some crowds it is best to draw them in, sharing truths about life and God and then lead into sharing about Jesus because sometimes once people know you are a Christian they won’t listen to anything you say because they’ve been conditioned to put up walls because they’ve been told you’re just trying to convert them. But the Lord assured me and sure enough a few minutes later as I did my first illusion of making boxes of flowers appear out of an empty bag, the Lord help this wall to just fade away and they listened very intently. 

Today we shared at another Christian school. After the assembly the principal of this Christian school said, “Pray for us. We face many obstacles. It is not easy.” She continued by telling us how she wants all her students to “know Christ and His kingdom.”

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Ezri Shares Jesus

This morning we shared with a group of 3-5 year olds. We came to the school to share with the older students but because we are early we asked if we could share with these kids too. In the picture to the side, you can see Ezri, who is their age, standing with me. I called her up and she said to me, “I want to tell them something important.” “What is it?” I asked. Then she said aloud, “Jesus loves you.” Next to us you can see Sunil as he translated for her.

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Our First Day at Church

Some of the kids Mary Beth shared with on Sunday morning

We shared at two churches today. In the first church, Mary Beth and the kids led the children while I preached in the main service. As soon as we were finished and after mingling and praying individually for people who would come up and ask for prayer, we went to lunch at Sunil’s house. His wife’s is Mary and they have a two-year old daughter, Rachel. They come from a Christian family. Sunil’s father is the pastor of the second church where we shared today. His name is Joshua. You can see the Biblical names that are used in some of the Christian families here. Pastor Joshua told me his story of coming to Christ at the age of 18 and how he was raised in a Christian family—His father converted from Hinduism to Christianity although I haven’t heard the story behind this yet. It’s interesting to be in a place where people trace their spiritual lineage. 

Mary Beth and our kids with some ladies in the church.
The children Mary Beth ministered to this morning.

After lunch we drove to the second church where it seemed the people were sitting and waiting for us to arrive. As soon as we entered, there was a stir and they they welcomed us to the platform where they sang a song. Mary Beth spoke first, using Romans 5:8. Then they sang another song before I preached on John 10:10, how the thief has come to steal, kill and destroy but Jesus offers abundant life. 

In the churches here, the men sit on one side and the women on the other. Even the children sat this way in what they called a “youth program” where we shared again this afternoon as it drew close to supper time. 

One of the churches where we ministered today.

The people in the churches are all ages—from very young to very old. A mother brought her baby to Mary Beth and I and said she had a fever and asked if we could pray for her. Some of the older people came to us asking for pray for other health issues and some of the young came and just asked for prayer.  I wish I spoke the language to ask better what is going on in their lives, what are they struggling with, what questions do they have. Sometimes it’s a little overwhelming because they crowd around and you feel that there is a wall between you and them and yet you know that God is bigger than language and culture barriers. Several times I would pray and just let the Lord put words in my mouth. It’s like flying blind with full trust in the goodness of God. 

We ministered in this church on Monday evening on the edge of the city.

There is life in the church here although there is a certain feeling of defeat. As Pastor Joshua told me, “Everyone in my church is an ‘untouchable’”. This is the word used for the lowest of the low in the status of how the people in India view each other. Christians and those who live in the slums are “untouchables.” In times past a virtuous Hindu would wash himself if the shadow of an “untouchable” touched him because these people are unclean. The persecution of Christians here seems to be very much along these lines. Unlike the northern parts of India where there is a lot of violence against believers, most the persecution here seems to be that the culture has no respect for those who follow Christ. Or as Pastor Joshua said, “They give them no honor.” They are pushed down and treated differently when people know that they follow Jesus. 

Because of this, in the churches where we ministered today, we noticed that they want others to know Christ but it seems that the Gospel is mainly kept in the church. They have freedom to worship and share in the church but trying to convert someone from Hinduism is culturally unacceptable. One person told me, “Hindus don’t get saved. That doesn’t happen.” His point was not that they never get saved but that the church focuses on first reaching the people of the families already in the church. In the second church today there were many women but few men. Many of these women are broken over their husbands. Some are Christians but have fallen into addictions, like alcoholism, or complacency. Pastor Joshua said, “Our families are broken. If a wife is there, the husband is not. If the husband is there, the wife is not. If the husband and wife are there, the children are not.” He asked us to pray for unity in the families inside the church. 

Titus sharing his testimony.

 

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The Hotel: Bed Bugs

We arrived at our hotel and checked in. We were tired. Most of us didn’t sleep on the plane, so Mary Beth had spent more than 36 hours awake. This is not a tourist hotel either. The closest hotel where most Americans would stay is probably around an hour drive away. We are not by the tourist attractions but are closer to the slum areas of the city. We knew that our hotel would lack conveniences but this hotel has presented a few challenges that God has given us the grace to overcome. When we arrived, we slept for a few hours. Mary Beth woke up to find a bed bug crawling on her neck. We prayed that God would keep the bugs away from us and that they wouldn’t bite any of us, especially since Ezri usually breaks out with any kind of bug bite. Not long later the hotel offered (without any mention of bed bugs) to move us to a different room that was larger. They brought in two mattresses so that Nathan and Titus could have their own beds. We can see the “rust marks” that bed bugs leave on some of the sheets and pillow cases but we haven’t seen or found any bugs and by faith I believe that the Lord simply removed this inconvenience so that we wouldn’t be distracted from our purpose here. 

Below you can see a few pictures of our hotel room. The funny part is that the toilet was marked with a warning label to sanitize if for your own safety. The shower is basically a wash bucket but if you hold the button you will get cold water from the shower head—Of course, it will only work if you are holding down the button. Knowing that we might have conditions like this, we brought disinfectant and we always bring Germx. We have a small air conditioner and a fan on the wall and we can continually hear honking horns and traffic both from the highway outside as well as the metro station behind us. We drink only bottled water and we brush our teeth with bottled water as well. Like most countries, the water here would most likely make us sick, so we have to be careful what we drink and what we eat. The hotel has food that is supposed to be safe for us and so far the two meals we’ve had here have set well with us. I have a tendency to get sick in foreign countries. When I was in Venezuela, I  became so sick that I didn’t even recognize Mary Beth—At least, that’s what I’ve been told because I don’t remember it. I am being especially careful with food and we have brought some meal replacement and protein bars with us as meal substitutes. We’re rationing these to make sure they last the duration of our time here. We are also rationing our clothes. I know this might sound strange but we found a “Launderette” in the UK and washed our clothes before we came because we knew that it would be difficult to wash our clothes here—Our schedule is fast-paced and any washing will be done by hand and we don’t exactly have a good place to let things air dry. We have multiple days of clothing but are not putting anything in the “dirty clothes” unless it is truly dirty. 

I am very proud of Nathan and Titus. They have grown into young men who don’t need a lot. I can imagine that many teenagers would complain about the circumstances here—sleeping on a mattress on the floor without all the conveniences of home but they have travelled a lot in their lives and have learned the importance of needing only what is truly necessary. I have no doubt that they could live under any circumstance with everything they need in a backpack. Jayden and Jaxon are the same. God has blessed us with amazing and godly young men who understand the importance of what truly matters in life. 

We tied two chairs together to make a bed for Ezri.
Our bathroom with a wash bucket included.
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Arriving in India: How God Passed Us Through Customs

God blessed our trip. We flew over Iraq, just next to Bagdad and landed in Bahrain where we boarded our second flight into India. One of our concerns had been going through customs and entering the country. We had been told by several different people that they will deny entry if they believe you are coming to share Christ. India had granted us a five year visas but on the visa it specifically states that they can still refuse entry into the country, even after arriving. This had become a matter of prayer for us because our family believes that any form of deceit is wrong. Lying to justify a greater good is still lying and God has been very clear in Scripture concerning the truthfulness of His people. If they had asked us, “Are you followers of Christ?” Or, “Did you come for the purpose of sharing the Gospel,” we would have answered truthfully and trusted God with the results. It’s not our job to “bail God out.” It’s our job to live for Him and let Him take care of the details. We knew that some of our answers, if asked specific questions, could have caused trouble and we had committed all of this to the Lord and He had given us a great peace. So, on arriving, we were expecting at least the kind of questions we were asked when we entered England: What sites are you planning to visit? What are some things you plan to do while in our country? What are you most looking forward to on your trip? In England on our way through customs, they asked all three of our kids (even Ezri) questions like this.

We ate at McDonalds in the Bahrain airport.

But here is how God shows His glory. On arrival we needed to get our visas finalized. They asked us no questions. As we entered customs, we showed our stamped passports with the visa. They asked us no questions. When we arrived at custom, they said nothing and simply waved us though without hardly a glance. Suddenly we were in the airport, meeting the pastor’s son, Sunil. He asked us what they had asked because he had also heard that the government was making it more difficult for people to enter the country for the purpose of sharing Christ. 

God is good and this is just one of many ways that we see Him answering prayers.

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London Mission

Worship this past weekend.

Since we were traveling through London on the way to India, we expanded our trip to be able to share several times south of London. We also wanted to make contacts and to begin looking at the most effective ways to share the Gospel for a return trip. Over the weekend through Tuesday we shared with about 300 people in the Brixton and surrounding areas and have come up with some creative ways to reach people on a return trip which we are prayerfully considering.

Children at a Church of England Primary School where we shared.
Kids singing before Kolby shared.
At the Tower of London

We also took a few days to show Nathan, Titus, and Ezri some of the historic sites including the Tower of London, Piccadilly Circus, Buckingham Palace in London as well as visiting Oxford to see the castle and to eat at the Eagle and Child where C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien and others of the “Inkings” used to gather to fellowship and to discuss their writings (such as Mere Christianity, the Chronicles of Narnia and the Lord of the Rings). The picture below is us sitting in the exact area where this group used to meet.

Eating at the Eagle and Child

A Realization

Not far from Brixton, south of London

After church this past weekend, we were walking to the Tube (London subway) down a very busy street in Brixton. Just in front of us there was a church with about 15 members lined up in of it. Most of them were holding signs with Scripture verses, a couple were trying to pass out tracts and a preacher was preaching over a microphone. I watch as people passed them without even a glance. They literally walked by as if the church people were invisible, as if there was a huge wall between the people of the church and the people passing by.

But, on the other hand, the next night we were in Piccadilly Circus, which is a hub of activity, stores and restaurants and a crowd caught our eye. About 50 or more people had stopped to watch a street performer simply dancing to an upbeat song. But the people were engage. The contrast of these two painted a picture for me of the benefit of using creative tools to reach people in “post-Christian” London.

If the Lord gives us the opportunity to come back, I want to try to get a permit to do some “street performing” of our own–eating fire, getting in six-foot balloons, doing ventriloquism and illusions as a way to draw people in to hear the Gospel. When we used this strategy on the streets and in parks in Mexico and Venezuela, it was amazingly effectively. I think people in London wouldn’t stop to listen as long as they did in those countries but I believe they would stay for a 10 minute engagement. This is one of the approached we’ve already discussed with the church that ask us to come and the church leader we’ve been working with he completely agrees that it would be an great way to share Gospel in London.

Ezri on the Tube

God really opened our eyes for how He can take a very common moment and use it to reach people who would otherwise be closed off to listening. It has been interesting to see how many Londoners have almost a knee-jerk negative response towards anything spiritual. A mention of God, or prayer or Jesus seems to immediately to send up a wall. When Mary Beth offered to pray for a man this week, his immediate response was to say no. But on the “tube”, we noticed that when Ezri would talk it would draw people’s attention. We noticed that people watched her and would smile at the many things she would say. But when she asked spiritual questions, it would give us the chance to answer her questions with the full knowledge that others were listening too. We were truly answering her questions but we were also indirectly witnessing.

“You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.” Deut. 6:7

We teach our children as we go but you never know who is listening and what impact it might make.

And Ezri has her own way of witnessing too. On the tube, a lady told her that she was very sweet. Ezri responded, “God made me.” Immediately you could see the walls coming up but she softened–After all, she was talking to a 4-year old. The lady’s response was to say, “Well, I think your mummy had something to do with that.” To which Ezri responded, “No, God made me,” which gave Mary Beth the chance to affirm to Ezri, that yes, God made you and He created you for a reason. Then she continued by sharing how God showed His love by sending Jesus who died and rose again… Mary Beth was able to engage the lady in more of a conversation about this although she was very shut off to her but she “melted” with Ezri.

London has been inspiring and I long to come back to share in a variety of ways to engage people with God’s truth.

Prayer Requests

We’ll be flying out on Friday morning at 9:30 London time and arriving in Hyderabad, India at 4:50am on Saturday. To the side is a picture of the kids’ first flight on our way to England. Please pray for us as we fly again, this time over Iraq and the Persian Gulf.

Also pray that we will adjust quickly to the time change. Not everyone adjusted quickly here in London but once we land in India, we’ll have one day to settle in and adapt before beginning a very intense schedule, sharing several days in a row in the morning, afternoon and evenings. We’ll share more than 30 times in India.

Also pray for us and the spreading coronavirus and how it might affect this trip. In China cities where the virus has been confirmed have almost abandoned streets during the Chinese New Year when the streets should be full of people. We found out today that the virus has its first confirmed case in India, in the far southwest, about 10 hours from where we’ll be in Chennai. So here are a few requests:

(1) Pray the the Lord will guard our family from the virus.

(2) Pray that it won’t spread over the next few weeks to the areas where we’ll be sharing so that it won’t hinder people from coming to a public place to hear the Gospel

(3) Pray that we won’t be quarantined as we return from India, first to the UK and then to the US. A lot of countries are requiring a two-week quarantine for anyone coming from an infected area. The week after we get back I have a revival in Lexington, TN and then another revival in southwest Oklahoma. Please pray that these opportunities won’t be affected.

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