Thursday, November 23, 2006

Mali trip

Hey all,

Yannick asked in a comment from a previous post if I had some pictures from my recent mission trip to Mali. Here is a little of the story of the trip and some pictures.

About a year ago, I had a dream in which a man from Mali asked me to come to his country to help him. (Just prior to this, I had been reading in Acts 16:6–10 about the apostle Paul's vision of a man from Macedonia.) When I woke up, I forgot about the dream until I got to my friend's house that morning. On his dining room table was a book report on the country of Mali. He informed me that his son had done it as an assignment for school. I told him about my dream, and he told me that the night before, his wife was telling his son that God would use his book report somehow. With that and many other confirmations, I began pursuing how I might minister in Mali.

Meanwhile in Mali, there was a pastor who oversees 26 churches in the capital city of Bamako. He and a group of pastors wanted to have an evangelistic campaign in their city. They had been praying about who would speak at the campaign. Not long after that, I emailed this pastor and told him I felt God was calling me to go to Mali to preach the gospel, pray for the sick, and minister to believers. We marveled at how God orchestrated everything.

I went with a guy named Steve from my church and a pastor named Thomas from Ghana, whom I had "met" a couple of years ago by email. I had never been to Africa before, and Steve had never even been on a plane before! The Lord provided all the funds to cover the trip, the campaign, and then some.

The four-day evangelistic campaign was held on this soccer field in Daoudabougou, a section of Bamako.

Here's a picture of the worship band. Most of the songs were sung in Bambara, one of the national languages (besides French). Worship went for about 2 hours each night. Saturday night was a real celebration. Lots of dancing.

The Worship Dance team had about 50 members.

I preached three of the nights, and Thomas from Ghana preached the other night. The guy in the background is translating into Bambara.

According to official demographic estimates, Mali is 90% Muslim, 9% animist and 1% Christian. About 100 people made first-time commitments to Christ and about 20 recommitments were made over the four days. Altar workers were on hand to gather information from new believers so that local churches could follow up with them. One instance that occurred the last night of the campaign stood out for me. Because of an impression the Lord gave me, I said, "There is someone here who was thinking about suicide, but you came here as a last hope. God loves you. Please come forward." A man of about 40 walked to the front with his young son with him. I asked him, through a translator, if he had accepted Christ. He hadn't, but he decided to do so.

We saw God heal a number of people of various conditions. This woman was healed of a stomach ailment. One young man who could not walk was able to walk unassisted. One young woman with poor eyesight was healed. A man who had difficulty walking because of foot pain began jumping up and down after the Lord healed him.

There was also a 2-day seminar for pastors and leaders held in the morning hours. Thomas taught one day and I taught the other. After the seminar, we had lunch together. We ate in the traditional way: everyone eating by hand from a common bowl. The food was awesome!

On Sunday, the three of us spoke at different churches. We were blessed by the depth of faith of the Christians we met. They have a strong desire to see the good news of Jesus spread in their country. The Malian pastors we worked with were wonderful men of God.

The rest of the trip was spent sightseeing, fellowshiping with the believers and ministering to people one on one.

I loved the people and the country, in general. We all agreed that we needed to do something similar in the future. I'd like to go back at some point and assist those who will plant churches in Mali. We'll see what the Lord has in store.

Friday, November 17, 2006

"What do I need to do?"

I had just finished talking and praying with one inmate, when I saw another young man that caught my attention. I went and introduced myself to him, and he told me his name.

"When is your court date?" I asked him.

"I've already been sentenced. I go upstate any day now," Ty responded. "Did you just know to come over and talk to me?" he asked.

"I try to look around and see if the Lord directs me to anyone. I got the feeling I was supposed to talk to you. Do you have any church background?"

"No. My grandmother goes to church. I went with her a couple of times."

"Do you know about Jesus—who He is and why He came?"

"No, I don't."

I shared the gospel with him. I told him about the problem of sin, the resulting judgment, and God's solution through Christ. I asked him if it all made sense. He said 'Yes.' Then he asked the question, "What do I need to do?"

[Short aside: Let me tell you, there's no greater joy than to hear someone ask you that question. It still makes me want to cry and jump out of my skin! The gospel is so simple, yet profound, rich, elegant, complete and thoroughly satisfying. How would you like to be able to hand out checks for $10,000,000 to anyone who would receive it? This is better. And as Christians, we all have the great privilege of introducing someone to the Savior.]

"Repent of your sins, believe that Jesus died for you," I began to tell him.

Excitedly, he interrupted me: "Wait, I want to show you something!" He went back to his jail cell and brought back a Bible. Inside the front cover, he had written four words in a vertical column:

"I was in a Bible study once and I wrote this down!"

"That's it. Do you want to do it now?"


Praise God that Ty received Christ. He prayed that he would be able to tell other men about Jesus when he goes upstate, and that upon his release, God would use him to reach youth.

"I've been thinking about marriage," he told me. "My girlfriend is in jail, but will be out soon. She is already a Christian. What do you think about us getting married right away?"

"Marriage is hard enough as it is," I told him. "I'd encourage you to wait until you're both out of jail. It'll give both of you time to grow individually in the Lord, and you'll be together when you start your new life as a couple."

"That's what I was thinking," he said.

Pray that these two will grow strong in the Lord, and that their relationship would progress in God's way and in God's time. Pray that they would cling to Jesus and be used to further His Kingdom.

Thursday, November 16, 2006


"Mike" will be out of jail in just a few days. Dave has been in contact with him for months now. Mike was a strong member of a Life Transformation Group. There may be an opportunity for him to live in a halfway house near where the church building is located.

He and his girlfriend want to go to church together when he gets out. We have opened our doors to them. Pray that Mike and his girlfriend would get connected in a local church. If not the church I pastor, then some other church where they can grow in the Lord.

Long hiatus

It's been so long even I thought I had died. Actually, I was in Mali, West Africa on a mission trip for a couple of weeks at the end of last month. Before that, I didn't really get into the jails at all. I was focused on preparing for the trip. It was an amazing time. I definitely want to go back. I really saw the Lord move in people's lives. Many came to Christ, and many were healed of various conditions.

I so want to see the Lord move in power in the U.S.—and particularly here in Rochester—as I saw Him work in Mali. I think sometimes it's easier for me to have more faith in God's supernatural power in another country, than in the U.S. In many ways, it seems like unbelief is rampant in America. We think we don't need God. "We are rich, we have prospered, and we don't have need of anything." But we don't realized we are wretched, poor, blind and naked.

"God, we so need the power of Your Spirit in the Church in the U.S. Forgive us of our unbelief, pride, and independence. Have mercy on us! Give us child-like faith! Start with me, Lord! Deliver us from lukewarmness. You have given us so many resources, and You require that we use them for Your Kingdom. So many of our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world suffer for their faith, while we enjoy 'freedom of religion.' Yet, theirs is a faith more precious than gold refined by the fire. Father, revive and bring back to life the Church in the U.S. give us a renewed passion for Your Kingdom and for preaching the Good News. Empower us to proclaim Your Word with great boldness. Stretch out Your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders in the name of Jesus, Your Son. Amen."