December 2015: When You Have Done All You Can, STAND
Far Reaching Ministries (FRM) is responding to the Lord’s call to help the persecuted believers globally. For security reasons, I am unable to disclose to you the two new countries where we will be working. I can only emphasize we will be operating in countries that offer danger beyond what most can imagine – countries where Christians are targeted by Islamic extremists.
I was traveling through Europe a couple of years ago to meet a friend and missionary who I had worked with many years ago. She is European and had been involved in smuggling Bibles into closed countries. This woman and her husband have become dear friends of mine and co-laborers in ministry. She traveled on teams with me to many countries, showing the Jesus film and preaching the Gospel. While she is small in stature, what caught my attention was that she out-worked every man on our team, including six foot five former athletes. Through our mutual love for reaching the lost, we have kept in touch all these years.
Once, while I was traveling overseas, going from prison to prison, I came down with a severe cold. Every time I swallowed, it felt as though I was chewing on glass. The pain became so severe that I went out into the dead of winter looking for throat lozenges. I searched for two hours, but found nothing and returned in a worse condition. I ended up having to fly to Europe to stay with my friend and her husband, where they nursed me back to health. It was during this time that I found out her husband really loved American peanut butter. In the country where they lived, it was not available. I had a friend who worked for a food bank and generously allowed me to take whatever I needed for ministry. They always had thousands of jars of peanut butter. They had so much that they could not use it all, so I filled up three boxes with 70 pounds of peanut butter each, and delivered it to him on my next trip overseas. Needless to say, we became good friends!
While visiting a while back, we spoke of supporting missionaries in Asian countries, but then the Middle East exploded with ISIS and the persecution of Christians. The Lord clearly spoke to me that we were to get involved in helping our Christian brothers in the Middle East. My missionary friend would contact me from time-to-time about different projects that we might co-labor in. I told her that I had not forgotten about our conversations, but that I was just busy with what was going on in the Middle East and Sudan.
When I returned from my last trip to Sudan, I had a virus that was incubating in my body—hepatitis A. Over the years, I have had malaria 30 times, typhoid fever five times, food poisoning a couple times, but for me, this was a first. If you are unfamiliar with hepatitis A, it comes from fecal matter that contaminates your food or water supply.
While hepatitis A is not really deadly, it is like being hit by a train! I was in bed for three weeks and dropped 16 pounds in 16 days. My eyes and skin turned completely yellow. I had to be taken to get IV fluids twice, because I could not even keep water down. It was a total of eight weeks before I began to feel anything that resembled normal. I was only able to spend one full day in the office during this time.
The Lord used this illness to speak to my heart. I read through Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s book and the Scriptures. I felt as though I was just too weak to fight. The scripture that kept coming to my mind was Ephesians 6:13, “…when you have done all you can, stand.” I meditated on this for weeks, wondering what the Lord was trying to say to me and what He was requiring.
Then, Ray and Vicki Bentley from Maranatha Chapel called about doing something to help the persecuted believers in the Middle East. One Friday afternoon, I returned Ray’s call and I asked if he wanted me to come to Maranatha on Sunday and share the need of the persecuted church for about seven minutes. Ray quickly accepted.
When I arrived at the church, it was all I could do to get up and share for even seven minutes at each service. Then, as Ray taught and finished the service, I would go lay down in my car, only to return to man the tables as people came to give toward this work. Between the three services, I was on the stage for 21 minutes and spent about 45 minutes after the services at the tables—a total of one hour and six minutes. The next day, I was forced to spend the entire day resting from sheer fatigue. Yet, for that one hour and six minutes, we raised $93,000 to send in aid for the persecuted church. All I could do was manage the one hour and six minutes of standing, but the Lord moved and the Body of Christ came through in a spectacular way.
A week later, I was up at 4 a.m. praying, when the Lord spoke to me and told me to call my missionary friend from Europe. I told her what God had done for the Middle Eastern believers and how the Lord was teaching me to stand. She shared with me about two new countries they were operating in, but how they had no resources to help the underground pastors. The persecution these pastors are facing is extreme. One of the countries has about 200 men serving in the underground church, the other she was unsure of the number. All are working covertly, because if found out, they would be tortured and killed. All these men are struggling because they work regular jobs that pay so little and they pastor in their spare time.
My missionary friend told me about one European Christian brother who had been active in these countries for years. He had contacted her just that week and asked about the American who offered to help a couple years ago, wondering if I would help in this critical situation. She told him, “When the time is right, I believe the Lord will have Wes call me.” My friend said, with a smile I could hear, “And, here you are!” I asked how much it would cost to support these men and she said that for $200 a month these pastors can serve full-time. I took a moment to send up a prayer to the Lord and His response was, “The gates of hell will not prevail”. So I replied that we would take them all. Even though I was not able to make it to the office, the Lord was still directing.
Ghost Operations at FRM is expanding as we are taking on more pastors in closed countries. We are working with a network of devoted believers that have counted the cost and accepted the ever-present risk of being captured and martyred. Recently, we found out that three of the underground believers, who we were supposed to be receiving information on to support, were caught by ISIS and killed before we could help them. While our brothers and sisters have been crucified, beheaded and raped, it has been difficult for me to see the lack of concern from many churches in the U.S. Many have done nothing to help, as we have watched on TV for over two years the persecution of believers in Islamic nations. How will we ever explain to the Lord on the Day of Judgment our lack of concern? I have no idea.
My point is, if you feel beat up, tired from the trials of life and feel as if you have nothing else to give, just ask the Lord for the next step. It is through obedience that we become more than conquers through Jesus Christ, the Author and Finisher of our faith. You see, by just standing during this time of illness the Lord opened up two new fronts against the enemy. We are on the offensive to destroy the kingdom of hell in men’s hearts.
Along with the $93,000 from the Body of Christ at Maranatha Chapel, we, with our generous donors, have raised over a half million dollars to aid our Christian family in the Middle East.
Far Reaching Ministries