This January, I got to watch God move again in a way that brings so much joy to this pastor’s heart. I was on the dusty, noisy street on the edge of a slum in Nairobi, Kenya, with two Kenyans who served as our translators and two church members from Immanuel in Benton, Brad and Judy. They are a husband and wife in their 60s.
It was our first day to share the gospel in Kenya. This was Judy’s first international mission trip and it was evident she was nervous and scared. Judy had prepared, she had prayed, but this was totally out of her element.
I had just modeled how to share the gospel with a group of two or three people. Brad, who is never shy to speak to anyone, shared as well. Now, it was Judy’s turn to share the message that had changed her life.
The translators found two men and a young woman who would like to hear the message these Americans had traveled so far to share. Though Judy was nervous, God spoke powerfully and eloquently through her.
Judy told the story of Nicodemus and shared the gospel using her five fingers to demonstrate coming to faith in Christ. The young woman who was listening attentively was convicted and got saved. I wish you could have seen the joy in that young lady and in Judy. Over the next several days, Judy’s confidence in sharing the gospel grew, her courage grew, her joy grew, and close to 50 people were saved through her faithful witness.
I love leading our church to answer God’s call to go to the nations. Not only have we seen God move powerfully in Africa, he has worked in our own hearts. Take Brenda, who openly confessed that she didn’t want to go on a mission trip, but felt God wanted her to go. After sharing the gospel in Africa, Brenda is much bolder in her witness back home.
Take Don, who is legally blind. After multiple trips to Africa, Don and his wife have become some of our most faithful members to share the gospel with their neighbors. And the stories of how God has given our members a heart for the gospel through international missions go on and on with Clayce, Derrick, Carolyn, Shawn, and so many more.
Several months after returning from Africa, our worship pastor, John, had surgery that involved anesthesia. The gospel was so implanted in his heart from traveling overseas that as he was coming out of anesthesia, he was trying to share the Romans Road with the nurse watching over him. I love that!
Twenty years ago, I was convicted by God’s word that a follower of Jesus cares about taking the gospel to the nations. However, it was another four years before the timing was right to take my first overseas trip. Before going overseas, I was more focused on church growth than kingdom growth. Leading mission trips overseas helps me to stay focused on a greater kingdom and a greater vision than just our community.
Seeing our translator come to Christ, working with a former gang leader who is now a passionate church planter in his community, and seeing Muslims come to Christ—it changed me. I love seeing God at work in unmanipulated and unplanned ways. Going on mission revives my heart. It reminds me of the power of the simple gospel. And it helps me share with greater fervency when I return back home—and preach with greater passion too. It’s good for my soul to follow God’s call to share the gospel with the nations.
A global pandemic has changed much of our mission plans for 2020, but I hope to be able to lead another team back to Africa in 2021. In the meantime, we can be serious about praying for the nations, giving sacrificially to missions, and planning our next mission trip so others can hear the gospel.
Who knows what God will do with our obedience?
Sammy Simmons is pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Benton, and is serving as president of IBSA.