Still Carrying the Torch in Liberia

I thought I would share a very encouraging letter I received from one of the men whom I was able to train over the six months we spent in the jungles of Liberia, West Africa. The brother is Cyrus Smith. He receives no regular funding but he remains faithful. This letter and accompanying picture will allow you to see what the Lord has used this godly man to accomplish. Please read and remember to keep this brother in prayer.

By way of further explanation, when God called this man to ministry, he was the town chief of one of the jungle villages. It was a position that provided income and a good status. When we moved into town for my health, he resigned everything to join us for continued nightly teaching. The Lord continues to bless this man for his faithfulness.

PS – I will add appropriate comments as necessary.

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Hello father and mother in Christ, (a term of honor towards Violet and I)

I am very encouraged about the work in Dentaa and Beletanah. God is really blessing this work.Now I have about 40 to 50 people who have put their faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. They are studying with me now and God himself has chosen a place for this work to get started before it can expand in other village. The village is Dentaa.

(Dentaa and Beletanah were the next villages we had targeted to begin a new work after starting the two missions in the villages of Foloblai and Tamayta. The Lord gave Cyrus a real burden to go here and begin the work as a missionary church planter out of the two works we began.)

This happen because the numbers of people from Dentaa are many so, I decided to move in along with the few people from Beletanah there. The people are encouraged. My wife, Orpah, takes care of the children class but in this picture she was not with me because of her pregnant condition. The distant from Beletanah to Dentaa is about 30 minutes walk. We meet on every Wednesday evening, Saturday evening and Sunday morning for Bible study.

(This is a true sign of those who are interested in God’s Word. They will have a hunger to learn and to be taught the truth of Scripture. This is true whether in Liberia, England, or America.)

The elders of Dentaa have given us (2) acres of land on the car road that is leading in this village. It is a good place and I thank God for that. I have not introduced offering business in this ministry until baptism can be done but I need your advice. I thank God for the motorcycle as it makes the work effective.

(The only “church” that has been in this area is Roman Catholic. This brother recognizes from the Word of God that Catholicism is based on heresy from the teaching we were able to do with him. The elders giving up land for free is a very encouraging sign that the church has been recognized as being a permanent establishment in the community. To gain 2 acres right on the main road is an amazing blessing!)

My studies with the Bible school is coming on fine and I know God is in control. I am working with David Quinah in the Bible school matter in a possible way that this ministry B.I.C.M. (Bible Institute of Church Ministries) should grow.

(This is the Bible Institute we were able to establish while in Liberia. Each month they train 30-40 pastors and church leaders in the truth of Scripture. For the last fourteen months since we left, these men have continued with no promises of support. Many of them walk from 3 hours to 1 day away in order to gain training not otherwise available.)

Please extend my greeting to your family and the church, I miss you a lot. I am adding a picture of some of the people in the new church from Dentaa and Beletanah.

In Christian love and grace.

Cyrus Smith
Church in Liberia

Passing the Baton – The Jungle Missionary

Dear DefCon Friends,

First, thank you ever so much for your prayers and all the letters of encouragement we have received in light of our revised plans due to my on-going health issues. This has been a very hard trial, and although it is not yet over, we continue to trust our Sovereign Lord that His purposes are always right for His children.

Second, I would like the majority of this email update to focus on what has transpired recently in the two villages where we have been able to start two new mission works a few months ago.

The three main men I have been training came to visit me this last week. It was a wonderful time focused on the Lord Jesus Christ and our hope for the future being in the One Who holds tomorrow in His hands. While they are all sorely disappointed that we have to leave already, they have risen well to the challenges of moving forward.

I shared with them about the Olympic Games and one of the races that always amazes me – the men’s 4×100 relay race, where they have to pass the baton from one to the next. The first man, the lead, starts and runs his hardest, at a certain point, the second man begins his run and without looking back has to trust that the man behind him will accurately place the baton in his hands and continue running to where the third man waits, then to the 4th man, who takes the baton and runs for all he is worth to reach the finish line. The question I posed to them was this, “Who won the race?” They thought about this for a few moments and then Augustus replied, “ALL of them won for they could not have completed the race if each had not done their part!”

This is the way I feel. While I have not been able to be a marathon runner here, I believe I have been faithful to run my part so far of the 4×100 race. I have had to pass the baton to these men who are continuing to run the race, even though they will not see me for awhile, if ever again. In the end though, the race and the subsequent victory is not really ours, but the Lord’s. These men may not even see the finish line, but may have to pass the baton to another to keep running with patience.

In light of these and other comments, they came to me after a time of prayer and shared with me plans they have been making. It is so encouraging to know that the training continues and they are willing to take baby steps. You want to be there, to hold their hands, and to continue picking them up, but sometimes you just have to let go and watch God do His perfect work in their hearts and minds. Their plan, unbeknownst to me til this last week is for Cyrus (the 3rd man I have been training) to move to another nearby village that needs its very first Bible-believing work called Beletana. He has a sister who owns a home there that he and his family are going to be able to live in and he is going to start in September the process of evangelizing in this village and another called Danda. As things progress, he will begin a Bible study which will essentially be a mission work out of the works in Foloblai and Tamayta!!

Regarding the works in Foloblai and Tamayta, the two leaders, Augustus and George indicated that as they are so close (about 30-35 minutes walking time), they are going to pose to the people that they join forces in the work until they are large enough to have a separate work in both villages! I encouraged them in this decision and we spent time in prayer that the Lord would continue to grant them wisdom. This will allow them to work more closely together and will be able to serve all the people hand-in-hand. It will provide some stability, they can encourage each other, help to hold each other accountable, etc. Next month by the end of September, they will be moving their families out of their home village into these new ones. Please pray with us that they will be able to work through the transition smoothly. The works are moving steadily along but not without difficulties. These two village works are not liked by the liberal establishment there and those who think they can call themselves Christian yet live a debauched and debased life the rest of the week. Drunkenness and sexual activities are very much commonplace. Pray that these new Christians will have courage to stay away from the things which strive daily to capture their attention.

Just as with the 4×100 relay race, the first man in line cannot worry about doing the job of the next men in line, but can only focus on his own part. The reality is that I am not really the lead man though, for before I came, there were others who paved the way. You have each held the ropes and have been running your part of the relay. Long after we are gone, there will be others who will be called to run the race that is set before us. May we each though keep looking to the Author and Finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross.

Thank you again. It seems like a small thing to say, but we could not have made it without your prayers, and these men will not be able to make it without more prayer. We will be continuing to provide some financial support for them to help with certain aspects of living expenses as the Lord provides, until the works are able to sustain themselves.

My wife and I have spent the last 1 1/2 years including our pre-field ministry learning to live by faith and trusting the Lord will provide without posting our actual financial needs. We believe the Lord has honored our commitment to Him through this and has helped us to show by example to these pastors-in-training that God can, does, and will provide. As David said, he has never seen the righteous forsaken or their seed begging bread. Truly, the Lord is sovereign even when His ways and purposes are unknown. He makes no mistakes.

As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to contact us. We will be departing from Liberia on Sunday, September 9, back to the USA where we will be spending the next 2-3 months just trying to recuperate and allow my body to heal. I am still fighting the effects of having had two very serious cases of typhoid and malaria (two times each) that have hit me over the last two months. Unfortunately, the typhoid is not responding well to the heavy antibiotics that I have been on for the entire two months. We appreciate your continued prayers for the work here as well as whatever direction the Lord has for us.

Reluctantly Passing the Baton,

Mark – The Jungle Missionary

Letter from a Recent West African Convert

Dear Friends,

I would like to share a very special letter that I received this past Sunday. By brief word of explanation, this came from a young man around 28 years old who was recently converted out of Is1am. His entire family, with the exception of one brother, all remain Mus1ims at this time.

Because of the war and the education system here in Liberia, people can actually take several years to get through high school. Many are in their 20’s and 30’s before they can afford to complete and gain their high school diploma.

Because of the sensitivity of those who minister in predominatly Is1amic areas, we will refrain from using his name. This young man is growing every week in his understanding of the Scriptures and is…well, I’ll let you read his letter to me which I have transposed just as he wrote it.

Thanks for praying.

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Dear Borther Mark,

How are you doing: hope all is Well with you and your family.

You may not understand why I writting you this letter, but if you do not understand, remember me. (He is reminding me who he is again because this was passed to me through one of the other men I am training. This is one aspect of Liberian culture to deal with another through somebody you respect.)

I am using this opportunity to inform you about the hard work you have done for me. I was in darkness, but now am walking in light. Through you my life will improve because of the bible class.

I understand that you want to open bible school in Gbarnga.

I will be going back to school in Gbarnga to complet my high School and I want to be part of this bible school in Gbarnga, because one day I want to become a missionary in my country Sierra Leone.

God bless you.

Signed,

Two Life-Changers!

Each week that passes more than one million people will go out into eternity. The majority will go to their graves unsung and will not be missed by any but their family and closest friends. With these statistics we have a constant reminder of Hebrews 9:27, “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.”

However, this week two men in particular passed away. Each had an impact on the world in different ways and with far-reaching implications. The first man was wealthy by all the world’s standards. He was a genius when it came to designing new products that help our advanced civilizations see their day go smoother. iPad, iTouch, iMac, iBook, iPhone, iTunes, and a number of other i-devices that many would find it difficult to live without.

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs, a man of the world, passed away at what seems like a young age of 56 after a massive struggle with cancer. His inventions and life changed the lives of others in ways not imaginable just 30 years ago, and maybe even less than 20 years ago. There has even been a great outpouring of grief from many in the business world.

We do not demean or seek to belittle the grief that his family is going through, or even the great outpouring of grief from many in the business world. The reality is that Mr. Steve Jobs had an appointment with God that no amount of money or inventions could prevent from taking place. With his death, there are questions that must be asked.

In the light of eternity, what difference did he really make? Did his inventions change lives in a way that brings glory and honor to the Lord Jesus Christ? He changed many people and many businesses but what difference has it really made. With the current advances in technology, the devices designed and invented over the last couple of years will be replaced with something better and newer. Some of them will only be found in museums while others will pass into the dust piles of oblivion. Sadly, the fame and knowledge of Steve Jobs will go the same way as past great business men like Howard Hughes, Lee Iacocca, Eli Whitney, and others who have impacted their world. One day, children will hear of Steve Jobs only in a textbook and wonder what the big deal was about this person.

On another continent though lived another individual who also changed lives. However, as aptly expressed in the words of the poem by Sir Walter Scott, this week he returned “to the vile dust from whence he sprung, unwept, unhonour’d, and unsung.” Compared to the myriads who mourn for Steve Jobs, few will mourn this man’s passing. In fact, outside of his country, this man is unknown. He invented no technology to benefit the advance of his fellow countrymen. It is safe to say that he had never even owned any piece of technology in his entire life besides one simple cell phone. He had no earthly wealth and was able to live on less than $30 (US Dollars) per month for the vast majority of his life. This unsung man concluded his life with not a bank account to his name. His two-room home was made of sun-dried mud bricks and he never had the privilege of owning any form of modern transportation.

Pastor Gbarwee with umbrella

Pastor Gbarwee with umbrella

For almost the same length of time that Steve Jobs was alive, Pastor Gbarwee of the village Mehnla, Nimba County, Liberia, West Africa sought to make a difference in the lives of all he came in contact with. For approximately 50 years, he was the pastor of Mehnla Mid-Baptist Church and for years has had the privilege of telling others of the saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus. The value of his life will never end either here or in the life to come. He may not be long remembered on this earthly vale, but heaven’s hall of fame will long remember one who was a servant of the Most High.

Neither of these men ever met each other, and neither of them even had knowledge of the other. There will be many earthly accolades rendered to Steve Jobs, while few will be given to Pastor Gbarwee. However, on the other side of eternity, a very different scene is taking place. It matters not to God how much money was made or not made. It matters not whether inventions took place or did not take place. What matters is what was done with the Person of Jesus Christ.

For Steve Jobs, the reality is that no matter his position in life, the money he made, the inventions he created, or the lives he impacted, he is still facing the Creator of the Universe. He must now give account for his life. It is claimed that Steve Jobs had converted to Buddhism a few years ago. This means his name is not found written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, and he will now have to find himself spending eternity in hell with no chance of a re-boot.

For Pastor Gbarwee, his faith had long ago been placed in the Saviour. He lived for the One he claimed to love. He preached to his people that Jesus Christ alone is the answer to all that pertains to life and godliness. Unlike those who perish without Christ, the Bible tells us those who remain faithful to the end will receive a crown of righteousness. Instead of judgment which was paid for on the cross, we know from Scripture that we have the privilege of being welcomed into the loving arms of the Saviour. To hear Him say, “Well done, you have been a good and faithful servant!” will be a far greater reward than all the money of this earth could buy. Eternity will long remember those who gave their lives serving the Master.

One man, Steve Jobs, lived well, but did not end well because his faith was not in Christ. The other, Pastor Gbarwee, lived poorly based on earthly standards, but he finished well! What a way to live!

So, we conclude with a few questions to ponder. What kind of legacy do we desire to leave behind? In the light of eternity, what difference will our lives make on the lives of others? Is our headlong rush to eternity tempered by the desire to seek the glory and honor of God in each and every aspect of our lives? Will you choose to live well and leave questions as to how your life ends, or will you live in a way that others will know before Christ that you finished well?

A life-changer for this world, or a life-changer for eternity? Your choice!

Reaching the Remote!

This last Saturday was a major blessing for our family as we had the privilege of meeting a brother and sister in Christ who live in Western Colorado. We met first at a restaurant and then were invited to their home where they unveiled to us a series of devices that will allow us to accomplish one of our long-term goals before we even get to Liberia.

Our goal was to see the New Testament put into audio format for the purpose of providing pastors/church-planters with the Word of God in their heart language. We were not aware that a major project has been made available to those working in the remote areas of the world.

In fact, New Testaments in audio format are available in several of the languages in Liberia on the above pictured device. This little device is solar-powered and on a full-charge can play up to 14 hours. It is simple to operate. I am including a link to Renew Outreach where these devices can be obtained.

The Lord is so good and we thank Him for allowing us to be directed to this 21st technology that will be used to the glory of God. What a blessing to these people who cannot read or pastors who struggle to read that they will be able to share that God’s Word is not just in English. Sometimes we have not because we ask not!

For the cost of a good leather Bible, this Renew Papyrus can put the audio Bible in English and a local Liberian dialect of the New Testament into the hands of nationals. Total cost with shipping is only $70!