Greetings, beloved brethren. I never cease to marvel at the Divine Hand of Providence, knowing that there is a Most High God who "ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will" (Daniel 4:32) and that "all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28). Even what seems completely random or unexpected in terms of deviation from a pre-conveived plan often proves a divine providence that changes lives and can literally alter the course of human history.
In 1806, five Williams College students decided to meet up in a field on the edge of the campus in Williamstown, Massachusetts to discuss a powerful and controversial booklet by William Carey, An Inquiry into the Obligation of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathen (first published in 1792). This treatise exhorted believers concerning the Great Commission and the weight of responsibility of world missions while also rebuking common excuses used by Christians and local churches of the day for not going into all the world. A sudden and dangerous thunderstorm came upon them quickly, and these five were driven to find shelter under a haystack. As they cried out for the Lord's protection amidst the tempest, the focus unexpectedly shifted to a burden for world missions and fervent prayer for lost souls of those who had never heard the Gospel in foreign lands. The prayer then came to a fitting climax with a hymn over the roar of the torrential downpour and young Samuel Mills crying out "We can do this, if we will!" In that moment, something happened in the hearts of these five young men, and all would later point back and affirm the Divine Hand of Providence in that Haystack Prayer Meeting that changed their lives forever. Within four years and as a direct result of that prayer meeting, the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions was born; and in 1812, the ABCFM sent out its first missionaries to India, one of which was Adoniram Judson. What followed was the American Foreign Missionary Movement that ultimately resulted in a harvest of souls and the printing and distribution of the Holy Scriptures in a plethora of foreign languages.
Samuel Mills, the one who asserted above the boom of the thunder that "We can do this, if we will," . . . well, he went on and was used of the Lord to inspire the formation of The United Foreign Missionary Society, the American Baptist Missionary Union, and the American Bible Society.
In 1818, he died at sea while returning from Africa, but not before a legacy of bringing believers of all ages together to partner in missions throughout the world. He was only thirty-five years old when the Lord took him home. Wow, the Divine Hand of Providence! God uses people in the middle of nowhere; those few in number; those with no worldly power, influence, or resources; those who haven't graduated with a seminary degree; and seemingly insignificant events to accomplish His great purposes, gather an abundant harvest, and change the course of human history. "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable arehis judgments, and his ways past finding out" (Romans 11:33)!
a roadside pull-off
Immediately, I am taken back into the recesses of my memory and am reminded of the Divine Hand of Providence concerning a roadside pull-off. It was almost fourteen years ago, and I was pedaling a bicycle across America. After getting slapped with an early snowstorm in Western South Dakota, a series of frustrating events forced us to change latitudes and make the seemingly random choice of resuming the east-to-west quest due south at a spot in the middle of nowhere dubbed No Man's Land and boasting only a roadside pull-off with two welcome signs, one to Oklahoma and another a stone's throw down to New Mexico. It was way out there in the prairie at the far bottom corner of the Oklahoma Panhandle.
At the time, I had no idea how we ended up out there, but several days later, I did pen these words, marveling at God's Providences:
a pizza place parking lot
God encouraged us a few weeks ago amidst trial and tribulation. I took a break from the office, and Jamie took a break from the schoolroom. We went for a four-mile walk. As we turned to cut across the Banoak School parking lot and circle around Lefevers Road, a white van pulled up and someone called my name. It was a young man that gave his heart to Christ in a pizza place parking lot in Hickory, NC back in 2004 after hearing my brother and I preach in the open air. We baptized him back then in the Jacob Fork River. Soon thereafter, his girlfriend (who was mocking us the night we preached in that parking lot) came to the Lord and was baptized in my parents' large jacuzzi tub. I then married the two of them with a simple ceremony at the Cooksville Grill in which this brother shared his testimony. He went into the military after that and has had some difficult times and close calls in Afghanistan and Iraq over the years. Occasionally, I would hear from him and be encouraged by spiritual fruit and his reminders of that day he gave his heart to Christ. I had heard some time ago that he and his wife split up, and I was saddened. But, praise be unto God, they ended up reconciling and are back together. To my surprise, they are now living in the area, and he works for the U.S. Army locally as a recruiter. Man, I hadn't seen this brother in years, and I was shocked that he even recognized us. Most encouraging is the evidence that the repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ professed in that pizza place parking lot more than twelve years ago was genuine and continues to bear fruit. "The foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his" (I Timothy 2:19). And, "My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand" (John 10:29).
I actually found some old video footage from this brother's 2004 baptism on a hot and humid Saturday afternoon in the Jacob Fork River. I can't even remember why we chose to stop and preach in that pizza place parking lot that particular night.
I did get a bit of sad news, however, during this recent reunion. The young man's brother also desired to follow Christ that same night in the parking lot. He called upon the Lord and we baptized him in the Jacob Fork River some time later. A little more than a year ago, I was told, he died in Las Vegas of a heroin overdose. I'm crushed.
Notwithstanding, the Lord is good and was very gracious to send this encouragement our way, especially in light of some recent events that have shellshocked our ministry. Divine Providence, it's actually funny: After this brother and his girlfriend came to the Lord, my brother and I started a Bible study in my RV to help disciple them. It was out of that Bible Study that a biblically-organized local church was born, a church that over the past ten years, has given more than 80% of its offerings to the work of missions around the world. My brother is one of the pastors and, though well-deserved, refuses to this day to take any kind of salary. I marvel, and like Job, place my hand over my mouth.
a church parking lot
I just learned that a dear brother, Charles Knapp, went home to be with the Lord back on December 10th, just a few months shy of his 100th birthday. Back in 2005, when I was pedaling a bicycle from the top of Maine to Key West, FL, the kind folks of Memorial Baptist Church in Williamsport, PA let us park our rig on the property for a few days as I pedaled through the area. One afternoon, as we were sitting outside the RV in this church parking lot, Mr. Knapp just walked up and introduced himself. We talked a bit about the things of the Lord. He asked about our ministry and committed to pray for us. Not long thereafter, we started seeing a support check from him every month, each time accompanied by a kind handwritten note. This continued for years, and I had lunch with him a couple of times if I was passing through Williamsport. He was just a kind, seasoned saint and full of joy, despite losing his wife of 57 years back in 1996. Eventually, Mr. Knapp moved into a rest home, and the support became more sporadic. Yet, sooner or later, a kind handwritten note of encouragement would show up in our P.O. Box with an enclosed check. It was always a blessing. Mr. Knapp's phone number no longer worked, so the occasional letter from us was the only way to keep in touch. Once the replies ceased, we figured the Lord had taken him home. Jamie found an obituary the other day as we were wondering about him. When I think of Mr. Knapp, I am reminded of Jesus' words:
Praise God, this seasoned saint endured until the end and has seen the face of the Blessed Saviour! Had it not been for us lounging in a church parking lot somewhere along an arduous missionary journey, we would have missed out on the privilege of knowing him. And, as I think back, there was some real unexpected trial and tribulation that ultimately resulted in us being in that unforeseen parking lot.
I am humbled by divine providences that have put brothers and sisters in Christ into our paths over years of ministry. I may do a bit of teaching here and there, but it's many of these, like Mr. Knapp, who have actually taught me in the things of the Lord.
an office door
In 2007, I walked down a hallway in a drab Kathmandu building to have tea with a man and talk about Bible translation. I sauntered past by an office door that was propped open, and inside, a young man was furiously typing on a computer. He looked up and greeted me in excellent English. We traded pleasantries, and that was that. After tea with a man that I never ended up partnering with in any meaningful ministry, I passed by that open office door again and felt led of the Lord to speak again to the young brother behind the desk. We talked very briefly about the things of the Lord and I talked about how I was wanting to start going out into the Kathmandu streets to distribute Gospel tracts and preach more openly. I hesitantly invited him to join me, and we traded telephone numbers. His name was Bishnu Kumar Shrestha, and we have since partnered together all over the world in many adventures for the Word of God and the Testimony of Jesus. Praise God for the divine providence of an office door that I would have shut had I been that busy with translation work. Instead, it was propped open, and the course of my life changed forever.
I found this old photo from one of the first times I went out to the streets in Kathmandu with Bishnu (April 7, 2007) Here, he preaches his first open-air sermon and has lifted up his voice like a trumpet many, many times since.
I actually remember April 7, 2007 well. I had a pocket-sized calf-leather-bound King James New Testament given to me by my late grandmother. I treasured it and carried it with me. That day, I preached to a good crowd, lifting that little New Testament up into the air as the name of Jesus was declared in the local language. With that Bible aloft, I announced that we would like to freely distribute Nepali Bibles to those interested. Suddenly, we were mobbed by people desperate for a copy. It was like ravening wolves as the boxes were emptied and people pushed and shoved to get their hands on a Bible. In the melee, that little leather New Testament got taken right out of my hand, and I never saw it again. The lessons of divine providence taught me not to fret. The Lord had a plan and a purpose for that sentimental Bible in the life of someone else.
The Divine Hand of Providence is amazing. Now, it's ten years later, and what began with an office door propped open now involves regular reports like this one I just received from Brother Bishnu on the field:
Dear Praying friends and families,
Greetings from the Himalaya in the Name of its Maker!
"The hand of the LORD was upon me, and carried me out in the spirit of the LORD, and set me down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones, And caused me to pass by them round about: and, behold, there were very many in the open valley; and, lo, they were very dry. And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord GOD, thou knowest. Again he said unto me, Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. Thus saith the Lord GOD unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live: And I will lay sinews upon you, and will bring up flesh upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and ye shall live; and ye shall know that I am the LORD. So I prophesied as I was commanded . . ." (Ezekiel 37:1-7)
Praise God for His mercy and for His Word. And, thank you very much for your prayers. In answer, God kept us on the mountainous dirt road and gave us a wonderful time of preaching amongst dry bones.
It rained the whole night in Kathmandu just before we left. I woke up many times that night praying for the next day's outreach because we would have to drive up into the mountains and the rain could have rendered the roads impassable. In faith, we left Kathmandu with blankets only as the Gospel literature was already sent ahead. Our children took care of the store for us that day. We rejoiced to see God's Hand of Providence control the rain in the Sindhupalchowk area. It was muddy only until we reached the mountainous road. As soon as we started to climb with four wheel drive, we found that the dirt was dry. It did not rain there, and God opened a door for us to reach those villages. Praise God for that. We met the local pastor after we reached Jyamiremane and rejoiced to know that five people are attending the church as a result of our former outreach there.
We went to another village this time and invited 108 families to come out to the graveyard. There was a cemetery near the village that had recently been leveled. But, one can still see the tombstones piled up. It was a great experience to preach to those villagers in the graveyard. One elderly man thanked God for saving him from the earthquake two years ago and for being able to listen to the Gospel message from us now. The villagers were so thankful for the blankets also. They were cursing the political leaders who disappeared after the earthquake when there were huge needs and who are now coming to them asking for votes. But, they really appreciated our life-giving message of the Gospel and the warm blankets which they still need upon those mountains. Please pray with us that the Father draws these precious souls to Himself through the ministry of the Holy Spirit and through His Written Word. What a privilege to serve the Almighty at the ends of the earth!
Please keep praying for us as we continue to reach the unreached. We are praying to do the same kind of programs after November this year and reach the poorest ones on the mountains and also in the plains. The Gospel will keep going out. Praise God. Thank you very much for your continuous prayers and support. Please keep praying for us so that we can say like Ezekiel, "So I prophesied as I was commanded."
Serving the Savior, Brother Bishnu
Here are a few slides from the outreach described above:
seeking jews, finding gentiles
The weekend before last, I had the privilege of speaking at Living Word Baptist Church in Creedmoor, NC, the local body that first sent Jamie and me to the foreign mission in 1999. A brother (who had labored with me in Nepal back in March) and his family accompanied me and my family. Enroute, we decided to stop at a couple of malls in Greensboro and Durham to see if we could find any Israeli kiosk workers selling Dead Sea products. I carried a backpack with Hebrew Bibles and New Testaments, but we found no one to whom we could bestow these gifts. We went seeking Jews with whom we could share about Messiah, but God's Providence put unlikely Gentiles into our path. The Messiah was instead shared with a man who just experienced eye surgery, a young lady from Bulgaria, and a Muslim from West Africa named Yunis. Please pray for him. He is steeped in Islam and without any real hope. He heard the truth and listened, but has fallen for the lies of the imams, lies that go even against the plain reading, in places, of the Quran. He agreed that we worship different Gods, that the god of the Quran is not the God of the Bible. He also agreed that he is on his way to hell with no escape unless God chooses to be merciful. We explained that Jesus Christ is the mercy of God, but he replied that he cannot accept this. He was a polite and humble man though, and we talked for more than an hour. Please pray that he reads the Gospel tract I left with him. None of this was an accident.
Later that day, as we hurried to make a run though South Point Mall in Durham before it closed, we did meet a young man from Israel. He took a Hebrew/English Tanakh and a Hebrew tract as we gave testimony concerning how our ancestors worshipped idols, but now we follow the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Daniel offered him a Hebrew New Testament, but he said he couldn't take it. That's ok, the Hebrew Bible he gladly received is what Jesus and the Apostles preached; and the law, the prophets, and the psalms all declare loudly that Jesus Christ is the Messiah (Luke 24:44). Please pray that Elad's eyes are opened. The girl working with him was also Jewish and she too heard truth about the Jewish Messiah who came once and is coming again. It was also a joy to watch out daughters offer tracts to people with no fear. Ah, the mind and heart of a child. Ah, divine providences.
The next morning, I preached a message entitled The Living Word, the Written Word from Luke 24. It's a good prelude to two important messages about improperly and properly wielding God's Word that I pulled out of the vault and just published to fpgm's Local Church Teachings Podcast. It's not enough to read your Bible, you have give it due preeminence and wield it properly. I encourage you to listen to these messages and grasp God's Word a little tighter against your chest in these dark and troublesome times. The days are dark, yes, but in such troubled times, the Divine Hand of Providence often shines all the more bright.
team yeshua lite
Please pray for FPGM as we will soon be returning to South America. My oldest daughter and I will be accompanied by a team of three young people, each having served with us previously in one of our Team Yeshua groups. We are dubbing this Team Yeshua Lite. The majority of our time will be spent in Peru seeking out Israeli backpackers, and on the front and back end of this journey, Lord willing, we will be doing some mall distributions to Israeli kiosk workers between North Carolina and Florida. Even now, I am looking for housing in Huaraz. Please pray that the Lord provides. Praise God, something has already been offered in Lima. I am also assimilating all of the Hebrew, Spanish, and English materials that we will need to carry with us. We will be leaving on June 20th and returning, Lord willing, on August 3rd. Your prayers that the Lord will bring everything together and supply the needs and support for such a journey "to the Jew first, and also to the Greek" (Romans 1:16) are much appreciated.
I haven't been to Peru since 2014. Back then, we met a lot of Israelis on the Huayhuash Trek and in Huaraz. Many Jews and Gentiles heard the Gospel. Lord willing, we will again be circumnavigating the Cordillera de Huayhuash and spending time on the streets of Huaraz. Here are some videos that trek in 2014. I will be happy if we can just go back and "do the first works" (Revelation 2:5):
we could use your help
Over the years, we have made it a practice to trust the Lord for His provision, to labor FREELY as He provides, and to follow His call to go FIRST instead of waiting for a specific amount of support to be raised. Moreover, our custom is to focus primarily on the testimony of what God has done and what He is doing as opposed to fundraising. When FPGM was founded in 2004, we established these bylaws in the area of finances and have purposed to live by them:
So that we may remain faithful to these convictions and continue to sow in the lives and ministries of Team Yeshua; national partners like Bishnu and Gulzar in South Asia; and the printing and distribution work of Project Jagerna; it behooves me from time to time to make some needs known so that you all can join us in praying for and seeking the Lord’s provision.
Recently, FPGM has lost some sources of committed monthly support and that without even the courtesy of notification or explanation (I'll never understand this). Never in the history of FPGM has our committed monthly support exceeded our monthly operating budget, and we have always relied upon God's provision through special and unexpected gifts to continue the work. We could certainly use your help in obedience to the Lord.
If you believe this is a ministry you can support with more than your prayers, or if you already support FPGM on a monthly basis and feel you can increase that faithfulness, even if but a little, there are needs. Our record is one of sowing into the work of the Gospel with simplicity and good stewardship. Some of the fruit of this can be seen in the videos linked above. All we want to do is continue what you have seen and heard these past thirteen years, so please pray that the Lord will provide. For more information on how you can help, visit this link: http://fpgm.org/donate/.
My brethren, forget not the biblical injunction:
In the meantime, nothing is on hold, and the work does not pause; Full Proof Gospel Ministries goes forward in faith, trusting God to provide in ways that we cannot even comprehend. Now, if you will excuse me, I have to go look at some plane tickets for Lima, Peru . . . but wait, not before leaving you with an old song by Michael W. Smith that emphasizes the primary point of this post, the marvel of divine providences.
For the Word of God & the Testimony of Jesus Christ at the Ends of the Earth,
Jesse Boyd, President
Full Proof Gospel Ministries