Are You Convinced?
“…because I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.” -2 Timothy 1:12
WHEN I THINK of Zechariah and Elizabeth in the Bible, I think of my friends Mike and Terica Williams. Mike and Terica are being used by God to make an impact in the lives of kids in the Dominican Republic. Their work, like the work of Zechariah and Elizabeth, is paving the way for kids to encounter the hope of Jesus.
Mike traveled the country for years doing comedy, making people laugh even while he was pointing them to God. Everyone loved Mike and his humor, and he was making a good living doing it. Then, one day, God asked him to ignore the applause and step out in Crazy Faith. This is his story.
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FOG HOVERS eerily low over the surface of the dark, mysterious river. The natives call it the River of Blood because of the lives that have been taken into its depths and never allowed to return. It could be the crocodiles, or it could be the piranhas. It could be the anacondas that call this ebb and flow their home. The missionaries see this river as the gospel hi-way. Unfortunately, the gospel has yet to reach it all. There is much danger here. The grandsons of the headhunters, uncivilized, continue to commit brazen attacks.
I sit on the bank, worried about a small cut on my ankle. Will the piranhas really go into a frenzy if I have to step into the river? I keep reminding myself that I am divinely protected, for I am on a mission for God. But then again, I read the Jim Elliot story, and I watched the movie, The Edge of the Spear. Neither ended well, and I think Jim Elliot was a more spiritually devout man than I.
I kind of wish the words above were my story. It may be what you want to hear when you are reading about a missionary. I feel like a sluggard. My first mission adventure involved an American Airlines jet, and I paid the additional ninety dollars for an upgrade to first class.
My God-call came when a friend of mine was going to visit a mission his father and mother had started in Haiti. He would only be there for a few days.
“Hey Mike, do you wanna ride shotgun on a sugar cane wagon?” he asked.
It sounded like fun. I love to ride shotgun. I had never been on a sugar cane wagon. I had never been to the third world before, unless you consider West Virginia the third world. I replied, “Let’s go!”
In Haiti, we visited the poorest villages I have ever seen. We played music for the locals on our guitars and they played for us. We prayed for the sick. We fed the hungry. We touched the hurting. Driving out at the end of that week, I cried as I waved goodbye to the miles of hungry eyes waving back at me. Hopelessness had a home; it was on the Island of Hispaniola, ninety air-minutes off the southern tip of Florida. As we drove, I thought to myself that I would prefer noto return to this place again. I would give money to help, but I never wanted to see it, smell it, touch it, or taste it again. This is too close. Nevertheless, God had other plans.
I was never able to get that trip out of my mind. Trust me, I tried. Why would God want me there? I would not make a good missionary. I’m a comedian. My spiritual gift is sarcasm. I am well versed to stand up in front of crowds and make them laugh for ninety minutes and go home. I don’t think I can help people laugh their hunger away. If laughter could quench hunger, I would not be fat. And—another reason I asked why God would want me there—I was making a real nice living telling these jokes.
For a while, I quenched the call by raising a lot of money for that mission. I convinced myself that was best of both worlds. However, the yearning inside kept pulling me to a boots-on-the-ground posi- tion. Elizabeth Elliot said, “Patience in God is this: Not having any agenda of my own, no deadlines, no demands on what God must do. But simply having open hands and open hearts, ready to receive what God would choose, and a perfect confidence that what He chooses will be better than my best.” I have come to learn that God does not need my money, nor does he need my boots on the ground. But I need to be doing what He wants me to do when He wants me to do it.
It was but a few months later that my wife and I put our house on the market, had a big garage sale, packed our bags, and moved to the Island of Hispaniola. Hispaniola is the island that contains two coun- tries. One third is Haiti, the poorest country in the eastern hemi- sphere, and two-thirds is the Dominican Republic, the most human- trafficked country in the eastern hemisphere. Both are considered among the most corrupt governments in the free world. So it seemed like a great idea to raise our four children there. Um … not at all. But when God calls you to go anywhere—across the world or across the street—you have a choice. What will you do? Let’s be honest. Safety anywhere is really just a dream. If you don’t believe me, please watch the news tonight.
Looking years back now, I still remember the day we landed at that little airport with twelve suitcases, six backpacks, and a guitar. We had no financial support. We were following a New Testament style of mission funding made popular by the apostle Paul called tent-making. Paul, to support his mission work, would make tents and sell them. I have no idea how big they were. Maybe they were pup tents, family tents, or circus tents, for that matter. I don’t know. I do know that he was willing to put in his own sweat equity to do what God had called him to do. We had chosen to do the same. Using the time many missionaries would come home on furlough, I would choose to come home and tell jokes to raise our needed support. God willing?
We had little idea of what God wanted us to accomplish. Had we known the large scale of His plan, I would have most likely chickened out. My visions are usually much smaller than His designs. I build birdhouses. God creates trees and then forests. Today we find ourselves operating a mission that serves hundreds of people. We serve a very poor, rural mountain-top area where the children are the targets of sex traffickers. We are trying to rescue a whole lot of girls from certain destruction.
Among the poor there is a tragic fairy tale. The story tells of the young teenage girl who goes to town and meets a foreign man. She pleases him in every way he asks. He comes to visit her again and again. One day this foreign man takes her back to America or Germany or Spain, and the girl lives happily ever after in a big, fancy house. Now because she is rich, she can send money back to her very poor family and her brothers and sisters can have a better life. How tragic is this lie? How many young girls follow the tragic fairy tale and end up the discards of the perverts that visit our shores? Our mission programs empower young girls to make choices for success that don’t include selling themselves.
We also have the joy of bringing relief to the Haitian refugees living in the dump. These poorest of the poor lost their homes during an earthquake. Now they live in squalor. What can a Jesus follower do? Through the small gifts of people in the United States, we areable to continue an ongoing feeding ministry program bringing hot soup, peanut butter sandwiches, and cold, clean water to those people. It has been our joy to serve these dear humble people, as many of them call Jesus Christ their Savior and Lord.
God has allowed us to build houses and build bridges. We have been able to touch the lives of deaf children and bring glasses to those whose eyes were becoming blind in old age. We have helped start businesses for widows and install roofs for families. We have been able to join God on some of the greatest adventures you could imagine.
Sure there have been hurts along the way. Some days we weep. I can tell you of the thirteen-year-old girl whose mother has been selling her to a neighbor since she was eight years old. How did this slip past us? Now she is pregnant, and the school doesn’t allow preg- nant girls to attend. What do I say to her? We hold her hand and promise to be there from now on.
I think of Wendis, who is sixteen. An old padlock secures her three-year-old child behind that wooden door of their single-room shack as Wendis heads out to find someone who will buy her for enough food to feed her and her child. You can look the other way when you don’t know their name, but when you know their name, it’s not so easy. She brings her little boy to our Bible programs. Wendis sits with the children and tries to live the childhood she never received.
There are days that the work seems so big and brings us to tears, but we get up the next morning ready to charge the gates of hell again. Why? Because we have chosen to join God in making a differ- ence, not just making a statement.
The Crossover Cups Mission is not an isolated case. There are people all around the world who have been so crazy in their faith in Jesus to follow Him wherever He would lead. I want to encourage you to follow the calling God has placed on your life. I want to read your God-story in a book someday.
The words of the old missionary C.T. Studd speak to me today.
“Some wish to live within the should-of church or chapel bell, I want to run a rescue ship within a yard of hell.”
COME SEE first-hand what the team is doing in the Dominican. The Crossover Cups Mission lives serving the poorest of the poor day in and day out. Young girls are being rescued every day; many are coming to know Jesus. It’s that kind of crazy faith.
To join us on a trip, go to www.cupsmission.com