Newsletter – 1998
A single decision changed our lives. When it was announced that the Olympics were coming to Atlanta, we immediately began to pray for an opportunity to share during that time. Two years later, after much prayer and effort, we were accepted to share at the Olympics, working with a group that had a good reputation for ministry. We were thrilled, but very soon our enthusiasm turned to discouragement.
The group that we had chosen asked us to limit our program to songs and skits that did not present the Gospel. All we could see was compromise and wasted effort. Finally, when it became clear that they would not change their position, we withdrew. The Olympics were now two months away and the rules required that we work with an approved group. With only 40 days before the start of the games, God opened a door for us to share.
Our assignment placed us at the Athens venue where we met a dear Irish missionary named John Moxen. After watching a show, he invited us to come to Northern Ireland, explaining that he had been praying for ten years for a puppet team to train Irish Christians in this type of ministry. What followed was a great spiritual adventure that would have never happened if we had let our fears rule our decisions. If we had stayed with the first group, they would have placed us in Atlanta, not Athens.
For three weeks this summer, we shared in Northern Ireland working with Project Evangelism at Murlough House. It was an incredible opportunity to share the peace of Jesus Christ in a land that knows no peace. From the very start of the trip, we saw God’s providence. The airline lost one of our 16 suitcases for three days, but providentially it was the only one that did not have necessary equipment in it.
So many doors opened to us while we were there. On the streets and in schools and churches, we shared the new life that Jesus gives. One afternoon, we presented the promises of God to a group of mentally handicapped children. Later, the puppet dramas were professionally video taped and are now being for used all over the United Kingdom. We shared in many public schools, including 4 shows at an integrated school (that means Protestants and Catholics attend). The teachers unanimously voted to ask us to return for a second set of shows. When we returned to the school, three of the children presented Linda with a drawing they had done. They were able to draw the entire story she had told the week before in perfect detail. We were able to share with more than a thousand school children. We trust the Lord to finish his work in their lives.
There are many evangelical churches in Northern Ireland with great theological statements. However, they seemed to have no passion for evangelism and did not apply those great statements of theology.Their focus has turned inward and many do not reach out to the lost, however, there was some good news about the church. After sharing at a women’s meeting, we were invited to share at a school and a church in Killilay, near Belfast. The pastor told us to only expect a few on such a rainy evening and was surprised to see that the women of the church had prepared refreshments. By God’s grace, the room was packed with many children and visitors from other churches.
We did a lot of work at a local park where other teams had been busy doing a variety of programs, including a soccer clinic. Hundreds heard the truth of the Gospel, Protestants and Catholics alike. Not even the rain kept the children from coming, as one night we shared with around 70 children outside. It was awesome! We tied balloon animals for the children and told them about our Lord. One night, God’s power was especially evident.
Each of the 100 plus children and adults appeared to listen intently. Even a Moslem man who had been bringing his children and heatedly arguing against the Gospel with all of us for the last 2 weeks, did not object to the message of the chalk talk and puppet show.
A local merchant brought his grandchildren and confessed to Linda that he had begun to question his decisions about life. He had begun to wonder if making money was really enough to make him happy. We were able to tell him how serving Jesus gives meaning to life. Pray for John to trust Christ as Savior.
Everything went so well in the park that we were all surprised when it suddenly changed. One Wednesday night, God revealed himself in a different way. Following the lead of one young man, the children began throwing small rocks and sticks at us during the puppet show. Then it rained and the midges (small biting gnats ) came out and bit us repeatedly. Meanwhile, the boy began spitting all over our equipment. More importantly, we left the park that night feeling as though no one had truly heard the hope of the Gospel. Feeling very defeated, the team arrived at a coffee house for ministry later that evening.
Common Ground is an outreach to young people who hang out on the streets because they have no place to go. They provide coffee and tea to drink, Christian entertainment, and a friendly witness. After the trouble in the park, the same young man followed us to the coffee house. Soon, a twenty-something year old man came in the front door, screaming and shaking his fists, with every other word a cuss word. He accused the trouble maker of beating up his younger brother and promised revenge.
The only one of us at the front of the room was Linda and she stepped between the two, trying to protect the 14-year old boy. He began to cuss and shake his fists. Josh came forward and stood beside Linda as she spoke softly to the man and slowly backed him out of the coffee house. That night, we returned to Murlough House feeling very sad for all those who had not responded to Jesus. We forgot that success in witnessing is simply sharing Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit and leaving the results up to God. That evening, God used a young man on our Irish puppet team to remind us of God’s ways.
Ben Haus asked us how the night had gone. He responded to our sad report by pointing out that everyone had been trying to tell that young man what it meant to be a Christian. That night we showed him. The 14-year old knew that we all were aware of what he had done. Ben told us that no one but a Christian would have stood up for him. Then, we were sad because God did something great and we had missed it.
The children from our church made Gospel bracelets for us to give to the children in Northern Ireland.These were a big hit, even with the adults who faithfully listened to the Gospel and then asked questions so they would be able to repeat it to their children and grandchildren. Praise God!
For one week, we shared in Newcastle at the leisure center. This is the most popular tourist spot in Northern Ireland. Since the average high temperature is 57� F, having one of only two heated pools in the country is a big attraction. We walked up and down the streets sharing with the tourists and inviting them to come see the puppets.
After each show, Aaron, Josh, and Matt shared their testimonies and the people listened intently. We had two to four shows a day and, though a few walked out, most were receptive and asked serious questions. As we poured more prayer on the work, the response increased. The city began to announce our show on the city- wide PA system. The tourist information center also encouraged people to come by advertising it for us.People from all over Northern Ireland heard the Gospel.
Thousands heard about Jesus as a result of this trip, but the highlight of all of our adventures was the Irish puppet team that we trained and equipped “The Puppet Proclaimers”. We saw their first show and it glorified God.
After we left, they traveled to France and planted a puppet team there. After one show, people stayed until 1:00 AM, asking questions about Jesus. Truly, this is seed that fell on rich ground! Pray for their continued success and many opportunities to share.
Northern Ireland needs YOU!
If you are serious about Evangelism
We urge you to follow the Biblical plan for Evangelism as presented in Acts1:8.
Begin sharing at home first and then contact PEF for opportunities in the inner city. Don’t begin overseas when you and I need to start in “less exciting” places like where we live. We encourage you with the truth that home becomes more exciting and the inner city less frightening as you tell people about Jesus Christ.
What have we been doing in the USA?
In the past 9 months, we have seen God open amazing doors for ministry where we live, in neighboring towns, and across the southeastern United States. Please give God the glory as you read the following list of ministry opportunities:
… Hearing the applause of young men in a youth prison as they heard of their hope in Christ
… Watching in amazement as 30 children, teenagers, and adults confessed Christ as Savior.
… Seeing mothers bring their children to a puppet show and trusting Christ as their Savior.
… Training 3 USA teams for short term ministry in Mexico, Portugal, and Peru, and rejoicing as God blessed their work.
… Hearing one mother tell us after a puppet show, “I take my children to church every Sunday, but I have never been inside a church until tonight.” At the puppet show, she asked Jesus Christ to be her Savior
… Sharing in the parking lot of a burned out church in the inner city with 100 plus people who came to see a puppet show and heard the Good News…
Why haven’t you heard from us?
It was not lack of desire that caused our silence. This year, due to the many unexpected ministry opportunities, we had to choose between doing the work and mailing a newsletter, so we chose to do the work. If you have EMail, please send it to us so that we can stay in touch more often.
Linda in Ukraine..
Since I was a little girl and someone first told me about the persecuted church in Russia, I prayed for my brothers and sisters there. My prayers covered 3 1/2 decades. My heart soared when we all celebrated the opening of the old USSR to the Gospel. As I heard Russian missionaries speak, I wept. I never imagined that I would be going to Ukraine..
In October of 1998, I joined friends Dick and Ginny Walsman on a trip to Ukraine to teach adults how to be children’s Bible teachers and to share in a variety of situations. This was my fifth overseas ministry trip, but the first time I had traveled without my family and the puppet team.
I saw children in one orphanage, cold and hungry and too far from a town to receive much help. The road to their home was filled with pot holes big enough to swallow a car. They ran to greet us when we arrived and were so excited as I presented the Gospel to them. Their faces glowed as I told them about Jesus and how through faith in Christ, they could have the Father that they have always wanted.
The communists are not gone. Most have simply reorganized into Mafia and the new security forces. They called my friend Slavic in for questioning and threatened him with prison. They no longer view his ideology as the problem; they want the money that American Christians bring.
I expressed my concern, but though his broken English, He said, “No problem. I go to prison. Linda go round the world, tell people about Jesus. In prison, I pray.” He showed no concern for himself. His concern was for that the Gospel be told. How can you respond to that? Peter and his family have immigration papers for America but have chosen to stay in a city polluted by radiation because he wants to tell his people about Jesus. Would an American make the same decision?
In one village, the children stood in the rain waiting for us to arrive. In another village, a little girl gave me a bouquet of flowers before I could get out of the car. A second bunch of flowers was pressed into my arms very quickly. At one school, a little girl gave me a picture of an angel that she had drawn to thank me for telling her about Jesus.
I shared in one village where there was not a single believer, but each week a pastor faithfully went there and held a church service where 60 people attended. Two teenage sisters came and kissed me on the cheek to thank me for telling them about Jesus.
Can anyone be the same after experiencing such things? Surely, our faith must grow as a result of seeing God move so powerfully.
During the two weeks I was in Ukraine, God opened doors for me to share at 4 orphanages, a youth prison, at numerous private and public schools, on the streets and in churches. I was blessed to train 125 children’s Bible teachers and was able to equip some of them.
Their need was enormous. My Ukrainian friends asked me to stay and send for Mike. There was so much more that we wanted to do, so much more that we needed to do in order to satisfy their hunger for more knowledge of God. Their love for Jesus greatly challenged my faith. Consistently, they took the little that they had and did extraordinary things for God.
The churches were cold, but no one complained. I never heard anyone say that he didn’t have enough money, even though the average income is only $40.00 per month. Food is very expensive. Gasoline is almost $5.00 a gallon. Times are very difficult in Ukraine. For many, the question is not what will I eat, but will I eat. Still, they continue to praise God.
At the youth prison that I visited, 150 young men gathered to hear the Gospel. They listened eagerly as I told the story of the proud Nebuchanezzar and how God humbled him. I finished the story by telling them how the once arrogant King fell on his knees and called out to God. Then, I told them how they could trust Christ as Savior.
My friend Slavic then stood and asked them a question, “What would make you happy?” As one voice, they shouted “Freedom!” Slavic told them that he imagined that before they had come to that place, they would have had different answers. The young men agreed, and then he told them how they could have the one thing that they wanted most. He told them how they could have freedom in Christ.
The living conditions of the believers broke my heart, and their joy blessed my soul. I was able to leave behind the beginnings of several ministries led by faithful nationals.
If these stories have touched your heart, please contact me and I will tell you how you can help. Pray for Ukraine. God has opened doors for Linda to return to Ukraine in May and October of 1999. Funds have already been provided for the May trip. Would the children of your church like to send puppets to Ukraine?In October, $1400 is needed to equip 4 Gospel puppet teams. Can you help?
SCOTLAND IS CALLING in 1999!
We start planning our mission trips up to 2 years in advance. It takes a long time to put together a program that will work in another culture and honor the Scriptures.
This summer, we are planning to work with Frank Hamilton and Scottish Christians to plant a puppet ministry in Dundee. The land where so many of our spiritual roots originated is today a spiritual desert, with 95% of the people not attending any church. We have an opportunity to train Scottish Christians in street and puppet ministry skills. More, we plan to equip them with all of the things that they need in order to do the work.
NORTHERN IRELAND 1999
Our friends at Murlough House have arranged for us to return there after we finish in Scotland. They are covering the expenses of this part of the trip, so that while we are so close, we can encourage and offer extra training to the Puppet Proclaimers. Please be in prayer.
It is with great sadness that we say good bye to Aaron Rapier, a faithful team member for 4 years. Though Aaron will no longer be serving with us, he is continuing in ministry. While attending Covenant College this year, he has begun working with Student Venture to reach Lafayette High school for Christ. Please pray for him in this new work. We are so grateful for his service and praise God for the love he has for Jesus.
This year, we were delighted to have Teresa White, a junior at Covenant College, join our ministry team. She has worked for the last 2 1/2 years with Legacy of the Martyrs, another PEF ministry, headed by Travis Hutchinson that seeks to identify and help the families of Christian martyrs in Peru, Kenya, and Rwanda. She has tremendous enthusiasm for the Gospel and we are thrilled to be working together.
Josh and Matt continue at UTC as juniors majoring in engineering. They are doing excellent in their studies, but we are most proud of their continuing desire to tell people about Jesus. In addition to their ministry with the Agape Puppets, they have been working to lead youth retreats at our church. HOWEVER, they are growing up, and we are in need of a new puppet team.
Currie Bishop, a freshman at Covenant College has committed to work with us and we are very excited. He loves Jesus and has become a good friend.
Pray for the rest of the team to commit in the next 2 months. This is an urgent need!
HOW CAN YOU HELP? You can pray!
We have every confidence that if we are talking to God, He will answer. Hold us before the throne and have your friends and church pray for us. Pray …..
…. for us to have great faith.
…. for us to hear God.
… for many to respond to the Gospel in the USA,Ukraine, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.
… for the financial support to supply the teams that we train with the necessary equipment.
… for a new puppet team.
… for opportunities to share Jesus.
… for the funds for the inner-city work and the overseas travel.
… for the support ($1500 each) that we need to give the 3 puppeteers since they cannot work a summer job and have college expenses.