From Scam Into Blessing

Thirteen years ago this same week, I found myself on a plane headed for the first time to Liberia, West Africa. It was not what I expected, but the Lord brought glory to Himself through the lessons learned.

My second book has been years in the making, and with the professional editing care of my friend and sister in Christ, Sony Elise, it has finally come to fruition. Her editing service can be found, along with her online Christian bookstore at Sony Elise Christian Books. Thank you for the work you provided in helping make this book a reality.

My friend and brother in Christ, Manfred (Stuart Brogden) provided the Foreword to the book. Thank you for being willing to read the early manuscript months ago and taking the time to write a Christ-honoring introduction.

From Scam Into Blessing can be ordered in Kindle format or in paperback form from Amazon.

Book Description:

“The dictionary defines a scam as a fraudulent or deceptive act or operation. Internet technology has changed the world, but it can also change lives. Many believe they cannot live without access to the internet while others use the web as a way of making a living – fraudulently. Scam Into Blessing is the real account of the author’s first trip to Liberia, West Africa. What started as a scam turned into a blessing of epic proportions. Read the exciting adventures of how God sovereignly took what was meant for evil and changed it for good to His honor and glory.

Recalling Liberia

Long time readers will know that I have had a love for the people of Liberia for many years. In fact, I have been involved with Liberia longer than I have been writing for Defending Contending. The older I become, it seems the faster the years go.

Nine years ago, I was recovering from a debilitating illness while pastoring in England. I was contacted by a man who later proved to be a scammer. However, it was not until I had flown from England to the steaming jungles of West Africa that I realized that I was in a very dangerous situation. Still, the Lord showed His grace and love and protection. During that trip, I was brought to love these Africans who were, and still are, in need of a Savior.

Many of you also know that our family moved to Liberia in 2012 only to have to return six months later. It was supposed to be a permanent trip, but one of my daughters and I contracted a severe case of malaria. I actually contracted malaria and typhoid two different times in less than three months.

During the intervening years since our return, I often wonder what our lives would be like had we been able to remain. We could have been there during the outbreak of Ebola which claimed the lives of several thousand including some Christian brothers and sisters that we personally knew. We could have been there for the first baptisms that took place in the villages of Foloblai and Tamayta where we started two mission works. We could have been there when Cyrus Smith began his first work in the village of Dentaa. We could have been there when the first Biblical marriages took place. There are many things we could have seen and been involved with.

However, today the work that God graciously, and in His sovereignty, only allowed us to plant seeds for continues to flourish and grow without the white missionary. The Bible Institute of Church Ministries still continues to train jungle pastors to teach the people of their village churches. Baptisms continue to take place as testimony is shared of the saving grace of God. Lives are still being changed. Another church plant is getting ready to take place under the guidance of Cyrus Smith.

The short time in Liberia still makes a difference in our lives today. We are thankful for every experience — the dangers, the lack of food and provisions at times, the fellowship of fellow missionaries who had no idea what we had or didn’t have, the prayers of family and friends through the dark nights when death was so close at hand, the village chief (Cyrus Smith) who surrendered all and became my Timothy, but most of all, the privilege of having served the Lord in a country where so many still need the Lord.

My prayer is that you will enjoy these pictures. They are not the best quality, but they represent a work that grows despite all the opposition. They represent part of my heart, but more importantly, these pictures show a Church and Bible Institute growing to the glory of God.

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.

************

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.

*************

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,