We have clearly seen God working in and through the lives of many people from the time of spiritual awakening in my maternal family line up through the missions exploits of my maternal grandparents. That spiritual heritage had a major impact on my mother’s generation. In this article I will focus on how God used them and others to introduce me to various kinds of missions ministry.
As I wrote in the previous article my parents desired to serve the Lord as missionaries but could not due to severe medical complications of their oldest son. This did not prevent them from financially supporting other missionaries, praying for them during family devotions, and exposing their children to missionaries at every opportunity.
While I was still in elementary school my parents helped arrange a missions trip for our church. Mostly youth, some adults, and a few children traveled for eight hours in an old school bus to a small church in Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation, North Dakota. We went there to help my father’s next older sister Beverly (ref Foundations article) and her husband Jerry with building maintenance projects at their church. Mornings were filled with painting walls, pulling weeds, cleaning, and light carpentry while afternoons and evenings were spent conducting VBS and worship services. Admittedly there was only so much I could do as a child but it was a great opportunity to learn that church and missions work included a lot more than just singing and preaching. During this time I learned about the weekday work at a church and the impact that relationships have on an overall ministry. Most of all I saw the passion my uncle and aunt had for communicating the Gospel to a community that had been trapped in sin for many generations.
They pastored that church for many years, raised up a Native American Indian to be the pastor, and eventually turned it over to him. Next they took teaching positions at Central Indian Bible College investing in the lives of many other people until their retirement. Patience, tenacity, and excellence were hallmarks of their ministry. They were never in the limelight nor did they seek it, however as they faithfully served Jesus in relative obscurity many people became Christians and others were prepared for ministry.
My family regularly prayed for missionaries in various countries around the world but especially for a few missionary families in Africa, South America, and Asia. These three families were cousins of mine and we were concerned about their life, ministry, welfare. News about such matters regularly came from other relatives but it was always special to hear directly from my cousins while they were itinerating in the US. These two channels of communication opened my eyes to some of the realities and struggles of missionary life. Through these conversations any romantic notions of missionary life died and I understood that hard work, prayer, and perseverance are requirements for the Gospel to be spread around the world.
This lesson was further taught by another great influence in my life, Vern MacKinney, my mother’s brother. He began as the Head Clerk of the US A/G Christ Ambassadors (Youth Department), helped establish Speed-the-Light, and later served as the National Speed-the-Light Coordinator. Speed-the-Light (STL) was a program created by the US A/G which challenged teenagers to give financially toward missions equipment needs. My uncle Vern wrote many articles and coordinated special programs that promoted giving toward missions. Here are some photos commemorating STL projects that he supported and/or led (photos used by permission – US A/G Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center)
Noel Perkin, Verne MacKinney, Don Mallough, Wesley Steelberg, unidentified, and Herman Revis (pilot) standing in front of Ambassador II. This airplane was purchased with STL funds and was used to fly US AG Missionaries;1950.
Verne MacKinney (right) standing outside the Christ’s Ambassadors office in Springfield, Missouri; 1953.
Verne MacKinney, Speed-the-Light coordinator, posing in front of booth and sign for Speed-the-Light; 1967.
Verne MacKinney (standing right), Speed-the-Light coordinator, is holding a megaphone and directing traffic during Operation Demonstration; March 24, 1967. Operation Demonstration was a STL campaign that physically demonstrated the total number of vehicles purchased for US A/G missionaries with STL funds during 1966.
Youth and Bible College students gather around vehicles representing those purchased for missionaries in one year for Operation Demonstration; March 24, 1967. This photo was taken from atop the AG Headquarters building.
Students riding bicycles and motorcycles on Boonville Avenue for Operation Demonstration.
Dollar Day was another STL campaign which encouraged teenagers to give a special $1 offering on that specific day. $1 was a lot of money for a teenager in those days and many people worked hard to earn money so that they could give toward missions.
As you can see in the following chart each district set a giving goal for their youth. The total giving goal was over $825,000 in 1968. That was a lot of money in those days!! However, by setting clear goals, challenging youth to give, and encouraging churches throughout the year teenagers gave huge amounts of money toward missions, every year, for many, many years. As a teenager I myself did odd jobs and participated in fund raising events many times with one single goal in mind, “I will give an offering toward missions.”
After seeing the chart above some people might ask, “Where did all that money go?” “Was any of it used to spread the Gospel in Japan?” Good questions! I have some fun answers.
Thanks to STL offerings, Assemblies of God missionaries around the world and many churches received vehicles, machinery, or money to purchase those items. That was true for Japan too.
In an article written by my uncle Vern in 1956 a photo with a caption shows the pastor of God’s Love Christian Church (神愛キリスト教会) in Kobe using a public address (PA) system to announce services. The PA system was provided by STL offerings.
An article from 1968 shows US missionaries and Japanese ministers posing with a station wagon and motorcycle. Both of those vehicles were purchased using oﬀerings that had been given by youth in America. Those young people saved money, worked odd jobs, and engaged in fundraising activities so that they could give an oﬀering that would be useful toward spreading the Gospel in Japan.
The STL 25th Anniversary booklet (1969) contains other examples of items that STL oﬀerings provided for missions work in Japan.
As you can see in this clip from the STL 25th Anniversary booklet STL oﬀerings even blessed the Japan A/G at a national level.
You and I
So what am I trying to communicate in this article? Since most everything I’ve written about in these articles took place prior to my birth I cannot brag about myself. Nor am I bragging about my relatives. They were people who served God with sincerity, applied 1 Timothy 4:12 in their lives, and as they followed God’s leading found themselves serving Him in new ways.
What I am trying to communicate is that I am very blessed to have grown up under the influence of those people. Hearing their stories, hearing others talk about how they served God, seeing the results of their sacrifice, and participating in a small way in some of those ministries had a great impact on my understanding of the Kingdom of God. Observing their Christian behavior in various challenging situations taught me many lessons.
I am compelled by Jesus’ words in Luke 12:48, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.” I am the recipient of a wonderful Christian heritage passed down by simple people who tried to love the Lord with all their heart and with all their mind and with all their might. Their sacrifice and service paved the way for many of us to spiritually be where we are today.
How about you? How is it that you are a Christian today? Who sacrificed so that you could hear the Gospel? Who gave so that you could receive Christian education? What kind of a spiritual heritage have you received? Does reflecting on that compel you to serve Our Lord even more?
As a child I watched the people I’ve written about. Who is watching you now? What child or young person is watching your life? How do your words and actions influence them to live for Jesus?
“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.”