Forward by Faith

It is difficult to envision the bright-eyed, intelligent woman seated before me as coming from such a horrific background as she describes. Her past seems like it happened to someone else. Lydie was baptized only last week, and I caught how fresh her rescue from sin was when she broke down and wept as she shared her testimony.

Lydie is a young Cameroonian woman in her early 20s. Like thousands of others, she attended our Visions for Life evangelistic series in Yaounde, Cameroon, Africa. The seminar was presented by Pastor Doug Batchelor this past November and was up-linked around the world by ATN, 3ABN, and AMP.

Lydie's father is a witch doctor, and her mother has known more men than Lydie can recall. With only a fifth-grade education, Lydie ended up living on the streets. Her mother declared she was cursed and would never find happiness. However, last year something happened that was destined to lift the curse and dramatically change her life: A Sabbath-keeping Christian invited Lydie to church. Desperate and alone, she began attending and soon found hope slowly growing in her heart. Her mother was enraged by Lydie finding the joy that had always eluded her, so she turned the entire village against her daughter.

When Visions for Life was launched, Lydie packed her meager belongings, climbed on a bus, and moved to Yaounde. God blessed her with a little rented room near the stadium so she could attend. Each night, she sat enraptured as Pastor Doug presented Bible truths for our time.

Lydie especially took hope when Pastor Doug gave his testimony—how God had saved him from a life on the streets. "God could accept Pastor Doug when his life was so troubled, then I know this change can happen to me," Lydie told me.

Lydie is young and has so much potential, but it is hard to survive in a society where families depend upon one another—and her family turned against her long ago. So I wondered what Lydie would do for the future. What would keep her off the streets? With a smile on her face, she said, "Jesus means everything to me. I am leaving all the terrible things of the past behind and moving forward by faith. I am going to follow my Lord to the end."

Lydie's testimony is shared by hundreds of thousands—many of whom were baptized all the way from Africa to India and around the world. "Forward by faith" characterizes the entire Visions for Life program—from the technical struggles of getting on air all the way down to the baptism decisions. Here is the story of how God poured out His Spirit upon the forward step of faith.

The Lion Roared
"Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour" (1 Peter 5:8). Lions are the kings of the jungle in Africa.

The Bible compares Satan to a lion. Just as lions rule the bush in Africa, Satan has a stronghold on this continent where witch doctors and devils proliferate. The devil hated that we invaded his territory. We often heard his roar as he sought to frighten us to flee. Yet by God's grace, we were empowered to roar back and put him to flight.

One evening, Pastor Doug made a powerful altar call to all who wanted prayer for healing. Thousands flooded the front of the stage. Expensive modern medicine and useless traditional remedies collide in Africa, leaving many with no hope for healing. As Doug prayed, we heard a women shriek, then watched as she fell to the ground, screaming and flailing her limbs. Several men struggled to carry her away, trying to keep her from hurting herself. Many pastors gathered to pray for her deliverance from the demon's grasp—and after several long, intense minutes she calmed down.

But moments later, the devil struck again. Another demonic shriek came, and more men gathered to carry a young lady down to the stage. Yet this petite woman was endowed with super human strength—breaking the vice-like hold of a professional bodyguard! But God also calmed her agitated mind as we prayed.

You can see Satan in the eyes of the witch doctors. One witch doctor said charismatic pastors secretly sought out her supernatural powers. In the dark of night, they conspired against members who couldn't "speak in tongues." They would have her bury a small, cursed charm beneath where these targets would sit during Sunday worship. At the next church service, the unsuspecting victim would be swept up by supernatural powers and begin to "speak in tongues." Yet God has now converted this witch doctor too!

God Roared Back at the Lion
Ministry in Cameroon isn't for the faint-hearted. Obstacles ambushed us at every turn. Three weeks prior to our launch date, the government said they'd scheduled their national soccer finals during our meetings. Cameroonians live for soccer, so this was a mammoth problem.

A flurry of prayer and phone calls ensued. For two weeks Jim Ayer, assistant coordinator, and I worked around the clock to resolve the problem. God opened the doors for us to contact government workers at the highest levels, and they helped clear the schedule.

We eventually compromised by agreeing to remove our stage equipment during five scheduled games. God then blessed our builders, Rich Kollenberg and Ron Brown, with the ability to construct a portable stage, backdrop, and 40-foot screens that could be removed, lowered, and put back in place in three hours. Praise God!

You can't imagine the relief I felt when Jim called to tell me God had answered our prayers. I reverently picked up a Bible and asked God to give me a text to praise Him for His leading. Though not my normal method of study, I randomly opened the Bible and happened on the book of Job. My eyes fell on this verse: "He adorned the heavens; His hand pierced the fleeing serpent" (Job 26:13 NKJV). God was using a satellite in the sky to adorn the heavens with the everlasting gospel of Revelation 14! This message is inspired by God's hand, and it caused the evil serpent to be pierced and to flee. I took this text as a promise that God would mightily bless the Visions for Life evangelistic meetings.

Another problem occurred when our time on the satellite, which would bounce our images and sounds from Yaounde to downlink sites across the globe, was sold to someone else. Yet God also miraculously resolved this too!

Brad and Kandus Thorp, ATN workers in charge of the uplink, prayed that God would open a way to get His message to the world. So God led them and the General Conference to arrange time on a satellite that provides 24-hour coverage for seven days a week over multiple years. You see, the devil tried to stop our three-week meeting, but God turned this apparent defeat into a victory because the truth will now be broadcast over and over every week of the year to the entire western hemisphere! The devil’s roar was silenced again.

November is also not regarded as the best time to hold open-stadium meetings in Africa, because it rains an average of 4.5 inches in Yaounde. But October is even wetter and January is known for its raging Saharan sandstorms. So we had to go in November—it was simply the driest month available. During the weeks leading up to the meetings, it rained daily.

However, once we began, it only rained one night. And even then, God slowed that rain into a light mist—and then stopped it altogether by the time Pastor Doug began preaching. God showed that He always wins when He wants His Word to go forth!

Worldwide Impact
As you know, Visions for Life was much more than a meeting in Yaounde. The African continent alone hosted more than 1,500 downlink sites! And many more church sites and private homes participated from as far away as Bangladesh, India, and Papua New Guinea. Twenty-four translators enabled Pastor Doug to preach to this worldwide audience. We praise God for the nearly 1,200 people baptized in Yaounde and the hundreds of thousands who committed their lives to God and were baptized around the world.

We received e-mails from the United Kingdom, Kuwait, Papua New Guinea, India, the United States, and all over Africa. A young person from Bangladesh wrote, "It's a great blessing to hear God’s message through you every evening. I've come to know more about you since last year after I found the book Richest Caveman in my uncle’s house. I'm always interested in thrilling stories, so when I read the back cover, I didn't hesitate to steal it as my uncle had three of them. Yet as I read the book, I began to see life in a new light. I kept reading it over and over—11 times! Here I've seen how we can come closer to God. He showed me through your life that He is always able to help us though we reject Him."

From California, one viewer wrote: "I have been watching you for over a year on 3ABN, but I can hear in your voice a new urgency for the gospel in Cameroon. As I watch, I tape for others to see and hear. I hold you up in prayer and while doing so, I find myself lifting you high before the Lord. Could it be that you have a new and deeper infilling of God's Holy Spirit?"

Muslim Strongholds Surrender
North Cameroon is located in the 10/40 Window, an area that designates a swath of the planet that is mostly Moslem and has very few Christians. Believers have found it extremely difficult to work there because converts are persecuted and martyred. During Visions for Life, God used the satellite signal as a bulletproof preacher for the truth.

Koza, Cameroon, is a huge city of 7 million—of which 75 percent are Muslim. Yet more than 2,000 truth-seekers attended the city' downlink sites. The church had never seen such a response to the gospel.

In Chad, Jacque Ngarbaye, the son of the countries' first head of state, attended along with his wife Rebecca. Jacque is an ambassador and commands the nation's army. Rebecca has her doctorate in Islamic studies. Several months ago, Rebecca received the book The Great Controversy while on a trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

As she read, her heart stirred with the truth that Jesus is coming soon. When the church advertised the Visions for Life meetings, Jacque and Rebecca knew they had to attend and learn more. They were both baptized along with 230 others!

A church in Tanzania found it difficult to get their equipment to work properly. A sympathetic Muslim neighbor allowed them to use his satellite dish. He became so interested in the meetings that he connected many of the neighbors' television sets as well. Reports were that thousands of people were watching and nearly 100 were baptized.

During our meetings, more than 200 people were murdered in neighboring Nigeria when Muslims became angered over the Miss World beauty pageant that was to be hosted there. Yet at the same time, thousands more Muslims were finding eternal life at our downlink sites in the north. Up to 10,000 participated in the meetings in the major cities.

In Kuwait, Mathew and his family providentially repaired their satellite dish just in time to watch the meetings. Mathew wrote, "I realized that it was God's plan that I got the satellite fixed recently at our home. It's 9:30 p.m. when the message begins here, and the whole family gathers to hear. I am also recording these messages to watch again. It's a great blessing. I hope that this message will continue broadcasting. We will inform our friends about these messages so that many will know. In this part of the world, there are few chances for people to be exposed to the Word of God."

Jesus' Ministry of Healing
Disease, poverty, and AIDS are rampant in Africa. As I walked past the church headquarters in Yaounde, I saw a man sleeping in a cold concrete culvert littered with foul rubbish. His blanket is a cardboard box. The physical and spiritual needs here can crush a Westerner. Perceived as affluent Americans, we were constantly bombarded by people with innumerable requests to relieve their suffering. But like the apostle Peter, we brought the people of Africa something much more valuable than money. "Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk" (Acts 3:6).

To meet the physical needs, a medical and health education team went with us. Dawna Sawatzky, a health educator, presented practical health information during the evening meetings. Applause erupted from the crowd as they learned how to glorify God in their bodies.

Our team treated 1,740 patients and provided services worth more than $25,000. The dentists saw people who suffered from abscessed teeth for years. "This patient has been in constant pain for well over a year with an abscess. It feels terrific to be able to take away his pain," Dr. Randy Elloway confessed. Other medical team members included Nora Elloway, Karine Duverger, Pochly Bardel, Loren Starr, Jeff Schroeder, Karen and Wesley Holland, Roy and Zeleny Terretta, Hans Sawatzky, Millisa Cuneo, Janene Ayer, and others.

Each member volunteered their services and traveled at their own expense—a large sacrifice. The Lord used them to do the first work of the gospel: to heal the sick. Just as Jesus did.

Dr. Elloway has learned that God blesses mission work. As a private practitioner, he must close his office when he goes on mission trips. When he decided to join us for Visions for Life, he trusted God to pay the bills. On the day that Dr. Elloway and his wife Nora were to fly to Africa, a patient walked in who needed a large amount of work done. It was exactly the amount Elloway needed to go. He helped heal the sick, and God sent him to help more.

Reaching the Upper Classes
Most people believe Africa is only a place of extreme poverty and ignorance. Yet multitudes recognize the value of education. Universities in Africa attract bright minds and future leaders. And God opened many doors for the truth to penetrate the halls of higher learning.

Dr. Herb Giebel has been a missionary to Nigeria for many years. While treating physical needs, he seeks primarily to heal the spirit. Last year, Dr. Giebel began distributing copies of Amazing Facts' Panorama of Prophecy CD to students.

Doors opened for him to place this dynamic evangelism tool at a theological seminary. He says, "The people both love and hate it. They don't like all the clear truths that they learn, but they can't get enough of it. They keep coming back for more copies." Hundreds are now studying a wealth of books and studies on the CD. Dr. Giebel has given out nearly 1,000 CDs. He explains, "I don't give them out to just anyone. I loan them. This way people come back to me with their reaction."

One evening, I was introduced to a young university student from Ngadonndere, Cameroon. A small group of Sabbathkeeping students received permission to host a downlink site. In faith, they printed posters and borrowed a satellite dish. However, without a projector they were unable to start their meeting.

With the little money he and his friends could gather, this student rode a bus to Yaounde. He asked me to give him a projector for his meetings, but I didn't know where to get one. I told him that God would have to find one for him. We prayed, and I wondered if he would find one.

Guess what God did? The next day, a shipment of projectors arrived and was released from customs. The student took a projector back to the university and held his meeting with more than 1,000 in attendance! We've heard that hundreds expect to be baptized.

The Minister of Trade, a recent convert, was an immense help in negotiating with the government for the stadium and getting our equipment into the country. We were blessed to witness his adult daughter be baptized during the meetings. He also introduced us to the Prime Minister, who granted us a private audience and said he watches Pastor Doug's programs on satellite.

The Minister of Sports' son was known as a troublemaker. During one of our many organizational meetings, the young man was convicted of his sins. He came forward to be baptized. The Minister of Sports was so impressed with the dramatic change in his son's life that he was led to give us the stadium without any charge!

Many members of the hosting churches were involved. Josephine, who operates a health food store and vegetarian restaurant, sponsored more than 1,300 studies. Three of her students were giving their own studies even before they were baptized! Arthur Bongondo studied with 210 interests, Annie Zawadi studied with 78, and another student helped 35. Arthur and Annie attended the same church and told their pastor that they had found God's remnant church and had made a decision to join it. They are both from the Congo and have a desire to return home to spread the message.

Breaking New Ground
I feel the best way to conclude this report is with the words of the local church leaders who made this event possible. Gabriel Boakye-Dankwa, field secretary for the Western Africa Division, points out the historical significance of Visions for Life. "This is the first satellite meeting to be hosted in an African French-speaking country. Most satellite meetings choose to go to English-speaking nations because they historically are easier for evangelism. Visions for Life demonstrates that we can hold successful meetings in Francophone countries."

Pastor Jean Marie Tchoualeu, president of the Central Africa Union Mission, told us "This meeting has been like Pentecost. We could never imagine a response like this happening in a French territory."

Pastor Gilbert Wari, local conference president and Western Africa Division secretary elect, said he noticed on the day of the mass baptism, "Several of our members wept with joy. The most baptized at one time in our conference was 125. Our members have never seen this before. It is unprecedented."

We also praise God for what He has done and will continue to do through our meetings. When we first went to Cameroon one year ago, they only had 10 downlink sites. By the time the meetings began, more than 220 downlink sites had been purchased. Church members sacrificed much for this event. And since they now have the equipment to hold evangelistic meetings every year, the stories of conversions and God's grace are not over. The meetings will be rebroadcast numerous times, and many will continue to find a new vision for life that will enable them to move forward by faith.

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