State Director Meeting – 2/26/2020

Today was our final day of ministry. We met with the officer in charge of the presents for the central region of Cameroon. She was a young lady of 32 years old who recently took this position when the previous officer passed away two weeks ago. She was a wonderful Christian lady who has a great passion for the inmates. She told us that she would rather not stay in this position because she desires to spend time running a prison and being closer with the inmates and she also hopes to be able to promote to a higher rank. For some reason, if she remains in this position, she has no opportunity to advance.

She was very welcoming and interested in our ministry. I’m not certain if she was the one that originally authorized us to go into the Prison‘s but she was glad that we did and she welcomed us to return in the future.

I presented her with our document entitled “how to start an international Bible Institute“. I explained to her that our desire is to open Bible Institute‘s in the presence throughout the world. I explained to her that our hope in coming to foreign countries like this is to train our nationals to not only evangelize the prisons but also to disable the inmates and help them to grow by starting International Bible Institute’s. As a Christian lady she was very happy with this.

Dan talked with her extensively about our ministry and what we have done this week. He then also asked me to present her with GIFs. I presented her with the identical gifts that we have given to the officers in charge of each Prison.

She was happy that we offered to pray with her and, after doing so, she once again welcomed us to return to her country.

We then returned to our hotel for about three hours before going to dinner with the nationals at 2:00 PM. It was a very nice time of fellowship and saying goodbye.

We have no further ministry this week so we return to our hotels and each of us were treated to our own rooms for a while and then gathered together in the early evening for a brief meeting before retiring for the night.

Monatele Prison – 2/24/2020

Dan stayed home this morning. Unfortunately he is still fighting some intestinal issues which I am afraid I am one day behind him. I am hopeful that I will be able to join the team when we meet with the government officials tomorrow.

We arrived at Monatele Prison at 9:15am this morning, after a 2 hour drive, and waited about 45 minutes to enter. It was a baking hot morning so we waited under the gazebo outside the prison.

Von was invited inside to the infirmary to present all of the medical supplies and explain what each one was for.

The inmates and prison staff took all of our humanitarian aid and gifts into the prison and then brought us through security, taking our passports and reviewing our documents.

As we entered the prison there were about 250 of the 388 inmates in the 60’ x 120’ courtyard. The men were seated all around the courtyard and there were about a dozen women under the gazebo, separated from most of the men. There were not enough benches for everyone so half of the men were standing behind the seated men. It was a full house.

When we walked through the door and stood at the top of the stairs we waved to all of the men they had big grins on their faces. We felt very welcomed. We walked down the five stairs and to the left side of the courtyard where chairs and a table were set up for us. It was evident that while we were waiting outside they were working to set everything up inside for us so we could have a nice program.

The officer in charge (he was second in command since the head officer was not there today) stood to welcome us. He told us he was glad we were there and he assured us that all of the inmates would be under good behavior. I’m sure this was his way of telling them to behave themselves but I felt that they were a very well behaved group, anyway.

Pastor Dona stood for a brief introduction and then introduced me to give the International group leader message.

I introduced our ministry and told all of the inmates why we were there. I told them that we are here because we love them. We are here because God showed us his love and gave us a love for others. When he showed us how much he loved us he opened our eyes to see how much he loves everyone, and he gave us a love for them, as well. I told them that although we have never met them we love them. “You may think you have been forgotten but we have not forgotten you and God has not forgotten you.” I told them that we are here because we have been sent by people at home that also love them and are praying for them. I told them that people often ask me if I get scared going in the prisons and I told them that “I never get scared because I know that all of you are just like me. We have different colored skin and we grew up in different parts of the world but I have the same hopes and desires that you do. I want to be known and understood and loved, just like you.”

Mark then served as emcee, introducing our team. He told them a little bit more about our ministry, explained our program for today, and then introduced Pastor Ives who gave a fabulous message about the woman caught in adultery, how Jesus forgave her and told her to “go and sin no more”.

Mark then did a segway as the MC and then introduced me to give my testimony. I did something I’ve never tried before-I walked to the top of the stairs so that all the men and women could see me and I sat down and quietly, since I had a microphone, told them my life story.

I told them that I had grown up as a happy little boy but that my parents divorced when I was five. I told them that my father left my mother and moved out of the house. I didn’t realize how much that impacted me until later in my life. I told them that I had a mother who loved me dearly and I always knew how deeply I was loved. My father also continued to be a major part of our life and we saw him every week and we knew that he loved us, too. However, I said, my parents had very different values. My mom was a Christian and, although I never had a solid grasp of the Bible, she taught me Biblical values. I knew right from wrong and I thank my Mom for that.

I told them that my father, on the other hand, did not believe in God and he believed that we just had to try to be the best people that we can and not hurt others. I told him that most of the world feels that way. So I grew up with differing values from my parents.

I saw my father go through several girlfriends over the years and he even remarried and divorced again while I was still a teenager. I told them that I started drinking at the age of 12 and started smoking and doing drugs at the same age. I started rebelling against my mother, the woman who love me more than anybody in the world, and made her life miserable. I told them that I liked being at my father’s house more because I could do pretty much anything I wanted. All this time I considered myself to be a pretty good person.

I told them that at the end of my senior year I met a girl and started dating her and, after doing some rather tragic things, we married and had two daughters. When my children were young I did the same thing my father had done-I divorced my wife. I left her alone.

I told them that I continued to party and chase after the world but all this time I knew that what I was doing was wrong. My entire life I had been living against what I knew in my heart to be right.

I knew there was a God but I didn’t know about him. I knew he was there and I knew I was doing wrong and I knew I had to get right with him. I picked up the Bible and started to read it but it didn’t make sense to me because the Bible explains that, unless God opens your eyes to understand it, you can’t understand the deep truths within it.

I told them that I went to church and on the second Sunday the pastor preached what I needed to hear. He helped me to understand that my sin was what was making my life miserable and made me empty. It had separated me from God. The God that made me and loved me more than anyone or anything ever could had given me life and I had rejected him by chasing after my own worldly passions and lusts. He explained to me that what I truly deserved was God‘s justice, condemnation to hell.

When I heard this I was cut to the heart and felt in complete despair because there was no hope in that condemnation.

Throughout this testimony I kept looking at the men and women and asking if they felt the same way.

I asked them if they feel in despair, without hope, empty, lost. I told them that that is when the pastor said what I needed to hear. He explained to me how Jesus, the perfect Lamb of God who did not deserve death, offered up his perfect life to take upon himself the wrath of God that I deserved. He explained to me that only through repentance and trust in Jesus Christ could I be saved and set free. I told them that at the moment I believed every burden was lifted and I was set free.

“Even while you are here in this prison you can be set free from your bondage to sin if you will surrender your life to Jesus Christ“.

Every eye was on me the entire time and everyone sat and listened intently. It was wonderful. I could tell that so many of them were touched and convicted.

As I sat down Mark stood up and gave another message about the apostle Paul stating that the gospel was true and could set them free.

Jean Michelle then did an excellent altar call by tying together all of the messages that they had heard and calling them to repentance. About 100 men and six women came forward in repentance to confess Christ as Lord. We all prayed for them and then Von called men and women forward who needed prayer for healing and gave an excellent and detailed healing prayer.

Mark then prayed for the inmate church leaders, six or seven of them. He exhorted them to lead the church in the prison and to remain above reproach and to shepherd the flock with in the prison.

I presented gifts to all of the inmates. Just as with the other prisons we had rice, bread, margarine, chocolate spread, medical supplies, Bibles and a soccer ball. I also went over to the women and gave them all of our remaining feminine sanitary kits. They were very thankful and then they were extremely excited when I gave them their own soccer ball.

That closed our service. Pastor Dona said a couple things and then we all exited the prison. As I climbed the stairs to go out the door I looked back. There were so many smiling faces waving to me. I was so touched. I am so blessed to be able to serve in this ministry. These men and women are without hope but we bring the only hope they need, the greatest hope of all, the grace of God as given through Jesus Christ.

The drive home was about an hour and a half-we arrived at the hotel at 1:45. It was now time to conduct our audit with Pastor Dona.

The audit took about an hour. It is a time when we talk with the national pastor to get an update on the ministry and find out what problems he is facing and what successes he is experiencing in the country.

After the audit we chatted for a while and then went to dinner at our favorite restaurant, Istanbul. We were back to the hotel by about 5:45 PM and we each retreated to our rooms to decompress for the night.

It began pouring rain at 6:20 PM, the first rain we’ve had since we arrived a week ago. We have now been here exactly one week.

Please pray for Dan’s continued recovery, as well as mine. Pray that we have a very successful meeting tomorrow with the government officials and that our team farewell dinner goes well tomorrow with the nationals.

As with the previous days this week, photos will be posted when I get home and have better Internet. Thank you for reading and thank you for your prayers.

Ngoumou Prison – 2/24/2020

We were scheduled to leave the hotel at 7 o’clock but our translator, Jean Michele, was not here at 7:30. After much-heated discussion between the nationals they decided to leave the hotel and meet Jean Michel along the road. We met him just before 8 o’clock and headed to the prison with a brief stop at the bakery on the way. We were told it would take close to two hours to get there when we were scheduled to be there at 9 o’clock. This, too, was contested as Annmarie told us yesterday that it was only about 45 minutes to the prison. The group that was with us today insisted that that was not right. It took 50 minutes to get to the prison.

Dan woke up with stomach problems and a digestive issue so we were concerned about him coming with us and especially about him being able to participate in the service. However, fortunately he felt much better by the time we got there and he did an excellent job serving as emcee for our service.

We arrived three minutes before 9:00 AM and Pastor Dona entered the prison with one of the officers to make the arrangements. We waited outside for 30 to 45 minutes before being invited inside.

We took the humanitarian aid in with us and met with the assistant officer in charge, a female, who went over the rules of the prison and allowed us to pray for her before we all went outside the prison again to get a team photo with the officers.

We reentered the prison and were escorted into the courtyard, a familiar place that I visited two years ago. Pastor Dona said that he has not been to this prison for two years so it was good that we could be here again.

There were about 150 men seated on chairs on the lawn in the center of the courtyard where the sun was beating down at about 90°F. We were seated under a gazebo with a palm branch roof which provided partial shade.

Our service began at 10:30 AM with about 150 men ranging from about 15 years old through old age and 11 female inmates seated behind us. All inmates were wearing civilian clothes in varying states of where, some of them virtually rags.

The church band was playing in the choir was singing and there was one man dancing, sort of a robotic breakdance combination. A lot of the inmates were laughing at him and then another joined him. they played and sang for about 10 minutes until Another female officer came and sat in the center chair under the gazebo and requested that we get started with the program.

There was a crippled man in a wheelchair in the center of the field and several men with stocking caps or scarves or heavy coats on in the 90+ degrees here. Some man off to the side on the perimeter of the pros and we’re doing laundry and there were men in orange vests around the perimeter. It appears that they may have been inmates that are on good behavior and serving as guards or peacekeepers.

The female officer stood To speak and the inmates all stood when she stood, just as they had done when she arrived. She told us that “your presence is precious to us. It shows that you believe the inmates are people that matter. You are welcome to this place.”

We were then invited to begin our program and I served as the international group leader by giving the introduction followed by Dan serving as the MC and Pastor Ives giving his testimony. His testimony was brief but powerful, relating to the end mates in their typical behavior and comparing his previous behavior to them. He connected with them and it seemed that they listened intently.

Jean Michel then gave his sermon and started by telling everyone that he’s never been to prison before traveling with this team. He said “I realize there are people behind these walls that God loves.“ He shared about Joseph. He spoke about how Joseph refused Potiphar‘s wife and that she falsely accused him. God honored Joseph and blessed everything he touched. He told the inmates that you have no right to revenge just as Joseph did not revenge. He told them that the first prison is not this prison, it’s in your heart. He told them how pharaoh had called Joseph out of prison just as Jesus is calling you out of the prison of your heart.

Von then gave his sermon and related it to the present of their heart just as the first two pastors had done.

Dan gave the altar call and about 100 men raised their hands to receive Christ.

Mark gave a healing prayer and I prayed for the inmate church leaders before the team present of the gifts to the mail inmates. While they were presenting gifts to the man I turned around and gave the feminine sanitary kits to the women. As always they were extremely excited to get them. I also gave the women a soccer ball for them selves to take out of there area of the prison-their eyes lit up and they smiled from ear to ear.

We have been instructed by the officer to end our service about 10 minutes prior to our closing because it was so hot in the manner all seated on the field in the center of the courtyard and she was concerned for them. Therefore, as soon as we finish presents in the gifts we immediately left the prison and, without any further conversation or formalities, we got in the vehicles and drove an hour back to the hotel.

Dan and Mark did an audit with Pastor Ives while Von and I rested in our rooms. It’s far too hot outside to want to do anything outside so we are sitting in our air-conditioned rooms.

Three of us went to dinner at Istanbul restaurant at 6 o’clock while Dan stayed behind in his room, tired and trying to nurse himself back to health.

It was a busy and excellent day. Pastor Ives is a wonderful member of the PFC team, we had a great service at the prison, and some great fellowship.

We have one more prison to visit tomorrow and then Wednesday we will be meeting with government officials and conducting an audit with Pastor Dona. Thursday evening we fly home.

I wish we had better Internet so I could post some photos but they will have to wait.

Sunday Church and Conferences – 2/23/2020

We were able to have breakfast at the hotel for the first time in several days so we had our devotional time with coffee bread and an omelette and Armand picked us up at 8:45 to take us to the church. Church started at 9:30But we were the only ones there at 9:15 and the first person from the worship team showed up slightly after 930. A few more people trickled in and Pastor Donna start of the service at 10 o’clock with worship which, as usual, had the speakers at full distortion. By 11:00, when worship ended, the church was full.

Dan preach the sermon today out of Jeremiah chapter 20, teaching about discouragement. He preached for an hour and did an excellent job.

After church we went to Istanbul restaurant again for lunch after which we returned to the church for our Leadership conference. we are teaching to leadership conferences back to back with dinner in between. The conference started on time but the break for dinner was quite long so we had to cut two topics out of the conference and we still finished 45 minutes late. We got back to the hotel about 7:30 PM and now I am writing a very short blog post.

I’m sorry for the short blog posts with limited information and no photographs. I’ve been exhausted each evening when returning to the hotel and the Internet is extremely poor so I can’t upload any photos.

Thank you for reading and thank you for your prayers. Please comment and write back so we know that you were praying for us.

Tomorrow we go to another prison and conduct the audit with Pastor Ives and then our final prison will be on Tuesday. Wednesday we will be meeting with some government officials and having dinner with the national team.

Thank you for your prayers.

Conference – 2/22/2020

We arrived a few minutes late for the conference because Armond detoured us to see some buildings around Yaoundé after taking us to the bakery. We had asked him if the bakery is on the way to the church and he said “we can go there. It’s no problem”. After going to the bakery and the detour we passed our hotel on the way to the conference (it was in the other direction). However, although we were late we were some of the first people there. The conference was scheduled to start at 9:00am. At 9:30am there were a dozen people, including the worship team and pastor Dona.

The worship was loud and distorted but everyone was singing with joy. The conference started at 10:00am after about 20 more people had arrived.

Dan was our Emcee and everyone did a great job on there teaching topics. There were about 50 people by the time we broke for lunch and everyone stayed to the end of the conference. At least 30 people expressed a desire and commitment to get involved in prison ministry.

After the conference we took Pastor Ives to dinner. We went to our favorite place (the only place we’ve been eating – Istanbul Restaurant). The guys saw someone getting ice cream suddenly everyone had to have some. Everything at this restaurant is really good.

Mbalmayo Prison – 2/21/2020

We left the hotel at about 715 and stopped at a bakery to get juice, yogurt, quiche, and pastries. It was a 1 Hour drive to the prison and we arrived just before 9 o’clock.

We arrived it ball Mbalmayo Prison and were welcomed into the prison within 15 minutes. The OC was not there, he had to go somewhere else for a meeting. A lady was in charge and she broght us to her office, stating the the OC knew we were coming and instructed her to welcome us.

She told us we had two hours to conduct our service, which is more than customary. Dan asked us to gather around her to pray for her and then we proceeded to the familiar courtyard where about 125 of the 345 inmates were gathered. The others were scattered around the rest of the open area prison. It is one large courtyard surrounded by cells which probably house 30-40 men each.

I was at this prison with Mark, Paul and Greg two years ago. I recognized the faces of several of the inmates. I reflected on the fact that these men have been here since before I care last time and will likely remain here long after I leave. It caused me to think about how long a two year sentence is. I can only imagine being sentenced to ten or twenty years.

Dona introduces me and I gave the IGL message, explaining why are here. The serve I went well until the end. After our testimony and sermons and the other formalities Mark began distributing gifts. There was confusion about how the Bible’s would be distributed and while the Cameroon team was discussing it the inmates began getting restless and shouting and arguing.

I had to tell all of the inmates to sit down and listen. I chastised them and they calmed down. Mark then quickly told them about the rest of the gifts we had brought and we quickly departed. It didn’t occur to me until after leaving the prison that there had not been a male officer in the prison when all of this occurred. There was only the female administrator that had greeted us, and she didn’t do anything to calm the crowd (I don’t doubt why. At no point did I feel uneasy or fearful. As we discussed it later Von expressed that he was quite uncomfortable in the situation.

As we departed I asked if we could see the women. We were taken to their cell and they jumped up quickly as the door was opened, excited to see us. I spoke the 20 women briefly about Jesus and then gave them the feminine hygiene packages and a soccer ball and pump. They were so blessed that we came to see them.

We left the prison at 11:00am and drove directly to the hotel, arriving at 12:30pm. We went to lunch at 2:00, held a debrief meeting to discuss how we can prevent such an event from occurring again, and then returned to the hotel to prepare for the next two days’ conferences.

Pastor Ives arrived from the north of Cameroon with two oh his colleagues around 6:00pm and we chatted for a few minutes and then sent them away to rest after the two-day journey they just completed.

Sorry, no photos today – the Internet is completely inadequate.

Tomorrow is our Prison Ministry Training Conference.

Mfou Prison – 2/20/2020

Our travel to Cameroon was quite simple. Our flights were on time and our layover was short. I got a lot of sleep on the second flight so it was almost surreal when we arrived in Cameroon – we were here so quickly. Getting off the plane the familiar smell of Africa brought joy to my heart.

Pastor Dona met us at the airport and took us to the Indra hotel, the same hotel where we stayed two years ago. We got to the hotel at about 10:00 PM and, since we had no pressing ministry on Wednesday, we were able to sleep in. That didn’t work for me, though. I was up at 4 o’clock, as usual.

After breakfast we went shopping for humanitarian aid and then returned to the hotel. We had to have a long discussion with the nationals because we did not receive the rental van that we had been promised at the price that we had been quoted. I’m keeping this post brief but it was quite a difficult day for our team because of poor communication and what seems to be unkept promises. Please pray for unity for our team and the nationals.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Today was our first prison service for this campaign, MFou Prison, on the outskirts of Yaounde.

We had no breakfast because the hotel doesn’t start serving until 8:00 and we had to leave at 7 o’clock. We snacked in the car on the way to the prison and arrived 45 minutes before our scheduled time, at 8:15 AM. After waiting about 15 or 20 minutes we unloaded the humanitarian aid and Bibles from the van and moved them into the prison. We waited a while longer and were invited to the OC’s office where Mark presented him with the gifts and he explained to us the rules of engagement. We were allowed no photos or cameras or phones inside the prison, as to be expected, but it was a very strict policy. Approximately 150 of the 540 inmate population were in attendance in the courtyard, two thirds of them under a covered gazebo. The prison church choir was playing drums and singing when we arrived and continued for about five minutes after we were seated.

The Officer in Charge stood up, everyone else stood at that time, and he introduced us to the prisoners. Pastor Dona then gave a brief introduction and turned our crusade over to Dan who gave the International Group Leader message. Mark then served as the Emcee and introduced Von who gave his testimony. I then gave the short sermon about the rich young ruler and his encounter with Jesus and then Dan gave the long sermon about the prodigal son.

I then did the altar call and pointed out to everyone that Von had spoken about him standing on the throne of his life for much of his life before he surrendered to Jesus. Then I told about how the rich young ruler had been standing on his own throne, and when he encountered Jesus he was told what he needed to do but he was disheartened and he turned away from Jesus. I then reminded them that in the story of the prodigal son that the son had turned away from his father who loved him but when he returned to his father he was embraced and welcomed back in the family with celebration. I also explained how the older brother felt that he was entitled to greater celebration because he had worked so hard for his father for so many years and that the older son was not welcoming, as far as we can tell, of his younger brother. He did not rejoice at his return.

I explained to them that these stories may directly relate to their lives. Are they standing on the throne of their own life? Do they know what the law requires of them yet they walk away from Jesus because they love their sin more than the righteousness and love of God? Will they come back to the Father who loves them and will welcome them? Will they repent of their sins and turn to follow Jesus?

About 100 inmates raised their hands in confession of faith and the desire to follow Jesus. Our service was then cut short because it was 11 o’clock and we were instructed to close.

Mark then presented the gifts to the inmates: rice, margarine, chocolate spread and bread, enough Bibles for each of them to have one, medical supplies, and the soccer ball. I then pulled one of the women aside, the leader of the women, and presented her with the sanitary kits that my mom has made. She was extremely blessed by them and very thankful.

As we left the prison we thanked the officer in charge and distributed ballpoint pens to several of the prison staff. We then took a group photo in front of the prison before returning to Yaounde, where we stopped for lunch at Istanbul restaurant and then returned to the hotel for the afternoon.

We returned to the hotel at about 2:00 PM and each of us fell asleep. Dan woke up at 5 o’clock thinking it was the next day. I woke up at 5:30 and was unable to open my eyes, they were so tired they wouldn’t open. When I came downstairs at 6 o’clock for our team meeting I found Mark with Anne Marie, a wonderful lady who was with us two years ago. She is in town for the month and will be attending our conferences on Saturday and Sunday.

We chatted for a while and then each of us retreated to our room at about 7:00 PM.

Tomorrow will be our second prison service and we will be departing at 7:00 AM once again.

Returning to Cameroon

Dan, our leader, Mark, Von and I are on our way. As we await our flight to Paris (round one) Dan led an uplifting devotional about some of the names of God as found in the scriptures. He is the all-seeing God, the all-providing God, the protecting God, the God of promises who always fulfills his promise for us. We leave the US knowing that he is leading us in His foreknowledge into a land He knows well, to fulfill ministry for the purposes which he has foreordained, he has planned our way and will lead our steps and protect us as he remains faithful to his promises and his purposes. We step out in full confidence that He will receive the glory and we will be spectators of his almighty power and purpose. Praise be to God as we, a team of mere men, serve together with great anticipation and excitement. Please pray for us. Please reply and tell us that you are praying for us, it is such an encouragement when we know you are with us.

Mark, Nate, Dan, Von