Many of you know STL plays a big part in church planting in Russia. The following is a memory I hope will be helpful in assisting your youth group to meet your STL goal.
When I was a boy and learning to play baseball, as I was sent up to bat, my coach told me to follow through on my swing. Although I did not realize it at the time, I was being taught an indispensable lesson.
When the Lord called me to be a missionary in 1987, I never realized how difficult fulfilling my calling would be.
The USSR was breaking up, and the cold war was coming to an end. Perestroika and Glasnost were household words. My family and I had just arrived to our assigned field, Lithuania, and we were staying in a two-room apartment with the head bishop of the country’s Pentecostal union. It was winter, and the buildings were unheated and without hot water. The entire apartment measured only 100 square feet; my wife, three small children, and I lived in one room and the head bishop and his wife occupied the other room.
One of my first projects was buying a Speed the Light vehicle. Since we were pioneering the country, I thought God would be pleased if we bought a van–something with numerous seats for evangelistic teams and room for their equipment.
My interpreter and I would get up early in the morning while still dark and begin our hunt for a van. I made up a little game to help me pass the hours, days, weeks, and months we spent on our interminable van-search; it was called Hide and Seek. The van God wanted us to have was somewhere in the city, we only needed to seek it out.
There were no authorized auto dealers. Signs and advertisement did not mean a thing; they were a mere hint at the van’s hiding place. It was common to pull up at a bus stop and spend thirty minutes questioning people for leads on a van to purchase. We had little help: no Yellow Pages, no directory assistance, no internet, and few telephones. In the end, we relied on our creativity and our routine–get up, eat breakfast, and get out the door before sunrise to look for our van.
Three weeks passed, and I saw a few pictures of a van in some obscure office. I was told that if I came back next week, I could see the real thing. It was a smoke screen. After a week, no van appeared, and we were no closer to seeing one.
One morning, as always, we woke up, ate breakfast, and left to search for our van while it was still dark. We were following a lead and ended up at a lumberyard. We entered the store and saw three cars for sale. We asked the owner if he had a van in stock; he didn’t. But he gave us some hope. He told us of a place where he saw vans for sale. By this time, since it was already dark, we went home and decided to go out the next morning.
The next morning the sun was coming up as we drove toward the looming smoke stacks of the power plant. They seemed to reach into the sky ahead of us. This was the landmark we were looking for. We turned toward the power plant and took a crooked side street. Man-made clouds of coal smoke filled the air. It was then, through the smoke, that we saw the vans.
We could not believe it: Just behind a 12-foot high, chain-link fence guarded by men with automatic assault rifles, were fifteen new Toyota Hiace twelve-passenger vans in various colors.
We asked permission to enter the building. After 30 minutes, we were given permission and walked into the building, followed by a guard with an AK- 47. The people who worked in this store met us. We told them we were interested in buying a van. One man asked us, “Which one?” So we went outside and we picked a white one. There were no test drives; we weren’t even allowed to start the engine. The dealer invited us back inside for tea. We went into a small room with a large table. Stale cigarette smoke lingered in the air. A secretary brought us tea, which we drank, and began negotiating for the van.
When I asked the dealer how payment was normally made, he replied, “I don’t know, we have never sold a vehicle before.” So, I began the long process of telling him how to agree on a price, draw up a contract, and wire money into the country.
We began looking for a van in October, and by the end of January, we were driving our STL van. Praise the Lord!
During my little league days, I learned the important lesson of following through. Life in the former Soviet Union has not changed all that much. Follow through is still needed to finish the job. Since that time, Speed the Light has purchased five vehicles, copy machines, video projectors, portable PA equipment, and more for us. Follow through is an invaluable lesson that must be learned to get the job done.
In this ministry God has given me, I am often reminded the job is not done until the people come—come to Jesus!
What is your Speed the Light goal?
What is it going to take for you to follow through?
Get the job done, and the people will come!
Our Speed the Light vans have been used in hundreds of evangelism outreaches. By the river, a van carried baptismal candidates. At weddings and funerals, they have transported families. We have used the vans as an ambulance, as a school bus, even to carry diplomats to official gatherings. A van was a supply wagon for a remote village church. The vans have prayed in, cried in, ate in and sick in. The van has held our laughter and our sleep. The STL van has sheltered us through eight time zones and kept us from wolves, bandit attacks, and gunpoint. In the vans we have survived a dozen accidents and being totaled once. The vans have also been broken into, stolen out of, vandalized, broken down, and run on empty more than a few times. It has been stuck in the snow, stuck in sand, stuck in the mud, stuck in potholes, and stuck in traffic. Still, it Speeds the Light.
Someone followed through.
Someone got the job done and now the people come… to Jesus