February 20 - March 3, 2020


It is always fun to go to a place for the first time.  That’s the way it was with this mission trip to Monrovia, Liberia. It was my first time to Liberia, and it was like no other place I had ever been.

I was invited by the Regular Baptists Soul Winning Conference to be one of several speakers for their Soul Winning Conference; however, as their plans proceeded, they gave me more and more responsibility on the program.  The conference was scheduled for Gbarnga, Liberia.

The purpose of the conference was to provide pastoral ministry training to the pastors and church workers and to answer their many questions about the situations they encountered on a day-to-day basis in their churches.  They were expecting 850 to attend the conference.  However, the registrar showed there were around 1,000 delegates registered, with an attendance of 750 for the largest day.

When I arrived at the airport I was met by several pastors.  We all greeted each other and had a good time together.  After a while, I realized that things were getting silent in the back of the car.  Then I overheard one of the pastors, talking to Pastor John, the President of the Soul Winning Conference, on the phone.  He told Pastor John that they were telling Pastor Rick, that’s me, funny stories and I was telling them funny stories.  Then the Pastor commented that, “Pastor Rick, is as crazy as we are.”  It only got “crazier” from there.

The first few days in any country are rest days.  You mostly sleep and rest.

The next day, Sunday was quite a day. I preached in the morning at New Life Baptist Church, in Monrovia. My text was from John 3, about Jesus and Nicodemus. Sixteen people made decisions, ten for salvation and six for rededication. It was a happy time.

The next day, Monday, we packed and headed for Gbarnga, Liberia, where we set up for the Soul Winning Conference, Tuesday through Sunday. Must get lots of rest tonight.

The journey from Chattanooga to Gbarnga, Liberia, took 30 hours by airplane and then six more hours, by car, on super bumpy roads.  Which was far more exciting than any ride at Six Flags.  Finally, we got to the end of the road.  You knew it was the end because when you got there it was all gravel, dirt, and dust, no pavement.  You left the pavement many miles back.  Now the “road” became a turnaround and then you started going back from where you came.  To go any further, would put you on the literal backside of nowhere.  Once again, we were reminded that Father was right there waiting for us.  You cannot get ahead of Him or even lose Him in unfamiliar territory.

Today, as we traveled on the road, we had a flat tire.  Some boys came up to where we were changing the tire, selling Gabby worms.   These are worms that live in the top of palm trees and when the palm trees are cut down the worms come out and you can get them and eat them, at least that is what they told me, but I haven’t eaten any yet. I think someone said they taste like chicken.

After arriving in Gbarnga, where we were staying, it was only a short time before we learned one of Satan’s favorite games.  It was “Musical Rooms.”   We played this new game for the first three days we were there.  We had to change rooms three times.  Then once, for variety, Satan changed our dorm building too.  For various reasons, Satan’s favorite time to play Musical Rooms is late night or in the middle of the night.

Every mission trip challenges something in you.  In addition to room/dorm changing I had contact lens problems, it was hard to sleep in the excessive heat, eating new foods, and the road between the conference tent and the sleeping dorm was very dangerous at night.  In the total darkness, many gangs roamed around, wild animals were on the prowl, and there was no help if you got a flat tire.  Despite all of this, traveling on the road was one of the really exciting parts of the trip.

The Conference
Finally, though, Tuesday morning rolled around and the Soul-Winning Conference began.  Every morning for the six days my part began with 2 ½ hours of teaching.  Followed for 45 minutes of preaching.  Then in the afternoon, there were business meetings, with my time being filled with visiting local churches, answering questions, and a little rest.  At 7:00 p.m. the evening session began with me preaching again for 45 minutes.  

Topics for the teaching and preaching times included:

  • The Attributes of God,
  •  Life and Work of a Pastor,
  • The Work of The Holy Spirit,
  • The Word Became Flesh, John 1:1-18,
  • Jesus Changes Water into Wine, John 2: 1-11,
  • How Does God Speak in Today’s World?
  • Signs, Wonders, Going to Heaven and Back, and Speaking in Tongues,
  • Demons and ghosts,
  • Jesus and Nicodemus, John 3: 1-21,
  • The Importance of The Church,
  • Church Planting,
  • Sports Outreach in the local church,
  • How to Hold an Evangelistic Sports Clinic,
  • The Woman at The Well, John 4: 1-42,
  • Sermon Preparation and Delivery,
  • Leadership Principles for Pastors,
  • Satan’s Favorite Lies,
  • Prayer: The Power of a Christian,
  • The Pursuit of Holiness,
  • World Missions and Can You Go?
  • Do You Have a Holy Ambition?

Since it was a soul-winning conference, every afternoon many of the delegates and youth went out street preaching and doing street evangelism.  We also gave out around 600 Salvation Bracelets and Story Cloths to several leaders for them to instruct their folks on how to use these items and then they hit the streets.

The daily temperature ranged from 85-100 degrees with mostly no electricity, no water, no Internet, but we did have a little breeze from our fan, on the occasions we did have electricity.

One of the favorite conference program times for the delegates was Question & Answer Time.  They asked every kind of question you could imagine.  A few of them were: “Why didn’t Adam stop Eve from sinning in the Garden of Eden? Where was he when the snake came?”, “Why does God allow sin, evil, and sickness?”, “How do we know the Bible is true?”, and “If God made everything, who made God?”

At the end of the conference on Sunday, they gave me and my wife African gowns and gave each of us an African name.  Barbara was given the African name, “Korto”, which means clever and skillful in the local Kpelle language.  I was given the name, “Sumo,” meaning short man in the local Kpelle language.  As soon as I could, I got word to Barbara, in the U.S., about her African name and gown. She was thrilled.

After the conference, we headed back to the airport in Monrovia.  On the way, we stopped to see St Matthew Christian Baptist school, with 350 students. It was begun at the end of their civil war, around twelve years ago.  At that time most of the kids were without both parents.  Their parents had been killed in the war and the kids were fending for themselves on the streets.   Matthew, a Christian, started the school and provided most of the start-up financing.  He also got others to help him get the school “off the ground.”  Matthew continues now as school Principal and Administrator.

After the school visit, I was taken to the home of one of the pastors and he showed me his dog, Bulldozer.  Then, he gave me a dog of my own.  His name was Caterpillar.  I told him that the dog would not be allowed on the plane.  So, he agreed to keep it for me at his home.

What a mission trip.  God did a great job.  I am always amazed by how God works everything out.  Just like clockwork.  But then again, God made clocks and time.

Someone wrote me a text after I got back in the U.S. and asked me what surprised or amazed me the most?  That is easy to answer.  It is my biggest amazement or surprise on every mission trip.  It has three parts.  One, all over the world people are the same.  All people need Jesus…because people without Christ are lost. Two, Jesus saves people everywhere.  Three, when He saves, He saves to the uttermost.  These three are also my greatest encouragement and greatest joy.