E3 Expedition Podcast 34: Stories from India, Ethiopia & the Human Heart

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Every week, we share stories about the amazing ways God is at work around the world. We hope that you’ll be encouraged by these stories and inspired to greater involvement in God’s Great Commission to go out to the world – near and far – and train, instruct, and baptize people in Jesus’ Name. This week, we start out by hearing from Dan Hitzhusen:

Basically, the apostle Paul went to new cities, preached the Gospel and left behind new churches. Today, there are places all around the globe where the people there have still never heard the Good News of Christ. So, we go to these places and partner with local Christians from nearby villages or cities and help train and equip them to reach out to their fellow countrymen with the Gospel. Then, together, we work to transform their entire society through the work of the church. It’s amazing to see the Gospel of Christ and the “hands and feet” of the body of Christ working together to not only transform lives, but entire communities.

Stateside, we are seeing “ordinary Christians” – not lifelong missionaries or theologians – following God’s calling on their lives to grow God’s kingdom. We’re talking almost 70,000 people participating in short-term missions trips over the last 27 years! And, we’ve seen every single one of them come home sharing extraordinary stories about what God has done while on their trip and beyond. Let me be very clear about this – it’s God doing the work, planting thousands of churches, transforming people’s lives and eternities – we are simply obediently allowing Him to use us to be a part of it.

You see, E3 Partners works through American churches to help churches overseas to target unevangelized neighborhoods and villages in order to build up churches that impact their communities.

Usually the three things that keep people from going on a missions trip are: Fear, Family and Finances. They fear the unknown, they fear not being prepared, they worry about who will take care of their kids, or how they can afford such a huge undertaking. But, as Bill Bright said, “faith is like a muscle, the more you exercise it, the bigger it gets.” Additionally, I have another friend who constantly said, “The tragedy of life isn’t necessarily what happens to someone, but it’s what they miss out on.”

So, through missions trips like the ones that E3 Partners puts on, you end up having this privilege that God has given us to share the Gospel. 90% of American Christians today never seized an opportunity to share their faith with someone else. Yet, over a five-year period, we have discovered that for each person that has gone on a trip with us, 32 people have made a new decision to follow Jesus Christ and accept Him as their Savior. The opportunity to share the truth of Jesus with people who have never heard His story is like nothing else anyone could ever experience! So, to think that 90% of the Christians in this country miss out on that privilege is just sad.

One aspect that is often overlooked is the fact that it is a lot easier to step out and share your faith with strangers. When you speak with people half-way across the globe, Americans typically feel a lot less pressure than if they were to face the challenge of talking about Jesus to their co-workers or neighbors. So, E3 Partners trains people how to easily and succinctly use their tools and each person’s own story to spread the Gospel. Then, after doing it dozens of times while on their trip overseas, it suddenly becomes much easier to spread God’s Word at home as well! You quickly learn that it’s not about you, but God working through you to spread His truths. You don’t need to be a Bible expert, but just be willing to obey Him, go where He wants you to go, do what He wants you to do, and say what He wants you to say. As you do that and watch God go to work, seeing Him draw people to Him, it is absolutely unbelievable!

Next, we hear from Dan Watson as he reflects on his first trip with E3 Partners, many years ago, to India:

I was minding my own business, sitting in the pew at church, when the bulletin came around with an insert saying that the church was pulling together a team of people to go to India. I sat there staring at the sheet, looking at the dates and other details, when my wife suddenly nudged me and asked, “Do you want to go?!”

And I replied, “Absolutely not.”

Which was an absolute lie. I did want to go. I knew that this was going to be a trip where the expectation would be that I would sit down in the homes of Hindus and tell them about Jesus. Now, up to this point, I had never shared the Gospel from end-to-end with someone else – not even once. And I was a preacher’s kid in his late-forties!

So, I signed up to go because I knew that the Lord was telling me to get up off my pew and put myself in a position where trusting God is the only alternative. That being said, India would have been at the bottom of my list of places I wanted to go, but the top of the list of places where I would be dependent on God.

So, when we arrived, I wasn’t scared at all, but eager to see how this was actually going to work – the Holy Spirit constantly leading. And, I sat in the home of the first family that we met, I shared the Gospel (misquoting verses over and over again), I stumbled through my story. I even remember messing up so bad at one point that my interpreter looked at me and rolled his eyes at me and fixed my message through his interpretation, but made it no secret to me that he was doing so. Yet, at the end of our time, my interpreter looked at me and said, “Dan, they are ready.”

“Ready for what?” was all I could say.

They were ready to accept Jesus, which was way beyond what I had expected. To my complete astonishment, that entire family of Hindus gave their lives to Christ that day, even through my poorly spoken attempt at sharing the Gospel. It was, undeniably, the Holy Spirit at work.

I’ve been back to India well over 50 times since then, and I’m still not over what happened that day. And it wasn’t just their lives that were changed. My life has been constantly changed ever since then as well.

When I returned from my trip, I was invited to share with the fourth and fifth graders at our church about what I had experienced. Six years later, I turned over the job of teaching our church’s fourth and fifth graders to another volunteer. This one trip and this one Sunday of sharing about the trip turned into a six-year ministry to our church’s students!

Next, we hear from Stephanie DeMink in regards to how she first found out about E3 Partners and the role that they have played in her life.

I was a new believer and was praying that God would show me what He wanted me to do with my life. At that time, I felt that God wanted me to simply stay put and grow in my knowledge and faith in Him – to be a witness to those around me, and learn how to love in a Christ-like way.

Meanwhile, though, I kept hearing stories of God working through people’s lives in incredible ways and they would move my heart like nothing else. I remember hearing stories on the radio and needing to pull over because I was so moved, I was weeping while behind the wheel. At the time, I didn’t know about unreached people – I didn’t even know they existed. I thought, “It’s been 2,000 years. Certainly by now, every nation has heard the Gospel!”

I was so wrong.

So, I prayed that God would make it clear what He wanted me to do and where He wanted me to go. I put it on Him (thinking it would take quite a bit of time for Him to start setting things up).

I was so wrong.

The next day, I was helping my mom in the kitchen, getting things ready for Thanksgiving, when she said, “Stephanie, look at this invitation that your father and I got.” It was an invitation from E3 Partners with these words boldly printed across the top:

“Declare His glory amongst the nations, His marvelous deeds among all peoples!”  (Psalm 96:3)

What? I had just prayed the day before for God to start putting things together and less than 24 hours later, I’m staring at an invitation to go to a dinner at a missions agency with a Bible verse telling me to go! I started crying right then and there.

After attending the dinner, I was convinced – the Lord wanted me to go!

I spoke Spanish and I love Latin culture, so I thought that somewhere in South America or Cuba would be a perfect fit for me. I had it all planned out.

I was so wrong.

Dan suggested that I try somewhere where I would be stretched outside of my comfort zone – somewhere where I didn’t know the language or culture. That way I would not be able to lean on my own strength, but instead lean on God entirely. So, I ended up going on a trip to India with Dan.

And, boy was Dan right!

I was stretched beyond belief, sharing God’s truth with people whom I would have never even dreamed that I would be speaking to, and watching the Holy Sprit speak to their hearts in amazing ways. The honor and privilege of being a part of God’s work was mind-blowing!

Since then, being a part of E3 Partners has completely changed everything in my life. It’s as if I am an empty pitcher and God continually pours Himself into me. He filled me with faith beyond measure to the point where I decided to go into ministry with E3 Partners full-time and follow His lead in all aspects of my life from where I go, to what I do, to how I can afford to do it.

Finally, we hear from Stephanie’s mom, Carol Morrison as she shares her personal experiences regarding God instilling in her a desire to spread the Gospel across the world:

My story is quite different from most people, in that God had not put overseas missions on my heart. My husband and I attended a dinner at E3, and Dan Hitzhusen asked me when I would be going on my first missions trip and I replied, “When hell freezes over.”

God had called my daughter to the mission field and we would support her prayerfully and financially, but there was no way I was going anywhere.

Then I got a call from a friend who said that she felt as if God was calling her to support Stephanie and go along with her on her next missions trip. That got me thinking, “If my friends were willing to do this, maybe I should start thinking about doing likewise.”

I was working as a corporate events planner at the time, and I was in high demand, so just fitting a missions trip into my schedule would be quite difficult. But, I told my husband that if Marlena was willing to go on a trip, maybe I would go to… never really believing that Marlena would really go through with it.

God had different plans than me, because before I knew it, Marlena and I had both signed up to go on the next trip while Stephanie was away in China.

Stephanie said to me, “Mom, I am so excited for you to go on this trip! You are the last person that I expected to volunteer for a campout in India.”

I don’t know how I missed that detail when I signed up! Camping, to me, would have been staying in a Hilton without 24-hour room service.

So the next day, at our first day of training, I didn’t hear a thing during the training sessions. Instead, I was praying the entire time that I would get sick or break a leg – anything that would prevent me from going. If God wanted me to go on a campout in India, God was making a huge mistake.

But, I didn’t get sick. I didn’t break a leg. So, as I boarded the plane bound for India, I began to pray that the plane would crash. I could not do this.

Then I heard God clearly say, “Carol, just be still and know that I am God.”

I said, “God, I don’t have a choice.”

So, 47 hours later, we arrived in India. I didn’t even take my clothes off in the hotel room where we were staying because I didn’t trust the cleanliness of the room.

And then, the next day, we went out to the first village and I could not believe my eyes. I had no idea that there were places where people’s lives hadn’t really changed since the beginning of time. I was in shock by what I saw, and even more shocked that I was going to be there a week with them.

I couldn’t help but wonder what was wrong with me, as I was dreading every moment, and the other people in our group were filled with joy.

The next day, I went out with Dan Watson and I got to hear him share the Gospel. Then I saw people respond and come to the Lord. I was amazed. One hut after another, I saw God work.

But then Dan asked if I would like to share. I was scared, but I realized that like Moses, unless I set my foot in the water, I wasn’t going to see the waters part.

So, I stepped up and shared the Gospel.

And not a single person accepted Christ.

Over the next three days, I continued to speak and share God’s truth. And snot a single person accepted Christ.

But, on the fourth day, I went out with my daughter. I got to witness her pray with and minister to the people of this Indian village. This was the same daughter whom my husband and I had calluses on our knees from our endless prayers that she would follow Jesus.

It was the most thrilling day of my life.

I soon realized that by God bringing me to this remote village in this third-world nation, that He was revealing His sovereign glory to me.

My life was turned upside down. I had had a Savior since I was 24-years-old. But now, I had a Lord to follow. It was so thrilling!

I came home, retired from my affluent career in event planning and joined the staff of E3 Partners.

There is nothing in the world that can compare to what God blesses you with when you finally say, “Yes, Lord.”

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