Until the World Harvest Conference at the end of May, the Stevens & I are staying in a Youth With A Mission (YWAM) guest house & sending center. The villa sits on top of a long, steep, still going, almost there, quads burning, you can make it type of hill. Behind the house, bike trails weave their way to the top of the mountain across the interstate. The front of the villa provides a panoramic of Torremolinos, the ocean, and one of Andalusia’s beautiful mountain ranges. Each glance out the window is therapy to my soul.
One meets lots of interesting people with fascinating stories at a guesthouse. The YWAM staff are from all over the world: Germany, Morocco, Canada, Netherlands, USA. Each week brings in visitors coming from or going to North Africa. Students on a Discipleship Training Program. A Samford graduate fighting the sex trade. Missionaries from a closed country with stories to blow your mind. Last week, Bob the Builder stepped into our little villa life, much to Finch’s excitement.
Bob grew up in a family with alcohol & drugs running rampant. Having never experienced anything different, Bob fell right into his parent’s legacy. As a construction worker in northern Michigan, he became known as “Burrito,” the man to bring both the party & the trouble.
But work, beer, & drugs weren’t fulfilling. Bob sunk into a depression that led to thoughts of suicide. One night, as he was about to end his life, he cried out to God to prove Himself. Bob flipped on the TV to see his last of the world. A TV evangelist popped onto the screen. The young ruffian heard the gospel & broke down crying. He committed his life to Christ that night. “I ran outside & threw away every drug & drink I had,” said Bob. “I threw away hundreds of dollars that night! I showed up to work the next day, & my friends said ‘Hey Burrito, you out last night?’ I replied, ‘Burrito died last night. I am a new person. I am a born again Christian.’ At first, everyone laughed at me, but after several months, they saw I had changed.”
Months later, God redirected the construction worker’s life, again. A retired pastor & his wife hosted an informational meeting at their house about missionary work in Northern Africa. Bob attended the meeting & learned about the need for an orphanage to be built.
“I thought, I can build, & I have 5 months off work during winter, but I don’t have money to go. The next day, I got 2 pictures taken for my passport. I only had half a tank of gas & $2 in my wallet. There was no way I could go to Africa. That night, I visited a church where a missionary was speaking. At the end of the service, I placed my $2 in the offering for the missionary. As I was walking out, a friend walked up & gave me a check. He said, ‘This is for your trip to Africa.’ But I hadn’t told anyone that I had been thinking of going to build the orphanage. I got home & opened the check. It was for $200, a hundred fold what I’d put in to the offering! Since then, people have given me the money every time I go.”
Bob has been working in Northern Africa* for 14 years now. He is just returning from spending 6 months checking on friends, churches, & orphanages he’s built.
“Paul would go back to encourage his churches. I return to pray with my brothers & sisters & help them. This last time, my friend got a tape from a secret police’s meeting. They said if they found me again in their country, they’re going to kill me. Oh well. My God is bigger than that.”
Over several cups of tea, Bob told me story after story from his trips across the ocean.
“One of the pastors hides Bibles in cement blocks with plaster over the top. When someone needs a Bible he goes to his back yard & breaks into the block.”
“One time I was walking back to my hotel at night. All of a sudden, God told me to turn around. A man was standing right behind me with a 2-foot pipe raised to hit me. The man looked me in the eyes then looked up. He looked terrified. He dropped the pipe & ran away. I still don’t know what he saw, but I walked a lot faster. I got to my hotel room, shut the door, & got down on my knees to thank God for saving my life.”
The Christians in parts of North Africa are under persecution by the Muslims. Churches meet in sporadic, secret locations on different days & times so that the police do not find them. “I hiked 4 hours with some of my friends who were Muslims that became Christians. They are in great danger of being discovered so we hiked to a quiet place to have a picnic & pray together,” said Bob.
God has protected Bob & the Christians in North Africa from many close encounters with the Muslims.
“You never know who is watching you,” Bob said. “Muslims watched the orphanage I built for 5 years. They wanted to arrest all the Christians. Instead they came to the Christians & said they’d been watching them & wanted to serve their God.”
He drained the rest of his tea & starred across the patio & into the mountains, memories & emotions crossing his face.
“We never know what seeds we’re sowing by living our lives for Jesus. People think the miracles & dangers of the book of Acts have stopped. All I have to do is point to my life to show that they haven’t.”
* Country not mentioned for safety reasons.