Over the last month we’ve had some within our church family spread out over 3 different continents to share the gospel of Jesus and live out their lives on mission with God. I’ve asked some of them to share what God did in their lives through their experiences. It’s important to remember that every person who went is just a normal person that has allowed a supernatural God to use them. All of these stories are simple, yet powerful reminders of how God can use us everyday to take the gospel to our world.
The first person to share is Luke Amos. Luke went down to Buenos Aires, Argentina last month through the invitation of a local missionary to use jiu-jitsu as a means to take Jesus to those outside of the church. His story is a great example of how God can take a regular sport and turn it into an avenue to share the gospel. Here’s Luke’s story:
Argentina was much more than I could have imagined and/or expected! I returned home to North Carolina on Friday morning, after making my flight from Buenos Aires TEN MINUTES before they closed the door for boarding. *Thank you, Javier Ojeda, for coming back to help me, even though I told you to go home. I would have missed my flight otherwise! I won’t spend the time explaining the entire story, but let’s just say that the traffic (and drivers) in Buenos Aires might be worse than those in Washington DC…quite shocking. I really want to make this short, but I’m not sure how it’s gonna be possible. I’ll do my best…
God was good and protected me the entire week from chaos. Although I wasn’t scared, I did pray for physical protection. The number one concern for the Argentine people in the city of Buenos Aires is what they call “security”. This includes kidnappings, carjackings, muggings, robberies and worse. The missionaries I stayed with, Ron + Chris Self, have been robbed 13 times in 30 years. This includes scenarios which are much more violent and terrible than I want to describe in this email. The bottom line is that God clearly protected me during this trip and I am thankful.
The week started off with my arrival coming in the morning, much like my arrival back to the states. I’m not fond of the red-eye flights, but that’s life. As soon as I got there, I met Ron Self and we had about an hour trip back to his home. We had a great conversation about the city, the economy, the church, mission boards, and general mission work both in Argentina and in other countries. Although I had known Ron a bit, I hadn’t had a long conversation with him before this. I was very impressed with his wisdom and endurance, despite an extremely tough 30 years in Buenos Aires. I know for a fact that most people (probably including myself) would have left the field long before 30 years…seeing and experiencing that things his family has. You should know that leaving Argentina has NEVER crossed his mind. For those of you who know Ron, you understand that this isn’t just talk. He and his wife plan to live out their lives there, unless God has other plans. I got a chance to have many great talks and laughs with Ron and Chris throughout the week. I really learned a LOT about many aspects of life. I’ll just say that I really hope to see them both again in the future. God used them to influence my life, even if I only spent a week with them.
When we arrived at the Self’s home, I felt very much at home and very welcomed. Javier Ojedo soon came to greet me and take me out for the night. I also met his very sweet daughters Cynthia (21) and Jana (16) at this time. I got to spend quite a bit of time with all three of them over the week, as the girls are both black belt instructors in Tae Kwondo. Javier and his wife Laura are the owners of the four Tae Kwondo-Martial Arts schools in Buenos Aires that initially desired to have someone with a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu background to come and teach at their schools. I was able to see the main school that night, and watch a bit of one of the kids classes that was going on. We also visited a market, where I purchased some items for my family.
Javier dropped me off at the church that evening, where they had a “guys night out” that included many of the 18-35 men in the church. We had a great night of getting to know each other, playing video games, talking about Jiu Jitsu and eating some home-made cooking by my interpreter, Javier Fernandez. I had communicated with Javier before the trip started because he is heavily involved as a leader in the church. He has also trained BJJ for about a year and wants to continue to learn more. We are about the same age and got along great. I was quite exhausted from the long trip and day. I hope that the guys there didn’t think I was a bum, but Javier Ojeda came back to take me home around midnight. The guys stayed about past 1:00…typical for the average Argentine person, but not for this wimpy American.
The next day, Ron Self and I followed the whole crew of TKD and Jiu Jitsu people to the camp where many local TKD instructors would be sharing a weekend of learning leadership and organizational skills taught by Ron. He shared the Gospel in each of his presentations and the people were very receptive. I taught four seminars over the next couple of days. I also got to spend a good amount of time with both Javiers. I also spent some time with Juan Marcos, who is an instructor, leader at the church and boyfriend of Cynthia. Juan Marcos is a very funny guy who loves the Lord and really went out of his way to make me feel comfortable. The BJJ seminars went very well and the instructors seemed to love the techniques. I was able to share much about my life and about the Gospel after each session. Everyone was very receptive and attentive while I spoke. The respect that I was shown was very humbling. Between Ron’s classes and my BJJ seminars, many people who didn’t have a relationship with God were immersed with His Word and His teachings. When it was time to leave, many of the instructors thanked me and we exchanged email addresses/Facebook requests. I didn’t expect to see most of them again, but many ended up coming out to the upcoming free seminars in the city during the (Monday through Wednesday) week.
Monday through Wednesday evenings, I got to share the Gospel and teach BJJ. The seminars went very well and once again the people were very receptive and respectful. There was a great energy in the school during these classes. The students seemed to LOVE Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, an art which most had not seen before. Each night, I would share the Gospel from a different perspective because some of the same people came all three nights. By Wednesday night, we had almost 50 adults and 30 kids in the (separate) classes! After we took pictures, I once again exchanged email addresses and Facebook requests with many people. I intend to stay close to many of the friends I met and continue to share God’s love with those who don’t know Him. Javier, Laura and several others showered me with gifts of gratitude for sharing my life and teaching the students some BJJ. I was extremely humbled and grateful. I tried to explain that it really WAS God who did everything during the week. I simply taught an art that in reality, won’t mean anything when it comes to the Eternal Kingdom of God. What will matter is what we DO with whatever talents God gives us. Javier and Laura definitely understand this.
The trip was a great success because many either heard the Gospel for the first time, realized they needed to change something that was happening (or not happening) in their lives, received a book about eternal salvation, or were encouraged to keep building relationships with those who don’t know Jesus. I say this not because I was able to do these things. I wasn’t. God chose to use this sinner (ME) to spread his fame to a part of the world that needs it. I couldn’t have done it by myself. God was truly with me (as He always is) during this trip. His presence was felt in a way that I hadn’t experienced before. It’s hard to explain, but I know one thing…
I WILL be returning to Buenos Aires if the Lord allows it, and I WILL maintain the relationships that were made with the people in the church and those who don’t yet know Christ.
I want to thank the Selfs, Javier + Laura, Cynthia + Jana, Juan Marcos, Javier + Emmanuel Fernandez, Gustavo and his family, and many more Argentines who showed me love and kindness during my trip. God used you in ways you will never know. I will be praying for you until I see you once again. I truly feel that I have known you guys my whole life. Thank you for everything, I love you guys!!
I could go on and on about stories and more feelings on the trip, but this is already much too long (sorry). God has changed my life through this experience and I trust that he’s changed (or will change many others). Pray that I stay focused on doing the same work here in the United States. I KNOW that is what God desires of me!