“And he said unto them, I must preach the kingdom of God to other cities also: for therefore am I sent.” (Luke 4:43)
The Lord began to open other doors of ministry also.
I had followed the advice that we always gave to others, and my family and I had begun attending a Spirit-filled Baptist Church. I knew that God had called me to preach in addition to the one-on-one witnessing.
I began to go with a gentleman from the Church and assist in some nursing home ministry and I had prayed asking the Lord to help me learn to play the guitar.
We had gone to the State Fair of Texas, handing out thousands of tracts and had seen hundreds come to know Christ as their savior.
Bro. Tony had put together some Gospel Singings in the park, where the groups would sing and we would go out to the people and witness one-on-one. He had even arranged for us to have a soul-winning crusade in the football stadium in Lewisville, TX.
However, my life, family, and ministry were about to experience a dramatic change.
Bro. Tony had been invited to bring a soul-winning team to Weatherford, TX and teach soul winning to a group of hungry Christians. I did not realize that this was the beginning of a new chapter in our lives.
My wife Glenda had begun to go out with me and witness on the streets and in the parks whenever she was able, but taking care of our precious three year old daughter was a full time job.
My guitar playing had improved to the point that I would take my guitar to the nursing home and sing for the residents before I would bring the message from the Word of God. Even my daughter had begun to learn and sing some of the songs with me.
However, they would not be able to go to Weatherford. We were going to be there for a week, holding soul-winning classes in the early evening and then taking people out on the streets to witness at night.
When we arrived in Weatherford, we stayed in a two-story building near the downtown square that was being used to store spare beds and other nursing home equipment. After settling in, we went across the street to arrive early at the meeting hall for the first soul-winning meeting.
Having lived in Dallas for most of my life, I was accustomed to getting someplace early to beat the traffic and get a good seat, but as the time approached for the meeting to begin, not a single person had showed up.
I found out small towns are much different than big cities.
Wondering what kind of response we were going to have, I was pleasantly surprised when five minutes before the start of the meeting, the doors opened and the meeting room filled up with people from most of the different churches in the area, all hungry to hear how they could reach the young people of Weatherford.
It seemed that Weatherford had the same problem that a lot of small towns have.
With little recreation, theatres, entertainment, or activity, the teens and young adults had begun to spend their evenings driving up and down the main thoroughfare, stopping and gathering in the parking lots of closed businesses.
There they indulged in drinking, smoking, playing loud music, and generally causing a loud ruckus.
The difference between this situation and something similar you might find in the city, was that on Sunday morning you could find most of this “wild bunch” sitting in church pews, but their evening activities decried their professed Christianity.
Although everyone that came to the meeting displayed a great desire to find out how to reach these young people, one Pastor seemed to stand out from the rest.
Bro. Sonny pastored a community church outside of town, and had already begun to reach the youth by having a regular Youth Night with singing, games, and preaching. He would even drive into town to pick up any young person that wanted to come.
At this first meeting, Bro. Tony presented a stirring message from the Scriptures about winning souls, and we shared about the wonderful outpouring of God’s Spirit and the harvest we were witnessing in Dallas.
Then Bro. Tony told the congregation that if they would come back the next night, he would tell them how to reach the young people of Weatherford.
The next night, even more people showed up at the meeting, and after going over the Scriptures contained in our Gospel tract, and how to use them to lead someone to Christ, he said “Here’s how we do it. We just go.”
“We put one foot in front of the other and just go. Most Christians will never lead someone to Christ because they never go. This is your opportunity to go. Come and follow me.”
And with that, we divided up into groups of two or three, headed out the door, and down the street.
The Lord had already spoken and showed me a particular way to witness to these young people in Weatherford.
When I would approach them about Christ, and they would say “Oh yes, I already belong to such-and-such church”, then I was to say, “Let me ask you one question.”
“If you were to die right now while I’m standing here talking to you and If your heart was to stop beating just like this (and the Lord showed me to snap my fingers), and you found yourself standing in front of God Almighty, would He say ‘Well done thou good and faithful servant, enter into the presence of the Lord.’? Would he find your name written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, or are you not sure?”
More times than not, they would reply, “I’m not sure.”
Then I would say, “The Bible says ‘I write these things that ye may KNOW that ye have eternal life.’ Would you like to pray this prayer with me and be born again, and know that you have eternal life with God and have a home in Heaven?”
Many bowed their heads in prayer, and we saw hundreds of young people that week come to know Christ as their Savior. After prayer, I would always ask “How about now? Do you now know for a fact that you are saved and that Jesus came inside your heart?”
Without a doubt, the answer would always be “Yes!”
Truly we were seeing the fulfillment of the Scripture in Romans 10:9- “That if thou shalt confess WITH THY MOUTH the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”
When we returned to Dallas, I went to visit my Mom and share with her all the things that we had witnessed God do in Weatherford.
As I was telling her about the way that I would witness to the young people there, she began to gently sob. “Are you alright, Mom?” I asked.
She said, “I don’t know for sure that I would go to heaven if I died.”
Now my Mom was one of the most righteous people that I knew. She was what we call in the south a “straight laced, die hard, dyed in the wool Baptist.”
With her there was no drinking, no swearing, no smoking, and no gambling. I can’t remember how many times I heard her say, “They gambled for Jesus clothes.”
And now this good, righteous lady was telling me that she was unsure of her salvation. The Bible says, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.”
Without faith, there is no salvation.
God has provided for us to know that we are saved. When His Spirit comes and lives inside of us, it becomes a point in time to which we can look back to and know that we were born again.
“Well Mom”, I said, “we can pray and you can know for certain that you will go to heaven when you die. Would you like to pray?”
She said “Yes”, and she prayed out loud, asking Christ to come into her heart, and she was gloriously saved.
I had the honor of standing by her bedside years later when she walked into the arms of our Lord Jesus Christ.
A short time after our return from Weatherford, I was sitting on a wooden swing in the back yard of my mother-in-law’s house, when I received a visit from God.
I had read about this experience in the Old Testament, when the prophet would say, “And the Word of the Lord came unto me saying…”
I was reading my Bible, meditating on the Scriptures, gazing up at the warm summer sky, when the presence of the Lord came over me and He began speaking.
“I am going to give you a bus, and you and your family are going to travel across the southwest holding revival services in nursing homes. I have much people there. I have called others to go and do this but they would not go. And the blessings I would have given them, I have stored up and will give unto you if you will go.”
I said, “Yes Lord, I will go,” and the presence of the Lord left me. Trembling, I was excited that God would call me to such a task.
I had previously quit my job before we had gone to Weatherford and I had begun working in the ministry full time.
I believed that the same God that fed the children of Israel for 40 years in the wilderness could feed and take care of me and my family if I would only do His will and do the work that He called me to do.
I couldn’t wait to tell my wife what the Lord had said, and we began praying for the Lord to make a way for us to receive this bus.
Knowing the Lord could do anything, I was expecting someone to pull up any day with a brand new Winnebago motor home and say, “The Lord told me to give this to you.”
But God usually doesn’t work the way we expect Him to. His ways are higher than our ways.
I continued to do ministry work through the Christian Outreach Center, going out on the streets during the day and to the clubs and bars at night, witnessing to the patrons in the parking lots and on the streets.
My wife and daughter had also begun to go with me and hold services in nursing homes.
On one particular day, I had taken a brother-in-Christ home from doing some street witnessing, when I passed a field with old junk cars and a white, partially rusted school bus sitting in it.
The bus had a “For Sale” sign in the window and high weeds had grown up all around it, as if it had been there for a very long time. I didn’t think much about it and continued to drive, when the still, small voice of the Lord said, “Go back. That’s the one.”
I thought to myself, “I must be mistaken, that can’t be God’s voice. God’s going to give me a new Winnebago.”
I kept driving, but the further I drove, the knot and the sickness I began feeling in my stomach got worse. Finally, I couldn’t stand it any longer, and I made a U-turn and went back.
The field was behind a rundown mechanic’s shop. I pulled up, got out, and asked the mechanic “Hey, is that old bus out there really for sale?”
“Yeah, it sure is. You want to take a look inside?”
I said “I guess so.” thinking, “What is the Lord getting me into?” and we headed out through the weeds to the bus. When he opened the door, and we walked inside, I couldn’t believe my eyes.
The bus had been completely redone on the inside.
It had a full size bathroom with a shower, a full kitchen, two couches that turned down into full size beds, closet space, two potable water holding tanks, two sewage holding tanks, and a power generator for electricity.
It also had two large butane tanks for heat and two large air conditioning units.
Everything was brand new and had never been used. The rusty places on the outside were from where the welding had been done.
The mechanic told me that it was once owned by a man who worked for Executive Motor Homes, and that he had converted it to take people on ski trips to Colorado when he retired.
He had completed everything, had put new tires on it, and was about to paint it, when he had a heart attack. He had survived the heart attack, but instead of finishing the bus, he used it as a trade in on some real estate.
The real estate agent had placed the bus at the mechanic’s shop hoping to sell it, and it had been sitting in that field ever since.
I was astonished at what the Lord had led me to, and I repented for ever doubting.
I got the information about the real estate agent and hurried home to tell my wife. The real estate agent wanted $3,500 for the bus, so I called my banker and asked what should I do next?
He gave me the name of an appraiser and said that after I had the bus appraised, to come in and we would talk financing.
I called and found out that the appraisal would cost $50. That was all we had in the bank.
My wife Glenda said that if I really believed it was of the Lord, then we should have the appraisal done. We prayed that the Lord’s will would be done, and I met the appraiser at the bus.
He appraised the bus at $2,800. I called the real estate agent and informed her of what the bus appraised for, and she said that she would take $3,000 and no less. This was still $200 more than what the bus appraised for, and we had just spent the last of our money for the appraisal.
Still, we believed that if it was God’s will for us to have it, then God would work a miracle.
I left to go to the bank with the appraisal in my hand, and as I went, the Lord told me to just be truthful.
I sat across from the banker and explained my situation to him. I told him that I had no money to pay tax and title, that I had spent my last $50 for the appraisal, and that I would need to borrow enough money to cover the total cost.
He sat and looked at me for a moment, and then he said something that I will never forget.
He said, “ Raymond, you’re telling me that you are a full time minister, you are going to take this bus and go to nursing homes where you can receive no offerings, that you have no support behind you, and that you don’t even know where your first stop is going to be.”
“You need to borrow more than the bus appraised for in order to purchase it, and add to that enough for the tax and title with no down payment; and yet (he paused), I know that I am supposed to do this for you. I’ll draw up the paperwork.”
We got the bus the next day, and drove it home.
Praise be to God who rules and reigns in the lives of men, and who watches over His Word to perform it.
(TO BE CONTINUED)