Donna and I have served with Baptist International Missions as missionaries to a North African country in the 10-40 Window since 1971.
My mother and father accepted Christ in 1957. Shortly afterwards, I was also saved and baptized at the age of eight. In 1962 our family joined the Tabernacle Baptist Church in Greenville, South Carolina, where Dr. Harold B. Sightler was the pastor. This church operated one of the first Christian schools in South Carolina. I attended there in the 10th and 11th grades. It was during this time that I felt God's call to preach His Word. I graduated from Bob Jones University in 1970 with special studies in Bible and Greek, the language of the New Testament.
Donna was saved at the age of five. Her father, Donald Wardlaw, was a charter member of the Tabernacle Baptist Church. He served as pastor in several Baptist churches and later he and his wife, Sybil, served on several mission fields. At the age of six, Donna surrendered to be a missionary. She also attended Tabernacle Christian School. It was there that we met and later were married in 1971. Donna also attended Bob Jones University.
We were called to West Africa through the ministry of Brother Dan Truax, Africa Director at BIMI and member of Tabernacle Baptist Church. Brother Truax was burdened for a people group he had observed in West Africa while he was a missionary there. These people did not have any Bible in their language. As he shared his burden at our church, we were called to help with putting God's Word into the language of this people group. I took special language studies at the University of Oklahoma and the University of North Dakota. Donna and I presented ourselves to BIMI as missionary candidates in 1971 and were accepted. After deputation we left for French language studies in France in January 1973.
Arriving on our field in 1974, I began immediately to learn the language of the people. God gave us several believers, and after working with them for 20 years, we completed the translation of the New Testament and Genesis into the language of these desert nomads of North Africa. Since completing the translation, we have printed over 25,000 Gospels and New Testaments and distributed many of them in this language.
The peoples in this region of the 10-40 Window are steeped in the major religion of this part of the world, a religion also incorporated into the political structure of the country. So there were few converts for many years. After changes in the political system, God opened a door in 1996 for us to have a weekly Gospel radio broadcast in the local language, the same language in which we had labored for over 20 years. I, along with a half dozen believers, began producing a 15-minute Gospel broadcast that was aired each Saturday morning. At that time, many began listening to this broadcast and reported back to us that they could understand! Some asked for us to read the words of Jesus Christ on the radio since their religious teachers refused to read Christ's words to them and forbade them to read His Word! We determined to give them the Word of God by radio and since then we have read the entire New Testament over the airwaves! Subsequently, many have come to Christ who had never before heard the Gospel!
In 2009 after 35 years on the field, Donna suffered a severe heart attack while on furlough. Her heart was damaged too badly for her to return to the rigorous desert climate of North Africa. Later that year, I returned for several weeks to keep the radio broadcast going.
We faced a difficult decision. Tests showed that Donna had lost more than 50% of her heart's function and she is under the continual care and observation of cardiologists and arrhythmia specialists. Her pacemaker and defibrillator are monitored around the clock. The doctors are surprised that she does as well as she does and we thank God for His care that keeps her going better than expected. Yet, her strength is very limited, making it impossible for her to return to the rigorous demands of the heat and desert of North Africa. There are no medical facilities near this field of service that could monitor and care for her heart condition. On the other hand, the Gospel radio broadcast we air in this part of the world, now on three stations, is the only Gospel broadcast in this language! Many of those who listen to it have never heard the Gospel! How can we walk away from this opportunity?
Donna and I felt that we could not ignore this opportunity outright and totally separate ourselves from this field of service since there are no other missionaries to see that this work goes on. For this reason, I have continued to return to the field for several months each year to keep the work going and to encourage the believers so that we could avoid disruption of the work and the end of the radio broadcasts. So, the broadcasts have continued and listeners continue to come to Christ; we have also continued to publish printed New Testaments in the language of our people for those who can read, as well as translations of Old Testament books. In 2012 we discovered that reasonably priced MP3 players were available in the markets of the villages. Thus, for the many who cannot read, we began to copy MP3 audio reading of the Scriptures onto SD memory cards and present them in these MP3 players. Since then, many have listened to God's Word for themselves in their own language and hundreds have confessed their faith in Jesus Christ!
We continue to supply them with audio Scriptures on these MP3 memory cards in MP3 player-radio sets. As of 2016 we have distributed over 8,000 memory cards and more than 4,500 MP3 players. Yet, hundreds continue to request these audio Scripture players for distribution to friends and relatives and many of them are confessing their faith in Jesus Christ, even numbers of the religious teachers! Numerous believers help with the distribution of these audio Scriptures.
I continue to work at translations of Old Testament Scriptures and continue to teach the believers doctrine and encourage them to continue evangelizing and teaching their own people. I keep in contact with the believers by travel to the field to encourage them in evangelizing their people and teaching them the Scriptures. Prayer meetings and Bible studies have been held in over 100 villages and encampments in these desert regions.
Compared to the ministry that we enjoyed among these people for the 35 years before Donna's heart attack, we are limited. Yet, in spite of this, we do not feel that we should discontinue the many aspects of this work that are still available to us such as (1) Gospel radio broadcasts on three radio stations, (2) audio Scripture distributions, (3) Bible teaching by podcasts on MP3 memory cards, (4) the website we maintain in the local language where all of the Scriptures are made available for free downloading in print and in audio, and (5) the encouragement of the national brothers who continue in this work as well as advising and encouraging one young man whom God has called to work as pastor to his own people. Since 2010, terrorism, kidnappings of foreigners, and violence have increased in this part of the world making it more difficult for us to work there or to find missionary replacements. Yet, even this demands that we redeem the time, make the most of the progress the Gospel has made in this land, and encourage the believers to stand firm in their faith, establish churches, and evangelize their own territory.
Being included in the ARM (Assistance and Relief Missionary) status of BIMI will permit us to continue the ministry in North Africa exactly as we are doing at present. I continue to visit the field as my health and finances allow, carrying with me hundreds of audio Scriptures each time I visit, as well as teaching and encouraging the believers on the field. While Stateside, I continuously purchase and send audio Scriptures and Bible doctrine lessons to the brothers on the field. We remain in contact with them so that I am able to encourage them and direct them as the need arises. We will also continue to broadcast the Gospel and Bible teaching on the three radio stations available to us. In the States we visit the churches that support us through their prayers and finances. As time allows, I also speak in mission conferences in other churches where these meetings become available.