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Assembly line prayer groups boost array of mission trips

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–It only took one trip to another country to whet Tom Allen’s appetite for missions. While eight years have passed, he vividly remembers the day he and co-worker Danny Lewis were distributing rice and beans in Monterey, Mexico.
Some members of their prayer group at the General Electric plant in Louisville, Ky., had given Lewis money to buy food, which he used to purchase rice and beans. The residents were so poor they began lining up at 8 a.m. for portions of the free food, Allen said.
“This was in a neighborhood where we had been passing out Bibles,” said Allen, a member of Clifton Baptist Church. “It was a hot day in July, but the people stood in line until 2 p.m.”
However, the host church then decided it didn’t want the food distributed in that neighborhood, he said. Instead, they directed the lay missionaries to hand it out in the vicinity of the church about a mile away.
Two women who had been standing in line all day learned the food would be handed out at a different site. The pair, one of them in her 60s, sprinted behind their van all the way there, Allen recounted.
“I thought, ‘How many people in the States would even take it, let all alone stand in the sun all day and then run for it?'” We’re so spoiled in this country.
“I can still picture the woman running along, smiling. She didn’t have any teeth. That really made an impact on me. Something about that situation planted a desire in my heart to go back, to pass out food or Bibles or whatever I could do.”
While the GE prayer group didn’t start the mission trips — Lewis first went in 1987 with his Assembly of God church — in a couple years they became active supporters.
Besides Allen joining Lewis on many journeys, employees lent prayer support. They helped financially with donations, holding bake sales and purchasing T-shirts to help pay travel expenses. In return, the two men return home with photographs and videos, which they display during prayer group meetings.
While most trips have been to Central America and Mexico, with Allen returning to Mexico in early August, they have also visited such faraway places as Russia, Poland and China.
The projects have spanned prison ministry, construction, food and Bible distribution, door-to-door witnessing and worship services, Allen said.
One recent sojourn was with a 30-member team that smuggled Bibles into Beijing. They were so intent on their purpose, Allen said, they only packed the bare necessities so they could fill the rest of their luggage with Bibles.
“It was a miracle we were able to get them across the border,” he said. Explaining how communist guards spot-checking bags passed them up, he added, “It was amazing how God worked for us.”
Lewis, planning to venture to El Salvador this fall, looks for God to do the unexpected. He remembered an earlier trip to the country when he had planned to purchase kitchen utensils for residents there. As he prayed right before leaving, he felt the Lord directing him to purchase food instead.
“These people lived on a volcanic mountain and it was only accessible by boat,” he said. “When we got there, they had been out of food for three or four days.”

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  • Ken Walker