HOUSTON (BP)–The testimonies of two new North American Mission Board missionaries Oct. 2 dramatically illustrated the power of God to transform lives.
For Joe Veal, a multihousing church planting missionary in Lebanon, Ohio, it was a transformation from a life of secular success and personal failure to one of sold-out commitment to ministry. And for Arizona pastor Louis Spears, it was the fulfillment of a call to international missions through ministry to a largely unchurched people group within the United States — the English, Irish, Scottish and Eastern European “travelers” commonly known as gypsies.
The two were among 49 missionaries — including 23 couples and three single missionaries — commissioned during a service at Second Baptist Church of Houston.
Veal shared how just a few years ago he was a highly successful golf course architect working with golfing legend Arnold Palmer. But his private life was anything but successful, including an addiction to pornography and adultery. But one day in 1997, he said, a vision of his 4-year-old daughter while he was trying to seduce a woman in a Mexican bar led him to cry out to God for help.
“I woke up the next morning and was just as wicked as ever,” he said. “But I came home to my wife, who had been begging me go to church for seven years, and said, ‘I want a Bible,'” Veal recounted. He began reading it, and a few weeks later he accepted Christ after hearing an African American pastor on television share the gospel.
“On my living room floor I bowed on my knee, I opened my heart and the King of Glory, Jesus Christ, changed me,” he said. “I bowed on the floor with a heart filled with pornography and profanity, and I stood up with a heart filled with purity.”
A few years later, God called him from a position as a prosperous vice president of a development company to vocational ministry. “I began to preach, people got saved, and people continue to get saved,” he said. “God’s placed a call on my life.”
Spears shared how he had been called to the ministry at age 16, and through his pastoral ministry had been drawn to international missions.
“I got the opportunity to travel across the world in partnership missions, each time begging, pleading with God to allow me to be a missionary in a foreign country,” he said. “God kept affirming to me that he was bringing the world to our country, and that I didn’t need to venture out of here.”
But it was after studying Henry Blackaby and Claude King’s “Experiencing God” discipleship course that he began to observe the culture around him and see where God might be leading him to minister. After moving to Arizona to serve a church as pastor about six years ago, he noticed several members of a group known as “travelers,” or gypsies, who attended occasionally.
“They had a heart for God, and they wanted their people to know God, but they didn’t really have any trained preachers in their group,” he said. “We established relationships with them. Many of them are vibrant Christians, but they didn’t have any church homes.”
Spears and his family now spend much of their time traveling with the group, leading children and adults to Christ, baptizing them, holding Bible studies and conducting weddings and funerals. He also is working to establish relationships with other groups of travelers, who share a common ancestry and language dating back approximately 1,000 years when they had to flee persecution in Punjab, India.
“I know that God is working in this group,” he said. “And I ask you to be sensitive to observe what God is doing today where you are sitting. There may be an unreached people group that God is calling you to join him in reaching.”
During a commissioning sermon, North American Mission Board President Robert E. Reccord challenged the new missionaries to obey God and follow wherever he leads.
“I want to say and encourage you as you step away from the comfort zone, and as you step up to the challenge, to listen to what [Jesus’ mother] Mary said at the wedding in Cana,” Reccord said. “These were the simple instructions she gave. Pointing to her son she said, ‘Whatever he says, do it.”
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: JOE VEAL and LOUIS SPEARS.