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Rick Gage extends Gospel from Georgia to Russia

EDITORS’ NOTE: The following story is part of a monthly Baptist Press series to explore and describe how individuals, churches, associations and conventions exhibit a passion for Christ and His Kingdom.

SWAINSBORO, Ga. (BP)–Evangelist Rick Gage has been filling football stadiums for more than a decade in small towns across America. At the same time, his ministry has been reaching into remote regions of Russia.

In Swainsboro, Ga., with a population of only 6,943, Emanuel County citizens were astonished when thousands flocked to Tiger Stadium at Swainsboro High School for a four-night crusade — and 878 spiritual decisions were made, including 524 first-time professions of faith.

More than 40 churches worked together in what pastors say is the greatest sense of unity and spirit of cooperation for loving and reaching people ever seen in the county.

“The crusade was absolutely the most wonderful move of God this county has ever experienced,” said Jamie Archer, pastor of Blundale Baptist Church and crusade co-chairman. Working in tandem with Chairman Russell Collins for more than a year, the duo enlisted 200-plus committee workers whose prayers and labors helped open hearts across the county.

“The mighty outpouring of God’s Spirit sparked a revival that will continue,” Archer said. “God moved in power in countless lives, and the huge impact of this crusade has changed this county forever.

“We are already working diligently to follow up on the many decisions that were made,” the pastor added. “Blundale Baptist will baptize more than 50 people in the days ahead.”

Among the many who will be baptized are five family members of a woman who had attended Blundale Baptist alone for years. Words were inadequate to describe her joy as she saw her husband, three grown children and future-son-in-law make first-time professions of faith in Christ during the April 17-20 crusade.

Milton Gray, the crusade’s finance chairman and member of First United Methodist Church, said, “Our community is on fire for Christ now. Everywhere you go, people are talking about what God did and continues to do.

“God even worked in our budget,” Gray said, explaining, “Although it was large, everything came together perfectly. Our financial response was almost identical to our budget. It was the best money we ever spent. A call for Christ was issued like we’ve never had before in this community, and God showed up and changed and transformed lives for all eternity.”

“God has visited our county in a miraculous way,” said Cail Pressey, pastor of Hawhammock Baptist Church. “Relationships were healed; families were reunited; prominent citizens were led to faith in Christ by people broken with love for others; church members were saved; denominational and racial barriers came down. There is a different atmosphere in our community.”

Ray Jenkins, pastor of Oak Chapel and the crusade’s counseling chairman, recounted one of the miracles: “My heart raced as I looked at those standing in line waiting for counselors and there stood my grandson and his fiancé. What a personally elating time it was to lead them to faith in Christ…. The miracle stories just go on and on.”

Businessman Ken Warnock noted, “All our prayer vigil rallies and preparation were rewarded as God saved so many. How do you describe the tremendous impact of seeing a hardened 78-year-old man, a 74-year-old woman or a 20-year-old who had just moved to the community come to Christ? As Christians, we have been renewed, refocused and recommissioned.”

Karen Carter recounted that her husband “was so excited about the crusade and what God was doing that even though he works nights, he took his supper break to park cars….

“I still can’t get over the blessing of seeing several young guys get saved who had come to the crusade with coolers of beer in their cars,” Carter continued. “Instead of leaving the crusade to go party as they had planned, they went to the fairgrounds and poured out every bottle of alcohol after they gave their lives to Christ. It was amazing. There is no greater joy than being a part of seeing people come to Christ in so great a way.”

The first night of the crusade, Bo Pilgrim, chairman and CEO of Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation, the second-largest poultry corporation in the world, gave his testimony. Rick Stanley, an evangelist and step-brother of Elvis Presley, recounted his life story on Monday evening. Swainsboro native Ben Troupe, a tight end for the Tennessee Titians, spoke Tuesday night.

Gage and his GO TELL crusade team addressed daily noon luncheons focused on testimonies and prayer. They visited three prisons where 70 inmates made first-time professions of faith in Christ. Decisions also were made at the Mel Blount Youth Home and the Paul Anderson Youth Home.

The team also visited local middle and high schools, conducting Gage’s “On Track” school assembly program dealing with life’s choices and addressing the dangers of issues such as drugs, alcohol abuse, teen suicide and premarital sex.

The Wednesday night culmination of Gage’s outreach attracted more than 4,500 people, including 2,500 youth who were treated to a free pizza blast prior to the evening’s service. University of Georgia first-string football players Russ Tanner, Josh Brock and D.J. Shockley held the students’ attention as they shared their personal testimonies and challenged young people and adults to live for Christ. After Gage preached, hundreds flooded the altars, registering 458 decisions for Christ that night.

“When I looked up into the stands, I was awe-struck by the number of teenagers,” Archer said. “We had worked and prayed, and God swept scores into the Kingdom.”

Coaches Brandon Jernigan and David Johnson of Swainsboro High School were co-chairmen of the crusade’s youth committee. “We prayed over every seat in Tiger Stadium, and they were filled just about every night,” Jernigan said. “After the stadium filled on Wednesday night we had to seat kids anywhere we could fit them, all over the grass and on the track.

“Wednesday night was a sight I will remember forever as young people poured to the altars in droves. Our high school is known for its athletic prominence, but the victory of this crusade far outweighed any human victory we’ve ever experienced.”

Rick Stanley, who has spoken at four Billy Graham crusades, said Gage “has a heart for the towns that most people overlook. His mentality is that there is nothing small in the Kingdom of God. And God moves in mighty ways like He did here in Emanuel County.”

“God has burdened my heart to take the Gospel to as many towns as possible in my lifetime,” Gage said. “Everywhere I go, people are personally embracing the Gospel message. It is hope for the individual, for society and for the world. Saturating our communities across America with the Gospel must be done at all costs. It takes time, money, and involvement to reach lost people, but it will be eternally worth it one day.”

And for Gage, indeed the message is global. For the last six years, GO TELL teams he leads have blanketed the Russian city of Bryansk with the Gospel and aid. Last fall, they turned their attention to the city of Kirov.

Gage and the 20-member team reached out through meetings in churches, in a coliseum and at the University of Kirov, recording 460 decisions for Christ.

Another priority was assisting their host church in beginning a halfway house for orphans who are put out on the streets when they turn 15, a large majority of whom end up in prostitution or drugs or committing suicide.

The team also visited orphanages where they gave away shoes, meat and dairy products to 1,500 orphans; distributed 1,800 pounds of aid including medical supplies; and gave away 2000 Bibles and Christian books in the Russian language.

Kirov is a city of 600,000 people 700 miles northeast of Moscow near Siberia with only four small Protestant churches.

The team’s efforts were not without sacrifice. “You truly had to be sold out to the Lord to go on this trip,” said Bob Thompson, who has been leading the Gage overseas ministry outreach for 10 years. Traveling to several of the orphanages, he said, entailed “a 12-hour plane ride, followed by a 14-hour train trip and then a four-hour bus ride.”

The team, including eight teenagers, said their hardships were insignificant compared to the blessings they received.

“Everyone should experience life outside the United States,” team member Kenny Stokes said. “Our children are so sheltered and oblivious to the poverty in the world.”

In Russia, he added, “[I]t isn’t just about poverty. They don’t see hope for tomorrow. No matter what happens in America, we still believe tomorrow will be better. The people of Russia don’t have that hope. But Jesus brought many in Kirov hope as we helped heal their physical and spiritual suffering. And a tremendous blessing was the heart change in our own team members as they came in contact with the Russian people and the tears began to flow.”

Team member Amber Prince said, “The impact on my life is indescribable in words. There was some music playing at one of the orphanages, and I started dancing with a little girl. I don’t think she’d ever had that much attention in her life. Her face changed as it lit up, and when she hugged me she wouldn’t let me go. Americans take everything for granted, especially the love they get from family and friends.”

The youngest team member, 15-year-old Kirstin Anthony, was challenged to overseas missions involvement at one of Gage’s GO TELL summer youth camps where she committed her life to fulltime Christian service. “God spoke to me at GO TELL Camp,” Anthony said. “… When I got home from camp, I talked to my family about going to Russia. I was so excited when they said I could go.

“God really worked in my life in Russia. It hurt my heart to leave the children in the orphanages, but I know God is keeping an eye on them,” Anthony said.

Mary Martin, from Oak Grove Baptist Church in Richmond, Va., said the children’s beds at some of the orphanages “were made of plywood, with the mattress being a folded blanket. Although they were as hard as a rock, the children were thankful for them.

“The Russian people are stoic, with no smiles, as if they have no hope. But we were able to witness for Jesus and offer them hope,” Martin continued. “At the orphanages we sang, gave testimonies…. We gave each child a New Testament, a book of Christian athletes in Russia, a toy, a balloon and lots of stickers….”

Martin also was touched by a visit to a church “that was started by a pastor who sold his apartment to start the church.”

“Life for those of us who went on this mission can never be the same,” she said of the Oct. 19-28 venture. “God has placed a burden on our hearts for the orphans that will not go away.”

Gage, noting that God “is moving in Russia, a land greatly in need of hope,” said, “It has been amazing to see Russian men, women and children giving their lives to the Lord.”
For more information about Rick Gage GO TELL Ministries, call 1-866-I-GO-TELL; visit www.gotellministries.com; or e-mail [email protected].

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