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Volunteers’ bus breaks down, but God keeps ‘appointment’

DAVANGERE, India (BP)–The brightly painted charter bus bobs and weaves through oncoming traffic as the driver searches for any opportunity — safe or not — to dart around the slow-moving truck ahead.
Suddenly the bus decelerates, coasts to the side of the road and stops.
About 30 people, mostly missions volunteers from Arkansas and Texas, are stranded. It’s four hours back to Davangere, the city where they’ve spent a week sharing the gospel, and three hours to Bangalore, their destination for a flight home. What remains of a flaming sun is now a warm orange glow setting beyond the desolate western landscape.
Without hesitation, Ron Newton rises from his seat near the front of the bus and faces those sitting behind him. He quiets them and suggests they pray.
“Lord, we’re not real sure what’s wrong with the bus or why it broke,” he begins. “But we do know that you are in control. You know that we need to get to Bangalore. Help us have a positive attitude and remember that all things work together for good, according to your purpose.”
He closes his prayer. People file off the bus, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Then Mark Gower and Don Storts see four women sitting under a tree beyond a shrub line. Gower grabs his Bible and the pair takes off. Five minutes later they yell for an interpreter. Out of the bush, 10 Indians congregate.
Gower tells them Jesus died for their sins and how they can have eternal life by believing only in him. He asks how many would like to follow Christ in salvation. Five men raise hands — including the bus driver who had come over to say the bus was fixed and ready to go.
Turns out the problem was nothing more than a broken fan belt whose repair didn’t even require a wrench. Back on the road, Gower beams from his seat at the back of the bus.
“God had a plan,” he says. “We felt the Holy Spirit leading us to go share with those people. Just think, five people had their names written in the Book of Life today, and all it cost us was a busted fan belt.”
The 12 workers from Arkansas and two from Texas came to the south Indian state of Karnataka to share the gospel in and around Davangere, a city of nearly a million people. The project was organized by First Baptist Church of Russellville, Ark., which has sponsored five overseas mission projects during the past year, in addition to several projects in the United States.
Hinduism is the dominant religion in the area, and most people have little if any knowledge of the gospel. Many have never heard of Jesus Christ.
Door-to-door evangelism met with considerable resistance. Rocks and sticks — and insults — were thrown at the volunteers. Some had dogs turned on them. They persisted, driven by a love for God and by his desire for the Indian people to know him through Jesus Christ.
“It is the simple need the people have to know the Light,” says Paul Storts, a veteran of three volunteer trips. “I’ve not been to a darker place. You stand on one street corner and preach the gospel and across from you they are sacrificing chickens to their gods. You are overwhelmed with the sense that people need the Lord.”
By week’s end, 1,862 had prayed to receive Christ.
As their departure approached, volunteer Steve Nichols asked God for “divine appointments.” The volunteers had been confined to their hotel by street activities connected with Holi, a Hindu festival celebrated by Indian males who throw powdered paint on each other.
A few hours later, Nichols crowded into a straw hut with its 20 residents. Through two interpreters, he shares the gospel with the elder of the house. The man stops him mid-sentence. Just two hours prior, the Indians had seen the “Jesus” film on television, the man said. Now this American stranger has appeared at his house to tell his family about this same Jesus. “What does this all mean?” the man wondered.
Nichols smiled — and led all 20 to Christ.
“Talk about divine appointments,” he says. “When we get off our agendas and get on mission with God, people come to know Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. We’ve got to get his heart for people.”