The Elijah Challenge is the missionary arm of Grace Community Fellowship of Houston, Inc., a 501(c)3 non-profit church organization
In 1977 when I was in Seminary in California preparing for full-time ministry, our pastor declared to my wife and me, “If you obey the Lord like Abraham and Sarah, your days on earth will be like heaven.” We know that Abraham and Sarah obeyed the Lord by packing up and leaving their country for a land the Lord would later show them. Later Abraham again obeyed the Lord radically by his extraordinary willingness to give Isaac back to God by offering him up as a sacrifice at Mt. Moriah. My wife and I decided to believe what the Lord promised to us through our pastor. (Who doesn’t want heaven on earth?) We gave up our Isaac—the American Dream—and literally gave up everything behind to follow Jesus to the ends of the earth.
In the summer of 1978 we left Los Angeles to fly to Indonesia as missionaries. We went completely by faith—without being sent by any mission board, without any financial support from any church, without an invitation by any church or organization in Indonesia. We went by faith not having any idea of what we were going to do after arriving in Indonesia. But I was going to obey the Lord and preach the gospel to those who never heard. The Lord was so gracious to us. He miraculously opened doors for us, leading us to primitive jungle regions of Indonesia where the gospel had never been preached—where the people only knew idolatry, ancestor-worship, witchcraft and Islam. As we prayed and sought the Lord, He taught us how to reach them with the gospel just as He reached the lost 2,000 years ago. In 1979 he led us to two unreached remote villages where we preached the gospel as the Lord had taught us. Within three months by God’s wonderful grace we had planted two churches in those two unreached villages. For nearly nine years the Lord enabled us to preach the gospel and plant churches in such unreached regions.
In 1987 the Indonesian government declared us persona non grata and expelled us from the country, and we returned to the States. Back in the United States, we planted and pastored churches in New York City (Power Christian Center) and in Houston (Grace Community Fellowship of Houston) until 1999. In 2000 the Lord led us to start The Elijah Challenge. Here are some of the milestones: In 2002 God opened the door for us to Egypt where we held the largest campaign in the history of Egypt. About 10,000 Egyptians accepted Jesus Christ with perhaps a third of them Muslims. Our host was Campus Crusade for Christ and the Presbyterian Church.
In 2003 we went to Ho Chi Minh City in Communist Vietnam where we held the largest evangelistic meeting in the history of Vietnam since its fall to communism in 1973. Twenty-three denominations came together for the event. Hundreds of Buddhists accepted Christ after hearing gospel. One older pastor called the event “a turning point in the history of Christianity in Vietnam.” At the end of the event, we had to flee from the communist police who had come into the hall to arrest us and break up the meeting because it was an underground event with no permit from the government. Encouraged by this, Vietnamese servants of God in subsequent years have boldly conducted greater and more fruitful evangelistic events—even in the open air. By then we had arrived at the understanding that the Lord had shown us how to win gospel-resistant people groups very effectively, fruitfully, and in accordance with Scripture.
And so in 2003 we returned to Indonesia—with more Muslims than any other country on earth—to train local servants of God how to reach Muslims more effectively. After the training, two Indonesian servants of God began to use what we taught them to reach the largest unreached people group in the world—the 45-plus million Muslims of the Sunda Tribe—who were known to be highly resistant to the gospel. Within ten years these two servants of God had brought into the kingdom of God 2,700 Muslims from this huge gospel-resistant tribe and over 70 of their villages. No other mission has been as fruitful in reaching out to the Sunda people with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
At the same time, we began to reach out to mostly Hindu India. According to the UN, India will exceed China in population by 2028. We have seen that many Hindus in India are now open to believing on Jesus Christ when the gospel is presented in a Biblical fashion. We have trained Indian pastors and servants of God to preach the gospel in such a way, and in the past several years they have gone on to produce much fruit for the kingdom of God, especially in evangelistic Feeding Events. Every month we sponsor a number of such Feeding Events in mostly unreached Hindu villages where the people hear the gospel from them and then are fed a meal. Hundreds come to Christ in each village Feeding Event. Churches are to be planted in each village and pastors appointed for each church. We intend to train thousands of servants of God in India to preach the gospel in this way, and to support more evangelistic Feeding Events through them. We plan to support the pastors appointed to shepherd the new congregations planted in the unreached villages.
One such Indian servant of God we trained and support financially is Pastor Simon Haqq. In March 2014 he preached the gospel to a crowd of approximately 2 million people. He estimates that about one-half of those present accepted Jesus after he shared the gospel. That is about one million people saved in a single meeting! Based on what we have seen the past 39 years, we know that we can have significant and substantial impact on the gospel and the Great Commission during these last days—especially in India.
The Lord has graciously fulfilled the promise He made to us 40 years ago through our pastor when I was still in Seminary in California. He has made us exceedingly fruitful around the world by enabling us to train His servants to present the gospel very effectively and fruitfully in forty-five countries around the world—and counting. We are enjoying heaven on earth just as He promised us 40 years ago if we would obey Him like Abraham and Sarah.
Though in the eyes of the world we are already “senior citizens,” physically we are still “fresh and green” enjoying exceptional health and “flourishing in the courts of our God” according to God’s promise in Psalm 92:14. For us the best is yet to come in terms of fruitfulness during this second half of our ministry for the kingdom of God.
What about our children? They are doing well in the Lord.