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Northwest Georgia churches witness 387 decisions in Congo

 

One could say that Cody Wallin had nothing to expect before a recent mission trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo in Africa.

The 19-year-old, a member of Rising Fawn Baptist Church in northwest Georgia, had never gone on a mission trip. It was also his first time to fly on a plane and be out of the United States.

Eddy Rushing

Karmen Croker, a member of Rising Fawn Baptist Church, speaks to a crowd using a storying scarf. The mission group from Northwest Georgia/Lookout Valley Association reported crowds of 40 to 50 people gathering in places to hear the gospel.

It's safe to say it was also Wallin's first time to witness 387 people pray to receive Christ in just over a week's time.

The journey, consisting of members of churches in Northwest Georgia/Lookout Valley Association, took place Jan. 10-19. It mirrors the association's commitment to missions, says Eddy Rushing.

"We do three [mission trips] a year," says Rushing, who serves as associational missionary. "Last year, we took scouting trips to India and Brazil for this year. The India trip so far has 10-15 people signed up."

In Congo, the team, comprised of Rushing; Wallin; David Pickard, pastor of Southeast Fellowship in Chickamauga; and Karmen Croker, a member of Rising Fawn, went door to door using a storying cloth to present the gospel. Translators helped in navigating the more-than-60 recognized languages.

Rusty and Debbie Pugh

The group worked with Rusty and Debbie Pugh - according to Rushing the only International Mission Board missionaries in the country of 60 million - while walking throughout the capital city of Kinshasa, where six million live.

 

Open to the gospel

For Croker, it was a return to the continent where the nurse had already spent time on two surgical mission trips to Kenya. In addition, she previously had participated in a mission to China with Campus Crusade for Christ in order to distribute copies of the Jesus film.

The poverty and lack of material possessions stuck out to both Croker and Wallin. However, neither saw the situation as a complete negative, especially when it came to hearing about Christ.

"It amazed me how open to the gospel people were," says Croker. "Because of their lack of material things, they have a simple life with a lot less distractions than we have in America."

"It was the poorest place I've ever seen," agrees Wallin. "The people really have nothing in terms of material things. It really made me realize that Jesus will supply what you need."

Pickard, who accompanied Rushing to Africa in Jan. 2004 to plan the most recent trip, felt the time was right for the group to be a part of revival.

I knew they were hungry for the gospel," he says. "You can preach here and not see much of a response. There, people are responding.

Used by the Georgia team in communicating the gospel was a black and white storying scarf. Sold at a nominal price by First Baptist Concord in Knoxville, Tenn., the scarf is a tool used by missionaries in countries to overcome language barriers.

"Everywhere we went, we would end up seeing many saved, not in mass evangelism meetings, but in homes and door-to-door."

Over the course of the trip, the group presented the gospel to approximately 3,000 people visiting homes. Often, says Rushing, those being visited would go and get relatives and/or friends to hear the message. Soon, crowds up to 50 would be listening.

 

God's direction

For Wallin, the trip came after a time of searching for what God wanted him to do.

A graduate of Dade County High School in Trenton, Wallin had been working with his stepfather in a plumbing business. Last summer, instead of going on a senior trip, he instead went on a solo trip to Cumberland Island off the Georgia coast to spend time with God.

"I stayed in a hotel, went hiking, spent time on the beach and read my Bible. I feel the time alone gave me some breathing room to focus on God," he said.

It was also during the trip that Wallin was listening to a CD of contemporary Christian musicians Selah. "Two of the songs on the CD were in a Congolese language," recollects Wallin. "I thought, 'It'd be cool to go on a mission trip somewhere.'"

After getting back from Cumberland, a notice in the church bulletin pointed out the upcoming Congo trip.

"My eyes got really big when I saw the announcement," he says. "I knew God wanted me to go on the trip."

Croker says the hunger shown for the gospel in Congo opened her eyes.

"In America, you can pray years for people and not see a change. There are so many distractions for Americans [in material things]. The way money was viewed changed me.

"I left closer to the Lord and committed to letting Him meet my needs and live a simplistic life," says Croker. "[In Congo] they are not attached to things how we are, and that leads to a purity in their relationship with the Lord. They were more open and did things like talk about Him in the middle of the street."

 

Training others

Before leaving, the Georgians trained others in using the storying cloth.

Karmen Croker

Cody Wallin, left, stands with Patrick, a local who assisted the team in leading music in worship. The journey to Congo was the first mission trip for Wallin, a member of Rising Fawn Baptist Church.

"A pastor of an English-speaking church in Kinshasa asked if he could take the storying cloth on a trip he was taking with a friend who's a truck driver," tells Pickard. "While making deliveries, he would tell the story. People got saved."

In determining the number of those making decisions, locals headed up the number count. Children deemed too young were not included in the figures. Whatever the tally, Pickard is sure of some things.

"The people here are hungry for the gospel," he states. "Congo is considered a Christian country, but heavy Catholicism is mixed in with animism and other religions. There is a desire for people to see the Great Commission carried out. There is also a sense of teamwork among the workers."