Pastorís passion for missions suppresses fear factor comment (0)
October 31, 2013
Gene Brooks has good reasons not to return to the Middle East or Central Asia. He’s been arrested twice, interrogated by gun-wielding soldiers, forced to spend a night under house arrest and worshipped secretly in homes when the church building was no longer safe. On a trip to Egypt in 2011, he landed in Cairo the day after more than 20 Coptic Christians were killed during a protest.
These experiences might keep many away, but they’re not enough to stop Brooks. His passion to encourage believers and share the gospel drives out fear. Partnering with Southern Baptist workers overseas, he’s heard their cries for help: Please pray. Please give. Please come.
Brooks has committed himself and led his church of about 60 people to be a part of God’s work to reach the nations — no matter the cost.
“There is the risk, but Jesus said they hated Him, and they’re going to hate us. I think part of that is having the passion for missions to go and to tell people about Jesus,” Brooks said. “When that is strong in our heart, it tends to suppress the fear factor.”
Despite the unrest in Egypt, Brooks didn’t hesitate to ask God if his church should fill a request for U.S. churches to partner with Egyptian Baptist churches.
Mark Ayers, a Southern Baptist worker in the region, said Egypt is strategic in reaching North African and Middle Eastern peoples. He feels an urgency for Christians to encourage the persecuted church.
Brooks was willing and, with the support of his church, traveled to Egypt with Louie Smith, a lay leader. During their visit, the two men witnessed a church under severe persecution.
“They are facing death every day,” Brooks said. “Yet they are joyful in their experience with Christ. … They were not fearful to meet together. They were cautious, but they said, ‘You know, if we must die for Christ, we are ready to do that.’”
Smith added, “Ever since I’ve been back home, I relive my steps in these countries,” referring to his multiple trips into territories some might consider dangerous. “I still remember the faces and the places, and I’m constantly praying for them. I am planning on going back. We made some friends there, we made some contacts, we made a difference.”
Smith and Brooks remain committed, despite experiences that could cause others to hang up their traveling shoes. In Central Asia their team was prayerwalking through a community and handing out Bibles. The local police came and placed them in a hotel under house arrest with an armed guard.
The next morning, the police came to escort the men out of town. They asked about the Book the two were giving away. Brooks explained that they were Christians and the Bible was their Holy Book.
“We actually gave six to eight of the policemen a Bible before we left town. That was pretty unique,” Brooks said with a smile.
He is thankful for Southern Baptist workers who have facilitated the work he and other short-term workers have been able to accomplish. His passion to give so that their efforts can continue has become contagious in his church.
“Our people have really caught the vision and understood what it is to support our missionaries around the world,” Brooks said.
He knows that every prayer, every dollar, every plane ticket matters. And it’ll take more than a couple of arrests to stop him.
EDITOR’S NOTE — Names have been changed for security reasons. (IMB)