Time has gone by so fast. It's hard to believe, but this July we celebrated GFA World's 25th birthday.
I will never forget the conversation I had with a national missionary who had suffered much for sharing Jesus' love in one of the most difficult places in India. While describing the se-vere persecution he and his family had endured, he stopped talking and suddenly disappeared into his house. A few minutes later, he came back out carrying an old gunnysack. Curious, I watched him open it up. To my surprise I discovered a sizeable collection of rocks, both large and small.
When I asked him where the stones came from, he replied, "In the days of persecution, our enemies used these stones to attack us. Afterward, I went back and picked some of them up for remembrance."
What a strange memorial! "Why do you want to keep them?" I inquired.
"Today, the ministry has grown and the Lord has blessed us with many coworkers and churches," he responded. "It is good for us to look at these stones once in awhile. They remind us of the early days of enormous struggles. At the same time, they challenge us to continue to walk by faith and remain willing to lay down our lives, if that's what it takes to see our country come to know Jesus."
In Joshua 4:1-7, we read about the stones of remembrance. The children of Israel picked up 12 large stones from the riverbed of the Jordan River when they crossed over on dry ground en route to Canaan.
Joshua received specific instruction to leave a landmark of stones behind as a reminder for the generations to come. When those children yet to be born would ask, "What do these stones mean?" their parents could tell them of God's mighty acts and encourage them to reverence and serve Him forever.
Here at GFA World, we have also kept some stones of remembrance.
Unlike the stones the Israelites took from the Jordan or the ones the missionary keeps in his gunny sack, our stones of remembrance include a hollow door, a worn-out chair and an old typewriter. They represent the journey we have made over the past 25 years. They remind us of the early days, the miracles we witnessed, and God's marvelous grace and power we experienced in a thousand ways.
It all started with my own personal struggle and search for what God wanted to do with my life. As a family, we desired to do His will with all our hearts, but we needed His direction. Finally, after I read Jonathan Edwards's testimony, I decided to pray the same prayer he prayed: "Lord, stamp eternity on my eyes" and this changed the course of my life.
GFA World was born out of this prayer. God began to clearly speak to us about giving our lives to see our generation from the most unreached nations come to know the Lord Jesus Christ. And it would be through training and sending out national missionaries to share Jesus' love.
First, we sent everything we had to help national missionaries in India. Then, when there was nothing more to give,we had to believe God for even the smallest things to sustain our new ministry.
During that first year I remember kneeling down and praying, "Lord, please give us $60 so we can buy postage stamps to mail our prayer letter to our friends."
The second year, I remember renting a oneroom office for $75 per month. But after a few months I could no longer afford the rent money, and we had to give up the room. The owner was kind enough not to charge us any penalty for breaking the contract.
We had no furniture to put in the little rented office. The nice desks and chairs in the stores were much too costly. So I went to a nearby lumberyard to buy a hollow door, with a plan to turn it into a desk. But again the price was too high. Finally I asked if they had a damaged door I could buy for a cheaper price.The man was sympathetic and showed me one that had a problem on one side. I bought it for $4.50, along with two sawhorses. After sanding and staining the door, I laid it on the sawhorses and that was our first GFA World desk. Then I went to a used furniture store and bought an old chair. By the way, I still use that chair in my study today.
I remember the old '69 Chevy Nova without air conditioning that I used during those first years. (I had sold my brand-new car when GFA first started.) I rove endless hours with that Nova to small churches—wherever anyone would invite me to share about the lost world.
I cannot describe to you the discouragement I faced and the times I cried alone in the car because of the lack of results I saw in many of those meetings in the early days. In my heart I resigned and gave up a hundred times. I didn't see how we could possibly go on like this. But each time, the Lord was faithful to encourage me to continue.
Last, there is a 25-year-old typewriter we still keep in our office today. I used to carry it from house to house for friends to type my letters for me. We didn't have a full-time secretary, and at that time, neither my wife nor I knew how to type well. Now you understand why these simple items have become stones of remembrance for us. There are many others.
Truly, the Lord has kept His promises, and He has done all things well.
A few years ago in the midst of a struggle, the Lord spoke to my heart and said, "Be a leaf in the wind." He simply meant," I began this work and I will continue it. Don't strive or agonize over anything. Just let Me be God, and you be like a dry leaf that is carried by the wind; and there will be no strain or pain."
One of my greatest joys is the dedicated people the Lord has given us to work behind the scenes in our offices in the United States, Canada, Germany, United Kingdom, India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Bhutan. They are the unsung heroes who make it possible for the many thousands of national missionaries to serve on the mission field.
And you are also very much a part of what God has done through GFA World. Without your prayers and support, we could not have come this far. Thank you for your faithfulness. I rejoice that you have allowed God to use your life to see thousands of precious people in Asia come to know Jesus.
If what happened these past 25 years is any indication of God's grace and purpose, we believe that in the days and years ahead, millions will turn to the Lord through our brothers and sisters who are giving their lives on the mission field. Please pray for us, that we will continue to walk with the Lord in humility and brokenness. Pray that we will listen to Him, act in obedience to what He calls us to do, and never lean on our own understanding or carnal reasoning.
Thank you with all my heart, and may the Lord bless you—I know He will.
Dr. K.P. Yohannan
Founder & Director of GFA World