Jeremy graduated from high school and enrolled in Christ for the Nations Institute (CFNI). He immediately clicked with Jim, his roommate, whose father was the chief operations officer for Reinhard Bonnke’s Christ for All Nations (CFAN) ministry.
“The school required an internship,” said Jeremy. “We could work at the college for the summer or go on a mission trip. We planned a mission trip to Chile. But several of the students on our team failed to raise enough money, and the trip was canceled. That’s when Jim called his dad to see if we could do an internship at CFAN.”
Jeremy arrived at the Florida office of CFAN, thinking the internship would be a summer vacation. Jim’s father had warned them he would work them hard. He kept his word. The boys worked a forty-hour week and spent many evenings doing yard work. Their duties included personal tasks for Reverend Bonnke.
Jeremy met the German evangelist for the first time when he picked him up at the airport. As Jeremy performed a variety of tasks at Bonnke’s home, they developed a relationship, and Jeremy asked him about a much debated topic at school.
“Reverend Bonnke, what do you think about Calvinism?”
“College talk.” Reverend Bonnke pounded his desk as he quoted 2 Peter 3:9: “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” The intensity of Bonnke’s reply made Jeremy reluctant to argue.
“Jeremy,” said Reverend Bonnke, “What do you feel the Lord is calling you to do?”
“Honestly, I don’t know. I just want to see people saved.”
Jeremy saw excitement in Reverend Bonnke’s eyes. “This is the heart of an evangelist. The evangelist preaches the ABCs, the preliminary truths of Christianity, the XYZs for anyone else.”
Bonnke’s dedication to his calling amazed Jeremy. One day, Bonnke said to Jeremy, “I’ve been preaching the gospel for fifty years. People talk to me about retirement. Never! I will preach as long as the Lord gives me breath, and after, bury me under the pulpit.”
Jeremy watched a video of one of Bonnke’s crusades in Africa. To Jeremy, a million people chanting, “Bonnke, Bonnke, Bonnke,” sounded like an earthquake. The next time he spoke to Reverend Bonnke, he asked, “How do you protect yourself against pride?”
Reverend Bonnke looked at Jeremy as though he had never thought about it. “Pride? What are you talking about? I’ve never cared about their criticism. Why should I care about their praise? Men chanting my name is like Israel praying to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The Africans were not chanting for me but for the God of Bonnke.”
Jeremy looked at me and said, “He is the most humble man I’ve ever met. Everything he spoke was with thunder. One day we were in his car, and he pounded on the dash as he said, ‘Faith is not merely subscribing to correct doctrines. The just shall live by their faith. Faith is doing.’”
Jeremy returned to college transformed by the summer he had spent with a Christian legend. A month before graduation, Jeremy; Mike, the assistant mission director for CFNI; and Nathan, a friend of Jeremy’s, drove to a nearby lake to hit golf balls. They were talking about their plans when Mike said, “Jeremy, I forgot to tell you a hurricane devastated the island of Vanuatu. The college is building a Bible school on the island. Would you like to go with us?”
Bonnke’s statement “Faith is doing” thundered in Jeremy’s thoughts. Without hesitation he said, “I’m in.” “Dude,” said Nathan. “Don’t you think you should pray about that?”
Jeremy looked at Nathan and spoke with the confidence of Reverend Bonnke. “No, I don’t need to pray about it. I know. Let’s go.”
Jeremy traveled to Vanuatu, a collection of eighty-three islands, with Mike and twelve student interns.
“Everything was exciting,” said Jeremy. “We landed in Port Villa and then traveled into the bush country to preach the gospel. The people spoke English, French, and Pigeon, but most of the time we communicated in English. After the students returned to America, Mike and I went to the village of Kitow on the island of Tanna to build the Bible school.” Other mission groups from America soon joined them to help with the construction. Together they put a roof on the church and helped construct six buildings for the Bible school.
Once a month, people came from all over the island to attend a five-day Bible course. When Mike and Jeremy learned about a village that didn’t have anyone attending the Bible school, they sent a message to its chief requesting permission to preach the gospel. The chief sent word that they couldn’t come. Mike and Jeremy felt they should go, so they sent another message. The chief replied that they would be killed if they came to the village.
“Mike was ready to be a martyr, but I wasn’t so sure,” said Jeremy. “The chief and his son didn’t want us there, but some villagers did, so we decided to go.”
Mike and Jeremy made plans to travel to the village on Tuesday but awoke to a terrible storm. They left the following day with a team of seven people. The storm had made the trail to the village slippery. They constantly stopped to help one another as they slipped in the mud. Four hours later, they entered the village, exhausted and covered in mud. When the curious villagers gathered around the missionaries, they preached the gospel to them. To their amazement, everyone in the village accepted Christ.
The next day, the team traveled to a neighboring village that had already received word of the missionaries’ success. “Do you know why the entire village received you?” the village chief asked.
“What do you mean?” said Jeremy.
“A hundred years ago, a missionary came to convert the village, but they killed him. As he lay dying, he prophesied, ‘When the cane is run out and you can no longer build your homes, two white American missionaries will teach you how to build eternal homes and your culture will be changed.’ That is why the chief and his son threatened to kill you if you preached the gospel in their village, but they died in the storm the day before you arrived. The villagers believed they had offended your God, and that is why they received your message.”
Jeremy looked at me and laughed. “That’s when I knew it wasn’t our great preaching that converted the village. The hurricane that destroyed the islands and brought Mike and me to Vanuatu had destroyed most of the cane the people used to build their homes. God had used us to fulfill the missionary’s prophecy.”