By Karen L. Willougby, Managing Editor
RAYVILLE – How did Randy Pierce get from the jungles of Honduras to the barren desert lands of central Asia?
One relationship at a time.
Pierce was in the air conditioning business in 1997 when he was recruited by Southern Baptist Pastor Tom Smith (now retired) of Macedonia Missions Inc., a 501(c)3 non-profit construction ministry based in Rayville, to help build a church in Honduras.
Pierce, a member of Woodlawn Baptist Church in Rayville, developed a friendship over the next three years with Honduran Pastor Dario Delarca, who was his interpreter. Delarca spoke often about his vision for starting churches in remote areas of Honduras, but didn’t have the money even for gas to get there.
“God just touched my heart about it,” Pierce said. “I knew I could help. I got my first set of ‘Jesus film’ equipment, and he and I began taking it out into the remote villages.”
Since then, the organization Pierce started in 2000 – Extreme Missionary Adventures, better known as XMA – has planted 32 churches in Honduras and are now in other parts of Central America and the world.
Each of the hundred or more one-week mission trips taken by XMA leaders and volunteers over the course of a year are to rugged terrain, difficult physical situations, and challenging accommodations – think sleeping bags atop dirt, and MREs. Check out www.xmaonline.com to see if God wants you on one of these. Each mission trip came about because someone knew someone in a challenging environment who wanted to evangelize and plant churches.
Dale Smith is one of many who connected along the way with Pierce and XMA. Smith works with Campus Crusade for Christ – purveyors of the Jesus film and, since 2003, with creating “story Bibles” for unreached people groups that don’t have a written language. Smith invited Pierce in 2005 to a week-long conference on Bible storying that took place in central Asia.
“I just went to get the experience and use it elsewhere, like in Honduras, but once there, God sparked a friendship between me and the Campus guy [in central Asia], and we started talking about unreached language groups in that part of the world,” Pierce said.
In time, XMA offered to provide $3,000/month for three years, to train four Central Asian couples in Bible storying. This involved three weeks of intensive training followed by six months living in the villages of four unreached people groups without a written language, followed by three more weeks of training and another six months in the same villages – repeated for three years.
During the three years, the central Asian couples learned the language and culture, and translated the Bible orally into the local language, into as many as sixty 5- to 10-minute stories from Genesis to Revelation. Read more about this at www.storyrunners.com.
“Through this work, we encountered villages that didn’t have access to clean water,” Pierce said. “We bought a well-drilling rig for $15,000 – a family in Mansfield provided the money for it and the $10,000 to have it shipped overseas – and people across the South contributed the money to train people there in how to use it: one two-person drilling team, and four to ten others as helpers.”
Here’s where the oral Bible and well-drilling ministries merged: The rigs went to three of the villages last year where the couples had developed Bible stories in the local language. The drilling – about four weeks per well, to depths of up to 200 feet – drew the attention of area residents, who were entertained for hours as they watched, by the Bible stories in their language they were listening to at the same time.
As a result, 25 house churches were started in the area, at a cost of about $3,000 per well for pipes, pumps, fuel to run the rig and living expenses for the drillers and helpers.
“These are 100 percent Muslim people,” Pierce said. “When they start studying the Bible, they can’t let anyone know, so each house church is a family group.”
None of those who have made professions of faith – easily 100 people – have been baptized, Pierce said.
“That could be physically dangerous,” the XMA leader said. “It’s more of a process with the Muslim people; it takes them several years to make public professions” of faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and savior.
The second class of central Asian Christians learning to translate the Bible orally has already begun, this time with eight couples. They are being taught by one of the couples from the first class. The couples are spreading out to eight new villages.
“These people don’t have cars,” Pierce said. “It doesn’t take much geographic distance to isolate them.”
XMA anticipates drilling 15 wells over the next year, and – with the help of the Bible storyers – starting more than 100 house churches of people studying the oral Bible in their heart language.
Bible storying, well-digging and starting churches in central Asia is just one aspect of XMA’s far-flung missions endeavors, Pierce said.
“We’ll go somewhere, meet a missionary; he’ll mention a friend and it goes from there,” Pierce said. “As God opens doors, we go see what we can do to help.”