Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | May 6, 2014

Connecting the Dots

Steve Jobs said, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.” I had an opportunity to do just that on my recent trip to Ethiopia with my long-time friend Dr. Jerry Squyres. Jerry and I met at Hobby Airport in 1994. We had both been hired by LifeWay Christian Resources to write biblical exposition for what was then known as the Bible Book Study curriculum, later renamed Explore the Bible. We flew to Alabama together to meet with our editors at a retreat center and returned home as friends.

Little did I realize how God would use Jerry to turn my heart toward unreached people groups. Jerry and his wife Fran had served as the International Mission Board’s first journeyman couple to Taiwan in their early years of marriage. At the time we met, Jerry was serving as Education Pastor at a large church but was sensing God’s call to return to the nations. Within a year of our meeting, he left his position and turned his attention to mobilizing volunteers to engage with the world’s least reached peoples.

Searching for a man of peace. | 1999 | Bangladesh

Searching for a man of peace. | 1999 | Bangladesh

The thing that intrigued me most about Jerry was that, like Paul in Romans 15:20, he did not want to build on anyone else’s foundation. He truly wanted to engage with unengaged people groups living in difficult and even hostile places. He was interested in reaching out to those who had never had their first serving of Jesus. Within a short time I joined Jerry on mission to hard places in the 10/40 Window. The last trip we took together was to Darfur shortly after Colin Powell, then US Secretary of State, had visited this region and declared that Sudan was guilty of a terrible genocide there.

Jerry sharing good news. | 2004 | Al-Fashir in Darfur region of Sudan

Jerry sharing good news. | 2004 | Al-Fashir in Darfur region of Sudan

Hanging out with a guy like Jerry was exactly what I needed as a younger man interested in engaging strategically with the nations. I learned a lot from him through our conversations and by observation. God was using Jerry in those early years to shape my own ministry and to challenge me to consider the needs of those who are kept in darkness by hostile cultures and are in greatest need of the gospel. Jerry forced me to think deeply about the hard places.

A visit to the village barbershop. | 1999 | Bangladesh

Jerry looking on as I get a close shave. | 1999 | Bangladesh

In 1999, while traveling by train from Ulan Bator to Beijing across the Gobi Desert, I made a commitment to give my life to engaging with the people of the 10/40 Window as much as possible. Looking back on it all, I can easily connect the dots and see how God used Jerry to lead me to that commitment. Over the years, I have continued to learn from Jerry and his work of mobilizing multiplied hundreds to serve the least reached.

A few months ago Jerry and I met for lunch where he shared with me about the plight of unaccompanied Eritrean refugee kids in northern Ethiopia. As we sat and talked I could hear his familiar heartbeat for reaching out to those in difficult places. Because of the magnitude of the need, Jerry asked if Kingsland would join him in helping to change the world for these kids. He asked just at the time when I had been seeking God about the next challenge for our VBS kids. Over the next days God confirmed that we should join Jerry in this strategic initiative.

Our team. | April 2014 | Shire, Ethiopia

Our team. | April 2014 | Shire, Ethiopia

God reminded me this past week in Ethiopia that even though I am a seasoned traveler and mobilizer of volunteer teams, I can still learn from mentors like Jerry. I found myself taking lots of mental notes as I once again watched Jerry, now 70 years-old, in action — among the kids, in meetings with the UN and Ethiopian authorities responsible for refugees, and with team members. And I found myself thanking God that our paths had crossed in 1994. That “dot” played an important role in my life and ministry.

The truth of the matter is that none of us become who we are or get where we are solely because of our own efforts. God does indeed use others to provide us with opportunities for growth that we might otherwise have never experienced or to open doors that might otherwise have remained shut. To fail to recognize, acknowledge, or to give thanks for those “dots” is nothing short of arrogance and ingratitude. I am grateful for how God used Jerry to influence the course of my life and ministry. I look forward to how God will use us as we labor together in the coming months to help change the world for some of the most vulnerable kids on the planet.


Responses

  1. And now I’m being blessed by just reading about it!

  2. Bro O,

    You inspire me to be a better person…

  3. It is a very interesting things to me to learning that, how you met each other long times ago!

    I have had an opportunity to work with one week with Dr. Jerry Squares, as a translator for His team in Rajshahi, Bangladesh. It was year 2000. Good looking the pictures!

    I am learning so much through reading the articles!

    Thanks!

    Mortuza

    Bangladesh.

    • Thanks for your service as a translator, Mortuza. You have helped so many of us to tell the good news in Bangladesh. God bless you.


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