Pastor Austin Gardner, VBM Director Jeff Bush, and Missionary Stephen Underwood discuss Brother Underwood’s experience in South Africa as well as the events in his life that led him there.

  • Stephen’s Introduction
    • I grew up at Whitfield Baptist Church in Dalton, Ga
    • I met Pastor Gardner there when I was about 11 years old
    • I got into the church through playing baseball on a team where Pastor Cofield was the coach
  • How’d you get saved?
    • I didn’t grow up in church
    • I happened to go to a VBS at a church where my dad went as a teenager
    • I got saved that week and didn’t get baptized until some years later
  • What’s going on in South Africa right now?
    • I was able to come into an established ministry under veteran Kevin Hall
    • We landed in August of 2016 and began language school 
    • We had the opportunity to see some people saved who were really rough around the ages
  • What about the kid who was going to church who killed someone?
    • His name was Awonke
    • He was pretty faithful and around when he was younger
    • But when he was a teenager, he started hanging out with the wrong crowd
    • In South Africa, when you turn 18, you go out to the bush as a kind of right of passage into manhood
    • He was only 14 and wasn’t old enough to go, but one day some men were around that had just gotten back from the bush
    • One of the men made fun of him, called him a boy, and pulled a knife on him
    • Awonke left and then came back with a bigger knife, got into a confrontation with the other man, and ended up stabbing him in the heart
    • He went and turned himself into the police
    • The police said that they’ll deal with him when he turned 18
    • He ultimately ended up hanging himself shortly after
  • Can you explain the visa issues going on?
    • Three years ago, when we applied for the visas, we got them in just a few days
    • Just a few months later, they started tightening and changing the restrictions on the visas
    • Families started being turned away and denied visas
    • Some get approved, but they don’t know why they were approved and others were rejected
    • South Africa has a volunteer or charitable visa that missionaries are coming under
    • The immigration attorney is working on helping us find other ways to get visas
    • We thought that a work visa might work, but several trying under the work visa were already denied
  • Can you explain what your military service was like?
    • I was in the US Army
    • I knew that God wanted me to be in the ministry during that time
    • In a moment of discouragement, I joined the Army and signed up for six years
    • I spent a little over a year in Afghanistan on one tour
  • Tell us about learning Xhosa 
    • It can be challenging at times, but it is also a fun language!
    • What really makes it fun is the culture of the people
    • Too see their face light up when you try to speak their language is just really fun
    • The people aren’t accustomed to white people trying to learn their language 
  • Tell us about a funny blunder in the language
    • I was trying to say, “Can we eat?”
    • I ended up saying, “Can I eat you?”
  • Tell us someone that you’ve seen the Lord change
    • I met a fella we call Lulu two years ago 
    • I invited him to a bible study
    • We were in the parking lot of a McDonalds where he trusted Christ as his Savior
    • Two weeks later he was baptized
    • He’s been faithful in church ever since
    • He lives about a forty minute walk from the church, and was willing to walk to church one day when his ride wasn’t able to take him
  • Tell us some of your goals on furlough 
    • Right now, we’re trying to fill up our calendar with new churches
    • Our goal is to raise about $2,400-$2,500 within the 10 months of our furlough
    • We also want to ministry people and challenge them with the need of the Gospel around the world
  • Can you tell us what you preached early this morning?
    • Philippians for was what I preached from
    • Control your thoughts, or your thoughts will control you
    • We need to work like it all depends on us and pray like it all depends on God
    • We need to expect nothing and be grateful for everything
  • How did God confirm to you that you should be a missionary?
    • I was able to go on a missions trip to Honduras when I was 15
    • Then I was able to visit Pastor Gardner in Peru
    • It was all of those things working together that really burdened me for foreign missions
  • What in your childhood prepared you to be a missionary?
    • God actually used my not growing up in church in an inadvertent way
    • I had friends that went to church, and it made me wonder why my family didn’t go to church
    • It gave me a curiosity that I think I might not have had if I was raised in it
  • Closing remarks
    • You can reach Stephen at sunderwood52@gmail.com
    • We’d love to challenge you to visit the Leadership with Vision Facebook page
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