Fully Equipped

Having what it takes to give your all

Nearly 10 years ago, before our family moved across the world to begin foreign work as missionaries, I reflected on my life and the path God had led to where I was. I had seen how God had prepared my heart and provided Godly influences and opened doors of opportunity to equip me for the task of ministering abroad. 

It is my desire to challenge and Inspire young people in particular and encourage them to have a passion for God and to be used for God’s glory. 

I want to Inform of the present needs today in the area of foreign missions. Not only do I want to present specific areas that are unreached and people groups that need labourers, but I want to Instruct how to minister effectively through Biblical principles. 

Instead of releasing this manuscript in a traditional book format, I am instead making one chapter available at a time on my blog and here on my website. In addition to the chapter, I will share a Bible challenge by way of video. 

-by Luke Knickerbocker, Author                                                

 

 

Introduction

Do You Have What it Takes to Give God Your All?

Do you have what it takes to give God your all? Are you fully-equipped?
Airborne over the world’s highest lake – Tilicho Lake in Manang, Nepal

The cry of my heart echoes the words of the Psalmist: “Help, LORD; for the godly man ceaseth; for the faithful fail from among the children of men.” (Psalm 12:1) Do you have what it takes to give God your all?

Where are the MEN? There is no lack of athletes, muscle-builders, video gamers, and womanizers, but where are the Godly men who have a backbone for that which is right? It seems that men have become an “endangered species” rarely found even in our churches! One hope we still have is that a few good men, or boys, will get a healthy view of God. That they learn to dream big, and believe that God has a purpose for them to make a difference. Do you have what it takes to give God your all?

I want to say right here that this is in no way an intentional oversight of girls and ladies who also have a passion to serve God. I have a wonderful wife and two daughters who are dedicated servants of God. But the Bible emphasizes men to be the leaders and ladies have their important role to follow that leadership. 

Do you have what it takes?

Where would we men be without the aid and encouragement of Godly ladies! We all have our various responsibilities, and it seems that men have relinquished their God-given calling to be the leaders, protectors, and providers in the home and church. So if you are a lady who has a big heart for God, enjoy the read and feel welcome to say “Amen” as I try to rouse the men to take a stand for God without apology.

Do you have what it takes to give God your all? Are you fully-equipped?
Biking in the Foothills of the Himalayas – Kathmandu, Nepal

Take the challenge

I owe so much to the Godly men who have mentored, matured, and molded me into who I am today. My wish is to simply honor them by recording on paper some of the specific things God has taught me and used to lead me to becoming a servant and missionary. I want my three sons to have their dad live by faith, lead by example, and love God no matter the cost.

This blog and video series is a call to each young man who really wants to get in the fight of faith. To those who wish to make a difference with his life, even if he must die trying! I wish to encourage, challenge, and aid YOU in your quest for doing the unthinkable, obtaining the impossible, and overcoming the improbable for the Name of Jesus Christ. See if you have what it takes to be a Servant of God and give Him your all. 

Jeremiah 10:23 – O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.

Since I was a teenager, I knew deep in my heart that God had something great for my life. Over the years, I have seen how God has been preparing me to serve Him in various roles. These would include being a Christian school teacher, an American pastor, and a foreign missionary. So many people have encouraged and taught me how to know and serve the Lord. Through many experiences with other visionaries, I have been challenged to read, think, and prepare for my life’s calling. Regardless where I have been and what positions I have held, I have had to come back and answer this question: For what purpose did God create me? I know that it is to know Christ and to make him known to people who have no Bible, no church, and no preacher. 

Do you have what it takes to give God your all?

The Lord opens opportunities to minister.
Trekking with friends in Langtang, Nepal

Catch the vision

The journey of how God led my family and I to work with Tibetans in Nepal is both interesting and inspiring. Though there have been great challenges, I would not trade this walk of faith for anything else. I continually feel that I am just at the entry level and have so much more to learn. I cannot overlook the role that my family has had as we prepared for foreign service and even now as we serve stateside in our local church and Christian school.

In the following stories, I invite you to review with me the accounts of what the good hand of God has done in my life. You will read about some of the things God has taught me through His Word, Godly people, and life’s experiences. 

God’s work is always accomplished according to His perfect time. May this be a challenge to you to follow our Lord as He unveils His will for your life. My hope is that this will help accelerate the learning process for you. 

I do want to make clear that I have not yet attained, and consider myself simply as a servant who wishes only to please my Master from day to day. Perhaps, I am a visionary and only an aspiring pioneer; yet the mission remains the same. Christ’s mandate to go preach the Gospel and teach all nations has not changed, and the task still remains unfinished. 

Village ministry. Give God your all.
Making balloons and ministering to believers in a village of Nepal

Prepare with purpose

Whether I live to see the job completed or die trying to do my part, I go because Christ is worthy. I submit therefore, that He is worthy of your life as well. This means you must dedicate and prepare yourself to do whatever the Lord asks in order that all the earth might know Him. However the Lord leads and uses you, I trust that this series of articles and messages will be a part of the stretching and envisioning in your life. May it help you realize that dreams must be God-sized and your future is worth the preparation. My desire is that you understand the importance of being fully equipped for service. May you never be accused of having zeal without knowledge.

Each of the blog posts in this series Fully Equipped is accompanied by a short video with a Bible devotional. Enjoy the following video Prepared unto Every Good Work as I share Paul’s challenge to Timothy. You will appreciate the illustration of how a servant of the Lord should be like a crescent wrench!

Do you have what it takes to give God your all?

 

 

Chapter 1  

The Hardest Thing For a Man to Do

Hiking in the Himals of Nepal
Hiking in the Himals of Nepal

Growing up can be a hard thing

Believe it or not, the hardest thing I have ever done was not hiking the Himalayas or driving in the chaos of Kathmandu roads. The hardest thing in my life was not even growing up in a pastor’s home! Like any other pastor’s kid, I grew up around the church, interacting with many different people. I always counted it a privilege – even if I was in a fish bowl. For some, it seems like a hard thing to be in the limelight and have higher expectations, but my parents definitely made life in the ministry fun. Yes, there were some sacrifices to make. My close friends were always few, especially as I became a teenager. But my dad was always involved in my life and helped me enjoy the journey.

I was religious, but lost

Let me back up to my earlier years. As a four year-old, I made a profession of faith for salvation. I knew I didn’t want to go to hell, but I didn’t really comprehend what salvation meant. As I attended Christian school, I began to learn more about sin and my accountability before a holy God. I remember a question a preacher made that I would never forget: “Will you let your pride send you to hell?” 

My four sisters and I when I was around the age of 4 years.My four sisters and I when I was around the age of 4 years.

Fighting the Holy Spirit’s conviction is a hard thing

As I grew older, I would go to bed in constant fear of dying. I would think of what would happen if the rapture happened, knowing I would be left behind. I finally could not resist the conviction of the Holy Spirit any longer. On March 6, 1996, following a Wednesday night service, I went into my dad’s room. 

I had been carrying a load of guilt and now was ready to come clean. I told my dad that I wanted to be sure of my salvation and knelt at his bed calling out for the Lord to forgive me and save me. That night, I turned from depending on my own works to looking unto Jesus Christ and his finished work at Calvary. It is by his grace alone that He saved me, and I rested assured by His Word that my Soul is secured in His hands. 

I could not do enough good to be right with God

The bottom line is this – each of us must realize that we cannot do one thing to please God. This is a very hard thing to admit. The arm of the flesh will always fail you, be sure of that. You must not have any confidence in the flesh. Our hope is in the Lord, and no other. In order for Christ to build you and use you, you must first be broken. 

You must come to the place where you recognize there is no good in you. There is absolutely nothing you can do to make yourself acceptable to a holy God. You can never do enough good to be made right with God: this is why we need Jesus. He lived the perfect life, and in doing so, fulfilled the law. He offers us the gift of eternal life, if we receive His righteousness by faith. But it is often hard for a person to accept the kindness and help of another person!

Pride is a stumbling block to salvation 

But who can receive this gift? God says He gives “grace to the humble.” Allow me to let you in on a little secret – so many “men” stop here and reject the Way of Salvation because they think they are good enough without Christ. Their stubborn pride refuses to allow them to admit they have a need. This was the Pharisees problem, as they were self-righteous. 

No wonder Christ said, “I will have mercy and not sacrifice.” Do you realize some of the hardest words to say are “I have a problem that I can’t fix.” “I was wrong, and I’m sorry.” Or how about this one: “I am hopelessly lost and I need help”. This is the type of person God can help, and only this kind of person will He save! God longs to show mercy on the penitent sinner, but the proud in heart – God will not tolerate, but rather judge.

My family when I was about age 14
My family when I was about age 14

Jesus must be enough: a hard thing to admit

Are you willing to let the true living God be your God? That means you will abandon and destroy anything else that would come between you and God. No more games. No more idols. Just Jesus…is that enough for you? Christ Jesus died on the cross to pay for your sin. He shed his blood to purchase your pardon. If this is enough to satisfy God the Father, why should it not be enough for you? 

In John 14:6, Jesus declared, “no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” If you are not willing to let Jesus be your Saviour and Lord, then it is simply impossible to become a man of God that He will use. Without Christ you will never have what it takes to be a servant of God. But with Christ all things are possible. It may be seem like a hard thing to submit to Christ, but it is much harder to live life without him!

My life verse

Philippians 3:8 – Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,

This is my life verse. Having a background somewhat similar to the Apostle Paul, I can definitely understand the pitfalls of growing up in a religious home. Paul trusted in his heritage and ability to do enough good to impress others and himself. Sadly, he missed the mark. When he realized that he was actually acting in opposition to God, he had to repent and turn to Christ alone. Finding his rest in the finished work of Jesus at Calvary was enough! He came to understand that he had a righteous standing in Christ alone! 

Without faith, it is impossible to please God

I also realize that Christian instruction, Bible knowledge, and the ability to talk about God is insufficient to please God. Only faith in what Jesus has done will satisfy Him and make me in a right relationship with God. Now that Christ has saved me, I want to live every day for Him. May He be glorified in everything I do, each conversation I hold, all activities I participate in, and every goal I set. 

One of the immediate changes in my life after I received Christ as my Saviour, was the desire I had to share Christ with others. As I followed the example of my dad and Granddad, I would enthusiastically give Gospel tracts wherever I went. I particularly was burdened for the youth and would consider it a personal challenge to engage a group of older teens and give them tracts. 

I always enjoyed playing sports and would play basketball with the neighborhood guys. If they wanted to play rock music, I would leave if they refused to turn it off. I was learning to stand for what was right. Naturally, it is a hard thing to speak up about Christ in front of our peers. But when you stop and think about the fact that a person will spend eternity either in heaven or hell, it makes it worth it!

A transformed life is not a hard thing when Christ does the work

I began to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit who now indwelt me. If I knew I had wronged someone, I would be sure to make things right and ask their forgiveness. At times, it would be annoying to my sisters, as it appeared frivolous. If I said a hurtful word, it would bother me until I made it right with them. Indeed it is a very hard thing to confess wrongdoing and seek forgiveness from someone we have offended!

I longed to have God’s power and knew that if I was not right with my sister or “brother”, I wasn’t going to have the blessing of God upon my service. Truly, my life had transformed – from my heart and mind to my actions. Now I wanted to only please God and serve Him with all my life.

I had many opportunities for ministry. Our family sang, and made visits. I would ride on the church van, usher, preach in Junior Church and Outward Bound. Whenever there was an occasion to preach or teach, I was all in! Even if serving the Lord appears to be a hard thing and makes us uncomfortable, it is always exciting and joyous.

As a teenager, I took every opportunity given to preach God's Word
As a teenager, I took every opportunity given to preach God’s Word

Making some personal standards 

In my personal life, God dealt with me in some specific ways, especially in the area of separation. In tenth grade, I had a good friend named Zach Peterson who taught me some things about Godly music. I became convinced that some of my music, although Christian in name, appealed to the flesh rather than the Spirit. So I went through my cassette tapes and CD’s and threw out about $200 worth! That’s a lot of money for a fifteen year-old! I’ll never forget throwing that box into the dumpster near our house. Though it seemed like a hard thing at the time, it also brought me great joy because I was honoring the Lord.

Also, I listened to some good preaching by Jim Van Gelderon about holiness and the waste of time spent watching the television. Now I must confess that I do enjoy watching a good ball game. But for a period of time, I refused to watch television and movies because of the corrupt influences and worldly agendas taught. It was a weight that could easily beset me from the race. Perhaps, I was swinging like a pendulum from one extreme to the other, but at the time, it was definitely the right thing for me. Though it is a hard thing to turn off the television, it’s worth having a clean conscience.

Turning off distractions is a hard thing to do

Truly, much time is wasted and energy lost on something that may not be entirely wrong, but keeps from using our time doing better things. I have learned that my flesh is not strong enough to refuse temptation of the lust of the flesh. So for much of my life, I have refused to own a television myself. I have observed that when in a motel room alone, it seems that when I turn the remote on, I am turning off the Spiritual power in my life. It is a hard thing to control the temptation of looking at something I know I should not. 

Oh, that we may not grieve the Holy Spirit! It is imperative that we heed the following words from the Apostle Paul: I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. – Romans 12:1, 2

A daily walk with God

Though I had strong Godly parents and grandparents, I needed to learn to walk with God myself. As a teenager, I would wake up at 5:30 am and listen to the Back to the Biblebroadcast on the radio with Dr. Woodrow Kroll. He would always finish his broadcast with the statement: “Have a good and Godly day: for of what lasting value is a good day, if it’s not also a Godly day?” I would then eat a bowl of cereal and read a portion of God’s Word. 

Getting up early is a hard thing for our flesh to do. But discipline is necessary if the Holy Spirit is going to be given the advantage to rule our life. This is the time when I really grew stronger in my personal walk with the Lord.

Personal devotions is the area in which you will have your greatest challenge. If there is any battlefield on which Satan will engage you the most, it is in this area of quiet time with Christ. For it is here that we receive our nurturing from the Lord. We must get in the Word of God and let God’s Word help us, change us, and build us. As we grow in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus, we will be in position to bear spiritual fruit. 

Don’t be afraid of hard things

As we are filled with the Spirit of God by allowing the Word of Christ to dwell in us richly, we will manifest the fruit of the Spirit. Only when this fruit is born, may we multiply ourselves and reproduce more disciples. Remember, everything reproduces after its kind. Our public ministry of the Word should be a result of our private ministry in the Word. Let God’s Word daily renew your mind. Doing hard things is worth it as long as it is what honors God!

Watch the video “The Servant God Uses” that accompanies this chapter. You will enjoy the illustration of the pitcher of water and glass to illustrate how to be filled with the Holy Spirit. 

Chapter 2  

Valuable Lessons Every Generation Must Pass Down

Three Generations: My Grandpa David Knickerbocker, my Dad Tom Knickerbocker, and me Luke Knickerbocker
Three Generations: My Grandpa David Knickerbocker, my Dad Tom Knickerbocker, and me 

I am so grateful for my parents who trained me in the way that I should go. My dad has been a preacher all of my life. He not only has taught me God’s Word, but has exemplified it in his daily life. My mother consistently reads God’s Word and prays for me. The most valuable lessons I have learned in life have been taught to me from the Bible. The following verses that Paul wrote to Timothy describe my personal testimony.

But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. (II Timothy 3:14-17) 

Notice the progression “from a child” in verse 14 to becoming “the man of God” in verse 17. The necessary ingredient to coming to maturity and becoming equipped for the ministry is the Word of God. The Holy Bible must be the cistern from which we drink on a daily basis, if we are to grow spiritually. If we want to be obedient to the will of God, we first must hear and know His Word.

My parents and two younger sisters when I was 14 years old with lessons every young man should know
My parents Tom and Barb, and my two younger sisters with me when I was 14 years old
13 Valuable lessons every young man should learn

My dad and I are cut out of the same mold, and share many of the same interests. So it was natural for me to want to follow my dad’s footsteps as he has followed Christ. I have learned how to teach enthusiastically, listen compassionately, and witness boldly from mere observation of his life. I got my love for writing and music from him (he is an accomplished author, musician, and song writer). He taught me to play the guitar when I was twelve years old, and he helped me buy a banjo at age fourteen. This has been an invaluable asset in ministry. But it was my dad who allowed me to prove myself and “get my feet wet” giving me opportunities to publicly serve in the church. Below is a list of lessons that every young man should learn.

My dad on the guitar and me on the banjo a lesson everyone should know
My dad on the guitar and me on the banjo

Learning Hard Work

The 1st Lesson Every Young Man Should Know

An early lesson that I learned was the discipline of work. When I was ten years old, we moved from Vermont to Florida to help my Grandfather at the church he pastored. The church and school property had five acres, so there was a lot of mowing to be done. As a teenager, I had plenty of opportunities to “serve the Lord” out in the hot sun. At age thirteen, my dad encouraged me to start going around the neighborhood and offering my services to mow grass and do other yard work. 

An elderly widow next door agreed to pay me $4.25 an hour to mow her yard. Since I moved so fast, I would finish the big yard in less than two hours. I soon realized that it might be a little wiser to get paid by the job instead of by the hour. I talked it over with my dad who told me I needed to let her know how I felt and ask her to raise the price. Talking about money has never been my thing, and this was extremely hard. But it had to be done, so I went and shared my concerns. Thankfully, she understood, and we worked out a fair price for the job. I pulled weeds and spent hours working in her yard. 

It wasn’t long until I had several yards to mow and many other people paid me to rake leaves or any other odd jobs needing to be done. I learned many skills – especially a good work ethic – and developed character traits of honesty and integrity. Of course, I would witness to the people who employed me. One lady eventually got saved after I had gone to college. She told me that she even became quite involved in her local church! 

Learning to Listen

The 2nd Lesson Every Young Man Should Know

There were some successful businessmen that hired me for odd jobs. They had been around the block a time or two and had many things to teach me. Probably the hardest thing to do as a young person is to listen to instructions. It’s not always easy to have someone tell you how to do a task – especially when you think that you already know how to do it! But it is so important to have a submissive spirit and learn to listen to authority.

I’ll never forget the statement of Mr. Tison who was showing me a tip on efficient gardening. He showed me that after I dug the hole, I should fill it with water before planting the pot. I previously would have planted a flower, filled in the dirt, then stood with a water hose over the dirt. Most of the water would go in any other direction except downward! He told me “to work smarter, not harder”. I never forgot that, as sometimes there is a better way than what seems to be the quickest way. 

Learning to Budget

The 3rd Lesson Every Young Man Should Know

As I started to have an income, my dad was sure to teach me to budget my money. The first 10% obviously would be the tithe. 20% had to be saved for college. I began giving 10% to missions and would increase it thereafter. I was also saving up for a new guitar, so that didn’t leave a whole lot to be wasted. A vehicle was never on my priority list. In fact, I wouldn’t even get my first car until I was out of Bible College! I guess you could chalk it up to priorities. 

Eventually, the family mower would not suffice for my jobs, so I bought my own mower. Learning to budget and save is a lost art, but important if you want to serve God. Don’t fall in the trap of getting into debt! So many people are limited and restricted to their usefulness because they are in bondage to their creditors.

Learning to Lose

The 4th Lesson Every Young Man Should Know

I learned a hard lesson about loss, as my mower was stolen, then another time when my bike was stolen. It’s good to learn to earn things, but as a servant of God, I need to be prepared to have things taken away. Loss of money is not a fun lesson, but a good one. Be able to let go of things; after all, they are temporary!

Growing up, I always enjoyed playing sports. I was a little too competitive and remember crying after losing games in the Little League. As time went on, I learned that keeping a good testimony was more important than the outcome of a game. Be a good sport and learn to congratulate others when they win! Learn to lose graciously.

Learning to obey

The 5th Lesson Every Young Man Should Know

My dad always helped me keep the right priorities in life. We would always be in church Sunday mornings, evenings, and Wednesday night services. During the Little League season, I would have to leave after the 3rd inning on Wednesday nights. I would quickly bike home, change out of my uniform, and head to our mid-week service with our church. Although I would have loved to play the whole game, I was just happy that I could play for half the game on Wednesdays. I always knew that church was more important than sports!

Luke at 10 years old in my Little League baseball uniform the start to a lesson every young man should know
Luke at 10 years old in my Little League baseball uniform

As a teenager, I had to forfeit some privileges for the sake of attending our Christian school and honoring my dad. You see, I really longed to play for our local county high school football team. In fact, another pastor’s son in our town who home-schooled was allowed to play. But my dad emphatically refused to let me pursue any possibilities of trying out for the team. 

His biggest concerns were my health and purity. Although, it was a tough thing to accept at the time, I believe God spared me from some things that I would either regret morally or physical injuries that may have hindered my ministry – especially in the mountains. 

Interestingly enough, I learned that my Christian friend who played football on the high school team also became a foreign missionary. Sadly, he has had bad headaches which have affected him ever since his football playing days. I am glad I learned to listen and now I appreciate my father’s decision not to let me play tackle football.

Learning to lead

The 6th Lesson Every Young Man Should Know

During my high school years, I had the opportunity to attend a small Christian school at Maranatha Baptist Church where my grandfather pastored.  For a while, some of us would meet on Wednesdays at lunch time where I would lead a short devotional and prayer. This was a good experience learning to lead a small group. 

Living near my Grandparents came with the privilege of spending nights at their house. They didn’t have much in a worldly sense, but they had God! My Grandpa Knickerbocker would sit and read Scripture with me before getting on our knees to pray. He would always ask me to list ten things I was thankful for. (This didn’t always make me thankful!) But wherever we went, he faithfully witnessed to the banker, the neighbor, the waitress – everyone! He always had a song on his heart and a Gospel tract in his pocket! 

Grandpa David and Grandma Lois Knickerbocker lesson every young man should know
Grandpa David and Grandma Lois Knickerbocker
Leading a church service

I’ll never forget the opportunities my Grandfather gave me. I especially enjoyed leading the singing for our teen activities that he hosted at the church he pastored. When I was age fourteen, my Grandfather was sick one Wednesday, and asked me to lead the whole service! This included leading music and preaching the Bible message. 

My grandmother died in a car accident when I was fifteen, and my grandfather had sustained some severe injuries including broken ribs. I got to spend a lot of time helping him and bonding with him. I remember counseling with him as he was quite bitter about the judge who had blamed him for the auto accident and made him take classes to restore his license. We read Matthew 5:44 which tells us to love our enemies and pray for them which despitefully use us. I think it helped. 

Learning from Godly Heroes

The 7th Lesson Every Young Man Should Know

My grandfather had made his five sons learn a large portion of the famous sermon Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God by Jonathan Edwards. So in 10th grade, I too had the job of memorizing it for our closing program. I also got to be familiar with sermons by Charles Spurgeon and books by R.A. Torrey and D.L. Moody on the topic of being filled with the Spirit. My grandfather always raved about the book Power of Pentecost by John R. Rice. Someone said, “You are what you eat”. This is true about books, “You become what you read”. 

Luke in 10th grade reciting an excerpt from "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" lesson every young man should know
Luke in 10th grade reciting an excerpt from “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”

Learning to give Gospel tracts 

The 8th Lesson Every Young Man Should Know

I enjoyed speaking to others of Christ. I remember going with our Assistant Pastor, Dr. David Bedell to our local high school when they let out one day. We walked on the property and started giving out gospel tracts (no doubt illegally). We left before getting kicked out. Certainly I had more zeal than knowledge! We had many wonderful times visiting the bus route and sharing the Gospel with people through Gospel tracts.

The Power of a Personal Testimony

One time while I was in sixth grade, our church was out soul winning on Saturday. This was normal as we would make bus visits and knock doors. I’ll never forget meeting a Jehovah Witness family and debating a girl who was a senior in high school. I felt like I held my ground, but wasn’t being very convincing. When her dad came out, I had no chance. He was saying things I had no answer for and even denied that the Book of Hebrews belonged in the Bible! Finally my mom came to my rescue when she drove up. She calmly shared how God had saved her and changed her life. After my mom finished we left without dispute. I learned a very valuable lesson that day. The power of a personal testimony cannot be discredited! At least my mom planted a seed that day of the power of the Gospel. 

There were some good things that happened. I remember handing a Gospel tract to a young man named Frank. He took it home to his dad. Frank’s dad and mom visited our church and joined, soon becoming the church treasurer. Then Frank’s Brother in law got saved and eventually drove our church van picking up children for Sunday School! Recently I heard from Frank that he now has a camp ministry for the vulnerable in need of restoration. You just never know who you may impact as you faithfully serve God and give out Gospel tracts! 

Dr. David Bedell and Luke with a lesson every young man should know
Dr. David Bedell and Luke

Learning to serve

The 9th Lesson Every Young Man Should Know

Now I believe in having fun and enjoying life. We must follow the Bible principle of service if we would like to be happy. Christ gave us the example of a servant’s heart when he washed the disciple’s feet. He then said, “Happy are ye if ye know these things and do them.” The key to happiness for any believer is service. I have learned the joy that comes with serving others. Anyone wanting to be used by God must realize that every job is important in God’s eyes. We must not think ourselves too important to perform the most menial tasks. 

Learning a foreign language

The 10th Lesson Every Young Man Should Know

God blessed me with the opportunity to be around missionaries a lot. Specifically, Joe and Michelle Parrock, former missionaries to Costa Rica came and taught at our Christian school. I got to learn a lot of Spanish during my sixth grade year, where we learned many Bible verses! Our final test was to give our personal testimony in Spanish, quoting verses from the Romans Road from memory! Our classes were similar to the old “one room schoolhouse”, Joe Parrock taught most of our classes when I was in seventh grade. He would tell us many stories of the mission field, creating a hunger that I would never be able to abandon. What an influence his family had on my life!

Luke with Joe Parrock learning a lesson every young man should know
Luke with Joe Parrock

Many years after high school, I was on furlough visiting a supporting church in Georgia. I did not realize another missionary family was there the same day reporting on their work in Costa Rica. What a surprise when I found out that my former teachers were once again serving on the foreign field! That day we got to both minister to a church as fellow visiting missionaries!

Learning other cultures 

The 11th Lesson Every Young Man Should Know

At age fifteen, I was visiting the Spanish community with Brother Gibby Trevino, who currently was leading a Spanish ministry at my Grandfather’s church. He was starting services on Thursday evenings where my dad pastored nearby, and I played the guitar for the meetings. Shortly after he began these services, he was fatally shot in his home. At his funeral, I was given the honor to share a testimony about his life. I’ll never forget the excitement of visiting the homes of many migrant workers. I would hear them converse in a different language, and smell the tortillas cooking. I just grew to love the  people and thought, “Maybe I’ll be a missionary to these people.” 

After Brother Trevino passed away, Brother Abel Ramos began to hold services. What a wonderful friendship we formed. Years later, when I pastored in a nearby town, Brother Ramos would attend our church and again we were able make visits to the Spanish speaking community!

Brother Abel Ramos remained faithful to the end of his life
Brother Abel Ramos remained faithful to the end of his life

Learning to speak out

The 12th Lesson Every Young Man Should Know

When I was 16, our town had a big clash over the selling of alcohol on Sundays. My dad and several other pastors in town, along with some folks from our church went to make our stand against the evils and effects of alcohol on our community. I was given a few minutes to share from a teenager’s perspective of why I thought it was a wrong example to my generation. The local newspaper even included a quote from my remarks! It is a very healthy exercise to learn to defend your beliefs and articulate them to others.

Learning to Write

The 13th Lesson Every Young Man Should Know

Ever since I was in grade school, I found that Spelling was a subject that I enjoyed. In high school, I had Anna Irwin as my literature teacher who was proficient in grammar. She challenged us students to be good writers. We would take articles from the newspaper and have to write opposing viewpoints. 

Teacher Anna Irwin teaching a lesson every young man should know
Teacher Anna Irwin

I remember writing about what was wrong with the sensuality in WWF wrestling, why the local high school boys shouldn’t have a fashion show modeling in women’s attire, and what was wrong with the sodomite groups having their own clubs in school.  I doubt the newspaper ever printed those, but I sure enjoyed the assignment! A good lesson here is to realize what you are good at and enjoy…for therein you may be discovering your spiritual gift!

As I reminisce on many of these experiences in my teen years, I see how God has used these to make me and prepare me as His servant in later ministry. I have written articles for the local newspaper, Gospel tracts for unbelievers, and books to help strengthen the faith of believers. Go here to see some of these projects.

Concluding thoughts

A final lesson for every young man to chew on

If you are going to be fully equipped, you simply must have a teachable spirit. There are some things you must learn that the Lord will use to qualify you for whatever tasks he calls you to do. As it is necessary that the Bible be your instruction manual, it is just as significant that those who teach and mentor you be Godly and Biblically sound. Don’t underestimate the opportunities to learn skills, whether it’s a musical instrument, speaking, writing, or budgeting. 

Be sure to watch the video that accompanies this chapter titled “A Vessel Unto Honor”.

Chapter 3

My First Taste of the Mission field

Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.” – John 4:35

My first mission trip

Few events mark and mold a person for a life time. One of those experiences in my life was the opportunity to visit the foreign mission field on a mission trip. At age twelve, my family drove from Florida to Texas where we visited with a missionary couple who worked on the border of Mexico. I don’t remember much about that trip, but I do remember the phrase in Spanish we learned when giving out Gospel tracts during their church-wide outreach. We would say “Esto es para used” meaning “This is for you.” I would use this phrase often back home when meeting Hispanics and offering a tract. While on that first mission trip, I began to learn about Indians who lived in the mountains who still remained unreached. A seed was born in my heart during that trip.

At age sixteen, my older sister Lori and I went to Ecuador for almost three weeks. We went to visit the Leroy Pifer family. When our plane approached the capital city of Quito during the night, I noticed the lights throughout the mountainside. How excited I was for the adventure that lay ahead. I was not disappointed. 

My sister Lori and I on a mission trip in Ecuador
My sister Lori and I on a mission trip in Ecuador

After breakfast the next morning, we headed out over the Andes Mountains. There were four of us packed in the truck. As we rounded the twists and turns, we beheld the breathtaking beauty. Then it happened – we had blown a tire. The Lord was gracious, as the hair pin turns were many and sharp. Most of the roads had no shoulder, but we were able to stop before the next bend in the road and had enough room on the right side of the road to park. We were high into the mountains and realized we had another problem…we had no spare tire! An 8 hour trip would turn into a 12 hour trip, as we had to wait for Brother Pifer to get a ride down the mountain, get a tire, and come back up. 

Luke in Ecuador up in the Andes Mountains
Luke in Ecuador up in the Andes Mountains

Meanwhile, we waited as the sun lowered. While overlooking the layers of mountains, we watched the fog slowly roll its way through the valleys! A wonderful chance for pictures! When Brother Leroy arrived with the tire, we had some extra help appear out of the mountains….which was a delightful surprise for me!

For some reason, since I was young I had an infatuation with Native American Indians. Whether it was watching a Western, or learning about missions, I always had a soft spot in my heart for them. The people who appeared to help us with our flat tire were natives who lived below had seen our plight. A few days later, I was able to see my first Colorado Indian. You can’t miss them, because they take a red berry and use it to dye their hair! As I look back, I realize God was preparing me to have a heart for those in the regions beyond still needing to hear the Gospel. 

Mission trips teach valuable lessons

On that mission trip, I learned some valuable things. One is that missionaries are just normal people who have whole-heartedly devoted themselves to advance the message of the Gospel of Christ. It’s not that they are more talented or qualified, but rather willing and available to let God use them.

Also, I learned that it takes a long time to do ordinary tasks in third-world countries compared to the United States. Just to get the truck fixed could take up an entire day, as life is much slower in the culture of the third world. The schedule was different too. We might not eat breakfast until 10 am, lunch at 2 pm and supper at 10 pm! It’s just a different mindset! This mission trip really opened my eyes to different culture.

Missionary Leroy Pifer
Missionary Leroy Pifer

Before we left the country on our mission trip, the Pifers took us out to eat at Pizza Hut. There we met an exchange student from America. He asked Brother Pifer why he would bring his wife and children so far away from home to live in third-world conditions. The missionary explained that we believe there is a God who loves all men and gave His Son to die so lost sinners could be saved from eternal punishment in Hell. The young man’s response was, “If I believed what you believe, I wouldn’t have time to sit around here. I would be out warning everybody possible!”

There is no substitute for going and seeing firsthand what missionary life is like on foreign soil. 

In fact, it was around that time in my life when I surrendered to be a missionary during Teen Camp in Haines City, Florida. 

As a teenager, I thought I would be a missionary to the Indians in the mountains of Mexico. I had experienced time in Mexico and Ecuador, learned some Spanish, played the guitar in the Spanish ministry, and loved Mexican food! 

Purposeful Preparation

At my high school graduation, I had my sight on being a missionary and went to further prepare myself at Bible college. I had learned about a few schools, but one college in particular captured my attention because of their focus and heart for missions. In one word, I could summarize the Crown College of the Bible in Powell, Tennessee…”Vision“. (Of course, this just happened to be located in the Smoky Mountains!) 

Dr. Clarence Sexton is a man passionate about getting out the Gospel and evangelizing the world during our generation. “Going a little further with no place to stop” was his directive which he repeated often.

Pastor Sexton and Luke at Crown College of the Bible
Pastor Sexton and Luke at Crown College of the Bible

Unconscious Preparation 

Because I had saved enough money to pay for my first semester, I was able to play on the soccer team. I had never played organized soccer before, so I had a lot to learn. But it was a good experience. As an athlete, I knew that the experience could only be an asset in foreign missions, as soccer is a global sport! As Pastor Sexton would say, many of our life’s experiences were God’s “unconscious preparation”.

Many of the guys who played on our soccer team became missionaries in other lands, especially Latin American countries. Being athletic is not a requirement to serve the Lord, but can be a tremendous asset. It is an easy way to meet new people and connect with others. 

Unreached People Groups

The idea of Unreached People Groups was introduced to me during my first mission classes in 1999. A people group has its own ethnic and social identity. They are considered unreached when less than 2% of its population is evangelical Christian. They generally have no local church to preach the Gospel to them. Many of these groups are unengaged, with no one actively trying to evangelize and disciple them! Most of these Unreached People Groups live in the 10×40 Window. This is who Christ referred to when He said go and teach “all nations”.

 

In my freshman year, I learned about the people in Bangladesh being the largest unreached group! I was just so eager to go where God wanted me, and I just knew it had to be where the most needy people were. During a church service, I went forward and surrendered to go as a missionary to Bangladesh, if that was what God wanted. I went to the library and started to gather information about these impoverished Muslim people. What would it take to take a mission trip there?

The top 10 largest UPGs in the world are as follows:

  1. Shaikh in Bangladesh….population of 132,950,000
  2. Japanese in Japan……………………………………….….121,950,000
  3. Shaikh in India……..………………………………………..….73,079,000
  4. Brahman in India………………………………………..…..54,955,000
  5. Yadava in India………………………………………………..54,272,000
  6. Turk in Turkey…………………………………………………….52,739,000
  7. Chamar in India………………………………………..…….48,011,000
  8. Rajput in India…………………………………………………39,839,000
  9. Han Chinese, Xiang in China…………………36,031,000
  10. Sunda in Indonesia……………………………………….35,105,000

During my sophomore year, I began to learn about the Muslim peoples in Central Asia. In the countries of Uzbekistan, and its neighboring countries, there is very little Gospel witness. I thought, perhaps this is where God wanted me to go. Should I take a mission trip there? Uzbekistan is surrounded by many other “Stan” countries, and there is a saying that “As Uzbekistan goes, so goes Central Asia”. 

Take the opportunities God gives you

Because I was a Mission’s Major, I needed to take a foreign language. I wanted to take Arabic, as that might be helpful with working with Muslims. But there was not enough interest for the college to offer that class. So I took Russian, knowing that many of the former Soviet states spoke Russian, at least as a second language. I ended up taking three semesters of Russian. One semester was during a semester of Greek simultaneously! That was fun. Actually, many of the letters are the same in both languages.

Our college evangelistic team assisting a local church.
Luke with some friends on a Crown College evangelistic team (New Testament Church Pioneers) in 2002

As my time in college continued, I had opportunities to travel with evangelistic teams taking mission trips to churches that were beginning or struggling. This was a real joy to be able to get a taste of pioneer works. A highlight during my junior year was being chosen to join a group of about 20 men from the church and college to go to New York City after the terrorist strikes on September 11th, 2001. 

Look for opportunities to minister

When we arrived in Manhattan, you could still see the smoke ascending from the spot where the twin towers were leveled. We rode the subways, roamed the streets and ministered to people everywhere. There we were given permission to use various church buildings. We set up tables and gave out cookies and water along with Gospel literature. We had the opportunity to lead a number of folks to the Lord on that trip! You may read more about this outreach on my blog about the week of September 11th here.

ministering in NYC just days after 9-11
Ministering in New York City just days after 9-11-01

In Bible College, I was continually challenged outside of the classroom by good reading material that friends gave me. One book that really impacted me was Shadow of the Almighty by Elizabeth Elliot. As I read about the life of Jim Elliot, I noted many parallels of his experiences with my own. His personal discipline physically and mentally became a personal challenge. He was an intentional student or servant in training because he understood what it would take to be engaged with a pioneering mission. Jim Elliot gave himself whole-heartedly to being fully equipped for the task – what an example! He competed on the wrestling team and studied Biblical languages. Even while standing in line for meals, he redeemed the time by memorizing Scripture from index cards he had written them on.

Seek to make friendships with missionaries

Being at Bible College, I had the privilege of meeting many missionaries who came through and would encourage us young zealous men. One representative from the Gospel Furthering Fellowship asked me to go on a trip with him to Indonesia. Although I never went, I began to learn specifically of the need of people groups within the borders of countries. In fact, there are over 300 Unreached people groups in Indonesia alone! There were three groups specifically that this missionary was targeting and strategizing to reach. One of these was the Madurese with 14 million people and no church present! You will learn later how this information would affect me and how God would further direct my steps.

Dr. Ed and Margaret Reese
Spending time with Dr. Ed and Margaret Reese while I was at Crown College.

Another great blessing in college was spending time with Dr. Ed Reese, who is a wealth of knowledge on great heroes of the past and the compiler of the Chronological Bible. He would tell us of his past experiences with Youth for Christ crusades he participated in. Dr. Reese always thought big and planned big! He had an idea to systematically evangelize the world. He made a list of all 3,000+ counties in America. Then he made a list of all the countries in the world divided by their provinces with their populations. We would divide the provinces or countries of the world into groups of approximately 2 million. 

Ideally, Bible preaching churches in each county of America would be responsible for one of these areas of the world. 

They would sponsor a church planting evangelist to reach the two million people in the designated region of the world.  I enjoyed spending hours looking at maps and working on this project. I felt like I was having a part in making a world-wide difference. 

If you have never been on a foreign field, I challenge you to take a mission trip with your family or church. Prepare now by learning about missionaries your church supports. Start saving up money for a plane ticket and get your passport!

Please check out the video below that accompanies this chapter titled “Committed to His Cause” about the life of David and his faith, vision, and sacrifice.

Chapter 4

The Relationships that Impact Your Future

My dad Thomas Knickerbocker and my Father-in-law James Womble on my wedding day. (July 22, 2006)
My dad Thomas Knickerbocker and my Father-in-law James Womble on my wedding day. (July 22, 2006)

For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour;  – I Thessalonians 4:3,4

Cultivating Healthy Relationships

The saying is true, “You will become like the people you are around.” Godly influences will aid you as you pursue Christ; ungodly companions will lead you astray. The greatest relationships that will mold your life will be your family and friends. The friends you choose will certainly have consequences. One of the consequences is the life-long decision of a life’s mate. You will marry someone that you are friends with. And if you don’t marry someone who is a Godly friend and influence, you will have many regrets.

My beloved Jamie when during our courtship (2006)
My beloved Jamie when during our courtship (2006)

Purity is important.

I am thankful to God that I had never done anything inappropriate physically with girls while growing up. But there were times I allowed myself to get emotionally attached. I’ll never forget my dad teasing me when I was 13 years old about a girl that I liked. He said “Puppy love is true to the puppy.” That wasn’t exactly encouraging. Most guys like me are already too shy when it comes to girls. My sisters could say the name of a girl and I would just blush! But that is a good thing. Today, it seems that there is nothing sacred when it comes to guys and gals. It is important to remember Paul’s advice to young Timothy and treat the younger women in the church as sisters. 

Jamie and I at a rodeo during our courtship. Friends and family are all around us here!
Jamie and I at a rodeo during our courtship. Friends and family are all around us here!

We must learn how to have healthy relationships.

Although I had my crushes, I always kept relationships at a distance. Thankfully, I had parents that taught me to respect girls and keep my hands to myself. My dad would say, “Don’t tell a girl you love her unless you have a ring to put on her finger!” 

Probably the best deterrent to immorality was an article I came across as a young teenager. It was a periodical in the magazine Today’s Christian Preacher. An anonymous pastor who had built a successful church wrote his story. He told how he had become successful, but to the neglect of his wife and family. Before he knew it, he became involved in an affair with a lady he was counseling. Finally, he had to come clean and tell his wife, children, and church. 

To imagine the shame and reproach he had brought upon himself made a major impact on my life. This pastor said that his own daughter despised him because of his actions and didn’t want to be around him at all. He had to resign his pulpit and mend his altered marriage. He had lost the trust of his wife and the respect of his friends. I determined that this was not a story I ever wanted to experience myself! 

Godly influences

As a freshman in Bible college, I had a some Godly influences in my dorm that gave me some preaching messages by Dr. S.M. Davis about Victory over the Dating Spirit and God’s Plan for a Life’s Mate. These radically impacted my thinking in learning to wait on God’s timing to bring me a spouse. But I needed to focus on becoming the man of God I needed to be while in college, not trying to figure out which girl I should marry! While a sophomore I wrote a pamphlet about the Overlooked Gift: the Season of Singleness and distributed it to my friends to help create healthy relationships. 

The preaching of Dr. S.M. Davis really helped me in establishing Godly principles regarding marriage.
The preaching of Dr. S.M. Davis really helped me in establishing Godly principles regarding marriage.

I learned that a strong foundation for marriage begins before the wedding. It is so important that you be faithful to your spouse now even before you are married! Remember that habits are established early, and are not easily broken. If you develop a wandering eye and a flirtatious spirit now, you will no doubt carry these actions into your married life. This is not a healthy recipe for a happy relationship!

Happy healthy and relationships

I realized. early on that not everyone at Bible college is there to serve the Lord. Those of various interests find each other quickly. You will be attracted to others who share similar interests as you. Be sure that you cultivate healthy relationships with those who will encourage you to be Godly and challenge you to do what is right! Those friends in my dorm also influenced me by their testimony to participate in a wonderful summer outreach called Neighborhood Bible Time.

Neighborhood Bible Time

Some of the best practical ministry training I received in college was traveling with Neighborhood Bible Time for two summers. The veteran evangelists taught us many helpful skills like balloon art and juggling. We had much interaction with pastors and working alongside the teachers; most importantly, we were taught how to deal with children and present the Gospel. We saw literally hundreds of professions of faith and made many friends in these churches. Some of those same churches now support our family.

I loved my two summers traveling as an evangelist with Neighborhood Bible Time and the friendships I made!
I loved my two summers traveling as an evangelist with Neighborhood Bible Time and the friendships I made!

There were about fifty evangelists who had been recruited from seven different colleges. We were trained at Boulder, Colorado for a three-week period before being paired up and sent to churches for week-long rallies. This intensive instruction not only prepared us for the games, lessons, and leadership, but helped us grow in our personal walk with the Lord. We were challenged to examine ourselves that we would be emptied of self-dependence, be clean in our heart, and filled with the Spirit for fruitful service. 

Meet the “Boss”

Charles “Boss” Homsher, founder and director for 50 years, led us in his militaristic style. The training was at an old church building with two floors. Our bunks, restrooms, and kitchen were down in the basement. We would awake at 5 am and go upstairs “top side” for calisthenics. Then we would each get alone to find a quiet place to spend with God. This was such a special time, during which we would sing, pray, and read God’s Word, along with reading a book by Roy Hession entitled Calvary Road. 

Personal Daily Direct Devotion Renewal

This quiet time was called PDDDR (Personal Daily Direct Devotion Renewal). We were challenged to “keep it sweet till Jesus comes, and receive rewards at the Bema Judgment”.) We would be alone for an hour before we would convene for breakfast and cleaning duties. Being close to several other young men and being preached to for that period of time was a maturing time in our lives. We were truly brought to a place of brokenness that we might be truly dedicated to the Lord. We would have opportunities to confess sin and be accountable to one another in the Lord. What a sweet time of nurturing that was and building healthy relationships. 

Neighborhood Bible Time gave me great experience in children's ministry.
Neighborhood Bible Time gave me great experience in children’s ministry.

At the end of the training, we learned who our partner was and our destination. My first summer would include travelling to Michigan, North Dakota, Texas, Massachusetts, and Maryland. The first rally made a lasting impression as we were at a country church in Southern Michigan. I would teach the primary and junior children for three hours in the morning. That was followed by lunch and a brief nap. Then we would go canvass the neighborhoods with the teenagers inviting them to join us in the evening. We finished the evening with our senior high teen rally. 

Destination Unknown

The final night we had a “Destination Unknown” meeting at someone’s house. They had a mud pit they actually dug and filled with water for games. After tube pull and tug o’ war, everyone hosed down and went in to change. There were about 60 people that gathered around a campfire where each of us young evangelists got to preach our lungs out while standing on the back of a pick up truck! We counseled with several teenagers who made some wonderful decisions. That was an exciting beginning to an incredible summer of ministry. Many great friendships were formed that week and throughout the summer. In fact, some of those churches would support our family years later when we went to the foreign mission field! 

The Bible Time evangelists with Boss Hamster had a great influence on my life!
The Bible Time evangelists with Boss Hamster had a great influence on my life! (Boulder, Colorado)

A week of rest

During the week of July fourth, all the evangelists would convene back in Boulder, CO for a week of Rest and Relaxation. One day, we drove up to a mountain, where we hiked to the top. About a dozen of us made it to the peak where we got to sign a paper guarded in a plastic tube noting our accomplishment. What a view it was seeing snow-topped peaks for 360 degrees! We then proceeded to slide down some of the snow patches…which would abruptly turn into fields of large rocks! In fact, I got carried away and couldn’t stop sliding, until I was jolted headfirst into a boulder! Praise the Lord, I only got some scratches and was able to hike the rest of the way back down.

A Godly testimony

I am so grateful for those who God brought into my life to influence me by their Godly testimony as a freshman in college. I am glad for the opportunities to grow as a minister of the Gospel and be surrounded by good servants of the Lord. You will enjoy my blog ten guidelines for guys and gals that will help you keep your focus on the Lord while you are single! You must start laying the foundation for a strong marriage now by building healthy relationships! No doubt one of the primary reasons I am still serving the Lord all these years later is because of the healthy relationships God has blessed me with to encourage me to keep pure and continue walking in the light! Cultivate healthy relationships with Godly people! 

Please watch the video below about the importance of keeping yourself pure! You may also order my book Keep Thyself Pure here on Amazon!

Chapter 5

Mentored for Mission

 

Pictured with my teacher/mentor James Zenker at my graduation (Crown College 2003)
Pictured with my teacher/mentor James Zenker at my graduation (Crown College 2003)

Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest. – Matthew 9:37,38

Shortly after Jesus made the aforementioned statement to his followers, we find Jesus at Mary and Martha’s house. Martha was busy with household duties, while Mary enjoyed his company. Jesus commended Mary on choosing the better part as she sat at his feet and listened to him speak. As I consider the prayer and plea for labourers, I must ask, “Why are the labourers few?” Is it possible that the labourers are few because the true worshippers are few?

If we love the Lord with all our heart, the natural result will be that we also love our neighbor as ourselves!

As an upper classman in college, I became involved in the International Ministry. Our mission’s teacher and mentor, James Zenker, took a great interest in many of us young missionary enthusiasts. He planned many special activities for us and we had a lot of fun ministering to foreign exchange students on the campus of the University of Tennessee. 

Encountering God

One particular activity at the beginning of the semester was a retreat in a large cabin at Pigeon Forge. Before the fun and games began, we met in a room at a church building and learned about prayer. We learned that we must worship the Lord for who He is. We went around the room sharing attributes that God possessed. Then we dismissed and got alone with the Lord. You would be surprised at how fast you can run out of things to say when you are just talking about God while talking to Him! Perhaps, my knowledge of the Almighty is quite shallow – how humbling! Then we would meet together after a long five minutes or so and talk about praising God for what He has done. Now this was somewhat easier as there is much to be thankful for! Again, we would come apart for about five minutes. 

Then the hard part – we would deal with the issue of surrender to the Lord: this naturally would include confession of sin. It is amazing how many things I tolerate in my life that ought not to exist. I remember going alone outside and gazing at the stars: I simply stood in awe of the greatness of God. That made it easier to acknowledge that he is worthy of my surrender. Sometimes I just need to stop what I am doing and truly worship and praise my God. We concluded our time with supplication. This was specific petitions on behalf of those we would be ministering to that semester. We had a paper with a target on it. We had a place for three names of whom we would focus our prayers. What a wonderful way to begin a semester of ministry!

One of the Ministry trips that Brother Zenker led us students on.
One of the Ministry trips that Brother Zenker led us students on.

Revolution back to the Bible

Brother Zenker would challenge us to study the Bible afresh, considering the mode and method of evangelizing the world. I must confess that we prided ourselves in being great visionaries and called ourselves revolutionaries. We tried to view missions from Jesus’ viewpoint and think on a bigger and broader scale than what was currently happening in the world today. We started to challenge the popular methods of missions and seek a church model that would multiply and rapidly affect continents during our lifetime. Our goal was to establish reproducing indigenous churches that would result in movements evangelizing the world within 10 years!

The gift we made for our mentor James Zenker (New Testament Church Pioneers 2003)
The gift we made for our mentor James Zenker (New Testament Church Pioneers 2003)

I remember strategizing with my friend Ryan at IHOP for hours, examining the Book of Acts. We would talk about having a team of Church Planting pioneers who would start in China, travel the megacities and work our way westward throughout Asia. 

Luke and Ryan Jones

Inspiring Ideas

During this time, I read an article in the local newspaper about a local 24 year-old man who had rode his bicycle from Hong Kong to Lhasa, Tibet. He had met Buddhists on their pilgrimages, slept under the stars, and even crossed the Tibetan border in the middle of the night under cover of darkness. If he could live on a daily average of two dollars a day, why couldn’t my friend Ryan and I just go and tough it out with little or no support? Of course, we had no time for marriage, and we would simply be “bachelors to the rapture”. But all those plans came to a halt when my friend eloped with his girlfriend! One by one many other friends of mine began to fall prey to marriage!

The labourers are few. Will you be mentored for missions as I was?
A book that opened my understanding to disciple-making

A book was given to me that greatly challenged my vision titled Tally Ho the Fox! written by Herb Hodges. This book really emphasized how Jesus took twelve ordinary men and transformed them into disciple-makers, thus impacting this world in their lifetime! I found out that Dr. Hodges held weekend seminars and I had the privilege of attending a Disciple-maker’s retreat in Birmingham, Alabama. There I met men, some quite young, who had discipled other men, who in turn evangelized and discipled others continuing the process. This is exactly what Paul had in mind when he said in II Timothy 2:2, “And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.”

Luke with Herb Hodges at a Disciple-makers retreat.
Luke with Herb Hodges at a Disciple-makers retreat. 

The Labourer God is Looking For

I am grateful for those who challenged me to think and to dream big. I had to see my God as the worthy cause of self-sacrifice and live for His pleasure. The Bible teaches that without faith, it is impossible to please God. God works in miraculous ways, because He is supernatural. He desires to get glory from all nations by making His name known. But He has chosen to use His servants as instruments of accomplishing this great task. But we must be clean and set apart should we be meet for the master’s use! What good would be all my ambitious plans, if I were not Spirit-filled and led by the Lord of the harvest in the gathering of His harvest where the labourers are few?

Four years at Bible college went by rapidly. We had a tremendous graduating class in 2003. Two of my closest friends received the most coveted preacher awards, while I was honored to receive the Servant’s Heart award. But my education, as I would learn, was just beginning!

The labourers are few. Will you be mentored for missions as I was?
Waylon Husk, Dominick Cuozzo, and Luke Knickerbocker at our college graduation (2003)

Following graduation, I remained in Tennessee an additional month working at Shoney’s restaurant as a waiter. I was able to finish paying off my school bill, before returning home in Florida. What a blessing it was to not have any debts keeping me from moving forward with what God had for me. My time in college left me with an appetite more than ever to learn about the operations of the local church and existing needs in missions. I was learning to be content with striving to please God above all others. But at the heart of it all, I must have always have the right motivation in ministry – to love God and worship him! For without worship, there will never be surrender of our will and sacrifice to make Christ known!

The labourers are few–will you go?

Below you will learn from this video the key characteristic of God that distinguishes him from the false gods of this world. It is interesting to see how many people in the Bible presented this important fact to their audience – including Jonah, Daniel, and Paul!

 

Chapter 6

30 Days on Amtrak: Life as a Legal Hobo

Chapter 6 from “Fully Equipped: Having What It Takes to Give Your All”

The USA Rail Pass for 30 days may be purchased for only $499.
The USA Rail Pass for 30 days may be purchased for only $499. Click here to learn more!

Ever since I had graduated from college, I desired to have a “wilderness experience”. I knew that before the Lord used many of his servants in public ministry, they had a time apart with Him. Since I didn’t have specific direction for a place of ministry, I knew this was an important time to draw near the Lord and get his mind for what I should do next. Then comes 30 days of Amtrak.

And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while: for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat. – Mark 6:31                                                                                 

This man went by "Happy" and loved the Lord Jesus. He would travel the VIA Rail in Canada witnessing to people along the way!

For Moses, it was 40 years with the sheep; David hid from Saul in caves; Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness; and the Apostle Paul was taken for over three years to the Arabian Desert. What is interesting to note is that with Moses, David, and Paul, they each were murderers, but all found God’s forgiveness. God brought them unto himself and used them as the greatest leaders of his people throughout history. Most notable however, is that they were each used by God to pen the words of the majority of Scripture. 

Luke Knickerbocker as a 23 year-old embarking on my month long journey. First stop was Boston Bay, Mass.
Luke Knickerbocker as a 23 year-old embarking on my month long journey. First stop was Boston Bay, Mass.

As I considered where I could go to be alone with God, I learned about the Bass River State Forest in New Jersey. I stayed there for about eight of the loneliest days in my life. The days were spent mostly reading my Bible, praying while taking walks, and writing in my journal. I cooked over an open fire and bundled up in my lean-to. 

Riding the Rails

A couple days after my campout in New Jersey, I boarded the Amtrak train in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It was Easter Sunday, April 11, 2004 and I would spend the next month traveling across Canada and the United States on a North American rail pass. This pass cost only $500 (about all the money I owned) and gave me access to the Amtrak trains and the VIA Rail in Canada, along with bus rides and ferry boats.

There is nothing like seeing the landscapes across the USA from a passenger rail car!
There is nothing like seeing the landscapes across the USA from a passenger rail car!

I would not only see the cities and countryside, but would witness firsthand the provision and protection of God. I met people from all backgrounds around the world including world travelers and national personalities such as former Presidential candidate Al Sharpton in the Philadelphia train station and Hall-of-Fame baseball player Ron Santo when I visited Wrigley field in Chicago for a baseball game. 

Crossing paths with Al Sharpton in Philadelphia.
A poor attempt at a selfie with Al Sharpton in Philadelphia
Also ran into Ron Santos after a game in Chicago
I also ran into Ron Santos after a game in Chicago

My adventures included sleeping on a bench at Fisherman’s wharf in San Francisco, losing my wallet on a Los Angeles bound train, and viewing the spectacular sights of the Canadian Rockies, the Grand Canyon, and Yosemite National Park. 

Enjoying a short hike at Yosemite State Park
Enjoying a short hike at Yosemite State Park

Faith in Action

As I learned on this trip alone on the rails, Christ is very personal and present. One instance of seeing God provide was while I was in Bangor, Maine. I was walking up a street with my backpack and it started to rain. I didn’t have an umbrella and was hurrying back to the bus station. There were still a couple miles to go, and I asked God to keep me dry. Just then a piece of cardboard was blowing across the road. I picked it up and used it to cover myself. My clothes in my bag stayed dry!

God answered my prayer and provided an "umbrella" at the perfect time in Bangor, Maine!
God answered my prayer and provided an “umbrella” at the perfect time in Bangor, Maine!

Since I left with only a small amount of cash, and no credit cards, I had to be quite frugal. But God has ways of providing. One account was while I was on a ferry boat going to Vancouver Island. I started a conversation with a Brazilian couple, speaking in Spanish the best we could. They were so delighted to be able to talk with someone and before we parted ways, they gave me a Canadian $50 bill!

I love every part of the train experience: both mountain scenes and tunnels alike!
I love every part of the train experience: both mountain scenes and tunnels alike!

I left my wallet on the train!

Another unexpected source of income came after I had left my wallet on a Los Angeles bound train. I had been explaining the Gospel to a lady and used my wallet in an illustration. I had gotten off the train while it was still dark around 5am. It was a small little depot, and when the sun arose, and I realized my wallet was missing! I realized that it was still on the seat, and now the train was long gone. There was some change in my bag that I used to call the Amtrak office. I did get my wallet back a week later, but without the cash, of course. I should mention that I did not have any credit cards – both a good and a bad thing! Now I had to live off of almost no money! 

This is the depot in California where I first realized that my wallet was missing!
This is the depot in California where I first realized that my wallet was missing! 

Since I had a very low budget when I started the trip, I knew there were some ways I could exist on a low budget. Knowing that I could get hot water on the train, I brought Ramen noodles and instant oatmeal packets. I also had packed some peanuts and beef jerky to supplement my protein intake. I figured my little cash would be enough to hold me over! But now I only had less than two dollars in change left!

A miracle from a waitress

I had an overnight stop in Bakersfield, California. As was  my custom, I stopped in a Denny’s Diner for the late hours of the night so I would at least be off the street. I ordered some hot water (for the oatmeal packet) and cold water to drink. Then one of the waitresses came and offered me coffee, without charge! Having only a little over two dollars in change, I left it all for a tip, asking the Lord to multiply it! I left the restaurant about five in the morning to head back to the train station. As I went outside, the waitress got my attention and handed me a five dollar bill! She said that I needed it more than her and asked that I pray for her, as she was going through a difficult time. That five dollars made me feel like a rich man!

A view of the Canadian Rockies from the Observation Railcar
A view of the Canadian Rockies from the Observation Railcar 

Fine dining with Family

Five dollars never was more valuable to me than at that time. Shortly after this incident, I met up with some relatives from my mom’s side in San Diego, who gave me $40! Then my Great Uncle Henry near San Francisco gave me and my cousin Jenny $100 to go eat with at a fancy restaurant. Talk about going from a pauper to a prince!

I can't get over the beauty of God's creation in the Rocky Mountains out West!
I can’t get over the beauty of God’s creation in the Rocky Mountains out West!

My travels did have some unsettling moments though. When I had arrived in San Francisco by bus, it was ten o’clock at night and the station was closed for remodeling. So there I wandered on the street and ended up sleeping on a park bench at Fisherman’s Wharf! The next day I walked down Market Street to the library past all the homeless people. Though I was warned against it, I put my trust in God as my Protector!

Hiking the Grand Canyon

Another exciting adventure was going to the Grand Canyon. While on a shuttle van entering the Park, I met another young man who was also a Christian! Emil and I hit it off and he offered for me to stay at his rented room and hike the canyon with him the next day. Now I must inform you that it had been thirteen days since I had slept in a bed or taken a shower. I had done my sleeping while on the train and kept myself clean by using a trick shared by a friend who had been in the military. Yep, I used baby wipes to keep from getting stinky, and would wash my hair in bathroom faucets – either on the train or in restaurants. After a good night’s rest, we had a memorable hike down and up the Grand Canyon…in about seven hours!

My new friend Emil and I enjoyed hiking the Grand Canyon together! Down and back up took us 7 hours!
My new friend Emil and I enjoyed hiking the Grand Canyon together! 

Surprises in Denver

One last story here was my adventure in Denver, Colorado. It just happened to work out that I arrived in the Mile High city in the early evening, and the train depot was across the street from the Rockies baseball stadium. So I ventured over to the line of people outside the gates. A young couple behind me asked if I wanted a ticket, because a couple of their friends didn’t show up. So I ended up with two free tickets and enjoyed a relaxing ballgame! 

Spending the late night hours with a Christian brother from England whom I met in the train depot in Denver, Colorado
Spending the late night hours with a Christian brother from England whom I met in the train depot in Denver, Colorado

After the game, I went back to spend the night at the train depot. There I met a Christian man from England and we began to get acquainted. We were soon informed that the station was closing for the night and we must leave until the next morning. The workers told us that we could take a free transit bus across town to an all-night diner. My new friend and I had such a good time of fellowship before walking back to the station early the next morning to catch the next train.

Met some fellow adventurous travelers from Mexico and Brazil on the Westbound train in Canada
Met some fellow adventurous travelers from Mexico and Brazil on the Westbound train in Canada

God provided again when I met up with my mom’s sister in Pittsburgh and they gave me $20. I was able to finish my journey in Knoxville, Tennessee without starving! A friend picked me up from the train station and I enjoyed attending my cousin Rebekah’s graduation at my alma mater Crown College!

Adventures in Alaska

After my trip riding the rails around North America, I spent some time working back home in Florida. In the fall of 2004, I flew up to visit my oldest sister and her family who were living in Seward, Alaska. While on a layover in Minneapolis, an announcement was made that the flight was overbooked. I jumped up to volunteer to take a later flight and was promised to receive a voucher for a free plane ticket! As I was at the desk confirming the details, someone came up and offered me a hundred dollar bill because they didn’t want to be separated from their friend. Since I had almost no money, I gladly took the hundred dollars and sat back down in my seat! When I arrived in Alaska, I found out motels ran for at least $90. God had already met that need!

Something about trains in the open frontier that seem to link the past with the present
Something about trains in the open frontier that seem to link the past with the present

More unexpected blessings

But the story gets better! The next morning, I went to the train station in Anchorage and sat in the lobby, reading my Bible as I waited for the train departure. While minding my own business, a couple middle aged ladies with their mother walked by and commented on the “Good Book” I was reading. We got talking and I shared how God had provided the hundred dollars the day before. One of the ladies, happened to work for Continental Airlines. She said she wanted to bless me and gave me one of her free round-trip vouchers which I used a few months later! 

On top of Marathon Mountain overlooking Resurrection Bay in Seward, Alaska
On top of Marathon Mountain overlooking Resurrection Bay in Seward, Alaska

During my stay in Seward, we took a hike up Marathon Mountain where there is an annual race up down the face of this steep mountain. The view of the glaciers and Resurrection Bay was breathtaking! We purified icy water from the melting glaciers streaming downward. 

Hiking in Seward, Alaska (2004)
Hiking in Seward, Alaska (2004)

At the conclusion of this particular trip, I took the train back up to Anchorage and arrived around nine o’clock at night. My plane would fly out only a couple hours later. I was on foot and had to find a bus to take me to the airport: I only had a couple hours. Someone told me where to find a bus stop, and I had to run through the streets with my suitcase to make the last bus of the night. I made it just in time and boarded out of breath. Then I had to pay…but I had hardly any money left! The fare was only two dollars…the last of what I had! Wow – God had come through again!

Prove your faith in God

A life of service that God will honor must be a life of faith. Having a healthy appetite for adventure is a bonus! Faith will require risks and oftentimes great sacrifice! But there is nothing to compare with the way God supernaturally provides and protects as we serve Him! God indeed is worthy to be trusted!

Faith must be tested and proven. Before I could be in a position to travel and live in Asia, God needed to prepare me through many trips as I have recorded above. In the video below, I explain why I have my evangelistic website www.PilgrimofTruth.com. It is primarily for all the people God brings across my path whom I long to see come to an understanding of how great my God is. It is my desire that they too come into a personal relationship with Him!

 

Chapter 7

From Bible College to the School of Hard Knocks

Working at Cracker Barrel during my time in New Jersey

Working at Cracker Barrel during my time in New Jersey

 

It is essential that we keep a Biblical balance in our approach to the Christian life. We must not confuse a busy schedule for obedience in God's work. A servant is to do exactly what his master tells him in the way he instructs him. Mere religious activity is not the same as Biblical spirituality. We must also beware of emphasizing one spiritual discipline at the expense of ignoring others mandated in Scripture. A Biblical balance is vital for God's servant if he wants to truly be useful. 

These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. – Acts 17:11

 

Counsel after College

In May of 2003, I graduated from Bible College with a Bachelor's degree in Biblical Studies. I stayed an extra month in Powell, Tennessee to work and pay off the remainder of my school bill. Before I moved back home to Florida, I made an appointment with Pastor Clarence Sexton to see if he had any counsel for me. I remember him reminding me that I came from a Godly family. He advised me to spend at least two years working under a Godly man. Though in my heart I knew he was right, I was restless and had other ideas. 

 

Pastor Clarence Sexton would emphasize the importance of being Complete in Christ

Pastor Clarence Sexton would emphasize the importance of being Complete in Christ

 

While studying at The Crown College, my major was in Missions and I had learned about the emphasis of God's work through the local church to fulfill the Great Commission. As I considered how I may serve in foreign missions, I was challenged by the thought of what a church would look like on foreign soil - especially in countries considered "closed" to Christianity. Some of my friends and I had studied the early churches in the Bible and were reminded of their simplicity and power. It made me curious about other groups who had a different approach to church planting methodology than the traditional model I had grown up around all my life. 

 

House Church conference in Texas

In the Fall of 2003, I took a bus from Knoxville,Tennessee to Dallas, Texas to attend a House Church conference. There I met Neil Cole and many others touted as the premier house-church planters of our day. I went with basically no money and a credit card I had borrowed from my friend Dominick in case of an emergency. I took lots of notes and learned some helpful things about evangelizing people and church-planting reproduction. Like anything you learn in life and books you read, I had to “eat the meat and spit out the bones.” 

 

At the House Church Conference in Dallas, I learned that many house churches are filled with disheartened people who disdain pastoral authority and hold to charismatic beliefs. (Those were the bones.) There was some good "meat" to chew on, however. There are helpful lessons to learn from the way Jesus sent out his disciples two by two and how Paul established churches wherever people met, especially in homes. The process was simple, natural, familial, and reproducible. As Neil Cole would say, many modern church models today are based on "budgets, bulletins, and big shots" and are not easily reproducible.

 

In search of the perfect church model

Upon returning home to Florida, I had a burning desire to be a part of a movement in modern missions that would transcend mere tradition, yet remain faithful to the truth. My poor dad had to put up with a number of debates with me about many “new” ideas I was learning about. 

 

I soon had the opportunity to move to New Jersey where some friends I knew were starting churches that met in homes. But as I observed, something was just not right. Early on, I recognized a critical spirit from the leader that I knew was not healthy; but I overlooked it and went along for the ride anyway. 

 

When I first moved North, my friend and his new wife, who had eloped and left college, were living in the basement of their Grandmother’s house. I had no other options of places to stay, so the leader of the house church let me stay in his attic. Having three small children already made it difficult for their family. Inevitably, it was time to find new lodging. But there was one problem – I had no car and no job. Now I had to add "no home" to my list of accomplishments.

 

A house fellowship meeting in New Jersey

A house fellowship meeting in New Jersey

 

Homeless in New Jersey

I’ll never forget the Sunday afternoon, following our morning service, when Pastor Donald dropped me off at the flea market in Columbus, New Jersey. I immediately bought an old bicycle, and began to make my way through this small farming community. I consoled myself that Jesus had no place to lay his head. It would be okay to suffer a little. I found a dairy farm that could use my help milking cows in the evenings. Since the owner was away for a week, I could stay in the “office” upstairs. I was glad for what I had, but this was not “living the life”, to say the least. Believe me, the thoughts of the prodigal son spending time with filthy hogs came to my mind often while I took in the overwhelming dairy aroma! I was learning - albeit the long, hard way!

 

I was able to ride the River Line transit train down to Burlington and Medford where a few friends were. Some nights I would stay at a diner during the darkest hours of night, then would roam the streets on my bike. I could catch up on rest at a park during the day time. After a couple weeks, I finally had a break through. In one weekend, my friend Nathan took me to Cracker Barrel in Mount Laurel, where I got a job as a server. Another friend let me use his car till I could get my own vehicle. The Milligan family who hosted church services at a chapel they owned let me move into their large basement for $200/month. They were such a fabulous family to be with. 

 

Living by faith, again

Before I could start work for Cracker Barrel on Monday, I had to buy slip-proof shoes. At this point, I had no money. So I got on my bike and went to a neighborhood and started knocking doors offering to do any kind of yard work needed. A lady gave me two hours of work, pulling weeds and trimming her bushes. Then she gave me a check for fifty dollars! I was excited and found that the bank was actually open, so I could cash it. I rode over to Walmart where I got my needed items. How I rejoiced in the Lord to see him reward my willingness to work. I even got to eat my favorite meal of cheese steak and onion rings at the Marlton Diner that night.

 

The summer of 2004, I began working at Cracker Barrel. I must say it was my favorite secular job I have ever had. I considered my position to be that of a deacon, as I served tables! I made many friends. In fact, one Christian couple that I served many times became friends that I still have contact with to this day! I was able to start spending time with the Schopp family outside of work, and we enjoyed good fellowship. 

 

My dear friends Betty Schopp and her son Paul whom I met while serving tables at Cracker Barrel

My dear friends Betty Schopp and her son Paul whom I met while serving tables at Cracker Barrel

 

They had a family member, David in Delaware, who planned a hiking trip in the Appalachian mountains. What a time we had on our two day hike camping out in the mountains of Virginia! David Schopp was a Godly man who would ask me spiritual questions to challenge me in my walk with God. He would ask me about what Scripture I was memorizing and share what God was teaching him at the time.

 

A great camping trip in Shenandoah valley with David Schopp

A great camping trip in Shenandoah valley with David Schopp

 

After a couple months, I had saved up enough cash and Mr. Milligan took me to a used car lot where I bought my very first automobile. It was a small white car. I called it my miracle car because the engine was rusted out, the tires bald, and at one point I blew a piston and it ran on 3 cylinders…but it kept running as long as I needed it and I would put about 20,000 additional miles on it before it basically died!

 

My first car that I bought for $500 from tip money earned by waiting tables at Cracker Barrel

My first car that I bought for $500 from tip money earned by waiting tables at Cracker Barrel

 

Our experiment with the “house church” movement came to an abrupt end. One day, the pastor began teaching that water baptism is no longer meant for believers today. That evening, my friend Nathan and I brought our Bibles and confronted him about this. He insisted that this was what he believed. So without any other choice, we left his house for the last time. We never saw him again as he moved out of the state within a few months later. 

 

The Plymouth Brethren

As I pursued my quest for finding the perfect church model, my friend and I started attending a Plymouth Brethren church nearby. I appreciated some of the things they did, including a weekly observation of the Lord’s Supper. During that first hour of worship, men could share a Bible verse, short devotional, prayer, and anyone could suggest a song which would magnify Christ and the Gospel. It was a good start to a week with personal examination. Knowing that I might be participating made me want to come prepared and clean before God. 

 

I also did get to attend a summer orientation they offered for prospective missionaries. There I met Ken Fleming, the brother of Pete Fleming, who was one of the missionaries slain in Ecuador alongside Jim Elliot and Nate Saint. These pioneer missionaries were with the Plymouth Brethren and quite conservative in their beliefs. Interesting to note is that when the five missionaries were martyred in Ecuador, Ken Fleming was currently serving as a missionary in Africa and didn't hear of his brother's death until three months later!

 

Sitting next to veteran missionary Ken Fleming and listening to his stories was a great blessing!

Sitting next to veteran missionary Ken Fleming and listening to his stories was a great blessing!

 

However, there were some things I observed that were not in line with what I had been brought up with in the Independent Baptist Church. I remember trying to defend many of the Plymouth Brethren's views to my dad and how “Baptistic” they were. Yet I knew in my heart there were some things that were simply not right. I was at a crossroads in my life.'

 

A major crossroads

My dad had encouraged me to come home and work with him in the church and school where he pastored in Arcadia, Florida. At the same time, I had friends beginning a church plant in Maryland. I knew I had to make a decision, and the consequences of this decision would impact the rest of my life, no doubt including the areas of marriage and ministry. I knew the right thing for me to do was to return home and submit myself under my dad’s authority. It was time to eat some crow and swallow my pride! Thankfully, God had placed a Godly brother, Jim Fulleylove, in the same Cracker Barrel where I worked. He encouraged me to go home where I belonged.

 

Working at Cracker Barrel alongside Jim Fulleylove

Working at Cracker Barrel alongside Jim Fulleylove

 

Some observations I made from this whirlwind journey to New Jersey and back home to Florida would include the necessity to remain Biblically balanced in three key areas: First, you need to have the right doctrine; secondly, you must follow the right methods; and thirdly, it is essential to have the right spirit. Most people go overboard emphasizing one or two of these, but without all three, problems are sure to throw you out of sync. God has used many different men and ministries throughout the past. It is good to learn from them, but it is imperative to remember they are men, and are not perfect. Only Christ is the perfect example, and everything we do must be based on and judged by the Bible. 

 

Like the Prodigal Son

You can do a lot of things and get away with it. But you cannot do whatever notion you have and expect God’s blessing and peace when you do it outside of the authority structure God has set in place. For me, it was seeking to find a way to minister to others when I did not have a proper relationship with my own father and church. How could I expect to properly teach others the Word of God, if I was not submitting myself to the authority within my own home and church? Once I finally returned to the place where I was supposed to be, humbled myself, and submitted to my dad's authority, the doors of God’s revealed will began to swing open!

 

It was good to be back home with my dad and the Heritage Baptist Church in Arcadia, Florida.
 
Back home with my dad and the Heritage Baptist Church where he pastored in Arcadia, Florida. (2005)

 

I am so grateful for God's patience with my stubbornness and his protection in my life, even when I have not always made the the wisest choices. God graciously allowed me to return to Florida and serve in the church and Christian school with my dad. It was then that God began to reveal his will regarding a life's mate! More to come in the next blog! Watch the video below as I share another area in which I learned an important lesson the hard way!

Chapter 8

The Second Greatest Gift in Life

 

Luke and Jamie Knickerbocker on our wedding day (July 22, 2006)

Luke and Jamie Knickerbocker on our wedding day (July 22, 2006)

 

Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the Lord. - Proverbs 18:22

 

Submitted and Serving

 

At the end of 2005, I moved home to Arcadia, Florida from New Jersey and submitted myself to my dad’s authority. (Read the previous chapter here.) I began serving wherever needed in the church which included teaching a teen Sunday class. I also got to organize youth groups on Friday nights. This gave me an opportunity to share my passion for missions with them and the needs of persecuted believers around the world. Magazines from Voice of the Martyrs provided me with helpful material about current events. 

 

Once a month, our church would meet up with a couple other churches of like faith for fellowship. One youth group came from Okeechobee. Their unofficial leader was an older teen girl named Jamie Womble. She was their leader simply because she owned a vehicle and could drive them! Though I had met her a little over a year before that at my sister Katie's high school graduation, Jamie and I had gotten to know a little about each other through email. But that would soon change now that I was back in Florida. 

 

Our family at Heritage Baptist Church in Arcadia, Florida (2005)

Our family at Heritage Baptist Church in Arcadia, Florida (2005)

 

Watching and Waiting

 

I watched Jamie and saw her talent and the enthusiasm she had for Christ. She taught in a Christian school and did typesetting and editing for Faith Baptist Publications in Fort Pierce. I attended their printing conference and youth conference they held. We got to know more about each other’s interests, and we found we had a lot in common! But I was impressed at how much talent she had and how much she enjoyed serving the Lord. I especially took notice of her when we had a teen activity themed on Bible smuggling. We had a competition between two teams and we each were the leader. She put her whole heart into it and I could picture her on the mission field with me. 

Jamie and I became good friends. I knew she was interested in me and I wanted to be sure not to say or do anything that would lead her to believe I liked her.  I wanted to be sure that it was the Lord bringing us together, not our emotions. I did not want to lead her to believe I was interested in her romantically if I was not yet willing to enter a committed relationship. 

 

When I Knew She was the One

 

We got to know each other more through email, and the youth activities. Soon I began to call her on the phone. We always had other people around when we were together and I spoke to her dad letting him know if anything progressed in our friendship, he would be the first to know. 

 

I saw Christ in Jamie’s life. One day while reading Proverbs 31, I realized she excelled all other virtuous women, and she was the one for me. In fact, I wrote her initials (JJW) in my Bible next to Proverbs 31:29.

 

The day I knew I would marry Jamie Joanne Womble was while reading this verse.

The day I knew I would marry Jamie Joanne Womble was while reading this verse.

 

Honoring our Parents

 

I continued to talk to my dad about the development of our relationship while waiting on the Lord to move forward. Christmas was coming and so was our church cantata. We invited Jamie’s family to come to our church for that special service, then come to our house for fellowship afterward. That night I gave her a Christmas gift, which was a big move for a budding friendship. The gift was simple: a framed acrostic about a disciple of Christ I had written and a bracelet that a Cambodian missionary had given me. 

 

In January of 2006, the annual county fair was coming up and I invited Jamie to go with me. She brought her sister Kim with her. I had previously asked her dad for permission and he was fine with it. I also asked my dad to eat supper with my mom and her parents so they could freely discuss the two of us and our budding friendship. This would help provide confidence in knowing a little about us and each other’s families. It was important to me that we receive the blessing of both our parents. 

 

My dad Thomas Knickerbocker (left) and my father-in-law James Womble (right)

My dad Thomas Knickerbocker (left) and my father-in-law James Womble (right)

 

Soon after this, Jamie informed me of a Valentine’s Banquet coming up at her school and wondered if I was interested in going with her. I told her I would get back with her. (This really made her nervous!) But I had to handle this cautiously as I viewed this as more than just a casual date. This would mean our friendship was becoming more serious. I told my dad about it and he thought it was a good idea to go. It brought Jamie much relief when I finally called her to let her know I would be honored to take her to the banquet!

 

Our Courtship Begins

 

I set up a time with Jamie's father where I could meet with him before the banquet. We secretly met up at a park near their house in Okeechobee. I told Mr. Womble how much I respected Jamie and saw our friendship leading to a serious relationship. I wanted his permission to court her. This would simply be a time of getting to know one another with the purposeful intention of marriage. We had a wonderful time at the Valentine's banquet that night.

 

Together at the Valentines Banquet in Fort Pierce, Florida (2-10-06)

Together at the Valentines Banquet in Fort Pierce, Florida (2-10-06)

 

After the banquet, I informed her of my clandestine meeting with her father at the nearby park. Under the moon-lit sky, I told her officially that I liked her and that I had her father's blessing to pursue a courtship with her if she felt the same way about me. She returned the sentiment and our relationship instantly rose to another level. Our courtship lasted a month and a half before I proposed to her on a canoe trip. There in the sand I drew a heart and told her for the first time the words, “I love you” and gave her an engagement ring.

 

She said "Yes!" This photo was taken shortly after I proposed to marry Jamie.

She said "Yes!" This photo was taken shortly after I proposed to marry Jamie.

 

Setting Boundaries

 

We had both decided not to touch – not even shake hands until our wedding day. We would simply draw the boundary as far back as possible, and have a hands-off relationship. It would be hard to refrain, but it would be harder to stop once started! Give the devil a toe hold and he’ll make it a stronghold. We wanted to show our future children by example how to find God’s choice of a life’s mate and get to the marriage altar physically pure. But we got creative and had fun with it. For example, when we went miniature golfing, we held each end of the golf club and pretended that we were holding hands! It was so much fun.

 

One of our favorite dates playing miniature golf!

One of our favorite dates playing miniature golf!

 

Abstinence is not highly regarded today as it once was, even among many Christians. The fact is, some things are meant only for marriage. Fornication and adultery is the perversion of what God designed as the blessed physical union to be enjoyed between a husband and his wife. If you love God, you will honor this. If you truly love others, you will not want to take advantage of them to attempt to gratify your own lusts. If you think only of yourself, you will not regard their feelings.

 

Our official engagement photo (2006)

Our official engagement photo (2006)

 

Worth the Wait

 

Our magical moment came on July 22, 2006. There I stood beside my dad, officiate, and my groomsmen. My heart pounded, as I saw my bride come down the aisle. We had prepared for four months for this occasion. We both had our parents blessing, but more importantly, God’s blessing. Now it was appropriate to go forward together hand in hand, heart in heart, in our commitment to one another for life. 

 

The most euphoric moment I’ve ever experienced is when we took one another’s hands and kissed for the first time at the marriage altar! It was definitely worth the wait. What a strong foundation that was laid for a good marriage, because we sought to honor God and His Word, while respecting our parents and each other.

 

The first time we held hands was here at the marriage altar!

The first time we held hands was here at the marriage altar!

 

I feel badly when I see so many young people throw away the chance to experience the gift God has allowed us have. God’s way is best. It’s even better than your feelings and what you think you want now. Let Him write your love story! Indeed, life's greatest gift is eternal life through Jesus Christ. But the second greatest gift is marrying in the will of God! Read 10 Godly Guidelines for Guys and Gals to lay a proper foundation for a great marriage.

 

 
 

 

Learn more about making the most during the Season of Singleness in this article. You may listen to our audio book Worth the Wait as we each tell the full story of how God brought our paths together on Audible here. The paperback version is available here at Victory Baptist Press.

Chapter 9

Our First Year: Pastoring and Parenting

 

Our first day after being called to pastor in Lake Placid, Florida (2007)

Our first day after being called to pastor in Lake Placid, Florida (2007)

 

Most men will proclaim every one his own goodness: but a faithful man who can find? – Proverbs 20:6

 

After we married in July of 2006, My new bride Jamie and I attended the Heritage Baptist Church that my dad pastored. Jamie taught at the Heritage Baptist Academy in Arcadia, Florida, and I worked full-time at the Walmart distribution center to provide a place for us to stay. I was starting to get antsy about what work the Lord might have for us. I didn’t know exactly what the Lord had in mind, but I remembered what they taught us in college, “You will either be the pastor of a church, or work to help someone who is the pastor.”

 

One time while gathering together with family at a lake in Lake Placid, Florida, I thought, if Jamie and I do stay in Florida, this is the town where I want to live. After a few months went by, we heard about a small church in Lake Placid, Florida who had an older pastor and needed some help with their music and youth. This caught my attention, and I thought that this may be just the opportunity for us. We could drive over to visit on Saturdays and attend services on Sunday and Wednesdays. 

 

But during this time, my grandfather had moved to Vermont and was attempting to start a church there. He had invited me to come and work with him and my Grandma Carol. This too appealed to me, as moving back to Vermont seemed like a very adventurous enterprise! So, in March of 2007, my wife and I flew up to Vermont to visit my Grandparents and observe the work there. I learned that there was another man trying to start a church in a nearby town and there was already a church which my grandfather had started 50 years previously. There were some dissenters who had pleaded with my grandfather to come back, yet they rarely attended the meetings he held in his trailer! I definitely saw this from a different perspective from my Grandpa, and realized this door was not open for us.

 

Grandma Carol and Grandpa Knickerbocker

Grandma Carol and Grandpa Knickerbocker

 

Then it happened! While we were still visiting in Vermont, my mom called informing me that the pastor at Bethel Baptist Church in Lake Placid, Florida had put in his resignation, effective at the end of April! That was only a few weeks away! My mind started churning. We had already met with the pastor, and he had mentioned his desire to have a young man work with him for two years before making the transition. Obviously, he got the drift I was looking to get into the pastorate much sooner. 

 

Upon our return to Florida, we visited Bethel Baptist Church. Within a week or two, I was recommended to candidate, which I did. On April 29th, I was voted to be the pastor! We were on a mountain top, but were soon to enter our first valley!

 

Our First Sunday at Bethel Baptist Church in Lake Placid, Florida

Our First Sunday at Bethel Baptist Church in Lake Placid, Florida

 

As I started visiting the members, I was informed by one couple that they had already been planning to leave the church: they just wanted to give us time to make the transition. It was nothing personal they assured me. Meanwhile another couple who had recently joined never returned. I learned they had to be part of an independent Baptist Church to join a particular evangelistic ministry. So it was simply a formality on their part.

 

At this time, we were bringing in children on our church van. But the driver would take the kids home after Sunday school. I thought, “Why not just bring them into the main service?” I found out quickly that was a bad idea, as I had to lead the service and discipline kids at the same time! There went another couple, who told me that they couldn’t handle the disruption of the unruly kids.

 

Then I preached on True Christianity, how we should be consistent at home with the way we are in the church house. Of course, I dealt with the issue of dress. I had this brilliant idea to hold up a pair of pants and say, “Who wears these?” followed by holding up a skirt and saying, “Who wears this?” I made the point clear that there should be a distinction between men and women. As you can imagine, this was not appreciated by all. The one faithful deacon, who gave, cleaned, taught, and seemingly held the church together was irate with me afterward. He stormed out of the building declaring, “You weren’t fair to the ladies.” He and his wive never returned! I had attempted to present the message with the best spirit I knew how, but the content was just too much I suppose. 

 

Only a month in and I was seeing the small group disintegrate into what seemed like a shell of a church body. At this point, I should mention that my wife gave birth to our first son a couple months after taking the church. When our son Paul was just three weeks old, the acting treasurer (who was the former pastor), came to me after the service and said that he could’nt start over again. He travelled a long distance to attend the services and with the great exodus of members, he was discouraged. So he took my wife and I back to the office and gave us a crash course in the books and financial affairs.

 

So now I was left with a church made up of my family of three, a lady with her granddaughter, some children from the bus route, and a couple, whom I was informed that the husband was not dependable. Well, the man and his wife turned out to be our greatest workers throughout our time there and were a great blessing to us. Tom and Kaye have remained friends and have kept in contact with us all these years since. God brought us through and we recovered. God would bring others in as we remained faithful. 

 

I will never forget how God ministered to my wife and I that Wednesday night after the former pastor said “good bye”. We felt so lonely and wondered what was going on. We left the office overwhelmed by all the added responsibilities. We made our way to the front of the auditorium. There at the altar, we knelt and poured our souls out to the Lord. We had many questions, but no answers. Then out of nowhere, my three week old son Paul began to giggle. He had never done this before! The Lord spoke to me bringing to mind the verse in Nehemiah, “The Joy of the Lord is my strength.” 

 

Jamie, Luke, and our first son Paul (2007)

Jamie, Luke, and our first son Paul (2007)

 

Then Paul giggled a second time, again relieving the tension of the moment. I thought of the verse in Psalm 16:11, “In his presence is fullness of joy.” My heart was stirred and I began to think, “Lord, we have you and you will never forsake us!” Truly, it is not the circumstance, but rather the person of Christ who gives joy. Then I began to look at my son and wondered if he would laugh another time -for every good message has at least three points, right? 

 

Indeed he giggled once more, and I thought about verses in the Bible that speak of "joy". My mind went to the prison epistle penned by Paul to the Philippian church, where he states, “Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, rejoice.” (Philippians 4:4) Now I had no excuse but to be glad in the Lord. My wife and I stood up and embraced knowing everything would be okay. Our tears had been turned into laughter! 

 

No matter what happens to us, we can allow a difficult experience to conform us more into Christ’s image, or we can use it as an excuse to resent God’s working in our lives. When Daniel was thrown to the lions for praying, he didn’t let it change His proper view of God. The Bible tells us he had an excellent spirit. This world needs to see God’s servants with a joyful spirit that carries us and makes us excel over all trials.

 

As my pastor friend Josh Goodwin pointed out, the red letter days of the giants we read in history were actually quite few. We easily forget the long years they endured faithfully, perhaps in monotony. But without proving themselves during the preparation, they would not have the seen the victories God would wrought for them!

 

In July of 2007, Jamie and I celebrated our first anniversary. We had just moved from Arcadia into our newly purchased trailer in a 55+ mobile home park. Somehow they let us move there in spite of our age! We felt like we retired early. Because we had used the little money we had toward our down payment, we were counting our pennies when our anniversary came around. It was a Sunday and we decided to go to McDonalds for lunch. We found enough coins to purchase a Bic Mac and split it! We couldn't have been happier!

 

During our first year in Lake Placid, God really challenged and increased our faith. We had a two older couples join the church who were real spiritual giants, the Prathers and the Ramos family. The Prathers would go visiting with us even in the 100 degree heat of summer. Brother Abel Ramos’ health was deteriorating, yet he still tried to reach out to the Hispanic community. That summer I had the joy of baptizing my first convert. God was working! 

 

In 2009, I had the honor of being ordained at Heritage Baptist Church in Arcadia, Florida where my dad pastored. It was both a wonderful and challenging time as Godly men questioned me about my beliefs and encouraged me with practical counsel for the ministry. It was recommended to me that I regularly read the small booklet Heartbeats of the Holy. This is a practical yet powerful booklet every preacher may be helped by.

 

Over the course of four years, we saw God provide over and over again. We saw small growth here and there, but just stayed faithful knowing we were there to labour for the Lord first, and for the people second. God came through during the times we needed Him most! We had a time where the motor was blown on the church van, our copy machine was broken, and the city was making us convert our septic system to a new electric pump grinder system. This alone would cost us about $5,000. I remember sitting at my desk looking at the bills and saying, “Lord, these are your bills.” This was beyond the ability of our small congregation. Then we received a check from out of state for $10,000! Wow! Truly the church is the Lord’s church, and He will sustain it! 

 

Some folks attended for a short while, and others for a longer time who would contribute greatly just when we needed it most! While I always had to work a second job, I always seemed to fulfill my duties. I came to realize that God-given duties do not conflict. I drove a school bus in the county, and I remember getting phone calls from the funeral director or others in need, and was able to attend to the situation immediately, never interfering with my bus driving schedule. It was assuring to know that my Father in Heaven knows all. 

 

Also, family duties must not be neglected for the sake of the ministry. After all, my family is my first ministry. If I lose my family, I will cease to have a ministry! It took much adjusting going from being newly married to becoming a pastor and dad within the first year! Then the Lord gave us another son, Jason in 2008. In 2010, we were blessed with a beautiful daughter named Abigail.

 

Our family in 2011 (children: Paul, Jason, and Abby) in 2011

 

I must admit, that pastoring is no doubt the most stressful job under the sun. Many times I thought that certainly someone else could come and do a better job than I. But I was always too scared to quit. The last thing I wanted was to be a quitter. I realize that God calls us to faithfulness; the “success” or “failure” as we may call it is in the Lord’s hands.

 

I was only 25 when I became pastor and was as “green” as they come! We dealt with various trials and challenges, both financially and spiritually. At one point, I thought it would be wise to have another older friend come to pastor. Then the people could benefit from each of our strengths. It was not at all about the position to me as much as it was about what was best for our church. That pastor friend did not come, and God opened a door for him in another church. I am thankful for those who put up with me and stood by me through these learning years! 

 

I learned many invaluable lessons during my time pastoring. I learned that God will use the least likely people because they allow Him to; His power is provided that He may receive glory. Don’t be surprised when those you have the greatest expectations for turn away, and the least likely ones grow to be used of God greatly. You must learn to love even though the more you love the less you are sometimes appreciated. You will sometimes be hurt the most by those you seek to help the most. 

 

Tom and Chris, two of the most faithful workers in our church

 

God calls and leads his minister; no one person is indispensable. Treasure and love those who God puts in your care. Sometimes this means doing what is best for the church, not what is most comfortable for me. I remember having to confront a man who was critical and spiritually deflating our church. He was causing harm, and I had to ask him to change his attitude or just not come. That was difficult, but it was necessary for the health of the flock. He understood and even later sent us a love offering on a couple occasions. 

 

Ask God for thick skin and a soft heart. Christ never flinched from his stand for truth against the Pharisees, yet he certainly kept a heart of compassion for sinners. Oh how we need to be dead to self, and filled with the Spirit, that we might care for others properly and nurture them with the fruit of the Spirit – by loving and being longsuffering with the flock.

 

I’ve learned that God really does care and is faithful to supply our need as we are faithful in obeying His will. Small doesn’t mean insignificant; and big is not always a sign of blessing. I must consistently take care of the little things, because little things turn into big things!

 

God opens the doors to those who are willing to walk through them. I was given opportunities to write in a column in a local newspaper, and was asked to pray in front of all the county school board transportation department. We witnessed God supply flooring for our nurseries, paint for our fellowship hall, a sound booth for our equipment, and an addition to our trailer, not to mention a beautiful minivan! But let me not get ahead of myself!

 

Just be yourself: be real for Jesus. Phonies are easily found out. Don’t fall into the trap of comparing yourself with others. You and your ministry will be unique – from your style of preaching, your experiences, the field of service – it’s history and culture, and the burden and vision God gives you. Be obedient to what God has given you. Keep your eyes on Jesus and keep your hand on the plow. 

 

God is pleased only by faith. There is nothing else that pleases him! Also, no great work of God goes uncontested by the Devil. If you are expecting great victories, prepare for difficult battles. During one vacation Bible school, when some precious children were saved, we had an exceptionally challenging night. It started with a mother storming in during the opening exercises. She was irate because her son rode the van without permission. Uh oh…but there was no consoling her now! She grabbed her son and marched him right out. Then during snack time, some boys were horse playing and broke a window. But at the end of the night, God won and so were some precious souls!

 

Vacation Bible School (2008)

 

One other lesson I have learned is that I find greater joy handing a job over to a young believer than doing it myself. Whether it’s turning over a Sunday school class to a new teacher, or transferring a responsibility, like song-leading, to a new worker. It brings rewards that money can’t buy.

 

I would not recommend the pastorate to most young inexperienced men like myself, but I am grateful for the opportunity I had to serve. I remember someone asking me, “How old are you?” and “You are the Senior Pastor?” My thought to that was, “How old does a person have to be to serve God?” However, it is imperative that you keep a teachable spirit and take the opportunities that God gives you and remain faithful to that task.

 

In October of 2010, I received a phone call. A man named James informed me that he was a friend of Mr. Everett who attended a weekly Bible study I held at a local assisted living facility. They wanted to meet up with me for coffee. So we scheduled a time and met at Wendy’s. They started asking some probing questions. Specifically, they asked how our family was doing. I said, “You mean physically…spiritually, uh, were doing fine, and we have all our needs provided.”  Though we did have all our needs provided for, my wife was praying for a mini-van. Earlier that year, we had given our 2006 Chrysler Town & Country to some missionary friends who had lost theirs in a fire. Now we were limited to squeezing our family of five into our two-door Ford Focus.

 

The minivan Mr. Everett gave us in 2010

 

Long story short, on Thanksgiving week of 2010, we met up with Mr. Everett and Bro. James at a car dealership where they had a beautiful red 2010 Dodge Grand Caravan awaiting us. It only had 8,500 miles on it. We had met Mr. Everett while doing weekly Bible studies at a retirement home. He would attend and wanted to be a blessing to our family. Now we had a good reliable vehicle which would eventually serve us greatly in ways only the Lord could foresee! 

 

Note: Bethel Baptist Church is currently under the leadership of Pastor Keith Carringer. The new church name is Highlands Baptist Church and God has been blessing the work there!

 

Highlands Baptist church (2024)
 
Pastor Carringer and family
 

Chapter 10

Stepping Out by Faith

And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith.    – Luke 17:5

The very next day after our new van had been given to us, our family drove to Alabama where we met up with my wife’s family for a Thanksgiving campout. (Read that story here!) While there, my father-in-law James Womble had us read a challenging book called Radical by David Platt. The straightforward approach of questioning the Christian’s pursuit of the “American Dream” hit close to home. My father-in-law gave me more books about missions which rekindled the flames of world evangelism in my heart. One book was about the lives of William Carey, Adoniram Judson, and Jim Elliot who all suffered much for the name of Christ. Their commitment was such a challenge to me to give my all.

Our family with Mr. Everett and his friend James on the day he purchased this van for us! (2010)

During this time, I was contacted by a national pastor in Bangladesh and I started to plan a mission trip there. I applied for a passport, since I had lost mine years before that. In ways I did not clearly understand, God was at work preparing our family for the next task. It is wonderful to reflect and see God’s goodness in how he was working to lead us in stepping out on faith in Him!

More miraculous provisions

While we were living in Lake Placid, Florida, my wife had been teaching coupon workshops around Florida. She had mastered the art of finding bargains and saving us lots of money on our groceries. One day while standing in line at Publix, someone remarked how impressed they were with her couponing skills and wished his wife and daughters could learn to coupon as well. My wife said she would be glad to do someone’s shopping for a year in exchange for a laptop computer. To her surprise, he went and bought a new laptop computer. All he wanted in return was for Jamie to teach his wife and daughters how to shop with coupons!

Now we had a new family van and laptop computer that had both been given to us (two essentials for any missionary on soon to be on deputation). At this point, I was still pastoring. I really agonized over what God wanted for us to do. Some days I would be excited about the future of our church, then other days I couldn’t stop thinking about the foreign mission field. 

Walk for weeks without meeting a Christian?

I thought about a missionary I had met in college. He had told me about the need for the Indonesian people – especially the 14 million Madurese people. So I went online and found a documentary recorded by Caleb Project (see Joshua Project). It featured some unreached people groups in South East Asia, including the Madurese. I ordered it and was fascinated by the first two groups who were documented – the Amdo Tibetans and the Khampa Tibetans. It said that you could walk for weeks and weeks among the Amdo Tibetan nomads and never meet one person who has ever heard of the Name of Jesus Christ! That fact stuck deep inside of me. As Jeremiah wrote in Lamentations, “Mine eye affecteth my heart.” A seed was planted in my heart that day.

Amdo Tibetans in the Himalayas
Amdo Tibetans in the Himalayas

As we moved into 2011, my heart was definitely pulled in two. We had two missionary families come through our church during the first couple months. Josh and Rebecca Florence came and presented their burden for the people in Papua New Guinea. They were preparing to go train at Baptist Bible Translator’s Institute in Bowie, Texas later that year. I found myself getting jealous, wishing it was me that was going. 

We were able to be with the Florences at a mission's conference in 2012!
We were able study alongside the Florence family at BBTI! This is at mission’s conference we were all at in 2012! 

Shortly after, we had the Dan Haifley family come sing and preach. Brother Haifley had made some cards about countries in need of an Independent Baptist missionary. Our hearts were knitted for the cause of reaching unreached peoples. I was now learning that not only are there 6,000 unreached people groups, but also 3,000 Bible-less languages! 

In Romans 15:20, Paul said that he strived to preach the Gospel where Christ was not named. In Romans 10, He said, “Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God…”, and “their words went unto the ends of the world.” I wondered about these unreached people without a Bible: “How can the preachers who are sent preach, unless they have a Bible in the recipients’ language? The world needs God’s Word, for within its pages is the greatest message on earth. It is God’s message to man of His love and provision of salvation through Jesus Christ. But the lost cannot understand if someone doesn’t go translate God’s Word first.

Dr. Charles Keen, founder of Bearing Precious Seed and First Bible International wrote a book, Thinking Outside the Box. He emphasized the need for reaching lost people groups in forgotten areas of the world. To bring closure to the Great Commission, it is essential that we concentrate on the tribes and language groups that still remain unreached. There are at least 6,000 unreached people groups remaining still today! 

Luke with Dr. Charles Keen
Luke with Dr. Charles Keen

During my first year at Lake Placid, I had contacted First Bible International to send a representative to come speak at our church for a mission’s emphasis Sunday. Ken Fielder, founder of Worldview Ministries, came to our church and another seed was planted for future friendship.

Dr. Ken Fielder and friends from Worldview Ministries during a visit to Nepal
Dr. Ken Fielder and friends from Worldview Ministries during a visit to Nepal

Some statistics First Bible International printed are as follows: 85% of the Bibles printed are in English; and only 9% of the world speaks English. Less than 15% of the languages of the world have any portion – even a few pages of God’s Word. Of the more than 5,000 languages in the world today, less than 400 have the Bible translated and published. Tens of millions of people have yet to hold a complete Bible, much less own one. First Bible International has a three-fold strategy to bringing closure to the Great Commission: 1) Scripture Translation and Bible Publishing, 2) Training nationals, and 3) Church Planting.

God places the puzzle pieces together

In March of 2011, another major event took place. We had a gentleman knock on our door and tell us he wanted to buy our trailer. We had it for sale the previous year, but didn’t get any buyers. So with the help of our missionary friends Don and Carol Merritt, we added a room on to the house and took it off the market. But this man returned two more times insisting that he and his wife wanted to buy our house – even without us finishing the added room! His mother-in-law lived in the neighborhood and they just had to have it. After considering his offer, we agreed to sell. 

Our dear friends Don and Carol Merritt
Our dear friends Don and Carol Merritt

We began looking for another house to buy. You can only imagine how excited my wife was to have the opportunity to find her dream home, have a garden, and settle down to a comfortable life. But I realized too that God’s hand was at work. We found out that because of my job history – having an interruption with my salary from the church and not working for two years for the local school board – we couldn’t get a loan to buy a house!

No preacher, no church, and no Bible

One night while walking and praying, I stopped by the pond near our trailer. I looked at the brightly lit sky and studied the stars. I thought, “Lord, I have the privilege of knowing the Creator of these stars, but there are people living on the other side of the world who have no idea how those stars got there. If you would allow me, I would love to go to a place where there is no preacher, no church, and no Bible.”

One day in April while riding in the car with my dad, he broke the news that he was planning to resign the pastorate so he could work full time with a mission organization called H.E.L.P.S. ministries. He had pastored the Heritage Baptist Church for nearly 18 years and was now considering the  idea of joining our church. I was stunned and excited, then thought, “I also want to resign and go into missions!” But I couldn’t tell him at that point what the Lord was doing in my heart. I knew I had to tell my wife Jamie what was going on first. 

Breaking the news to my wife

I took our family to a nearby IHOP restaurant and finally explained to my wife all the things God was doing in my heart and how everything was pointing to enter missions. I told her that the first place we would go to prepare was Baptist Bible Translator’s Institute in Bowie, Texas. I didn’t know where we would go from there, but that was as much as I knew. Jamie began to cry; she had never lived more than an hour and half away from her family. Now our lives would change forever.

I called Brother Dan Haifley about the possibility of our family attending Baptist Bible Translators Institute (BBTI) in Texas. He was excited for us and gave me Dr. Rex Cobb’s phone number. I called Dr. Cobb to see if there was availability for the upcoming Fall Class. I just needed to fill out an application and send a small fee. I asked if he had any other questions and he said there was one: “Do you believe there is a God?” You would have to know Brother Cobb. He has a great love for God and world missions, and also a great sense of humor. I had met him a few years previously at a First Bible International conference. Deep in my heart I had known that when the time was right, I would be attending the missionary training school in Bowie, Texas!

Rex and Mary Cobb (director of Baptist Bible Translator's Institute in Bowie, Texas)
Rex and Mary Cobb (director of Baptist Bible Translator’s Institute in Bowie, Texas)

I shared with my dad these recent events and where I believed God was directing us. I knew the next difficult task had to be done: I had to present the news to our church. This is where crossing the line of commitment would be made. There was no turning back, and it had to be done. This first step was to meet with the leadership of our church. 

Informing our church

It was a Monday evening, and I began sharing with them some of the statistics about the unreached and Bible-less peoples. I had already been preaching quite a bit about faith and missions that year, so this came as little surprise, as Brother Dye would tell me later. I told the men we needed to do more in world missions than what we were already doing. They agreed. Then I said, “How would you feel about sending your own preacher?” I told them of the recent happenings and how I believed God was calling my family to be foreign missionaries. I shared with them much of the following things that God was doing in my heart.

Understand your calling

I know that it is my calling to be a missionary…this is who I am. I have friends who love to pastor, and that is what they’ve longed for. In fact, this is the primary requirement to be a pastor… “desire the office”. (I Timothy 3:1) I no longer desired this work here in America. It was indeed time to go where Christ has not yet been named. I would not want to succeed where God doesn’t want me to be, if it kept me from being in His perfect will.

My desire and dream to go into missions had grown and couldn’t be depleted by the challenge of good men who told me I should just stay. I realized, that if is God leading me, no one can stop it. I could take this difficult step knowing in my own heart this is what God wants. 

God equips us and places us

Now I realize that I have a part in world missions as I support it financially. However, my heart was moved to be a laborer in the field, rather than only a financier. As God equips each of His children with spiritual gifts, I believe He also gives us a place to use it. He has given me an insatiable desire to participate in pioneer mission work. 

It would be much easier to find a pastoral replacement in the church here in sunny Florida than for a servant on the foreign field such as Asia. There are more than enough labors doing their part in missions here at home, but who will go abroad? Perhaps, so many who are to be on foreign fields have listened to the pleas of family and friends to take the more comfortable path and stay home. Therefore we have so few on the foreign fields where many millions remain without a preacher!

Following God starts with one step

At this point, I could identify with the account in Genesis 12, when God led Abraham “to a land that I will show thee.” (Genesis 12:3) All Abraham was supposed to do was to leave his home in Ur and go westward – the direction God had revealed to him. He soon learned that life is not about a fancy house, the feeling of security, or even catering to family. 

For the first five years of our marriage, these things had been helpful as it allowed Jamie and I to labor together and learn to trust God without much stress. We were blessed to live less than an hour away from both of our parents. We even were privileged to see our remaining single sisters get married. We also were present for the funerals of some of our Grandparents. 

I was aware that my life-long dream of being a missionary never died; however, I believed that if I suppressed it much longer, I would never be content with being who God made me to be. I would hate to kill this dream, for others in foreign lands will die as a result, and I from within. 

The next steps

My wife and I had many details to iron out at this point. Much prayer and preparation lie ahead:

  • Jamie and I needed to be of one mind which included prayer, surrender, and discussion of details.
  • We must determine our sending church, and mission board 
  • We needed to apply with BBTI in Texas and prepare to move in August (of 2011). 
  • We must learn about unreached people groups and what God wanted us to do.
  • We would eventually need to take a survey trip to wherever God was leading us.
  • When the time was right, we would have to give away and sell our possessions.
  • When we knew our specific field, we would need to travel to churches to raise prayer and financial support.

Moving forward

We did sell our trailer and the new owners told us we could stay as long as up to March of the following year if needed! Dr. John Hankins who had pastored another church in the county was now in evangelism. He had previously offered to help us if needed. He agreed to become the interim pastor at the end of June. In July, we had a yard sale unloading almost all of our earthly possessions. In August, we began our journey to Bowie, Texas. 

On the way, we stopped at a church in Georgia, where we met with some friends. The pastor had me come and give a brief testimony and I spoke of the needs of unreached people groups. The church gave us a love offering of $500! This was a fresh reminder that God would provide and take care of our needs. Our friends we were staying with had car trouble at the time, so we were able to pass the money on to them to help with their unexpected bills. As we would continue to learn, God provides – sometimes for our own needs, and sometimes so we can help meet the needs of others. Either way, He always takes care of His servants.

The video below is a simple historical overview of how and where the Gospel has spread throughout the earth.

Chapter 11

Skinning Squirrels to Reach the World?

Luke and Jamie Knickerbocker with children Abby, Jason, and Paul at BBTI in 2011/2012

Luke and Jamie Knickerbocker with children Abby, Jason, and Paul at BBTI in 2011/2012

 

The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the LORD. – Proverbs 16:1

 

In 2011, the Lord led our family to make the transition from pastoring in Florida to preparing for service in foreign missions. Our first stop would be moving out to Texas to receive advanced practical training. It is important to remember that preparation time is never wasted time!

 

God has used BBTI for over 60 years to prepare missionaries!

 

Upon arrival in Bowie, Texas in early August, we were hit with immediate culture shock. It was literally 115 degrees and all the grass was dead. We moved into an old house on the property of Baptist Bible Translator’s Institute. This would be one of the greatest years of my life! We attended class with several other families and single students. Everyone had a heart for missions.

 

Brother Rex Cobb teaching a class at BBTI in Bowie, Texas

Brother Rex Cobb teaching a class at BBTI in Bowie, Texas

 

Our teachers gave us a good dose of reality of what we might encounter in a foreign land. We learned the importance of understanding the culture and learning the language. In some cases, a missionary needs to learn the trade language and a local tribal dialect. It was emphasized that we need to go as students and servants. We learned phonetics, which is how sounds are made and identified. 

 

The International Phonetic Alphabet was an invaluable tool that would assist us in quickly learning the language without a distracting accent. We were equipped to enter a village with no written language, hear the natives speak, and write down the various sounds using the IPA. Then other linguists can benefit from using the notes you have made. The goal is to apply this in areas where no Bible currently exist in the heart language of the people. 

 

Board members and teaching staff of Baptist Bible Translator's Institute

Board members and teaching staff of Baptist Bible Translator's Institute

 

We learned morphology and syntax: the formation of words and sentence structure. Every civilization has order in their language properties. If you know how to use the keys, it is possible to unlock the doors to learning multiple languages.  

We had other classes in Greek, and teaching English. We learned how to develop primers for illiterate societies. An exciting course was Firm Foundations, put out by New Tribes Mission. We learned how to efficiently teach the Bible stories chronologically from Creation to Christ. 

 

In the mornings, we had class, then work detail in the afternoons. We worked on anything in need of attention, including the houses, grounds, and automobiles. We also had opportunities to record messages for the weekly radio broadcast, write articles for the quarterly titled Lift Up Your Eyes, and speak in nearby churches.

 

The quarterly magazine "Lift Up Your Eyes"

The quarterly magazine "Lift Up Your Eyes"

 

During Jungle Week, we learned to catch and kill animals, then prepare and cook them. We learned how to make a fire with a bow drill, along with flint & magnesium. Other fun projects included making natural shelters and gathering water from trees. 

 

Having fun in the woods during Jungle Camp at BBTI

Having fun in the woods during Jungle Camp at BBTI

 

This training inspired me so much that a few months later when sitting on a pastor friend's porch, a car driving by ran over a squirrel. My immediate reaction was to retried the fresh road kill, skin it, and bar b-q it to go on the supper table that night! Yes, I am sure our friends thought I had lost my mind!

 

Skinning a squirrel before BBQ'n it on the grill!

Skinning a squirrel before BBQ'n it on the grill!

 

The Breaking Point

 

The most significant factor of our family going to the foreign field was my wife's surrender. I would not have peace or clear direction until this occurred. It was during the first semester during our studies when God got a hold of my wife’s heart regarding missions. I’ll let her share her testimony in her own words below.

 

                                                     ..............................................................

 

In 2011, my husband, three kids and I were living in a single-wide mobile home. So when a man knocked on our door, three separate times, and begged us to sell our home to him, I was excited. I started dreaming of a new house with lots of room for the kids to play. I was already planning the colors to paint each room, and how to decorate my kitchen. When Luke told me shortly after that he believed God was calling us into missions, and that we needed to move to Texas to attend the missionary training school, I was not excited. I actually started crying uncontrollably, and didn’t stop for at least three days. 

 

You see, my husband has wanted to be a missionary since he was very young. I however, was not that way. I didn’t have anything against being a missionary, It was just something I never wanted to do.  I have to say, the only reason I moved out to Texas to attend BBTI was because I loved my husband, but for no other reason. When we moved there, I absolutely hated it—115 degree heat and locust everywhere, not my place of choice.  But the real reason I hated it was because of the turmoil going on in my soul. 

 

I knew what Luke wanted to do—be a foreign missionary, but I was not willing to go. I kept praying that God would change Luke’s mind. I kept telling God what would really be better for our family. I was miserable and scared. Scared, because I knew the same love that made me follow my husband to Texas wasn’t strong enough to take me halfway across the world and keep me there. I knew something had to happen in my heart, but I didn’t know what, and I didn’t know how to make it happen.

 

Our family enjoying the blue bonnets in north Texas during our time studying at BBTI

Our family enjoying the blue bonnets in north Texas during our time studying at BBTI

 

We were at BBTI for a few months when Pastor Fred Schindler came through to speak about the family. He spoke to the class, the missionary wives especially, about surrender and being able to make it on the mission field. He spoke of how we need to cut the cords from friends and family back in the States - not so we never speak to anyone, but so that we can go to the field for the long haul. We needed to go without looking back or running home every time something difficult happens. We needed to be able to stand behind our husbands and do this! I left class early because I couldn’t quit crying. 

 

I went home and got on my face before the Lord and opened His Word. I finally came to a point of surrender. I prayed the hardest prayer I’ve ever had to pray which was, “Lord, I don’t want you to give me the desire to go to the mission field; I want you to change me so that I want nothing else.” That was the hardest prayer I’ve ever had to pray because I was afraid of the answer. Immediately, a burden was lifted off my shoulders, and I had peace. I wasn’t ready at that moment to charge off to the jungles of Papua New Guinea, but I came to a place where I could allow God to work in my heart and truly change me.

 

Over the next few weeks I really delved into God’s word, sought Him in prayer, and received encouraging words from other missionary wives. About three weeks later, I was sitting in the front row of a church service while we were singing a familiar hymn, “At the Cross.” God used that song and spoke to my heart. The last verse says, 

 

“But drops of grief can ne’er repay the debt of love I owe. Here Lord I give myself away 'tis all that I can do.” 

 

It was at that moment that God changed my heart. I have to say He didn’t just give me the desire to go to the mission field, but changed me so that I wanted nothing else! 

 

I’m realizing more and more that surrender isn’t one big thing for a moment, but many tiny points in our lives where God brings us a little further out of our comfort zone so that we will trust him a little bit more. Each day has its own challenges. My fears keep arising, and I can think of several excuses of why I shouldn’t go, and why we would be better off here in the States. 

 

But God has given me a passage of Scripture that truly helps combat all of those fears and excuses. It is written in Isaiah 41:9-13, “…Thou art my servant; I have chosen thee, and not cast thee away. Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness…For I the Lord thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee.” 

 

                                                               ..............................................................

 

During our first semester in Texas, I would eagerly look over maps and study people groups in need of the Gospel. I wondered where we might go as missionaries. I learned about Thailand and how it was a needy place. It is strategically located in South East Asia with freedom for missionaries to enter. There were a number of missionaries there already and I began to correspond with some. I also knew they had good hospitals, so this would be appealing to Jamie. But God would not give me clear direction until she had come to a place of full surrender. What a day that was when she finally announced that she was willing to go anywhere God led us.

 

Where in the world does God want us?

 

I just couldn’t get peace about Thailand, however. I couldn’t get the Tibetan people out of my mind. I didn’t think there was any way humanly possible that I could reach them. But I would think, “We could start a Bible school in Thailand and send missionaries into Tibet!” I even told someone, "At some point, I know God will have us do something to reach the Tibetans." 

 

Nearing Christmas break, we looked at our personal finances. Our bank account was dwindling down and it seemed we couldn’t continue the whole school year without me getting a job. Before we left to visit family in Florida, we were given several Christmas donations by people, many whom we had never met. Then we saw God provide for our entire trip home and back through love offerings by churches we visited. I was able to represent the ministry of BBTI at several churches in Florida and tell about our burden for the unreached! We were even scheduled in churches on the night before Thanksgiving and Christmas Sunday!'

 

God was about to reveal the next step of where we would eventually serve and who we would work with! 

 

The video below looks at the life of Paul as God led him step by step in His Christian life. This lesson focuses on the importance of teaching others God's Word.

 

Chapter 12

Following Jesus to the Ends of the Earth

Our family headed out to prepare at the missionary training school BBTI in Bowie, Texas (July, 2011)

A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps. – Proverbs 16:9

In 2011, our family had moved to Bowie, Texas to study at Baptist Bible Translator’s Institute (BBTI). We were simply taking the next step of preparation for the mission God was leading us toward. While we were obediently in the way in submission to the Lord, He soon would give us more specific direction as to which country we would go. 

While visiting Victory Baptist Church in Sunset, Texas one Wednesday evening, I was looking at the prayer letters on the wall. One in particular jumped out at me. It was a family working among TIBETANS in the country of Nepal! I had never heard of a missionary to the Tibetan people. I would soon learn that this family had also studied at BBTI where we currently were attending!

One day, while we were having a break between classes at BBTI, I walked by the office. The director, Dr. Rex Cobb stopped me and mentioned he had just gotten off the phone with that same missionary. He had been interviewing him for an article in the Lift Up Your Eyes quarterly. He said to me, “This man would be a person you could work with who needs help, as there are multiple languages he is working with. Many of the Tibetan people groups are without a Bible in their own language.” I thought, “Well, Brother Cobb isn’t the Holy Spirit. Does he really know God’s will for my life?” 

Meanwhile, we had become friends with another couple, who were on staff at BBTI. They desired to travel to the difficult tribes in mountains of China…this would describe many Tibetans. They would definitely be a couple we would love to work with. We also learned about another family wanting to work with the people in Bhutan. Bhutanese also have many similarities to Tibetans.) It definitely seemed that the Lord was zeroing in on the area where we might work.

An interesting fact when considering the Unreached Peoples of the world is where the majority of the groups are located. Here is a list of the top five countries hosting the most unreached peoples in the world, according to Joshua Project

  1. India – 2,218
  2. Pakistan – 461
  3. China – 426
  4. Bangladesh – 369
  5. Nepal – 348

An interesting note is that these countries are clustered together in Asia, with the Himalaya Mountains spanning at least four of them! I view this vast mountain range as a symbol of Satan’s last stronghold!

A couple months after we had moved to Texas, I had ordered materials on people groups in Asia. One calendar had pictures of various Tibetan groups. I had cut the pictures out and placed them on our living room wall. From time to time our kids would ask who they were, and I would tell them that they never heard about Jesus. They would respond with, “Well, we are missionaries, we can tell them!”

Our three oldest children Jason, Abby, and Paul (2014)

A couple more books my father-in-law told me about challenged my thinking once again. One was T4T: Training for Trainers by Ying Kai. This is an account of how multiple churches are quickly started and reproduced. This must happen with the many Tibetan groups. Another one was about vision from the life of Nehemiah. I am challenged to trust God for the impossible. I believe God wants every tongue, nation, kindred, and family to know Him (Revelation 7:9)

But they cannot believe unless they have a preacher. Perhaps I can go, or go reach some where I can, who can go to their home towns. I want to pray and ask God for labourers who will help see churches established in every Tibetan people group, see a believing family in every Tibetan town and village, and a Bible available in every language group. 

Below is a stirring story about missionary James Fraser, who with a prayer band behind him and powerful God in front of him, saw the Lisu people of China miraculously reached with the Gospel!

God has been preparing me and building my faith through His Word. In the Gospels, Christ spoke about faith that can remove mountains. Certainly, work among Tibetans is a God-sized task that only He can perform! We simply need to believe God. Also, God has used the preaching of His Word to challenge me to trust in God. A recent message was preached on Gideon reminding me that God is an expert on doing the impossible with our minimal resources that He may get the glory!

This prayer calendar features several Tibetan groups who live in Nepal.

For a while, we had been researching, contacting missionaries and asking where God wanted us to go as missionaries. One afternoon while out walking, I asked the Lord, “What do you want me to do? Where do you want us to go? Is it that I don’t know what you want; or do I know, but have not truly surrendered to it? Then the Tibetans came to mind, and it made sense. We who see the need must sow the seed! I realized that God wanted ME to do something about getting the Gospel to the Tibetan people. However, I knew it was impossible for me to do anything substantial to reach them. It seemed too hard, and perhaps, I was trusting in what I could do. But then it occurred to me God can do anything. The Lord assured me, “With me nothing is impossible!” What a huge burden that was removed off my shoulders, knowing that it was God who hath begun this work, and only He could complete it!

The Lord speaks in a still small voice. As a poster on the wall at the BBTI training center states, “Is He not calling, or am I not listening? In Luke 10:2, Christ directed His disciples to pray the Lord of the harvest to send forth labourers into the harvest. Who will respond as Isaiah did and say, “Here am I Lord, send me”? It will be those who first obey Christ’s command in John 4:35 to “Lift up your eyes and look on the fields for they are white already to harvest.” 

It was a Sunday night about the middle of February of 2011, when I was getting ready to go to sleep. I had already told Jamie how I believed God wanted us to work with the family in Nepal. I had emailed and spoken with the missionary there and we already had kindred hearts for the sake of the Gospel. As my wife and I spoke about the prospect of taking a survey trip –  possibly after we finished our classes in May, she had an idea! I had learned by now, that when she has something to say, I better listen, especially if I don’t want to miss out on a blessing!

She said, why can’t you go visit Nepal during Spring Break? Then we don’t have to have somebody watch our kids. She was actually willing to follow me to Nepal sight unseen, if that was what God wanted for us! (Read my wife Jamie’s testimony of surrender here.)

I started to get excited. Spring Break was less than a month away. I called the missionary in Nepal the next day and mentioned I could come for about ten days in March! He said that was actually a really good time of the year to see the country of Nepal and he was already planning a hike into the mountains. Another Tibetan brother had recently bought a new camera and could shoot lots of footage that I could use for a presentation video. 

In no time, I had purchased a round trip plane ticket to Nepal…$1,350 total including insurance. Now remember, we had no regular income, with the exception of our home church which was supporting us at $100 a month! I figured we had enough in our bank due to our tax return to cover the amount. I found out later, that it did not. My mom said she couldn’t wait to see how God would provide! 

Well, as I would see firsthand, God supplies our needs through the least expected avenues. I had already received my passport in the mail after we had arrived in Texas. I had applied for it at least three months before that! But God knew when I needed it! Unsolicited, two checks arrived in the mail from Florida totaling $150 – just enough to cover the money I needed for my immunization shots.  Then I found $90 cash one morning on the windshield of our minivan. Another anonymous gift showed up in our mailbox. A $20 gift came from a lady in Pennsylvania I have never met. This covered the love offering I sent the Fellowship Tract League for the tracts in six languages I had ordered!

For most of our second semester at BBTI, we had been attending a small church in Nocona, Texas. The dear people there loved us and we became closely attached, especially to Pastor Les Ryan and his family. When they found out we had purchased my plane ticket, he asked how much it had cost me. The following Sunday morning, he held a brief business meeting after the service; shortly afterward, he announced the good news that they were paying for my plane ticket and handed me a check for $1,350! We could hardly believe our eyes: God had provided yet again!

Chapter 13

Boots on the ground: My first visit to Nepal

 

Luke in Qenji, a village in Langtang, Nepal
Luke in Qenji, a village in Langtang, Nepal

And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us. – Acts 16:9

It was March of 2012, and we were on Spring break at Baptist Bible Translator’s Institute in Bowie, Texas. The Lord had been working in my heart to reach the Tibetan people in Nepal. Now I would finally get to go see this unreached people group for myself! I was excited to be able to visit the land where I believed God was leading our family. The flight to get there would consist of three different plane rides. My first plane departed from Dallas, Texas and took me to Germany. From there I went to the United Arab Emirates, and finally to Kathmandu, Nepal. But let this be a lesson – life is not about the destination, but rather the journey getting there. On this nearly 30 hour journey, I met people from over twenty different countries, many of those in international airports! 

I must confess that when I got off the plane for my layover in the Middle East, I felt quite intimidated. Seeing the Muslims in their full dress, including men in long robes, reminded me I was not in America anymore. In fact, there were prayer rooms with sandals lining the doorways. People were from all over the Middle East. Soon I found myself sitting and chatting to a man from Pakistan. He said I should come visit his home sometime… “a very beautiful place” he said. That was in spite of the fact he had moved his family to a different location because of recent bombings. I witnessed to a Muslim cleric who had attended college in California. I could sense some conviction as we spoke about spiritual things and he abruptly left, leaving behind his cup of coffee and a gift bag! I chased him down and was able to return it to him. Thankfully, I had some Arabic tracts with me to leave with these men I met.

Although the power of Satan is real, the power of God is greater!

I then went into a large room where long lines of souls awaited to board the planes. Several were actually bowing toward Mecca to say their prayers. There was a group of about 100 Indonesians taking their annual pilgrimage. How this tore my heart out. As I made my way around to witness to men and ladies from all over, I felt a sense of peace and confidence overtake me. I realized that though the power of Satan is real, the power of God is greater! It felt like I was conquering this territory for the glory of God! What an awesome experience it was during that six-hour layover!

An unexpected blessing

When our final plane approached Nepal, an announcement was made over the intercom that we would have to detour to Dhaka, Bangladesh to refuel because of poor visibility. I wish I could describe the giddy feeling that swept over me as I thought, “The Lord is interrupting everybody else’s plans so I can see Bangladesh after all… and at no extra charge to me!” Though our stay was brief to refuel the plane, it was a good feeling, knowing that my Father cares for the littlest of details when it comes to our desires. Finally, our plane was flying parallel to the massive Himalaya Mountains as we made our way to the airport in Kathmandu. I got my visa, and since no one was manning customs, I walked directly outside to find my missionary friend *John waiting for me. We embraced and loaded my stuff into a cab. I was immediately introduced to the crazy traffic of Kathmandu and the sight of “stray” monkeys roaming the dirty streets! 

Packed bus in Kathmandu, Nepal
Packed bus in Kathmandu, Nepal

Lodging at a monastery

I was taken to a Buddhist monastery in Boudha where I would lodge in a guest room on the third floor. It was a simple room and had electricity at nighttime only. Since water also was rationed and available during the day, I made sure to shower and keep a pail of water on hand for after hours. I was so exhausted from the 29 hours of travel that I crashed on the twin-sized bed. A few hours later, my friend John came and woke me up and took me to his flat where his family lived. There we enjoyed a delicious lasagna supper his wife had made from scratch. Then they opened a suitcase full of food and candy given by a supporting church I had brought from Texas! They were so excited, as it was like a late Christmas! Afterward, Dawa, a Christian Tibetan friend, and his brother Pema came over. Pema was a monk at the monastery where I stayed, and oversaw the guest housing. We plotted our trip details on a map of the Langtang area. We were set to leave out early the next morning. Pema had another monk pick me up to take me back to my sleeping quarters. He arrived on a scooter and I jumped on the back. We whisked between the alleys and down the dark corridors back to the monastery. My first day in Nepal had been eventful and was coming to a close. But it was just the beginning. 

Luke and Pema, our friend who was the Buddhist monk in charge of the monastery guest house.
Luke and Pema, our friend who was the Buddhist monk in charge of the monastery guest house.

Most people in Nepal speak two or three languages

The next would began at five o’clock in the morning. Awakened out of sleep by my friend John’s voice once again, we hurriedly grabbed my backpack and ran down the monastic staircase and hopped in the taxi. It was dark outside, and we had to make our way to the northwest part of the city to catch the 7:00 am bus. We navigated traffic successfully, and boarded the packed bus. I got to sit near the front and was right behind a Tibetan lady. I had seen pictures of their freckled sunburnt faces. Now I was actually seeing a Tibetan person in real life! I could hardly contain myself! The reality of the language barrier was settling in, for very few people spoke English. Most people there will speak two or three languages! Though Nepali is the trade language for the country, it is only the first language of half the population of nearly 30 million people! There are over 120 languages spoken in Nepal.

Our bus made its way up the foothills of the Himalayas and soon we were sweeping back and forth along the perilous mountainside. We soon overlooked the capital city of three million people and vanished into the many valleys and peaks northward. We ascended higher and higher, passing farmers, children, and animals. We drove through many small villages and numerous makeshift houses that dotted the landscape. Then we stopped in a town where we took a break. There were actually people riding on top of our bus! We went into a restaurant where you can sit anywhere – even across the table from other diners! Everyone ate the same food which included rice with lentil soup on top (called daal bhat), vegetables in separate metal bowls, and a small portion of meat. Since it was customary to eat with their hands, I dove right in taking in the full experience getting my hands messy with the hot wet rice!

Surviving the bus ride

After traveling by bus for about nine hours, we had come as far as the road would take us. At one stretch on the road, the road was so narrow and twisted so sharply, we were literally at a crawling speed tenuously riding the edge of the cliff! I prayed hard, and one of the Tibetans accompanying us vomited. When we arrived safely I felt like giving the driver a hug! I was both relieved and thrilled to be alive! (Click to see video for footage of the bus ride!)

Now we were to go on foot. The four of us: John, Dawa, Pema, and I, crossed the long suspension walking bridge in Syabrubesi and started the long hike into the mountains. We each had a heavy backpack holding our essentials. It was difficult as the air was getting thinner from the high altitude and I was not in shape and a few pounds overweight! 

The Guest House

After a few hours, we found a Tibetan guest house which was basically a couple extra rooms that was family owned and rented for the night. They asked us if we wanted a hot shower or a cold shower. I told them I wanted a hot shower. Several minutes later I had to smile to myself when a girl handed me a 5 gallon bucket with warm water that had just been heated over the fire! She pointed me to a small room made of concrete blocks which would be my shower room. Scooping water out to bathe was a new challenge that I would learn to master. After cleaning up, our group gathered in the kitchen/dining area where the host family prepared food over an adobe stove. We sat around the fire and sipped our hot tea. Exhausted, we ate our delicious food, had devotions, then hit the hay for much needed sleep. 

Tamang man along our trek through Langtang, Nepal
Tamang man along our trek through Langtang, Nepal
To see more pictures from treks in the Himalayas that I have linked with Proverbs in three languages, go here.

“We are unreached too!”

The next day proved more strenuous yet, as we would hike for about twelve hours and only stopping to break for meals. We made it to Qenji about 12,000 ft. above sea level. At night, John and I sat for about two hours witnessing to a couple from Germany. They had many questions about our faith in God and we took turns telling stories how God had answered our prayers. Later, I received an email from one of the German travelers saying, “I know you are missionaries to Tibetans, but we are unreached too!”

On our final day in Langtang, we passed a field of farmers where a man held a wooden plow and trailed his oxen. In the distance behind him was a lady holding a basket, broadcasting the seed. This was a perfect illustration of the Seed and the Sower. Sadly, there are few willing sowers to reach the Tibetan people. But a greater challenge yet is the fact that there is so little Seed available to be sown. Many Tibetan languages are so different and have little or no translation of the Bible in their dialect yet! 

Trekking in the Himalayas.... "Lord, let your Good News go to the uttermost!"
Trekking in the Himalayas…. “Lord, let your Good News go to the uttermost!”

After taking many pictures with the backdrop of the snow-capped Himalayan mountains, we made our way back down the mountain. We gazed at the myriad of colorful prayer flags that the people draped outside their homes. They believe these written prayers blowing in the wind will appease the evil spirits and bring a blessing on their crops. Prayer wheels and prayers inscribed on stones reminded us of the superstitions that dominated the lives of these precious people. 

When we got back to civilization, we arranged to take a Land Rover back down the mountain. This was such a relief, as the large buses hugged the steep sides of the mountain roads. At one turn, there had been wash-outs making the bus rock back and forth. Then there was barely enough room to pass other on-coming vehicles. I had asked the Lord to put his hand on the side of the bus and protect us! Now we were enjoying our ride downward in a much smaller, and more reliable vehicle. I began to think that I might actually survive my survey trip after all! 

Plowing the fields with oxen

The four of us laughed and retold the stories of our expedition as we proceeded downward. At one point, our driver let us get out where a man was plowing his rice field. He waved for me to come join him. So I took off my socks and shoes, rolled up my pant legs and ventured into the mud up to my calves. He gave me the reigns to his plow, and I held on for dear life as the oxen pulled the wooden plow and me along with it! 

Tamang woman on her way to plow the fields in Nepal
Tamang woman on her way to plow the fields in Nepal

Now when you encounter new circumstances, you can either embrace the moment along with the differences and challenges; or you can complain and choose to be miserable. I highly recommend the first option! I fully expected things to be different in Nepal than America and knew it was not all going to be suited to my taste and comforts. But I could and would choose to still enjoy myself! 

When we finally made it back to the city, we four guys celebrated by going to Pizza Hut! After that we got some ice cream. The guys teased me mercilessly about my overuse of the word “Wow!”, for that was my continual response of the endless views of the mountains and rivers and every new experience… “Wow!” 

Indeed, my affection for this land and people was growing. Yet I had only been there for five days! I had the privilege of attending the church service and hearing Brother John teach a Bible class in Nepali. I sang a song with Dawa’s guitar and preached with him interpreting into the Nepali language. I spoke from the Psalms that teach us how God is a Father to the fatherless. It was my desire to encourage this young group, as some of the believers there had grown up in a children’s home and were distant from their biological parents. Most were the only Christian in their entire family!

My true highlight was still yet to occur!

Brother John took me to meet my first Amdo Tibetan. (Amdo is a region in Tibet and is the group that the Dalai Lama is from.) He was a language helper to Brother John, and he welcomed us to sit in his little room. He was quite friendly and told us how he had come to teach Mandarin Chinese in the University. 

After that, we made our way through the tiny shops that lined the narrow streets. I was introduced to Wangchup, a rare Tibetan Dolpo believer. He had been led to the Lord years ago by a Christian he had met in a restaurant. He loves the Lord and even had some Tibetan literature in his small shop. He showed it to me and it looked like a story about the life and Gospel of Jesus Christ. Then he proceeded to tell me that many of the words are unintelligible, coming across as an insult to Tibetans. For instance, the word for God is another word for “Buddha”. The word for sin means “bad karma”. So in the minds of Tibetans, it’s propaganda for another sect of Buddhism. Especially disturbing is the suggestion that this “Buddha God” had a son. Buddha had never been married, so how was that possible? 

Luke with an Amdo Tibetan teacher
Luke with an Amdo Tibetan teacher

“Did I just have my Macedonian vision?”

Wangchup pleaded with us to pray that somebody would come help translate the Christian terms properly so his people could have an intelligible Bible and reach them with the Gospel. As we walked away, I thought, “Did I just have my Macedonian Vision?” For essentially, he was pleading, “Come over and help us.” 

Soon after, I read the verse in Proverbs 3:27, “Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thine hand to do it.” Indeed, this was the reason God had us preparing to work with unreached peoples at Baptist Bible Translator’s Institute. God had revealed where we might reach Tibetans – in Nepal! Plus, we had Brother John’s family to work alongside.

I remember standing on the roof of the monastery where I was staying. Early in the morning, I could hear the sounds of deep gargled voices reciting Tibetan Buddhist mantras. As the fog began to lift, the people were starting to move about – some ladies sweeping the pavement below and motorcycles making their way between the buildings on the narrow lanes. Overlooking the Stupa and flats of several old buildings, I pondered what my future held in seeking to make a difference in this religious, but spiritually barren area of the world. Indeed, the incense, prayer flags, prayer beads, and spinning prayer wheels remind me that there is not a need for more religion and rituals. The Buddhist people are kind and hospitable, speaking much about peace and goodness. They want to abandon evil and do good. I thought, “What do I have to offer that they don’t already have?” 

The Boudhanath Stupa (Buddhist shrine) in Nepal
The Boudhanath Stupa (Buddhist shrine) in Nepal

On the other hand, the underlying roots of Tibetan Buddhist practices are demonic which permeate the people’s lives with fear. Festivals are regularly held to appease deities and bring cleansing to the people. They know they have done wrong and seek to atone for it. Politically, the Tibetan people have been oppressed for over sixty years by China. At least twenty-two ethnic Tibetan groups have fled for refuge here in this neighboring country. But the people remain without hope and will continue as long as the majority of the 100 Tibetan groups speaking over sixty different languages have very little Bible translated into their languages.

“To reach Tibetans is like going into a cave and robbing a lioness of her whelps.” – Hudson Taylor, Missionary to China

I wondered if I may be able to come back – and if I do, how can I make a difference? Many missionaries have already given their lives to reach these people and some have been killed. Hudson Taylor stated over a hundred years ago, that “to reach Tibetans is like going into a cave and robbing a lioness of her whelps.” Outsiders are forbidden in most Tibetan areas, but God still wants someone to go. But the Lord had opened a door to reach them in Nepal!

Officially on deputation!

When I arrived back to Texas on Tuesday, March 26th, 2012, I had clear direction ahead of me. The very next evening, I was scheduled to conclude a mission’s conference in the area. That weekend, our family was in another conference. Both churches took us on for support! We were officially on deputation!

Months later, my wife Jamie went with my cousin Janelle to visit Nepal. This was helpful for her to get to know the missionary family and learn a little about the country firsthand. This also allowed her to know how to pack for our family to live in Nepal. 

Jamie in Kathmandu with many colorful prayer flags in the backdrop
Jamie in Kathmandu with many colorful prayer flags in the backdrop

*For security purposes, I have used the name of John to refer to my missionary friend who assisted me on my survey trip. Watch the video below to see some pictures and video clips from my survey trip to Nepal.

About the Author

Luke graduated from Crown College of the Bible in 2003. He married Jamie in July of 2006. God has blessed them with five children. Together they had the privilege of serving in the pastorate of a Baptist Church in Florida from 2007-2011.

In August of 2011, our family began our journey to serve the Lord as labourers among Unreached People Groups in Asia. We prepared ourselves at Baptist Bible Translator’s Institute in Bowie, Texas. During that time, God directed our path to work among the Tibetan people in the country of Nepal.

In February of 2014, we moved to Kathmandu, Nepal and experienced God’s work of grace and protection upon our family. We were given the privilege to serve at the Crown Nepal Bible College. Teaching classes and preaching at youth conferences was a great opportunity for our family. We also were able to assist in outreaches to villages of the Tamang and Gurung people.

In 2021, we moved to Tampa, Florida. We currently are serving in our home church Southside Baptist Church and teach in the Christian Academy. Luke continues his writing ministry (www.pilgrimoftruth.com) and video messages on his YouTube channel (Pilgrim of Truth). His goal is to aid believers in making Christ known to the world. He continues to seek to assist churches in America. His heart’s desire is to help meet the needs of the unreached people groups in the world.

Luke and Jamie Knickerbocker with their five children
Luke and Jamie Knickerbocker with their five children
Print | Sitemap
© God's Servant - IONOS MyWebsite