We ended up speaking in at least 40 sessions in 20 cities across four countries and had the remarkable privilege of witnessing God’s moving in changing a nation! In each venue we were greeted by a packed house, bristling with enthusiasm and a commitment to the study of God’s Word, and who already were substantially familiar with our materials. Many had driven several hours to attend the sessions. When I asked, “How many of you are in a small study group during the week?” typically over 60% of the hands went up! That speaks volumes as to what’s really happening.
We landed in Perth, Australia, on April 4th and presented two sessions (followed by a question-and-answer time). We then continued to similar venues in Bunbury, Kalgoorlie, Adelaide, Melbourne, Geelong, Sidney, Cairns, Mackay, Rockhampton, Sunshine Coast, and Brisbane. (See map right.)
Each late night session was typically followed by an early morning dash to the airport, checking into the next hotel, a quick nap, and then preparing for the evening’s venue. Hectic, but very fruitful and most encouraging.
Along the way we had the opportunity to officially award Bronze Medallions to those who had completed that program; and, we also had Bronze Starter Kits available at the book tables. A surprising demand left us with inadequate inventories at many of the venues.
UCB did a fantastic job in organizing every detail of the excursions. Phil Edwards and Phil Dunk would not let me touch my baggage. Brian Hughes joined us from Auckland as a be-loved partner; the three of them doted on me to the point of embarrassment!
It wasn’t all work and no play: at Kalgoorlie we toured the “Super Pit” (the largest open pit mine in the world—a man-made “Grand Canyon,” see photo, above) and visited a deep gold mine. On the weekend at Cairns we took a day off to tour the rain forests from a train, an amphibious jeep, and a sky gondola that has made it a major ecological feature.
One of the dynamics behind the scenes is the fabulous growth of the radio coverage: UCB has our programs on twice a day on 316 stations! (A dramatic example of Romans 10:17!) This is clearly due to the heroic efforts of Ian Worby, head of UCB Australia, and his diligent and committed staff.
Before we left Brisbane, a final banquet gave them the opportunity to award me a “Dry-As-A-Bone” overcoat (the traditional waterproof attire of the Aussie range rider) along with an Acruba hat to complete the colorful outfit. We, in turn, surprised both Ian Worby and Phil Edwards by presenting them with honorary Gold Medallions for their outstanding commitment to the ministry of the Institute.
Then we were all off to New Zealand to continue similar pro-grams at Dunedin, Christchurch, Wellington, and Auckland. (See map below left.)
Here again we were greeted with packed houses and enthusiastic audiences, many of whom traveled incredible distances to participate in our presentations. In addition to the Strategic Perspectives presentations, in Auckland we also did three services highlighting our recent studies in the Epistle to the He-brews.
While in Auckland, we also had an opportunity to review their exemplary internship program, which we intend to promote to other churches: they hire promising young candidates on a 30 hour work/30 hour study basis. An intern can earn a Bronze Medallion in less than 6 months, and then a Silver Medallion in less than 12 months, all the while gaining “hands on” ministry experience.
One of our stipulations for speaking in New Zealand is a requirement for them to conclude each venue by singing their National Anthem. This is, in my opinion, the most edifying anthem I’ve ever heard; a national treasure.
When we left New Zealand we then headed for Shreveport, Louisiana, to participate in the graduation exercises at Louisiana Baptist University, where Dan Stolebarger was awarded his Ph.D. (See Photo Right)
A full seven weeks, but one of the most encouraging experiences of my lifetime. Clearly it was the result of your prayers!