By Tom Shanklin
What is it like to look into the faces of thousands of eager people, and to deliver to them the message that is most dear to your heart? What’s it like to see adults and even children listening intently to every word as you pour out your heart? What is it like to see many of them raise their hands to say “Yes” to Jesus Christ and to pray loudly and from their hearts the words of surrender and faith in Him?
In one word, it is awesome! I don’t think I’ll ever be the same since preaching the Gospel in Benin, West Africa. I have seen the multitudes coming to Christ, and I believe there will be no end to it. They will come to Him … from the east the west the north and the south. The harvest truly is plenteous. Our job is to continue to seek and save the lost.
In one of the first days in Benin, the Lord gave me a prophecy for the body of Christ in that nation. In my spirit, I saw rivers flowing upon rivers and coming together to create a flood of Glory. Here’s the essence of the prophecy:
“I am going to flood the land. I am going to pour out My Spirit and flood the land, and there will be great refreshing. And I will do it through you, my Church. For have I not said, ‘Out of your belly [innermost being] shall flow rivers of living water.’ So I will pour out my Spirit through you [my people] and flood the land and my glory shall be seen. So flow with my Spirit says the Lord, and I will flow through you and bring blessing and refreshing in the land, says the Lord.”
God’s plan for Benin is blessing. In fact “Benin” means blessed. That blessing will come as God’s people arise in the power of the Spirit and begin to flow. Arise, Benin, arise, for the glory of the Lord is risen upon you.”
Our mission to Benin was awe inspiring in many ways—by the size of the crowds, the hunger of the people, and the powerful strategies that were used to touch a region and move a nation to God. It was my privilege to work with 36-year-old Evangelist Michael Lusk, a part of a younger generation, but keen with knowledge and alive with fire to reach the nations for Jesus Christ. A protege of the late evangelist, Dr. T.L. Osborn, Evangelist Lusk has ministered in 19 nations of the world.
Benin is a small narrow county in west Africa, home to about 11 million precious souls, where as many as 80 percent are under the influence of tribal religions, even many of those who are called “Christian.”
There is great poverty in Benin. The average annual income per person is $828 per person. And yet, there are smiling faces and warm hearts. In Lalo (population 120,000) I found for neighbors goats, pigs and chickens, and an occasional dog, along with a great abundance of children and women walking about with a loads of food, liquid or clothes on their heads. Amazingly, the city has no gas stations, only little stands with glass bottles containing liters and gallons of gasoline for sale. Not a lot of stores here. Most goods seem to be purchased at the open marketplace.
On the side of the road, you might see a carpenter’s shop specializing in building coffins, which sit in the sun waiting for a customer. We didn’t see any cemeteries, but they must have them.
Small shrines are scattered near the roads through the countryside, places where voodoo priests offer sacrifices to false gods, to appease the spirits and supposedly bring favor and protection. One of our team members is a former voodoo priest, dedicated to an evil power while he was still in the womb. Today, however, he is an apostle of the Lord, crushing Satan’s kingdom in the power of the Spirit. Such is the power of Gospel!
The hardest thing for me was the heat. It’s oppressive. Going from -0°F here in Minnesota to 100°F in Lalo was quite a shock to the system. They say it’s a dry heat, but it didn’t feel that dry. But praise God for air conditioning in our hotel, and a chance to cool off in between meetings and at night.
I ate pretty much the same thing for lunch every day—rice, vegetables and fish. The other option was chicken, which was so tough I was sure they killed it fresh from among the scrawny birds scratching their way around the hotel.
The pastors must not have liked my clothes, because they kept sending a tailor to fit me up with African garbs, four suits of them. Nice and cool, but quite different for this westerner. My son asked, “If you wear that during the day, what do you wear to bed?” My hosts kept shining my shoes, too, which became dusty each day from the dry dirt around the city. In all seriousness, they treated me wonderfully, as did almost everyone I met.
Three major events filled our schedule during two weeks in the city of Lalo—an evangelism conference for all believers, a conference for evangelists and church leaders, and a 4-day Festival of Faith and Healing where we saw many miracles and thousands come to Christ.
Benin Mission: Evangelism Conference
The 4-day evangelism conference was held in the Lalo Youth and Recreation Center, and at first it looked like the venue was to be much too large. Only about 60 people attended the first day. But by the final day of the conference, over 900 people came and received a French translation of Michael Lusk’s book, “Pillars.” Such enthusiasm! Such power! Such potential to reach a nation!
Our teachings were not only translated into French, and also into the tribal language of the region, Adja.
Pastors, evangelists and Christian believers were ignited with the fire of evangelism. Though there were a few Adja-speaking women in attendance at the beginning of the conference, by the end, nearly an entire section was filled with female soldiers of the cross, learning and accelerating in their role of reaching the nations. Hallelujah!
During the conference, I spoke on “The Preparation of the Gospel”, “Lifestyle Evangelism,” “The Healing Ministry,” and “The Harvest is Ripe, but the Laborers are Few.”
About 45 pastors who received a French translation of my teaching notes on “Sharing Jesus” said that they would take the materials and teach them in their churches. During my final session, I challenged the believers to follow Jesus totally, that He might make them become fishers of men. The entire crowd stood to commit their lives to Jesus and the great cause of the Gospel. What a wonderful sight!
Benin Mission: Powerful Church Meetings
Besides the evangelism conference during the day, I also had powerful night services in local churches. In a very small rural church located on a path off of a dirt road miles from the city, I preached the Gospel from the story of “The Woman with the Issue of Blood” in Mark 5. The area was a voodoo stronghold, but the Gospel is making inroads in the hearts of the people there. They danced and sang with great abandon to the Lord. I preached in the total dark, using my cell phone as a flashlight to read the scripture. One person received salvation and then people began to come for healing. I had a word of knowledge about Christians who were
tormented in their minds because they had not been able to break free of of the strongholds from their past in the Voodoo religion. About ten people responded and received ministry for mental torment and confusion.
Many were healed physically, as well. In fact, EVERY person who had pain or symptoms, after they came up for prayer, testified that they were healed and all pain was gone. I thought of the scripture, “There came also a multitude out of the cities round about unto Jerusalem, bringing sick folks, and them which were vexed with unclean spirits: and they were healed EVERY ONE.” Acts 5:16, KJV.
On another night, I was asked by the pastor of a church in Lalo to speak on the power of the Holy Spirit. We had a wonderful time with his church studying the scriptures in the book of Acts concerning the baptism of the Holy Spirit. I gave a call for salvation, and many came forward to repent and accept Jesus as Lord. Then I led them in a prayer to ask their heavenly Father for the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit came in a wonderful way with the nearly the entire congregation praying in the Spirit and then singing in the Spirit.
Benin Mission: Vanguard Evangelists and Leaders Conference
Our second conference was called the Vanguard (meaning frontline) Evangelists and Leaders Conference. I spoke on “How to Preach the Gospel,” “Nurturing New Believers,” and “The Call of God.” Evangelist Lusk’s messages focused on the office of the evangelist with strong words of encouragement for them to stick with their calling and fulfill their mission. It was a very powerful and strategic conference, destined to bring a release of soul winning in Benin and the regions beyond, especially through the ministry gift of the evangelist.
We ministered to pastors and evangelists in Lalo and the nearby region, as well as representatives from throughout Benin, Togo, Burkina Faso, Ghana, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
This conference yielded powerful results, even while we were there. National evangelists, who had been given portable battery powered PA systems, were assigned to villages and locations in the city to evangelize. A total of 30 units (including two which were provided by partners of Tom Shanklin Ministries) were given to these bold ministers of the cross.
During the next two days after receiving the PAs, the evangelists came back with powerful testimonies. Here are just a few:
A man who could not walk, walked.
Someone who suffered from stomach problems for 12 years was healed.
45 people gathered in one village to hear the Word. Someone asked, “What is God?”
In one village, voodoo people came to drive them away, but then they received the flyers for the Festival of Faith and Healing.
Another evangelist preached in a village, and afterward, the people asked him to plant a church there.
An evangelist testified that a woman who was lying down and not able to walk for 37 years, rose and walked in the name of Jesus.
Benin Mission: Festival of Faith and Healing
Only heaven knows which part of our ministry in Benin was the most fruitful for the Kingdom of God, but for me, beholding a sea of faces standing and waiting to hear the glorious Good News of Jesus Christ was something I will always treasure. I had the wonderful privilege in Benin of standing before an estimated crowd of 6,000 people to proclaim the glorious riches of Christ. I spoke on “Knowing God” from John 17:3, emphasizing God’s gift of eternal life.
In the four days of the festival, 1462 decision cards for first-time decisions were filled out to be used by the churches in following up on the converts. But the overwhelmed workers were unable to record all those who had made decisions for Jesus Christ. Only heaven knows how many, but no doubt thousands received Christ during those four nights.
There were tremendous miracles too. A woman who testified that she had been unable to stand or walk for 18 years, climbed the stairs to the platform and gave praise for her healing. A boy who was deaf in one ear testified that he was healed. A woman with severe stomach pain who could find no relief was healed and had NO pain. A young deaf girl was healed. The child’s grandfather discovered that she was healed after receiving prayer the previous night.
Benin Mission: Teamwork Makes the Dream Work
This mission truly demonstrates the power of teamwork to accomplish God’s purposes. Tom Shanklin Ministries, Lusk World Outreach, our Benin national team consisting of a driver/photographer, an apostle, two pastors, and two interpreters, along with over 60 churches from the Lalo area united to reach the area for Christ. I was blessed to see that the Lalo churches joined to take on the budget for the local expenses of the conferences and festival, such as the rental of the venue, lighting and sound. Working together has its challenges, but also there are great rewards. We truly saw those rewards in Lalo!
The other part of the team, of course, is you! Your prayers, financial support, and encouragement have made this mission a reality. Without you, we couldn’t fulfill the Lord’s calling to “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel.” You share in the reward, and you are continually in our hearts and prayers! Thank you for sending me!
(March 12, 2018) We heard today from Evangelist Lusk that the local committee has now received enough offerings to cover all the local expenses. Also, reports are already coming in about people being added to the churches as a result of the outreach. Praise the Lord!