A Book Highly Recommended

I am a big fan of adventurous biographies: especially those of past missionaries.  I am also unashamedly a Baptist.  Therefore, Baptist missionary biographies are a real treat for me; mainly because good ones are few and far between.  Of course, the most famous modern-day Baptist missionary is probably Adoniram Judson.  I recommend reading a biography of his that I read in college called To the Golden Shore.  The stories of other missionaries are great–especially John Patton, Hudson Taylor, Henry Martyn, and David Livingstone.  However, each one of those men had something that kind of tainted my perspective on them when it came to church polity, the local church, soulwinning, and some doctrinal issues.  They still are all great heroes in my mind, nonetheless.

On the other hand, I had very little to disagree with in a book that was recommended to me about a year ago.  It truly changed my outlook on prayer, faith, and church-planting.  Daktar: Diplomat in Bangledesh is an autobiography by Dr. Viggo Olsen about his conversion, call, and mission in East Pakistan (now called Bangledesh). Dr. Olsen grew up with a very intellectual education that denied the very existence of God.  You may have even called he and his wife agnostic apologists.  However, through the prayers of his wife’s parents, they were led to Christ under many miraculous circumstances.  Viggo Olsen was trained to be an M.D. specialist in internal medicine.  He was definitely on the high road to wealth in 1950’s America.  God, however, had a different plan for his family.  They surrendered to be medical missionaries to the poorest country on earth: East Pakistan.  For the next few years of Bible and tropical disease training, his family served faithfully in their local church as teachers and soulwinners: never ceasing to bring people to hear their pastor preach the gospel.

They were sent by their church after deputation, and arrived on their field in the early 1960’s.  He was not just the “typical” medical missionary.  He believed whole-heartedly that the true way to heal men was to heal their soul: that was their first mission.  Then they knew God did not want them to build some “rinky-dink” medical mission in the bush–they wanted to do it right!  They built a modern hospital with dozens of beds for the people: rich or poor.  The hospital was funded by churches all across the U.S.  The best part: all under a some sense of a local church!

Over their years in the country, God led them through countless trials, physical persecutions by the Muslim majority, and tropical sickness.  I would definitely say their ministry was a true success for God.  I don’t want to re-write the whole book, but please consider reading it–not for college credit, education, or entertainment; but for you.

Life at Fairhaven Baptist College—Freshman Year

As “back-to-school” time rolls around again, I think that I have a little paradox in my mind: this will be the first time in the last sixteen years I will not be going “back-to-school!” I for sure will not miss some of the work involved in getting a good education, but part of me will miss it a little bit—especially college. All four years of college, at least for me, were some of the prime maturing times in my life. So many of my friends are getting back into classes, college activities, athletics, and ministries very soon back in Chesterton. For the next few posts I am going to try to reflect back on my four years at Fairhaven.

Walking By Faith

During my freshman year, I was amazed by everything that I was experiencing. The first lesson I learned is a well known phrase found in 2 Corinthians 5:7: “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” Did I know which friends to be around? Did I know to what extent I was to be involved in ministry verses studies? Did I know who I was to marry? I sure did not know the answer to those things, but thankfully, someone preached a Sunday evening message that changed my outlook on finding the answers to those questions. I slowly learned (and am still learning!) to rely on God, and His Word.

Praise God, He directed me to some great friends, who still continue to be my friends today. Now, a lot of other students thought my room captain that year was a little annoying, stuck-up, quirky, etc.; but I am thankful that he was my roommate during my first year of college. He helped “show me the ropes” at Fairhaven. Put your heart into the ministry: whether it was a bus game, Saturday visitation, or setting up and serving in banquets. I also learned a lot of good study habits that year from him. Most importantly, I believe, he never had a critical spirit against the administration and college. I cannot remember one negative thing that he said about the staff. That alone made a HUGE impact on me.

No doubt, the other big influence on my life then, and up to today, was my bus captain whom I served under. I walked into the ministry director’s office my first day on campus, and was assigned to a bus route in the northwest part of Gary, Indiana. That one decision changed my whole outlook on ministry, and gave me a mentor to learn the bus ministry from. I remember the first day going bus visiting in Gary: we drove off of the highway and onto Broadway Street, and there at the first stoplight a homeless lady sat with a 5 gallon water jug that said “Hurrycane Katrina Releaf Fund”—with that spelling! My bus captain said, “Welcome to Gary.” Honestly, after hearing about the crime in that city, I was a little nervous going to our first house. That changed over the next couple of months. During my year and a half on that bus, I learned so much of what I know now about soulwinning, doing things right, and loving people. I could just go on and on…

Fairhaven Baptist Church’s 35th anniversary happened to fall on my freshman year too. Anniversary Sunday was such a blessing to me! The great old evangelist, Dr. Phil Schuler preached, and I can clearly remember that many were saved that day. I can also remember the evening service: the choir sang Great is Thy Faithfulness, and the line that really stuck out to me was, “Morning by morning new mercies I see.” God truly was and still is faithful to Fairhaven Baptist Church.

Another freshman experience is arriving into the busiest time of year at Fairhaven Baptist Church. First off, most get to be a part of the Stewardship Banquet. 2005 was the last year that the banquet was in the “old gym.” All I had heard was “get involved,” so I signed up to serve the meal. What a blast! Yes, it was hot and stuffy in the old gym, but it was a fun way to throw myself in. I am not a naturally outgoing person—I almost have to force myself to meet new people. Doing things like banquet setup and serving forced me to be more outgoing, and I am thankful to whoever it was that told me to get involved. I basically had one person I knew well going into college, and that was a friend I had grown up with back in Michigan. Over time, I eventually got to know more people, and really enjoyed most of the other college students.

My first semester, like most Fairhaven freshmen, consisted of English Grammar, American History, Old Testament Survey, and a few other classes. I had a couple of rude awakenings with study habits, but through a lot of prayer and work, I got the hang of it in a few weeks. I especially loved Christian Education class with Dr. Voegtlin teaching on practical ministry. The notes I have from eight semesters of that class are invaluable. Even after only being out of college for a few months, I have already pulled them out to look at them.

I can also say as a graduate, as the old saying goes: the more you learn, the more you learn that you don’t know. I really thought I was learning a lot, but the more I got into the Word of God, the more I realize that the truths of the Bible are infinite. I believe it would be impossible for me to effectively minister today without the challenging academics of Fairhaven Baptist College.

My relationship with God became a matter of fact after coming to college. I saw excellent examples all around me, and wanted to follow suite. However, I realized that it was not the person that I was to mold my life after, but the Word of God. God was central in their life, so if I wanted to do something for Him, I had to make God the center of my own life. Having a daily time with just me and God was the only way that could truly come. Along with that, being personally challenged from chapel and church services had to be frequent.

I sure had down times during college too. There were times that I was discouraged or weary, but learned that, “The Lord knows I can’t live on the mountain, so he picked out a valley for me”, as the song goes. I was encouraged by my dorm supervisor during devotions, calls from home, and preaching. Probably the most discouraging times were when peers fell into sin, and either left college or influenced others. Granted, those were definitely overshadowed by all of the good things, but they still had their effect. I saw those who were critically influencing others; and their lives were and are still miserable.

During my freshman year, I was introduced to some GREAT food too! Some may complain about college food, but there was very little that I did not like. My favorite was whenever they had French fries, especially with Italian beef—mmm… I’m hungry now! I ate out a few times too. Anybody from Fairhaven will eventually mention the “world-famous” George’s Gyro Spot in Chesterton. I have never had a gyro, but they are THE place to find classic Chicago street food in Northwest Indiana: Chicago hot dogs (Vienna Beef hotdog, mustard, a little sweet relish, sport peppers, onions, two slivers of tomato, a dill pickle spear, and a dash of celery salt), their double bacon burgers, Italian beef, and of course their fries—and all at a reasonable price! CiCi’s Pizza was a college place to go maybe once a year for all-you-can-eat pizza. Then you can never forget Wrestle-a-Rama: the biggest excuse to over-eat at Fairhaven. Believe it or not, I don’t think I gained any weight at college either!

Something that might have kept my weight down was being on the intercollegiate college basketball team: the Fairhaven Fighting Fundamentalists! We ended up being the first team to play in the new gym too. We won our first two games there, then got slaughtered (probably because of our attitudes!) and had a killer practice the next day. I learned a lot from my coach and being on the team. I will go into that a little more in the next few posts.

Fast forward to the college graduation of 2006; I had learned so much in just eight months, and was so joyful that I was in God’s will. I was living my dream. That year, my room captain and good friend graduated, as well as the woman who would eventually become my wife. No, I did not have a clue that I would be married to her. I had my sights set on others. I knew that Andrea was an excellent young lady, but never really considered her. The only inkling I had to “liking” her was my bus captain saying I should be interested in her. I didn’t really think twice about it at the time. I for sure did not realize what would be coming in the next few years.

I went into the summer of ’06 with a lot of tools to humbly use back home, but at the same time was eager to get back to Fairhaven—to my bus route, my friends, and classes. I enjoyed and was refreshed being with my family, as well as working a lot of hours for the next year’s school bill. God used a number of things to begin to mold me my freshman year, and little did I know how much more I would learn in the coming year. Year one was just an introduction…

Red Lion, PA

BorologoThis borough (as they say in Pennsylvania) will be the new home of the Speckhals family as of Monday, the tenth of August.  Red Lion is a very interesting town.  If you look at it on a map, it looks very cramped–and it is.  The traffic can be pretty HORRIBLE too for a town of 6,000.  We really love our new home–which is a beautiful apartment right off the main drag.

Today was the annual Red Lion Street Fair.  Our church set up two booths in the fair: one for Reformers Unanimous and one for the church itself.  We were there this morning for a little while handing out tracts and seeing if there was an opening of sharing the gospel with them.


090808_093926After we spent some time at the booth, we went out bus visiting for the new ministry.  I think it went well, with possible some new riders tomorrow.  Thank the Lord.  We got to walk the whole route today!  Instead of trying to drive around and find parking spaces during the fair, we just took of from the booth and went door knocking.  It was a beautiful day!

After we were finished visiting, we did some serious furniture pickup!  The man in charge of the Reformers booth let us borrow his truck, and out we went.  All of our finds were either from Craigslist at a great price or free along the road.   First we drove a few minutes and got a washer and dryer, both of which were in pretty good condition, especially the dryer.  Then we went and picked up a “double pillow top” mattress at a great price too.  We got back to our apartment, and a few men that were at the church fair booth helped us unload everything.  What a blessing…especially for my wife, since she didn’t have to do it!

After we unloaded that, we got confirmation of a dresser, borrowed someone elses truck to pick up that, and in the process we found a free office desk and coffee table alongside of the road.  More blessings!  The coffee table needs a couple of finishing nails in it–probably the desk too; but other than that, they are terrific!  The coffee table can even fold up so when someone is sitting on the couch, they can lift up on the top and bring it up and towards them at eating level via some hidden hinges.  ‘Not too bad!  Everything we picked up today is already in the apartment too.

My poor wife is a little worn out from all of this running around!  I might be a little too…  We are praying that God will bring some kids on the bus tomorrow, and that He will be glorified on His day tomorrow.

Our Summer at Mt. Zion

Yes, things are going very well here at Mt. Zion Baptist Church.  It is good to serve at a likeminded, strong church.  Earlier in the summer we had youthcamp in Hanover, PA (Yes, the home of Hanover pretzels…that is almost all we eat out here with Dustin, pretzels and french fries, oh, also kettle-cooked potato chips and popcorn!)  But camp went very well…I must admit I was dreading it a bit, just because I don’t like to break out of my shell, but once I did (You don’t have much of a chance at teen camp!), it was the best thing for me since being here.  I really got to know the teen girls more, and Jenny Starr also…Pastor Chris Starr’s wife.  God is good.

Mt. Zion '09

Then we went right into preparation for Vacation Bible School.  It was another great week!  We had a high attendance day of 227!  We also have teenagers come for a time of preaching, craft, snacks, and activities.  And here at Mt. Zion they really go all out with decorating for VBS!  I was wishing Lindsey (my little sister with Downe’s Syndrome) was here!  She would have loved it!  I had the privilege to lead Cassandra Carter to the Lord, a teen girl of about fourteen.  Praise the Lord for the souls saved and decisions made for God!

Then, bouncing right off of the VBS contacts, the deacons approved the idea of beginning a bus ministry in the nearby town of Red Lion.  And you know who that responsibility fell to!  The Fairhaven grads!  What a thrill and blessing, though!  So, we followed up on each of the bus contacts we had from the week of VBS, where we found many had their own church, etc., but a few families showed interest in the bus ride to Sunday School.  We took the bus out last Sunday, and would you believe it poured rain!  Dustin was up knocking on a door, and it started hailing!  Well, neither of the two families who were interested actually came the first week, but we will be at it again tomorrow.  Probably doing a few bus visits, some follow-up visits, and maybe a lot of canvassing!  It is a bit difficult starting from the ground up, but if we will possibly be church-planting one day, this is great training!!!

Tomorrow is the Red Lion Street Fair too, so please keep us in your prayers that the church booth and the Reformers Unanimous Booth will be used of God to reach the community with the Light of the Gospel!