23 September 2016

Evangelism, the tactical way

Reaching someone for Christ is an exciting privilege. It is even better when you can combine it with fun and men’s ministry.

Last week I had the chance to be part of a tactical training in Guano, Ecuador, at a Special Operations training center. TACTICA is a ministry based in Costa Rica which focusses on  providing high quality training and reaching people for Christ at the same time. Jeff, a friend of mine, had contacted me in July to see if I would be willing to help him with translation at one of those training weeks. “Of course!” I replied. After getting the OK from my boss, I prepared for the trip. I never could have imagined how much fun translation could be! 

I left home to meet the team, a group of 10 American SWAT members devoted to Christ and some translators. We took off for the GOE (Grupo de Operaciones Especiales) training base. On our first day the team set up the stage and discussed how to proceed with the training. What was most intriguing was the fact that they were thorough in tactical procedure, and at the same time they were deeply rooted in the Word of God. Just a small Bible study showed me the depth of their faith.

The next day 51 GOE members showed up for their first training session. To their surprise - and to mine - the training didn’t start with tactical teaching but with the Word of God. Every day the GOE members would have the chance to earn some pretty nice gear (knives, boots, backpacks, gun holsters, and a lot more). But they had to work hard for it by memorizing Bible verses. Smaller gear was “worth” 2-3 memorized Bible verses. More advanced gear was “worth” 4-6 verses. And the big stuff was “worth” 6-10 verses. Believe it or not, all the prizes totaling about $5,000 was gone within 4 days! God’s word was planted in these tough guys with a little help of tactical gear!

After the initial spiritual part, all members of the training squad went down to the shooting house and shooting range for training: dynamic entry as well as deliberate entry into a house full of suspects, shooting techniques, martial arts training, and all the tactical drills a good Special Ops member needs. And right in the middle of all this - a German pastor trying to translate tactical terms and instructions he had never heard of before. But little by little, these terms just popped out of my mouth. The best part, though, was to see the leadership displayed. Not only the instructors from the US showed great leadership, but also the GOE members. Taking responsibility for a mistake made. Delegating tasks and leadership segments. Taking over leadership when the main leader was not available. The recruits learned great lessons on leadership, just as I also did.

Every training session was about 1.5 hours long, and the 51 GOE members were divided into three groups. After the first session in the morning, we would break up into even smaller groups for a Bible study. How do I know that God exists? Why believe the Bible? Who is Jesus for me? How should I live as a Christian? Deep questions with answers deeply rooted in the Bible. But I must say, this part was a little easier to translate. The Bible is and always will be more of a specialty for me. This was also the time when we would present the Gospel to the GOE members. And boy I tell you, God worked in mighty ways. By the end of the week, 23 of the 51 GOE members accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior. One SWAT guy summed it up with a quote he had read: “God didn’t just show up, he showed off!” It is something quite special to be able to call a SWAT member or a GOE member a “brother in Christ.” 

After a long day of training, each night we would either watch a Christian movie (Courageous, Fireproof, or Grace Card)  or we would have a Bible study, for example on the topic of “How do we reconcile ‘do not kill’ with police work/military action?” You can imagine that the topics from the movies and the Bible studies stirred up a myriad of questions. We tried to answer their questions as well as we could. But it is clear that follow-up is more than necessary. In the following weeks and months, we will try to keep in contact with the GOE members and disciple each one of them, especially the ones who received Christ.

It was an awesome experience. God worked in mighty ways, not just in the lives of the GOE members but in my life as well. I learned a lot, too. It is my desire to keep working with service men - police, military or other branches - and help them know Christ and live with Christ. As Jeff, the friend who invited me, puts it in his vision statement: “We want to serve those who serve!”



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