W. Austin Gardner
In the year 2020
Updated: Dec 25, 2020
We all agree that 2020 has been quite the year! I was just sitting here thinking about all that has happened this year. Our children and grandchildren will soon arrive to celebrate Christmas on this Christmas Eve.
January started off incredibly. Jason Rishel, missionary to Burkina Faso, Austin Till, missionary to China, Graham Young, now a missionary to Nigeria, and I had the privilege of traveling to Nigeria. God blessed that trip so much.
Austin Till had prayed for Nigeria that God would send a missionary there. He had seen the rapid growth and with a heart for God and world evangelism he prayed. God answered giving us Graham Young as a missionary to Nigeria.
In January our son in law, Jimmy Soncco, became an American citizen. Jimmy is the pastor of Iglesia Bautista Vision, the Spanish ministry of Vision Baptist Church.
In January we were on the hunt for the land that would house the Baptist Center for World Evangelism.
In February several of us made a trip to Cuba. Jonathan Anderson, missionary to Mexico, also has a ministry in Cuba. Our goal was to take several youth pastors with us and spend time with them challenging them to raise up and prepare young people to serve as missionaries. Josh Ewing, missionary to Indonesia, accompanied us to challenge the youth pastors in this very important ministry. Chestley Howell, missionary to Colombia, was on the trip and still not sure where God wanted him. He is now raising support for the ministry. Other students and youth pastors were there and it was a wonderful trip.
The last part of February I preached two mission's conferences and then started March in another. God blessed in all three conferences and I had a blast.
On March 22, 2020 Vision Baptist Church celebrated 14 years of ministry. God has been so good to Vision. We have seen many leave for the mission field. Thousands of dollars have been given to further the kingdom of God. So far Vision has given of our pastoral staff to the mission field; Ronald Tubillas is starting Spanish churches in the USA, Miguel Sanabria is serving Colombia, Mark Coffey is in South Africa, and Robert Canfield is a missionary to the continent of Africa. We have given several deacons also, Josh Ewing is a missionary to Indonesia, Micah Rastelli is a missionary in Bosnia, and Ty Pepperdine is a missionary to Taiwan.
I love noticing that our deacons have given their children to serve God as missionaries. Jeff Mize has Justus going as a missionary to Nepal and Ben going to Colombia. John Pearson has Kathryn Rastelli, missionary wife in Bosnia, and Kristen Mize going to Colombia. Bret Johnson has Ben going to start churches in NYC and Beth Quinn going to the United Kingdom. Chuck Littlefield has Hannah Shreve going to Chile. Also Ty Pepperdine who used to be a deacon and is now a missionary to Taiwan has Emma Becker going to Argentina and Abby Hodges going to Honduras.
As you know Covid started in March or so and was a big headache to all of us. To close the services or not became the question. We had on line only, then parking lot services, then back, then off, then parking lot services waiting to see what was going to happen. It was my most trying time in ministry.
In April the Our Generation Army was launched.
In April my good friend and hero, Randy Stirwalt, went to heaven. We had visited him in his home. We begged God to leave him here but God chose to take him. I miss him even now. His home going reminded me how short life is and how much there is to do!
In May I was able to participate in an online conference in Santiago, Chile for Jason Holt. I had been scheduled to be there. Also the guys held the first Shareathon was held May 1-2 raising $105,256 for the purchase of the BCWE land.
Then in May it happened. I got sick. On May 14th I preached for the last time for over two months. I was sick. I was taken by ambulance to the hospital on May 20th. I was on the ventilator for 21 days. God delivered me to continue serving him and I was released from the hospital on June 19th. Then I proceeded to try and recover. The doctors had thought that I would be on dialysis for the rest of my life, that I might be an invalid but in about 3 weeks from getting home from the hospital I was back in the pulpit.
In June Luis Navarro died. Luis had been pastoring the first work we had in Peru back in 1988, the Hunter Baptist Church. That was a tough blow for all of us.
In July there was a World Evangelism Golf Tournament with 80 golfers playing.
In August my mother died. That meant that Betty and I had lost all of our parents.
In August I got to participate in Graham and Olivia Young's wedding service. I had missed Tyler and Lydia Ellis' wedding because I was so weak while recovering from Covid and double pneumonia.
In September I was able to enjoy the Word Vision Celebration as Vision Baptist hosted our mission's conference as well as preach in another conference here in Georgia.
In September Jeff Bush, director of Vision Baptist Missions, and I, after prayerful consideration named Vision Baptist Mission's first field directors; Mark Coffey for Africa, Mark Tolson for Asia, Jason Holt for Latin America, and Travis Snode for the USA and Europe.
The year sort of went crazy as you all know. All the trips were canceled. Churches canceled meetings.
In October I was able to preach another mission's conference in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
In November we held the World Evangelism Fellowship at Vision Baptist Church. It was a great time of encouragement and fellowship for all who attended. The very next week I preached at the church where I got saved, Wrigley Baptist Church. Then many of the missionary men of Vision met for a retreat in Sevierville, Tennessee.
Full time support role positions have been publicized and we have begun receiving and reviewing applications for writing, graphic design, video editing, media roles, etc
In November we signed for the 69 acres of land that will become the home of the Baptist Center for World Evangelism. God gave us the $604,107.36 that covered the purchase and paper work. What a super blessing.
In early December we had a make up marriage and ministry retreat for Vision Baptist Missions. God blessed greatly. The guys held another Shareathon and raise $63, 809 for the buildings on the BCWE property.
Now we have Christmas today and tomorrow here at the Gardner house and then look forward to the Our Generation Summit.
God has taken a rough year and still made it wonderful.