By Ann Maniscalco
David Hays and Tony Keys, fellow pastors and friends from central Mississippi had partnered for mission trips in the U.S. before. However, in the fall of 2011, God expanded their horizons, their vision, and their influence.
Approached earlier in the year by Ken Rhodes, Director of Missions Mobilization for the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board, Hays was told, “You need to go to East Asia.” After a few weeks of prayer, he sensed the Lord’s leadership, and enlisted Keys’ help.
A request from IMB personnel to train pastors of house churches helped the two chart their course. Assisted by the missionaries on the field, the men targeted two cities, and taught about 80 pastors and church leaders, Keys stated.
There were large and small congregations in both cities. “The average size of the house churches was 12 to 15,” Hays said.
Learning that there is a dearth of leadership materials there, and that the leaders “wanted something deep and challenging,” Hays said he and Keys decided to focus on doctrine. Preparing twelve lessons they could leave with the leaders, the two “went through the book of Hebrews in four days.”
After Keys and Hays went over the lessons, they would break for group discussion, followed by the church leaders plying the two Americans with questions.
“The question and answer sessions were very intense,” recalled Keys. “They struggled with the same issues that we do; we really felt like brothers.”
“We were well aware that any mistake could radiate to dozens of churches,” Hays pointed out. “We were very, very careful about what we said.”
As they finished the conferences with the very receptive groups, those who had gathered asked for prayer. Laying their hands on their Asian brothers, Keys and Hays interceded for them.
“One thing that really impressed me about the East Asians was their prayers,” said Hays, nodding thoughtfully. Keys concurred: “There were puddles of tears on the floor when they prayed.”
Margaret Lackey State Mission Offering funds helped finance the men’s beneficial and life-changing trip to East Asia. Summing up their time there, Keys firmly stated, “These aren’t wasted moments, wasted trips or wasted dollars; they impact the kingdom.”