Dave and Carolyn Banks have been following and serving Jesus for a long time. They have taught in our Ambassadors Adult Sunday School class for many years and have served Ventura Missionary Church in many ways. Currently, Carolyn is one of our Elders and serves at the Connection Center. Dave is on the Administrative Council and also serves on our Missions Advisory Team. They are also both professors at La Verne University. But, what many do not know is that Dave and Carolyn are also global missionaries, being used by God to share the good news of Christ in amazing ways.
God called Dave and Carolyn later in life to the global platform. Out of an openness to do something else for God and an obedience to God's call, incredibly, Dave and Carolyn were led to different mission fields at the exact same time, in the Spring of 2013. God used everything in their lives up to that point - their education, their experiences, their careers, their travel and how He had gifted them - to prepare them for their ministries to people on the other side of the world in this season of their lives. And, what is also noteworthy is that their ability to cover for each other - in the classroom at La Verne University, in the Ambassador's Sunday School class and in other ways - has allowed them to engage in these mission opportunities. Each of them travels several times a year to the places they serve.
Carolyn's work began when Ventura Missionary Church sent teams to Russia to train teachers to share Christ in their classrooms. Later approached by the International Schools Project (a ministry of Campus Crusade) to join on a more permanent basis, Carolyn accepted their offer to test the waters by going on her first trip to Albania where she facilitated a small group of teachers. They did a Life Map exercise which involves sharing the events of one's life and how faith has helped to deal with the journey. Carolyn says that teaching requires skill and knowledge, but when we leave out the spiritual, it's incomplete. Working with the International Schools Projects allows her to share what gives her life meaning. So, this first trip led to an opportunity to expand her role to include training teachers how to blend faith and instruction in Albania, Cambodia and Egypt.
Dave's work also began with trips launched by Ventura Missionary Church. When we began a partnership with Youth With A Mission (YWAM) in Latvia, Dave was an active participant. He began to do more with YWAM which eventually led him to begin a non-profit which equips people to begin businesses, providing inroads to build relationships, which eventually leads to opportunities to share Jesus. The places Dave serves are intentionally unnamed because people in these countries can be arrested for their faith. Years into the ministry now, Dave has developed many relationships, primarily with young people, who consistently contact him even while he is in the U.S. for encouragement and support. He has become the spiritual dad or grandpa to quite a number of individuals, as he not only helps them develop their faith, but helps them learn how to share it with their peers. Dave and Carolyn both believe that the significant sharing of the gospel of Jesus will be done by people in their own culture.
There are so many stories from Dave and Carolyn's mission adventures! Carolyn talks about a woman who came to one of the early conferences in Albania who has continued to come over the years. She gave her heart to the Lord, and eventually her daughter and husband did as well. Her name is Mimoza, which means "flower," and she recently traveled from Albania to Egypt just to participate in another conference at which Carolyn was involved.
Ironically, while Ventura Missionary has been in a sermon series on the parables, Carolyn traveled to Albania and shared with 231 people a "story from a great book of wisdom." It was the story of the Prodigal Son, but instead of immediately sharing the true ending, she shared several potential endings where the father in the story responded in negative ways to the son. Finally, Carolyn shared the truth: a father who forgave and threw a party for the son who had strayed. She shared that the father in the story represents God, and the son represents all of mankind - that God is that forgiving father who loves us no matter what. Through tears, one woman shared her unworthiness of that kind of love and forgiveness. Carolyn is now connected with her through email.
Another story involves a man named Ashraf who recently shared his Life Map privately with Carolyn. At the end he drew two circles depicting that he doesn't know where his life will lead. On Carolyn's Life Map she describes a bridge that leads to Jesus. She asked Ashraf if he would be willing to talk to his Egyptian friends about their faith. He said he would, and Carolyn solicits prayer that Ashraf's own Life Map would eventually have that bridge to Jesus.
Dave shares about a young woman who he's mentored since the beginning of his ministry. Because of the culture in which she lives, he was the first male to show her respect and encourage her to succeed. As he has done with so many there, he helped this young woman to identify what she could do and the things she needed to think about. As the mentoring relationships grow, the opportunities to share spiritual insights avail themselves. Now her spiritual dad, this particular woman has invited Dave to her wedding and he hopes to attend.
Dave asks for prayer for another woman, Lily, who has been a Christian for three years now, but because her previous beliefs were so deeply embedded, doubt still creeps in. He also asks for prayer for those with whom he continues to build relationships: for wisdom when to share and when not to share, and that those who don't know Christ YET, will also cross over that bridge to Jesus.
The breadth and depth of all God is doing through Dave and Carolyn is difficult to describe in a few paragraphs. The stories have developed over time, and the number of people who are eventually impacted is mind boggling. Whether in a room full of Muslim teachers or with an individual across a table who knows attending church could result in jail time; whether under a covered patio with six families who had come out of Hinduism or challenging a church of 500 to be active for God in their city, Dave and Carolyn are building bridges to Jesus. Carolyn says, "Does it put a dent in our calendars and our budget? Yes, but it's worth it!" They truly are living out what we've been learning through the parables - to make use of all that God has entrusted to us, using their time, talent and treasure for eternal impact. To give toward their mission work, note "Dave and Carolyn Banks" on your check or bill pay through your bank to Ventura Missionary Church.