The 35th anniversary of Faith Baptist Church in Regents Park in March was a blessed event of rejoicing. It was followed by lunch at the church and the book launch. Pastor Zaydan interviewed me and it is listed at the close of this newsletter.
We were shocked when the church sold 180 book at the launch! An older, godly pastor phoned me recently to tell me how he had been blessed by reading the book. He was crying and commented that every pastor ought to read it. We were encouraged that God could recycle our trials and blessings to bless others!
Both Faith Baptist churches in Blacktown and Regents Park are running our Bible History courses this year as also is Sydney Bible Baaptist College in an evening class. One lady wrote, “I can’t tell you how much I am enjoying the N T History course. They are the most amazing lessons I have ever listened to or studied. The combination of detailed Biblical notes together with history, pictures and maps of the Land is so informative and leaves one wanting more. I find it incomprehensible the amount of time, energy, and devoted study you have sacrificed in writing these books. I pray the Lord will give you both more strength to keep up this lovely blessed work for our sakes and for the sake of others to follow.”
A Filipino pastor recently wrote: “I can’t tell you how much your books have been a blessing to pastors here.”
We share these testimonies with you because you have been a vital part of our lives and ministry by your concern and prayers. We feel so unworthy to be a part of any of it but we rejoice with thanksgiving that God uses the weakest of vessels to accomplish His work.
Please pray for the beginning of the new school year in June in the Philippines. We are asking God to open doors in new colleges and institutes for the materials. May God bless each one of you!
Richard and Kathleen Hester
Pastor Zaydan’s interview with Pastor Richard Hester at the launch of “Cast Your Bread:”
- What events or trials did God allow in your early life that helped shape you to become who you are as a missionary today?
Answer: I don’t remember any traumatic event or special difficulty that shaped my life. What I do remember is lots of hard work that engaged all the family and a consistent, loving Christian home that shaped my values and character.
- What doctrinal issues did you struggle with after your conversion and how did you eventually leave them behind?
Answer: Teachings about divine healing being a full half of the Gospel for every Christian, the gift of tongues being the seal and evidence of receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit, women preaching and the losing of one’s salvation-these teachings and others engaged my eager mind to understand and prove their accuracy from Scripture.
Annoying doubts about these teachings plagued my thinking. These issues were settled shortly after I left that atmosphere and enrolled in Bob Jones University. My doubts, the Scriptures I was pondering-all suddenly came together so clearly! For the first time I knew my feet were on solid ground! What a blessing it was to KNOW that I was forever saved and accepted in the Beloved! The other issues soon came into submission to the complete Word of God, and I was free!
- What year did you graduate and start your first church, how long were you there and why did you leave?
Answer: Graduation and the launch of Temple Baptist Church in El Dorado, Kansas took place in 1954. God interrupted our plans for a long stay in Temple Baptist Church with a heavy, unshakeable burden to go to Lebanon as missionaries. Our stay in El Dorado was less than three years. We were heartbroken to leave Temple Baptist Church but we were persuaded and confident by the Spirit that He was our Guide in this new assignment.
- Why Lebanon for your mission field, and out of all places, why Tripoli in the North?
Answer: I was exposed to mission work in the Middle East Mission Prayer Band at the college which I attended. Also, I wrote several research papers on themes related to the Middle East like the Armenian massacre around 1900 in Turkey, the pillars of Islam etc. When the burden came to become foreign missionaries, the only consideration was the Middle East and then Lebanon. Why Tripoli, the second largest city of Lebanon, a fanatical city 85% Muslim? We felt a burden to go to a place that had little or no Gospel witness, and Tripoli fit that criterion as a large city with only one Gospel witness and one liberal Protestant witness. It was also the centre of North Lebanon with its hundreds of towns and villages with no Gospel witness.
- Learning Arabic is always difficult. How were you able to learn Arabic and preach in it within one year?
Answer: We had no magic formula, just five disciplined days and evenings weekly studying and practising for one year. God blessed us with a Lebanese lady teacher who was strong in Arabic and knowledgeable in English. Plus we were determined to learn the language so we could better understand the people and be able to share the Gospel with them from our hearts to their hearts.
- What were the main difficulties that you encountered in understanding the Lebanese culture?
Answer: Probably the main help in understanding the culture was learning Arabic in its society. We would ask our teacher constantly why that word meant what it did. We gained the rationale of why the Lebanese did some things differently from our way of doing or thinking. Often we found that we could benefit from much of what we learned.
- How would you summarise your ministry in Lebanon?
Answer: It was very difficult and discouraging at times because of the scarceness of results compared to the effort expended. However, the many lives that were touched with the Gospel of Christ made it a blessed and rewarding experience. The continuance of that ministry today in two churches and a conference centre in the mountains brings great joy and thanksgiving for what God has done!
- What event made you finally leave Lebanon and how did the Lord change your direction to Australia?
Answer: A combination of several brushes with death in the accelerating civil war helped bring us to the conclusion that the Lord would have us leave Lebanon for a respite until conditions might improve enough for us to be able to minister in Lebanon. But after leaving Lebanon, God used its tragedies and losses to strip us of any hope that Lebanon could be healed for a long time. Other circumstances forced our sights upon Australia where we could continue Arabic ministry. That ministry would not only reunite us with some former church members who had immigrated to Sydney but would touch many other Lebanese immigrants, some of whom we had known in Lebanon.
- Your ministry in Australia has been very diverse. Having hindsight, why do you think God brought you to the land down-under and what rewards did you find here?
Answer: God brought us here to experience our greatest and most rewarding years of ministry among our beloved Arabic people!
- You have invested your life in many people. In other words, you have cast your bread upon the waters. How did you find it after many days? What do you hope to find in the future?
Answer: The stories of that lifetime investment, its rewards and how they are being found is the exciting story of our autobiography, Cast Your Bread. Needless to say, every time we walk into Faith Baptist Church, we are overwhelmed with the sense of those rewards and God’s faithfulness upon our weak efforts to “cast our bread upon the waters.” Heaven is drawing closer and we look forward to an eternity where God will show us the exceeding riches of His grace upon ever so weak and unworthy servants, but servants dedicated nonetheless to His Matchless Glory and Grace!