Gospel tent meetings have been an avenue to take the message of God’s salvation to countless communities for many years. As a young man in my teens, I was invited to work alongside brethren who would go to villages in the interior of British Columbia. We would visit each home with gospel literature and invite them to children’s meetings and to gospel meetings in the tent. I learned the value and joy of bringing this message of eternal life to people who had never heard the message before. Later, I was invited to go to Newfoundland to help brethren who were laboring in that Province, as they worked as a team, preaching the gospel to youth and adults in various communities. These experiences in my youth were the groundwork to what God would lay on my heart as an adult to continue to do. I am deeply grateful to these dear men who patiently guided us along in the Scriptures and mentored us.
In recent years, we have been taking a team of young men and women with us to preach the gospel in Okanogan and Moses Lake, communities in eastern Washington. The small assembly of exercised believers in Okanogan work diligently alongside the team of workers we bring with us to host a week of Vacation Bible School (VBS) each morning, and two weeks of gospel meetings each evening. The attendance at the tent meetings increases yearly, and the assembly has grown as a result of this work.
A two-hour drive southeast of Okanogan is the city of Moses Lake, where there is no gathering of believers with whom we are in fellowship. The greater Moses Lake area has a population of around 36,000 people, built around the many miles of shoreline. Each July since 2010, we have been welcomed to the County fairgrounds to preach Christ in the tent and also to camp there.
When we first went to Moses Lake, we did not have any contacts in the area. We took 8×10 inch Scripture verses, nicely displayed with Washington scenery, and invitations to 12,000 homes in the community. The Lord brought 30 children to us in the first year for our morning VBS, and a few adults to the evening meetings. In the years since then, VBS has grown to 150 students, with daily attendance averaging between 80-90 students. With the exception of one family, all these children either walk or are brought by their parents. Many students return in the evening to the gospel meeting with their parents. The students continue to come to the VBS even into their late teens.
For the first several years, we hand delivered Scripture verses and invitations, which took approximately four days of the week leading up to the two weeks of tent meetings. For the past three years, we have used the wonderful services of the International Bible House to compile an 8-page booklet/invitation that we mail to more than 17,000 homes. This booklet contains interesting articles, stories, and pictures of local interest and gospel applications. By this means, we get a clear gospel message into every home along with the invitation. Whether or not people choose to come to hear the gospel, it is available to them in the comfort of their own home. This takes less time than hand distribution and gets the message into more homes in a timely manner.
This work would be impossible without the dedication of young believers, who take time away from their jobs, families, education, and recreation, to share with us in our responsibility to go into all the world and preach the gospel. Because students continue to come to the VBS into their late teens, we now require that our team members be at least 18 years old. We also prefer that our team stays for the full two weeks, so that they can build meaningful relationships with the students and maintain a consistent atmosphere in camp. This provides a great environment for young believers to discover, develop, and exercise spiritual gifts that God has given them, and to return to their home assemblies to continue active participation. Some may hear the call to serve the Lord on this continent or elsewhere.
Each day begins with breakfast together, followed by an hour of Bible study. The young believers share in the responsibility of cleanup and some food preparation. We have at least two times a day set aside for prayer, in groups small enough that all can participate. The young men take the responsibility of teaching lessons to the whole group of VBS students, and then responsibility is shared among the entireteam as we divide into different age groups and rotate through stations. These stations are for crafts, snacks, verse memorization, and activity. As they rotate, guides accompany the students and reinforce the lesson they have heard, teach the verses, and build relationships. The afternoon is spent preparing for the next day’s lesson and station responsibilities. In late afternoon, we invite the teenage students to camp for activities, supper, and a Bible discussion. Following the gospel meeting, we gather for singing, testimonies, and, of course, more food.
We emphasize the memorization of verses. The students learn one verse each day, and at the end of the week, if they can say all five verses together without error, they are rewarded. We celebrate their accomplishment in front of their parents at the gospel meeting, which provides incentive for parents to come at night. We also have an ice cream float night at the end of the first week after the gospel meeting and a family barbecue before the gospel meeting, late in the second week. Whenever we serve food, it helps to draw people in.
Homes have been opened to us throughout the year for Bible studies that are well attended. We value your prayers as we seek the Lord’s guidance for the future.