Q&A 20-Years in Ministry: Part One
It’s amazing to see how far the Lord has brought us and all that we have witnessed. As a reflection of this milestone, we wanted to give some insight into the background of Travel the Road through the past 20-years. We truly hope you enjoy it.
How did you get started in missions and who had the idea to film it?
We got started in missions because we heard the calling and took action upon that calling. I was 20 when I made the decision and Will was 24. As for the idea for the TV series…Well, we took a one-year missionary journey from 1998-1999 before we even documented or imagined the first season of Travel the Road. The ‘98-’99 journey was where Will became a believer, and our calling was refined. The first few minutes of episode one of season one of Travel the Road tells the backstory of this first journey as well as Will’s testimony of salvation….but, that first trip was amazing. We managed to travel for over a year, through 20 countries on less than $7,000 dollars all the way from Papua New Guinea to Egypt. We ministered everywhere, slept in the cheapest places, hitchhiked, ate only one meal a day most of the time, and experienced life on the road in some of the toughest countries on earth. When we returned home from the first journey, we had seen a lot, but the one thing that stuck with us was seeing the lack of missionaries in a lot of these difficult areas. This lack inspired us to think of ways to encourage others to go out and preach the Gospel to those who were in need or cut off from the message. As we started to brainstorm, it was the Spirit of God that led us to the idea of documenting our future journeys and sharing it with the rest of the world. We didn’t know in what format, but we knew we had to document the next journey and that something great would come of it. So in between our journeys, we raised support from friends and family and bought a cheap mini-dv camera, packed our backpacks once again and headed out for a long 18-month journey. Also, you have to realize that 20-years ago this was pre-mainstream reality television, and a time before youtube even existed, so this was a leap of faith to go out and document while not knowing where we would present it. Regardless, we knew it was God’s leading so we headed out with a Bible and a camera in hand. When we returned, we had a lot of footage so we decided to create a television pilot to present to TBN. Again a leap of faith...TBN reviewed it and loved it! Now, here we are today…nearly 60 episodes and 5 seasons later! We are so blessed to see the impact that Travel the Road has made around the world and we thank God for using TTR in such an amazing way. It’s humbling to hear about kids who watched the series growing up, who are now becoming missionaries because it inspired them. Moreover, we receive testimonies from all over the world about the impact of Travel the Road and how it’s touching lives. All we can say is — Glory to God!
So, in 20-years of ministry how many countries have you traveled to and what is your favorite
139 countries and counting. There are 195 total countries in the world so we are close to having been to them all. But many of them we’ve been to at least 2-3 times and conducted long missions and follow up missions. For example, we’ve spent 6 months in India and have been there three times, we have been to China five times, Indonesia six times, Papua New Guinea three times, etc… so when we take a journey to a country we take our time or return on multiple occasions. But the most important part is that we’ve shared the Word in each of them and been eyewitnesses of the power of the Gospel. As for one specific country being our favorite...that’s too tough to pin down. We love so many things about so many countries, but if we had to pick a region instead of just one country I would say the South Pacific. There is something special about the South Pacific.
What are the most dangerous situations you’ve experienced in your travels?
Oh, that’s a long list...a few off the top of the head are — The Nepal Earthquake, we were right there in the middle of it when the 7.8 quake hit. We were also around for all the aftershocks in the following weeks. What we remember most about Nepal was the mass terror and hearing the screams of thousands of people in panic as the city trembled day after day. Then there was Colombia and Peru with the anti-narcotics missions, Somalia which was dangerous from the moment we landed to the moment we left, Afghanistan during the war, Uganda and the LRA territories, Darfur - Sudan during the genocide, South Sudan (Will) fell out of truck at high speeds, DR Congo IDP camps, Mongolia when the Kazakhs tried to kidnap us, Mongolia again with the whiteout blizzard in the Gobi, Chernobyl radiation zone, Port-Au-Prince Haiti and the shootings on the street after the earthquake, Bolivian mines in Potosi, Lions around tent in Ethiopia, Tibet 40-hour high elevation crossing, Pakistan tribal territories, nearly kidnapped at the Lebanon/Syria border in the Bekaa Valley, lightning strike 15 feet from us in Amazon jungle, pit viper almost bit us in Peru, multiple sketchy plane-rides that almost crashed in Africa, etc...there is a lot we are leaving out, but it just shows you that God has protected us through a lot of difficult situations.
Are you ever fearful of the places you go?
One of the things that we’ve learned is that faith overpowers fear. When you operate in faith you never worry about the outcome because you know God is with you. However, that doesn’t mean we don’t prepare or take precautions. We are wise as serpents and gentle as doves, and when we go on Gospel Expeditions, we know there is always a potential for danger. But time after time we trust God and He always protects us. If God be for us, who can be against us?
How does one get involved in missions once they feel the call?
Many people feel the call, and they know in their hearts that God is leading them to missions. The trouble is, sometimes, that calling gets abandoned because of fear. That’s where you really need to build up your faith in the Lord by feeding on the Word and taking practical steps to begin. If God is calling you to do it, you need to take action. Make goals on fundraising efforts, buy an airplane ticket, set a firm departure date, take a short-term mission trip to get ready or to discover where you feel called to go, but whatever it is... just do something. Action will put your faith to work and give you a lot of direction. If you believe that you’re called to do missions, go for it with your whole heart, don’t hold back. Remember, you only get one pass at life.
Where do you find it most difficult to share the Gospel?
Most people would think we would say to a far distant tribe in Papua or Africa, but the reality is that the toughest place to preach the Gospel in our experience is in developed nations. Why? Because more and more people in developed nations deny spiritual aspects. They either lean on their own understanding or deny/doubt the existence of God. Whereas amongst the remote tribal groups we visit, they don’t doubt the existence of God or the spiritual realm. They might be serving false idols or worshiping other gods, but they don’t doubt the existence of the spiritual realm and the understanding of sin is prevalent in their lives. In contrast, many people in the developed world say things like, “Why would I go to eternal damnation? I’m not a bad person.” So already you can see the difference. The person in a developed country usually denies they even have a sin nature, but the person in a remote tribal group believes in the consequences of sin.
Interesting, so when you preach the Gospel overseas do you see instant connections and people understanding the message quickly?
Absolutely! The message of the Gospel is completely different than any man-made religion because it simply requires faith in Jesus and accepting Him as your Lord and Savior. If you compare that to other religions of the world it is very different. Other religions say you must work to release your own sins, i.e. pray 5 times a day, go on a pilgrimage, make a sacrifice to an idol, have more good works than bad, etc...Yet, still, there is no assurance of eternal salvation. So, when you bring the message of the Gospel, that says: it is no longer of your own works, but the finished work of Christ Jesus and you need to simply confess and believe upon Him...that is a powerful message and one that is radically different than what other religions teach. On top of that, it is also an extremely powerful testimony to remote people groups that God loves them so much that He would send someone from a far place to tell them this good news. We have experienced the power of this many times and documented it as well...one specific example is the Reindeer tribe family in Mongolia.