BIMI

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Reaching Native Americans By Pastor Larry Gibson — Auberry First Baptist Church After high school I joined the United States Air Force in August 1971. My first duty station after basic training and tech school was Castle Air Force Base in Atwater, California, where I was to work on KC-135s. Eventually, I was transferred to Kadena Air Base in Okinawa in March 1974. Away from home and a bit lonely after having been there a few months, I began to feel a great emptiness inside. Nothing I tried satisfied—hanging out with my friends, getting involved in photography, riding motorcycles, participating in every sport that I could, or advancing in my military career field. Nothing I achieved, no amount of money I gained, no amount of possessions I accumulated satisfied me. I began to look around at my co-workers and friends in the barracks and outside of the barracks, and they didn’t have anything that I felt would satisfy the emptiness that was inside me either. I was frustrated and at a low point. One day I was walking downtown in Koza City, Okinawa, just outside of the main gate of Kadena Air Base, when I said out loud but very quietly, “There’s got to be a better way of life.” I don’t know whether I was praying or not praying, but I felt as if I was impressed to go get a Bible and read it. Now, I know that it was God speaking to me. At that moment I told God, “Okay, I will go get a Bible and I will read it from cover to cover one time; You have one shot at me. And if You have a better way of life than I’ve seen outside of the Bible, then I will take it. But if not, then I’m just going to go out in this world and get everything I can, as fast as I can, as much as I can.” After several weeks of reading the Bible, struggling to get through the Old Testament and into the New Testament, I got to a passage of Scripture in John chapter 3. What really stood out to me were verses 14, 15, and 16, especially verse 16. All of a sudden, the understanding of my sinful condition and of Christ being the Savior became so clear. After reading that 16th verse numerous times, I bowed my head while I was sitting on my bunk in the barracks and I told God, “This verse says that You died and paid for my sin and if I believe that, I will go to heaven. So I’m telling You right now, I believe it and I’m counting on You and You alone to get me to heaven.” I did not see flashing lights. I did not see a picture of the face of Jesus on the wall. But right then and there, I felt a huge burden lifted and a tremendous peace come into my heart and life. At that point, everything changed. Suddenly, I was hungry for the Bible I had struggled to read. I found myself praying all during the day and into the night. I began to look for a church. I wrote my family and told them what I had learned, sending Gospel tracts along with the letters. I began to tell others what Christ had done for me. I did not know it was called witnessing. It wasn’t but a few days later that Staff Sergeant Larry Arnold approached me while in the barracks and asked me if I was saved. I gave him my testimony of what I had done several days earlier and he invited me to Maranatha Baptist Church, where I was baptized by Pastor Jim Kennard. I cannot thank Dr. Kennard enough for his influence in my life at that time and still to this day. He and his wife, Gail, and family were so loving and faithful and patient with me. I could not get enough of the Lord, the Bible, our church, and the fellowship to satisfy me. But when God called me to preach several months later, I got scared and I ran from the Lord for about 18 months. During that time God was so loving, so patient, but also very convincing. I surrendered to His call to preach while in Escondido, California, my hometown. And shortly thereafter, I met my wife at Fundamental Baptist Church in that same city. Little over a year later, we were married. Five weeks after our wedding, we moved to Chattanooga, Tennessee, where we attended Tennessee Temple Bible School. I graduated in 1982. Since that time, I have been an assistant pastor for three years in Escondido, California, at Fundamental Baptist Church, and I pastored for 10 years at Fair Havens Baptist Church in Spring Valley, California. For the last 19 years I have been the pastor at Auberry First Baptist Church on the Big Sandy Rancheria in Central California, reaching Native Americans as well as people of the foothills and the mountain area.