SWAZILAND–Jay Hatfield, director of missions for Central Association of Baptists, had never been on a plane before. Although he had a heart for missions, his wife went on many mission trips, and he had participated often in mission trips throughout the country, he had never before experienced overseas missions.
But when Joy Bolton, executive director of the Kentucky Woman’s Missionary Union, contacted him and asked if he would be willing to be one of two pastors, along with a team of 10 others, to spend 11 days in Swaziland, “I told her I would pray about it. From that point on, I really felt led,” Hatfield said.
He is glad he went now. “It’s changed my whole outlook on things. I’ll never take anything for granted anymore,” he said.
“The whole team, I think God’s hand was on each one of us, putting together the right team to do this. It was spectacular, exciting and wonderful,” Hatfield said of the trip.
Bolton echoed this sentiment. “The sense of God’s love for each person gripped the team as we discussed the visits. No visit was by coincidence. We were led by God to these individuals who needed to hear the gospel or be encouraged that they had not been forgotten by God,” she said.
Hatfield was especially excited that the hospice buckets delivered buckets were put together by Kentucky Baptists. His wife, Cheryl, was a part of that effort.
“After hearing IMB missionary Wayne Myers tell about ministry in Swaziland and how the buckets open doors for the gospel, Cheryl knew she wanted to go to Swaziland,” Bolton shared.
Cheryl added that she was excited to be able to take the trip with her husband. “It’s our first time to do (this). I’m just so grateful that WMU gives us the opportunity to share Christ with all people ‘By All Means’.”
Hatfield, however, found God’s work most miraculous when he was given the opportunity to preach five times over the course of the trip.
“I had a tough time to begin with,” Hatfield said of preaching with an interpreter. He said he had never preached from a manuscript, and he struggled with the words flowing.
“Whether it was Satan at work, I don’t know, but God still blessed in it,” he continued.
One night a lady rededicated her life to Christ after his sermon. Another night nearly 15 children came forward and heard a clear presentation of the gospel. And on yet another night, eight adults came forward to make professions of faith.
“It was just an exciting thing to see God at work,” Hatfield commented. “Even though I felt like I wasn’t up to power, God was still using me. It wasn’t me. It wasn’t any of us but God using us as a tool, an instrument. That’s what’s awesome.”
Throughout the week, Hatfield preached sermons on sin to help the Swazis develop a better understanding. He spoke on topics like “where sin originated, how it affects our lives, the repercussions of it, how God had a plan to get us through this thing called sin so we could find Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.” He felt that the “basics” was a good place to start, he said.
He believes what he learned overseas now will affect the way he evangelizes in his hometown. He explained that although many professed to be “believers,” they have never asked Christ for forgiveness of their sins and were not truly followers of Christ.
“Talking to people here, we have a lot of people that believe, but a lot of people that don’t come to church, that don’t grow in any way,” he added.
Hatfield said he’s never just going to assume that someone is a follower of Christ. “I just want to be sure that anybody that I talk with truly has Jesus in their heart and lives” out his faith. (WR)