Gary Derbyshire

Mom, I Couldn’t Pray at the Temple Yesterday

Gary Derbyshire
August 28, 2017

“Mom, I couldn’t pray at the temple yesterday,” M said. I sat at the edge of my seat at an old, rotting table beside a busy street in a small town in Southeast Asia I will call BP. My wife and I watched as my dad conversed with a mother in her 30s and her 15 year old son. A week prior, this boy had heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the first time at an English camp for his school hosted by a mission team from my church in Gilbert, Arizona . My team members had already returned home, but my wife and I stayed an extra week with our two children, as the local missionaries were none other than my loving parents. I did my best to interpret the conversation between M, his mother, my dad, and our two national partners for my wife with what I remembered growing up just a half hour drive from BP. This was a vital conversation I knew would have eternal consequences for a city with no Christian residents since the dawn of time. And it all started with buying ice cream.

M’s single mom worked in a factory, but sold ice cream on the side of the road during the late afternoons and evenings, to make ends meet. Our party arrived to buy some ice cream and follow up.

“So, has M said anything to you about the Christian English Camp?” my dad asked M’s mom.

Mom gave a sort of resigned grin.  “Oh yes. He has talked a lot about it.” She gestured to some shaded tables behind her cart where another cart was selling noodles. A bit surprised, we followed her and took a seat. It seemed she was planning on a conversation with us. Mom began to tell us how she was glad the Christians had come to her son’s school, because demonic gangs were making students do “bad things.” Demon worship is very common in their city. It’s not to be confused with the dominant Buddhist religion, but as Buddhism encourages worship of all things, at the most, it has no defense against it. Even M’s uncle made M wear a demon charm around his neck to protect him.

M’s mom wanted to know more about whether or not the Christian god could make her son a better person. My dad shared the Gospel with her and about how faith in and repentance to God wipes away all sin because of the sacrifice of his son, Jesus. At one point, she looked at Nok, one of our national partners.

“Do you believe this too?”

Nok grinned. “I most certainly do.” She then recounted how Jesus had rescued her and her family from the misery of demon worship.

Mom then looked at her son. “Do you believe this too?” I will never forget M’s answer. This boy comes from a belief system that demands “merit” to be paid at local temples as often as possible to be paid for sin. They also teach that good is good, bad is bad, and good cannot erase bad. It is a system that depends on lack of spiritual insight in its worshipers and dominates because that is exactly the reality. One of the first signs of a national coming to Christ is when they begin to have spiritual insight and the idea of making merit becomes repulsive.

“Mom, nothing has been the same since I heard about Jesus,” M began, frantically. “The spirit charm uncle so-and-so gave me, I took it off. I can’t sleep with it on. Every night I go to sleep I just cry Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. Mom, I couldn’t pray at the temple yesterday. We went there and it’s wrong, mom. It is wrong. Only Jesus can forgive sins.”

15 year old M became the first Christian in his city since the dawn of time. After praying to receive Christ, he was baptized a short time later in a neighboring town. Since that day in 2015, Gateway Fellowship has sent two more teams to teach English and share the Gospel in a city that gave no glory to God prior to their coming. Starting in 2015, a weekly, Christian English camp was born at the school led by the local missionaries and national partners. Three more students from desperate situations gave their lives to Christ in the years that followed. M went from being a D and C student to being on student council and one of the most well known students in the school. At a parent-teacher conference, the principal asked M’s mom, still a Buddhist, to share about what the Christian God had done for her son.

When 2017’s team returned home, they recounted how on their first day the principal of the school sat them all down and told them, “Buddhism has brought much darkness to our people, but when our children become Christians, they become light and different people. Our national English testing scores have increased 10% (unheard of) and I believe it is because your God sent you.” A week after they had returned, they received word that the first parents of a student had come to church with the missionaries. Upon a follow up visit, in the midst of shelves and tables full of idols, this husband and wife said they were ready to follow Jesus. Their daughter, who is her class president and leads the Buddhist chants for her class, said she was not ready and needed to make arrangements at her school. In an astounding, Holy Spirit moment her father, having been a Christian for all of five minutes, said, “That is fine, but you’re taking your Buddha charm off now.” The man who had never before given glory to the God who made him looked around at his idols and said, “All of this has to go.”

In BP, much of the fruit of the labor of missionaries, national partners, and mission teams is still to be seen. What is happening at this school is unprecedented. In the vast majority of cases in this part of the world, adults come to faith first and then their children. The schools are typically one of the harshest sources of persecution for Christian children. Worshipping and making merit to Buddhist shrines are part of the school program. Not to do so is seen as a blatant disregard for authority and there have been many cases of physical punishment and shaming. Yet, because of the obedience of the members of Gateway Fellowship and their partner churches, these students are protected for the time being.


The marvelous, redemptive work of God around the globe should drive his people to their knees in worship and submission. There are 2.8 billion people around the world who have little or no access to the Gospel. These are people who, if no one goes, will die without ever hearing the good news of God’s great love for them. Does this bother you? Does it bother you enough to go?

Gary Derbyshire

Gary is the Senior Pastor of Apollo Baptist Church in Glendale, Arizona. Gary's biggest life influence is his loving parents, who originally taught him the Gospel and biblical exposition, and still live as missionaries in Asia. The next biggest influence is his loving wife, a gifted worship leader and evangelist to their children.

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Gary Derbyshire