Rev. Sheldon Livesay returned this week from a two week mission to Luzon, Phillipines to help spread the gospel in public schools. Photo courtesy of Sheldon Livesay.
ROGERSVILLE — Rev. Sheldon Livesay wasn’t able to attend the prayer walk event that occurred outside every school in Hawkins County because he was returning from a place where prayer inside the school is permitted, and even encouraged.
On Monday Livesay, who is director of Rogersville’s Of One Accord ministry, returned from a two week trip to Luzon, Philippines where he was part of a Christian group touring public schools across the island.
He said the prayer of his life has been to go somewhere in the world where people were openly receptive and responsive to the gospel of Christ, and to see people coming to Christ by the thousands and tens of thousands.
“A year ago, I heard of a local man, Dr. Ronnie Owens, who was a pastor and now the Director of Missions for the Cumberland Gap Baptist Association, who had made a trip to the Philippines and witnessed unbelievable numbers of people coming to Christ,” Livesay said. “I was moved by his report, and I drove up to Harrogate to have lunch with him. As he began to talk about his trip, I was whispering a secret prayer: ‘Lord if you ever made a way for me to be a part of something like that, I’d volunteer. I don’t care what it cost. I don’t care where it is. Count me in’.”
Livesay added, “The next words out of Dr. Owens mouth were, ‘You know this happens every year’. From those words, I located the organization and filled out the application to go.”
But, the journey to the Philippines on July 20 wasn’t easy, and Livesay almost didn’t get out of Tokyo. What he didn’t know was the Philippines won’t let you enter the country if your passport is less than six months from expiration.
In the Tokyo airport Livesay let his fellow travelers board the plane ahead of him, but as he tried to board behind them he was detained because his passport was literally five months and 29 days from expiration.
“They made me stay by myself in Tokyo,” Livesay said. “The lady at the terminal led me to a station to fill out a Japanese immigration form, and then she led me out of the airport and left me. Horrified is not a strong enough word to describe what I felt. I finally got to a hotel where they don't communicate very well. The next day I got in touch with someone in the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, rode a shuttle back to the airport, and then another hour and a half to a bigger hotel in near the embassy in downtown Tokyo. The embassy kept its entire passport division open during their lunch hour just to get me renewed.”
After a two day delay Livesay used most of the pocket money he’d brought along to buy a ticket to Manila.
But, he said the experience after his arrival was well worth the trouble getting there.
Once reunited with the group his days started between 3 and 4 a.m. getting ready for each day’s trip to a school, and they were usually on the road by 5:30 a.m.
Filipino pastors are not permitted to go by themselves to schools and talk about Christian faith, but Americans are permitted in schools.
The group that organized this trip received government permission to go to schools throughout the Philippines.
“They take a team of 60 Americans each year from school to school, class to class, presenting the gospel,” Livesay said. “The schools have two shifts of students each day. The first starts at 6:30 and gets out at 12:30. Then a second shift comes in and the teachers do the same thing with different students. The classes ranged from 50 to 60 students each, and as we presented the gospel message and gave an invitation to pray, virtually every student in every class prayed to receive Jesus, as did most of the teachers. At full assemblies I witnessed principals and students alike raise up their hands and come to Christ.”
Livesay added, “One of the most amazing things about my traveling companions was most were young men and women in their late teens or early 20s, and most have been on this trip at least once before. They can present the gospel on a level that is unbelievable for youth their ages. Boys and girls more interested in fulfilling their purposes and following Christ than getting caught up in the distractions and vices that young people let take over their lives these days.”
The group went to Muslim neighborhoods where little girls in many classes were wearing the Muslim headgear.
Livesay said at first they didn’t want to listen, but the group talked to them about Jesus loving them.
“Women often are treated badly, but Jesus offers freedom,” Livesay said. “As we talked about Jesus wanting to have a personal relationship with them, they began to listen. When we invited the class to pray, I witnessed many of them pray with the class.
He added, “Many times while there, it would sink in just what was happening in front of our eyes and we would weep uncontrollably. Some people had been there five weeks, speaking in 1,551 schools to 699,751 students, and they counted 676,833 professions of faith.”
For the last two days of the trip schools were out due to final testing, so Livesay’s group went to public markets to hand out Christian literature.
“We distributed several thousand of them,” he said. “I didn't think anything about it until I talked with Ronnie Owens who assured me that it is estimated that when you give out tracts here between 20-30 percent or more will receive Christ. We would walk down the aisle of the market, much like our flea markets here, handing tracts to everyone. When we walked back by them, much to our amazement, most of them were reading the tracts. Some came back to the Americans saying they prayed the prayer at the end.”
On the last day of the school presentations one student pulled out a tract he’d receive several years ago. He told Livesay he carries it every day and reads it to friends.
“In America people would shun you giving them something like this and they would be thrown down on the street, so I was amazed to see people walking and reading these,” he said. “Filipino’s love Americans and we love them. When Americans are here doing something like this, there is a special something that just makes them receptive.”
He added, “To witness so many conversions to Christ in such a short period of time was an amazing experience. In America we are bombarded with so much information and technology, it’s hard for good, positive messages like this to break through to young people. In the Philippines it was like those young people had been waiting all their lives to hear about Christ. Then all of a sudden, there we were to spread His word. It was two weeks of nonstop miracles.”