Saturday, May 24, 2014

Hill Missions History

A congregation recently requested that I send them a brief history of my mission work.  It is hard to get concise when you are talking about 30+ years, but I whittled it down as best I could.

A Brief History
Of the work of Jimmie & Linda Hill

Hill Missions began in 1983 with our first foreign campaign to Ghana.  That six weeks experience was filled with water rationing, famine, dysentery, gasoline shortages and a whole host of other problems created by drought and a sudden influx of refugees into this African nation.  The attempted coup just days after our arrival brought violence, curfews and military checkpoints.  I still think of this as the Campaign to Gehenna.  But by the end of it our 5-person team had walked the dusty roads of numerous villages doing street preaching or personal studies - and Jimmie and I were committed to mission work.  The hardships were certainly not the appeal but rather the thrill of converting lost souls.  We baptized 72 that campaign and would have returned in a heartbeat.  As Jimmie put it, “If we could survive Ghana, we can survive anything.”

Our plans to work full-time in Ghana took a detour and we ended up on the opposite side of the world on a little island in the South Pacific – Tutuila, American Samoa.  The five years we lived and worked there I took a supportive role while Jimmie preached and traveled.  He concentrated primarily on the islands of Samoa but also did mission work in Fiji, Tonga and Tuvalu where he helped establish the first congregation of the Lord’s church.  Jimmie would joke that by going to Samoa instead of Ghana we had traded malaria, yellow fever and cholera for earthquakes, tidal waves and hurricanes.  That was funny until Cyclone Ofa came along.  The worst hurricane to hit Samoa in more than 100 years, it demolished much of our tiny island in 1990.  But we survived that as well.

Jimmie loved teaching and hoped to be part of a preacher training school one day, so our return to the States in 1992 was so he could further his education.  He did located preaching while earning first a BA and then a MA in Bible.  But he did not forget about missions, using his personal vacation and gospel meeting times to do foreign campaign work.  Then in 1998 Truth for the World called.  They wanted Jimmie to join them as the Director of the Bible Correspondence Course program and he quickly said, “Yes!”  In 1999 I joined the staff as a secretary with a variety of duties, but worked primarily with the postal BCC students.  In 2005 Jimmie added Director of Publications to his duties and I became the office manager.  Deciding to leave this work in 2010 was difficult.

But joining Ronald D. Gilbert at International Bible Teaching Ministries has been exciting.  Brother Gilbert began IBTM in 2007 with a goal of helping foreign preaching schools to train men, but he also wanted to help Christians who could not reach a classroom to be able to gain a deeper understanding of Scripture.  He did this with the creation of the International College of the Bible, a distance learning school.  Jimmie joined him to help with both of these areas but Jimmie also wanted to add a program of correspondence courses to reach the lost.  That’s where I came in.  I spent months uploading materials and creating two new websites then, under Jimmie’s direction, organizing a new online Bible correspondence course program for IBTM.  We began enrolling our first students in January 2011 and the program has been growing at an amazing rate since.

Then in October 2011 Jimmie was diagnosed with Stage 4 Renal Cancer and we learned all too soon that Hill Missions would have to survive something else – his death.  But even in sickness Jimmie never lost his zeal for mission work.  The very first question Jimmie asked the oncologist following the shock of that diagnosis was, “Can you get me well enough to go back to Africa?”  He almost made it.  Even at the end when Jimmie was extremely ill he was still trying to spread the gospel.  Setting up a Bible study with the hospice worker who came to help him bathe is just one more example of his lifetime commitment.  Jimmie passed into eternity on August 23, 2012. 

Jimmie’s greatest worry before his death was that the mission work he loved would die with him.  I have continued his work with International Bible Teaching Ministries to ensure that does not happen.  Naturally, I cannot do the preaching or teaching that Jimmie did, but under the oversight of the eldership at the New Hope Road Church of Christ and the guidance of Ronald D. Gilbert I have continued the Internet portion of this work.

I work with the online Bible correspondence courses assisting more than 110 active IBTM teachers when they have questions or problems.  I assign teachers to new students (we currently have more than 13,000 enrolled) and assist students when needed.  I upload materials to the IBTM and ICOTB websites (such as our new e-book library), respond to email correspondence, handle an online advertising campaign, and help with the IBTM newsletter, The Seeker.  I also do a variety of secretarial duties, everything from typing tracts to creating databases.  One such chore – keeping track of all IBTM statistics – would usually sound boring but in this case it isn’t because the statistics are souls.  Since the IBTM websites began to be viewed in January 2011 we have had more than 500,000 visitors who have read more than 2 million pages of gospel literature.  And they have come from more than 9,000 cities in 226 nations around the world.  Just reading those numbers I am awed by the international outreach of this Internet mission. 

And since Jimmie’s death at least 20 more of our online students have put on Christ in baptism . . . so the mission work Jimmie loved is continuing to save lost souls.  

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