Jesus Said To Them
by Don Bohl
“One beautiful thing about working for Jesus— you’re not responsible for results. You’re just responsible for showing up. He shows you what to do from that point on.”
This is how Ray Skaggs, a Texan who once lived the good life as an executive in the oil and gas business, then lost everything and turned to truck driving to survive, describes the ministry that the Lord has guided him into.
Ray has been showing up in some unlikely places, not just at Central Texas and Rocky Mountain Tres Dias weekends, but also at week- ends in Lima, Peru, and Guayaquil, Ecuador, with side-trips to Chiclayo, Arequipa, and Pucallpa, as well as remote villages along the headwaters of the Amazon River in the mountains east of Iquitos. For many of these trips, a case of 500 Bibles has gone with him.
Many of those who attended the March meeting of the Tres Dias International Secretariat had oppor- tunity to sit down with Ray to hear his improbable story. Ray looks every bit the Texan, a short man in his mid 60s with a lined, weathered face who speaks with a gentle southern drawl. There is tran- quility in the voice and general demeanor that appears to come from a peace that passes under- standing.
Ray explains that in a pivotal moment his life came when his daughter gave him a copy of Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Life on tape. This was in 2004, when he was working as a truck driver–a lifestyle markedly different from the earlier decades. Ray had lived all over the world. He had established a manufacturing business in the Philippines, set up a sales company in Japan, and covered the US and Canada as VP of sales and marketing for a major corporation.
Then, he lost everything. Broke and with no- thing to eat, he signed on as a driver for a trucking company he had dealt with during his days as an executive.
I started to listen to the tape,” Ray says, “But I never got past the first chapter. I realized. It’s not about me. It’s about Him. Possessions own you; you don’t own them. When you stop living for your- self, and you start living in Him, everything changes. The joy of doing everyday what God wants you to do is more valuable than anything you can imagine.”
Tres Dias provided one opportunity for the “joy of doing.” It was in the airport in Lima, Peru, on his way to support the emerging Tres Dias community in that city, that Ray happened to meet a young min- ister and his family traveling to their home in Arequipa, some 70 miles south of Lima. Memories of the meeting lingered. Back in the states driving an 18-wheel- er, Ray happened to talk with another trucker in Montebello, CA, who told him about a man in Omaha who had some free Spanish literature. When Ray drove through Omaha, the man met him in a parking lot and brought him cases of materials—not only brochures for new believers and for those who had fallen away from the faith, but also cases of New Testaments.
On his next trip to Peru, Ray showed samples of the literature to the young minister from Arequipa. This was exactly what his church, and others in that city, needed to support their ministries. A shipment of 500 Bibles, thanks to connection with the man from Omaha, was on its way.Ray’s travels have what one fellow pescador describes as a “ripple effect.” The chance meeting with the minister from Arequipa was the first of many. Each trip to Peru and subsequent trips to Ecuador widened the cir- cle of people he met, and who would be blessed with Spanish New Testaments.
As Ray describes it, “Wherever I go, that’s where a door opens, and I meet someone who invites me to go somewhere. I go, not knowing anybody, and leave know- ing a lot of people, and miraculous things happen.”For pure adventure, nothing tops the trip, in November of 2008, downriver from Iquitos, a city of approximately 500,000 in the Peruvian rainforest 600 miles from Lima. The city is reachable only by plane or boat. From that point Ray, along with Pastor Cesar Campos and fellow pescadores Stephanie and Sean McLaughlin, launched a four-day boat ride down the headwaters of the Amazon, delivering Bibles and other lit- erature to seven churches along the way.At each stopping point, the embankment was filled with villagers—especially children—eager to welcome the visitors. “As we traveled,” Ray recalls, “I realized there were maybe 150 children for every 40 adults—60 to 70 percent of the population was under 25 years old.” Those children tugged at Ray’s heart, reminding him of a survey he had read stating that eight out of ten people had received Christ before age 20.
The Amazon odyssey is even more astonishing, in view of the fact that Ray organized and pushed the trip to completion shortly after recovering from a near fatal auto- mobile accident.
There are dozens of such stories to tell. The most power are those stories in which he describes how fool- ish he felt ministering in a country where he did not even understand the language, only to feel his self-reproach evaporate when someone looked at the case of New Testaments and exclaimed, “I’ve been praying for these to come.”
As Stephanie McLaughlin explains, “I am amazed that when I walk with him down the street or in a church in South America, how many people are drawn to Ray. He has a smile for everyone, and that smile is contagious! He doesn’t speak Spanish and yet can communicate God’s love to each of them as he talks… . The people in the villages respect him, are excited to see him coming and they can’t wait to get a hug, especially the children.”
When Ray attends the next meeting of the International Secretariat, he will have even more stories to tell. For example, he can talk about his meeting, in June, with 30 pastors from the rural areas around Chiclayo, or about the pastor who has 84 rural churches that all need New Testaments, or about events in Ucrania, where 110 people said they had prayed and received Jesus. He’ll add, however, that the stories he tells (like the story published here) aren’t about him. It’s about a loving God and His Son, Jesus.
As we finish preparing the story for publication, Ray is back in Iquitos.
For Stephanie McLaughlin’s pictures and commentary on the first trip to the river villages, see her blog on Facebook.