To the Baptist Convention of Iowa,
I pray that your hearts will be blessed and encouraged to hear and see all that God did on our South Dakota Missions trip this year. The Holy Spirit was definitely at work. We are so grateful for each of you, your prayers and support were vital and we know that they laid a foundation for the many miracles that we saw in the hearts of the people there.
THANK YOU so much for your donation of the Evangecubes. They were such a powerful tool. The kids had to memorize 4 verses in order to earn their Evangecube. As you will be able to see at the end of the video, many of them did it. When you see a verse on poster board with names below it, those are the names of the kids who memorized and recited that verse.
Enjoying the journey,
Kathy and Ariana Graff
My heart is overflowing with gratitude as I reflect back on all that God did on the South Dakota missions trip this year. Thank you to all of you who were faithful to pray for our trip and to those who gave financially to help make it possible for us to go. We could not have done what we did without your support. Each day your prayers were evident. God was definitely at work and it was amazing to behold all the answers to prayer. A verse that stands out to me as very fitting is:
“Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us,” Ephesians 3:20 (NIV)
One of the things that I asked you to pray for is that we would be an effective and unified team. That prayer was definitely answered. There were many moments when I sat back in awe during our God sighting times at night. There were 20 children that accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior in the week that we were there!!! For sure this was a harvest year. This is the 8th year our church has sent teams there and it was amazing to see all the fruit that has resulted. Without a doubt the love of Jesus being poured out is changing their lives for good and there was much rejoicing that was occurring in heaven that week as many crossed over from death to life.
There were 3 things that especially stood out as blessings to me. I have been praying that Ariana would learn to be bold in her faith. This year she was able to openly share the gospel one on one with a child at the youth center. As a parent there are so many things you hope and dream of for your children, this is definitely something at the top of my list and I was so blessed to get to stand back and observe as it came to fruition.
Another thing was getting to behold a very direct answer to prayer. Starting in January when I prayed about if it was God’s will for us to go on the South Dakota missions trip again, God continually laid it on my heart to pray that an adult from the tribe would come to know Him and love Him as their savior and step up to help shepherd the children in their tribe. Month after month I felt burdened to pray for this same thing. At the end of our first day I heard someone talking about a man named Wyatt that worked at the youth center. I just knew in my heart that I needed to talk with him. It turns out that Wyatt, who had come from an abusive home and had fallen into a very destructive lifestyle of using drugs and alcohol, had a personal encounter with Jesus in a dream. He said that in mid January Jesus appeared to him, letting him know that he loved him and wanted him to serve him. At first, Wyatt told Jesus flat out that he didn’t know him. Over the next several months he kept doubting what he had seen, but Jesus kept confirming it to him over and over. By late February Wyatt could doubt no longer and surrendered his life to Christ. He quit college and moved in with his mom. He bought a Bible and began to read it every day for 2 hours a day. Then in March, he felt God calling him to return to Fort Thompson to work with children there to teach them about God. Right around that same time, the club transitioned from being a boys and girls club to a youth center that is run by a Christian church in that area. Wyatt was an answer to their prayers as well. My heart was filled with joy as God allowed me to come face to face with the person I was praying for all those months, but had never met. What a great God we serve!!
Last, but certainly not least, is Julian. When we were seeing so many kids so readily desiring to ask Jesus into their heart I began to question if they truly understood what they were doing. There were many times we began to see fruit pour out of their little hearts in a short amount of time, confirming that Jesus was changing them from the inside out. Julian was an amazing example of this. When I first met Julian he was threatening to beat up another child and it was evident that there was a lot of anger in his heart. Much to my amazement, a half an hour after I had to talk with him firmly about changing his behavior or being sent home, he came up and asked me to tell him about my cube. I had an evangecube attached to my belt loop and he
was very curious about it. I was able to share the gospel with him using the cube for picture support. He looked at me and said, “I have never done that. I have never asked Jesus to save me or to forgive me for my sins.” I asked him if he would like to and he said yes. I then had the pleasure of leading him to Christ. At the end of the day, I gave him a Bible to keep. He asked me what the key verse for the next day would be and I told him it was John 14:6. He said he was going to learn it that night at home. The next day he confessed to Mr Phil that he did a bad thing the day before when he threatened to beat Dallas up. He said Jesus wouldn’t want him to do that and that he was going to apologize and be nice to him from now on. Much to our amazement that was the very first thing he did when he got to the club. Then, when we called the whole group together to announce what the verse of the day was. Julian stood up and recited the whole thing perfectly from memory. About a half an hour later he came to me, head down, and said he had done a bad thing. I asked what he had done and he opened up his hand which held 2 pieces of candy. He confessed that he had stolen them from my candy cup. I thanked him for being honest with me and said that was Jesus working in his heart helping him to want to do the right thing. He said “Yeah, because before I would have just ate it.” A short while later he told me he had placed something in the prayer box. I opened it up and read his card which said, “I promise to pray for each of you. -Julian.” Again I was blown away as he was demonstrating a lot of spiritual fruit even though no one had taught him to do it. Then, at the end of the day he wanted me to teach him how to use the evangecube because he was going to earn one the following day. He let me know that he felt learning how to do it right was very important and that the message was important. So I worked with him to help him learn how to do it step by step. When we got towards the end where there is a picture of heaven above and of hell below and Jesus’ nail scarred hand reaching down and man’s hand reaching up he stopped and said, “You know what?” I said what. “I think that Satan invented drugs and alcohol so that people would become addicted and die young so that they would never come to know Jesus as their Savior and that they would die and go to hell instead” I was stunned. Here was this 8 year old boy that had only been saved one day saying this really profound thing. “Wow Julian, did you know that there are a lot of adults who haven’t even figured that out. If God has taught you all this in one day I can’t wait to see what you will have learned by next summer.” He smiled a big smile and gave me a hug. My heart was so full it felt like it would burst. On our last day they all jumped into our van and announced that they would be riding back to Iowa with us. I saw older boys that were all macho burst into tears as they hugged us goodbye. Then our teen boys burst into tears as well. Everyone had clearly been touched. Watching God work in mighty ways is unforgettable. Thank you for the part you played in helping all this to take place.