– [Don] Well, good morning everybody. The theme of our time together is, the pathway of blessing, and I wanna read a Psalm, Psalm one to just get us thinking. Blessed is the man, this is the first, this is the opening of all the Psalms to sort of rivet our attention on what’s really important. Blessed is the man who walks not in the council of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the way of scoffers, but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields it’s fruit in it’s season and it’s leaf does not whither, in all that he does he prospers. The wicked are not so, they are like chaff which the wind drives away, and therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous, but the Lord knows the way of the righteous, and the way of the wicked will perish. I wanna introduce you to a friend of mine, and I’ve asked him to come today and to have a little conversation with us, his name is Abe. Abe’s a special friend because I was his pastor for many years, and he is on my prayer team. I have a lot of people who pray for me regularly, and I’m blessed to have him as one of them. Abe Thiessen, Abe is 97 years old and he is a very special man, for so many reasons, but one reason is that he has been an entrepreneur, a pioneer in using media to bring the gospel to the nations, and he pioneered missionary radio, and then later TV and satellite technology to bring the good news to about 62 different countries. So, he stopped by about two weeks ago, and said, you know, God put it on my heart to talk to you, I’d like to have a word with students, so I thought, alright, I’m not in control. So would you welcome Abe Thiessen. Good morning Abe, how’re you doing?
– [Abe] Terrific, but I’m gettin’ better.
– [Don] And 97, and you’re still playing golf, right?
– [Abe] Yes.
– [Don] Okay. So, we have a golf team here, if you wanna know what it takes to go that long, you talk to Abe afterwards.
– [Abe] And I’m still winning.
– [Don] Yeah, and you’re still winning. Abe, you were born in 1919. Your grandfather was actually a pioneer, so, just tell us a little bit about your background.
– [Abe] Well I was born in Western Canada where men are men, and their women are nervous. I was born at home because I wanted to be close to my mother. And I was not born in a hospital, ’cause I wasn’t sick. My parents were very religious and very strict, and I was a very strong willed boy, always wanted it to go my way. I clashed with my father a lot, and at age 14 I ran away from home. I worked on a ranch, rode broncos in the rodeos, played ice hockey and baseball, and I supported myself by driving big 18-wheeled trucks. Then in 1940, some friends took me to a big tent revival meeting and I was converted. What Paul writes in Second Corinthians 5:37 happened to me, it says, anyone who is in Christ is a new creation, old things pass away, behold all things become new. And I wanna tell you, I was a new person, and I wanted to please God with my life.
– [Don] Now Abe, you have seen a lot in your lifetime. So, I was reading your book and you talk about how your dad bought a Model T Ford, the first car. You saw the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, the stock market crash, and then you were also in the Canadian Royal Air Force, is that right?
– [Abe] That’s right. Yes, at that time World War II broke out and I joined the Royal Canadian Air Force.
– [Don] And you were training, helping to train bomber squadrons, or something like that?
– [Abe] Yes, I spent four and a half years as a flight instructor and administrator, participating in the daily bombings, the destruction, the deaths, and I can tell you it was horrible. The bombing runs that we did over Germany, we’d lose 20 to 60% of our bombers and crews every night.
– [Don] So, when you were one of the few to come back, you felt God had spared your life, right?
– [Abe] I felt that I was one of the handful that came back because God had a plan for me.
– [Don] And you went to, I know we’re gonna just skip through some details of your life. You had a wonderful wife named Ellen, who I had the privilege of being pastor of, and she was your lifelong partner. You were both at Wheaton College, you went there and, you know, you were pursuing law first, and then you had this change, and something happened in a chapel at Wheaton College, what was it?
-[Abe] Yes, we had to go to chapel every morning at 10 o’clock. And the missionary who was speaking that morning, was a missionary from Africa, and he said that the heathen in Africa are being born faster than the missionary could ever hope to reach ’em. Well, that to me was a contradiction to the scripture, because the Bible says, preach the gospel to every creature. And I struggled with that, and went into prayer over that and several students joined me in prayer, because we were all concerned. And so we formed a prayer meeting to pray about this.
– [Don] When you were there, there were some other special students there, so Jim Elliot was actually a student. Jim Elliot by the way, was one of the martyrs in Ecuador, and he was leading the fellowship, the missionary fellowship at Wheaton at the time, he was a good friend of yours.
– [Abe] Oh yes. Yes, we were good friends. I remember walking across to the campus one time, and he stopped me and put his arm around my shoulder, and he says Abe, you’re a gentleman, a scholar, and a judge of good whisky.
– [Don] You know, Abe that didn’t make it into the missionary books. No, but God grabbed a hold of you and a whole bunch of students, and gave you a vision, especially for Africa at that time. What was the vision that you got as a student?
– [Abe] Well, when I got out of the Air Force, I made plans for my future, but God kept talking to me and saying, you say you’re mine, but you’re always going your own way, you never ask Me what I want you to be. And then in my devotional reading, I read and came across Mark 8:34 which says, if anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. And the Holy Spirit showed me, that if I was following Jesus, I would not be going my own way, and I wrestled with God about this, and in the end I lost. I surrendered to God, and said I would go His way. He makes the plans and the decisions and not me, and it’s that time that, let’s see, that time that I transferred from law school to Wheaton College. Because I wanted to prepare for whatever God might have for me.
– [Don] So you were living in the Golden Age of radio, and this idea of reaching many people through radio gripped your mind and heart. What gave you the idea to go to Africa and pioneer that?
– [Abe] Well, that is, I said, I began praying much about what this missionary speaker had said in chapel. And as I prayed about it with some of the guys, God gave us the idea, that if we took radio, we could multiply the voice of those few missionaries many times over and so we researched carefully what it would be like to do radio and this was 1948 and there was no radio in Africa, and God blessed me with a vision to see what He was going to do. It seemed impossible, but while in prayer, God gave me His answer. Nehemiah 2:20, the God of heaven, He will prosper us, therefore we His servants will arise and build. And if God used me to bring the new technology on the transistor radio and the satellites to preach the gospel in Africa, where we placed transistor radios in the villages. And in Liberia, a big Bassa man was looking at that radio and he says, the box that talks.
– [Don] Interesting.
– [Abe] And a man behind him said, and it talked my language. We were broadcasting in many languages.
– [Don] Now let me just set the context too, this is before the internet, it’s before text messaging and iPhones, you gotta go way back, yeah what, way, way back and you realize the revolution in communication technology in the last hundred years, so radio was the beginning, and this was a revolutionary thing. There was no, they wasn’t much radio anyway, in Africa there was no radio, and there were pioneer missionaries who started HCJB in Ecuador, to reach South America and Central America. They started a station in Manila, to reach into Asia, and then somebody had to get hold of this technology to use it in Africa, and this is the man that we’re talking to and his team. So Abe, you brought missionary radio to 62 countries, is that right?
– [Abe] Well, that was our first radio station in Liberia.
– [Don] Yeah.
– [Abe] And we built a network of six powerful stations in Africa that covered all of Africa and the Middle East nations and we were broadcasting in 42 languages.
-[Don] So, reading your book, you know, this involved building a studio, a transmitter, buildings, a power plant to get the electricity, electrical systems, preparing programs for tribal languages, building a medical clinic that became a hospital, and pretty soon, other organizations like SIM came to you and said, lead our radio outreaches well, right?
– [Abe] Oh yes. Well, I was really, especially blessed with a vision. When I think back to Wheaton College, there was my theology professor, Dr. Cleveland, and he taught us that when people are converted, God gives each one: two, three, four special gifts that he wants to use, but he said, most people never find their gifts and they’ll just stumble through life–
– [Don] Wow.
– [Abe] And I want you guys to find your gifts and focus on ’em. Well some time later, a couple of years I think it was, Dr. Cleveland stopped me and says, you have a special gift, you have vision to see what’s coming, like a transistor radio, which what I called, I saw it advertised and I called the company, and they said the little transistor’s no bigger than your thumb nail, but it’ll amplify an electronic signal 100 thousand times. And he said, we’ll sell ’em to you for $100 a piece, or if you’re a genuine research company, we’ll give you four a month. So I formed a little research company, and we built, we built the first radio, transistor radios in the world. And I took 200 of those to the villages in Africa.
– [Don] Now think about that, ’cause one thing is to do missionary radio, but if nobody has any receivers, you gotta big problem. So, he and his team were pioneering, not only missionary radio, but transistor technology, coming back to the states, meeting with corporate heads to find out how he can get this into the hands of other people, and then they went in further and they pioneered many stations. So they have these big towers that can broadcast all through Africa and the Middle East, but then these mini FM transmitters that can broadcast locally, and again it was a entrepreneurial pioneer with the gifts, the unique gifts that you have, that God used, to bring that to another continent.
– [Abe] And you know, God said in Nehemiah, He will prosper, so we’d build. When we built that network in Liberia, or in Africa rather, of six stations, was but 100 buildings and a staff of 900, or yeah, 920 people, that was what we did. And at a missionary conference in my church here at Cherry Creek Presbyterian a couple years ago, they had a seminary professor come and highlight some missions happenings and he did a couple, and then he said, and then there were those college students that went over to Africa with radio, and he says, I wanna tell you, they spent over 100 billion dollars there in five years. Did God prosper?
– [Don] Amazing.
– [Abe] Isn’t it.
– [Don] And you had written too about how the president of Liberia actually invited you to come over and kind of opened the door, and then he was converted through ELWA radio, and then he started encouraging his people to go to church in Africa, and telling them to read the scriptures, at the beginning of the day in public schools, and to begin the day with prayer. And you just think of the impact on one country, let alone 62. It’s pretty extraordinary.
-[Abe] It’s what God did, I just tagged along.
– [Don] But you also write about how it wasn’t easy, you were opposed, people discouraged you, and said you were crazy at times, right, when you started out.
– [Abe] Oh, ho, ho. Mission leaders, pastors, seminary professors, everybody said, this is the stupidest thing we ever heard, and I was struggling with all this and we came to God and He seemed to whisper to me, just stand firm, I’m taking care of it.
– [Don] Wow.
– [Abe] And I learned to walk with Him and trust Him. It wasn’t easy. But God has still got His hand on me at my age.
– [Don] I know that.
-[Abe] I’m 197.
– [Don] No.
– [Abe] No, no 97.
– [Don] 97. You’re coming close to the century mark, which is, it’s amazing and it’s wonderful. Abe, this pathway of blessing bit, now just unpack that for us a little bit. What is the pathway of blessing, and what do you want students to pick up from this? You have a little tract that you’re gonna pass out at the end of this assembly that you wrote, and you said, you really want students to grasp this message.
– [Abe] Yes, now this is something that God gave me a message from Him, and there’s a wonderful truth that God gives us in the Bible, and without God speaking, we’re nowhere. He says that He has made a plan for the life of every person, and I call it the pathway of blessing, following it will greatly enrich our lives. Everything that God does is with purpose, so let’s remember that. He made this universe, this planet, and man, and it wasn’t just haphazard, but with purpose. And the scriptures teach us that God did not make man a robot, but He gave him free will. He said, man you can go My way, or you can go your way. And if you remember the scripture, Jesus said, if you go your way, it leads to death and hell, if you go My way, it leads to eternal life. So, the people that choose to go God’s way, find that He has prepared a pathway of blessing for them, fitting them into His purposes in this world, and only on this pathway does man find a life of satisfaction, joy, and fulfillment. Now, in order to follow God’s pathway, we must have an intimate relationship with Him, and this makes for a close communication, so that we can know His will. And, if you’ve never heard God’s voice, nobody has, He gave us His word in the Bible, that’s where we go to And when God wrote in Philippians 2:13, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose. In Jeremiah 29:11 God says, I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you a hope and a future. In Psalm 23:3 he says, God guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. In Psalm 40 verse five He says, many oh Lord, my God are the wonders You have done, the things You planned for us. And in the New Testament, Ephesians 1:11 we read, in Him we also were chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of Him who worked everything in conformity with the purpose of His will. God has purpose for every one of us, and I wanna challenge you, find God’s purpose and you will have a pathway of blessing that you can enjoy ’til you’re 97.
– [Don] Abe, that’s wonderful and I just thought it’s unusual to have somebody who has that many years by God’s grace, to speak to us this morning. And I thought it’d be wonderful if before we were dismissed if you could actually pray for our students and ask for God’s blessing to lead them to whatever He’s calling them to. Would you do that please?
– [Abe] Gracious Father in heaven, we come in the name of Jesus Christ. Thank you for redemption, salvation, and our sins are gone and we can come to You and boldly seek Your plan for us. I know You have a plan for each one of us, Your word tells us that, and all we have to do is seek Your plan, Your will, and You will give us Your blessing, and so I pray for these kids, everyone, You created them, and You have a plan for ’em. Help them now to respond, seek Your plan, and follow it. And so, we will see some tremendous results from Your planning and their following. So I commit them to You in the name of Jesus Christ our Savior and amen.