Johnson City evangelist takes message to world

Nathan Baker • Nov 24, 2019 at 12:00 AM

Despite a baptism by fire into Christian mission work, evangelist Stephen McKay has been trying to spread Christianity to people all over the world for more than a decade.

McKay proved his mettle in Christian mission work at 19 years old, an assignment in Papua New Guinea after joining up with Pentacostal evangelist B.H. Clendennan’s School of Christ International.

His father was an avid follower of Clendennan, and in 2002, took his family on a trip from their home in Alberta, Canada, to one of Clendennan’s ministers conventions in Beaumont, Texas.

McKay said his dad, “was not a minister, he just loved the Lord.”

At the convention, McKay, then just 16, said he was impressed enough to want to take part in the organization’s one-month discipleship program, a “boot camp with the word of God.”

He attended the program in the summer of 2004 in Quincy, Illinois. It was there he met his future wife, Jessica.

After graduating from the program, McKay said he felt burdened to go on a mission, so he approached Clendennan and signed up.

Eight months later, he was on a plane from Canada to the South Pacific with an older pastor from Alabama. It took three days to reach the remote village in Papua New Guinea for which they were destined.

Much to McKay’s surprise, after about a week, the other pastor took him aside and said he would be returning to the states, leaving McKay in the foreign country alone.

“It was just like that. He gave me a few instructions, and I was just expected to blaze a trail with the organization there,” he said. “I was just 19 years old, and it really made me grow up overnight. I learned the language in six months. There were no other foreigners there for miles around.”

But he said he thrived. McKay lived in Papua New Guinea for three-and-a-half years. He built a house and oversaw the building of a whole compound for training pastors.

When his mission was over in 2008, he returned to the U.S. He married Jessica and, after a stint in an Alabama church, moved to Johnson City, her hometown.

In 2010, he started Vessel of Honor Ministries and began travelling the world to spread his faith to others.

In 2014, while working in Kenya, he said he was called to preach to people who had never heard the gospel before.

As McKay explains it, the statistics are in his favor.

The 7 billion people on the planet can be classified in three ways, he said. The unreached are people who live in a country where less than 2% of the population have heard about Christianity. The unevangelized live where more than 2% of the people have heard about it, but Christianity is a minority religion. The reached live in a nation in which a majority of the citizens are Christians.

More than 3 billion people, almost half the world’s population, are considered unreached, he said, yet 95% of mission work is done in places considered reached.

McKay’s ministry targets the unreached, where he believes he can do the most good.

“These people have no concept of the gospel,” he said. “It’s hard for me to hear that. We’re trying to make a dent in that massive number of people.”

He’s worked in 38 countries and preached in exotic locales, sometimes in places where his safety was a concern.

In Congo, during a large Ebola outbreak, armed soldiers accompanied him and his party on a convoy through the jungle to protect them from militant rebels.

Still, when they got to the town where he was to preach, he received a hero’s welcome and a captive audience for a week of meetings.

“I will never forget the forgotten people of Congo,” he said. “Soon we will return again, but this time we will venture even deeper into the jungle.”

In December, he and others from Vessel of Honor will go to Burundi for mission work.

In addition to the missions, Vessel of Honor also supports two orphanages in Myanmar and hopes to develop a relationship with another in Kenya.

Africa and Southeast Asia are full of orphaned children, McKay said, who need help. He hopes Vessel of Honor can change some of their lives for the better.

After Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday comes Giving Tuesday, a day after several dedicated to consumerism on which people donate some of their money to charitable causes.

McKay said he hopes Vessel of Honor and its mission is one of those causes.

For more information, visit www.vohmintl.org/ or look for Vessel of Honor Ministries on Facebook.

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