Undaunted by strenuous travel, tropical heat, and jungle illnesses, Russ and Lynn Turner have spent nearly 40 years sharing the gospel and planting churches. And strong faith in God's plan has kept them going all along the way. From their home base in Costa Rica, they now make frequent trips to Panama, Nicaragua, Brazil, Colombia, and Peru, witnessing to, teaching, and training those who are hungry for Jesus.
Missionary Russ Turner has served in Latin America for nearly 40 years with his wife, Lynn, witnessing and discipling in seven countries. They rejoice over the work God has done in drawing His people to Himself and healing lives for eternity. “There are two things that are eternal,” Russ says, “the Word of God and the souls of people. Everything else will pass away.”
Russ uses the In Touch Messenger to help spread God's Word among unbelievers and mature Christians alike, knowing that its features will make discipleship easier for both. "What a great tool this is. Especially for people that can't read," Russ says, noting a not-uncommon barrier to sharing faith where the Turners serve.
The Messenger's audio material means those who were excluded from studying the Bible can now hear the life-giving Word of God and be refreshed and discipled to a degree that was previously impossible. "Now we can listen to Scripture whenever we want," said Evangelio, a man from a village in Panama.
Today, the Turners minister to indigenous tribes in places like the Amazon basin and the Panamanian highlands. These people groups often live in remote areas and while they have churches, many of their pastors have no opportunity to attend seminary. Reading challenges and inexperience can lead to church divisions, drifting, and doctrinal error.
“Now we can listen to Scripture whenever we want.”
Russ Turner demonstrates use of a new Messenger to Pastor Aniceto Caballero, whose congregation is part of an indigenous community of Ngäbe-Buglé people in the highlands of Panama. Aniceto, who is blind, finds the audio content on the Messenger helpful: he can use the Bible portions and the messages from Dr. Stanley to help him prepare sermons.
Just as they seek to leave no person untouched by the grace of the gospel, Russ and Lynn are unwilling to leave pastors struggling alone under the weight of church responsibilities. So Russ travels regularly to isolated communities, training pastors in preaching, Bible interpretation, and church management.
Aware of the urgent need for materials, Russ gives In Touch Messengers to pastors so they can continue their study of God's Word and find support in the sermons included. In one mountain village, a blind pastor received the newest version of the audio device, saying, "I like the Messenger because I can prepare messages with it. My church is continuing forward. The people are coming."
Russ is relieved to know he can help these pastors in the desire to lead their churches with wisdom and skill. "What I like about the Messenger," he says, "is you not only have the New Testament in Spanish or Portuguese and a native language like Ticuna, but also wonderful biblical teaching from Pastor Stanley along with the 30 Life Principles. It's like a Bible institute in audio."
The Ngäbe-Buglé people live on reserved land in remote areas of Panama called comarcas. These girls, from a small village in the mountains, walk up to four hours to reach a clinic and a store that sells staples. Such communities often have churches, but local pastors usually cannot attend seminary. They need training to help them stay true to the gospel and lead their congregations wisely.
“What I like about the Messenger is you not only have the New Testament in Spanish or Portuguese and a native language like Ticuna, but also wonderful biblical teaching from Pastor Stanley along with the 30 Life Principles. It's like a Bible institute in audio.”
Meanwhile, Russ and Lynn continue sharing God's love with everyone they meet, from local pastors and church volunteers to gas station attendants, ferry passengers, and government employees. Russ carries In Touch micro SD cards on his travels so he can leave the Word of God with anyone who has an SD card slot in their cell phone. "If I had a thousand," he says, "I could just throw a bag in my pocket and give them out everywhere."
A man prays in his home on Deer Island, a small community off the coast of Panama. Much of Panama’s population identifies as Christian, but many people have lapsed in their faith or lack an assurance of salvation due to a limited understanding of the gospel. Today local churches as well as evangelical missionaries are reigniting the faith of many through passionate outreach and discipleship.
An almost 40-year journey as missionaries hasn't always been easy, but with faith, endurance, and love, Russ and Lynn have learned to accept hardship and trust in God to make a way. "Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world" (1 John 4:4) has been their constant prayer, and it has sustained them through many trials. As Christian communities grow in island villages and jungle outposts, the Turners rejoice over lives transformed, families restored, pastors encouraged, and churches shaped into healthy expressions of the body of Christ. To God be the glory.