By Michael Ashcraft –
Smuggling drugs into Australia, Richard Brooks didn’t realize the taxicab driver he got from the airport was actually an undercover cop who had been tipped off about him.
Richard was convicted and sentenced to a prison term. In jail, a guard gave him a Bible and a Christian book We Can Take the Land from an incipient church-planting movement called Christian Fellowship Ministries.
Richard got saved and became enthralled with the idea of evangelism, discipleship and church planting, concepts described in the CFM book.
When he was released from prison, Richard was deported to America. It was the days before the Internet, so Richard couldn’t find one of the CFM churches and attended a Calvary Chapel in Palmdale, CA.
He joined a missions trip to Romania, where he locked eyes with Anita in Brasov. They married, and Richard, living in Brasov, started a Bible study prompted by his unbridled enthusiasm for his Christian faith.
It was soon after the fall of the Iron Curtain, and Romania had just opened up to the gospel along with all the other nations of the Eastern Bloc.
Taught communistic atheism all their lives but seeing the futility of communism, endless streams of young people were looking for a real hope and wound up attending his Bible studies. Richard used We Can Take the Land along with the Bible but missed some of the finer points of church-planting.
“People were getting saved, but Richard didn’t really know what to do with them,” says Greg Mitchell, head pastor for CFM.
In 1991, Richard and his wife came to America to take care of paperwork in America and visited churches seeking help and direction for his burgeoning ministry. Renewing his license at the DMV in Palmdale, Richard spotted a “Potter’s House Church,” one of the names of CFM churches.
He sauntered across the street and chatted up a man mowing the lawn and found out it was the same group he was captivated with in the book. He met the pastor, got connected with CFM founder Wayman Mitchell and was ordained for ministry in Romania.
Greg Mitchell, Wayman’s son, was the first to stage a healing crusade in support of Richard, and they rented the old communist propaganda auditorium, Casa de Cultura. “It was absolutely packed,” Greg says. “Hundreds were saved every night. We had tremendous miracles.”
A young teenager wanted to become a translator, so he prayed and “God instantly gave him the ability to translate English,” Greg says. “He was my translator. Some of it was a bit rough.”
Richard needed to know even the liturgy: worship, prayer, offering, preaching.
Greg had to fly out before the last night of the revival services, so he trained the newcomers in 10 minutes how to pray for the sick. New convert teenagers prayed. A 17-year-old girl prayed for a blind woman, Greg says.
“Then the woman instantly could see,” Greg says. “Incredible miracles. From a drug bust… that’s a work of God.”
Workers went to Romania and the work grew. They met in a converted barn for years. After a few years, Romania began to plant out church workers to start new works. The gospel spread in the nation.
Today, the church that started by a converted trafficker has planted 10 churches in Romania and seven foreign works in Switzerland, Moldova, and Greece. In 2015, Richard died of a heart attack.
“God is in charge. He is able to direct people and put them where they need to be,” Greg says. “He divinely orchestrated.”
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About this writer: Michael Ashcraft is a financial professional in California. He is a pastor in Van Nuys, CA, with the Christian Fellowship Ministries.