Faith & Family: Pastor travels to spread word of God
VIDALIA — If the Rev. Troy Thomas preached the same sermon he gives at Bethel Church on Sunday thousands of miles away in Africa, churchgoers might not be pleased.
“On a regular Sunday morning (at Bethel), I might preach for 45 minutes,” Thomas said. “People travel from miles and miles away to hear the word in Kenya, so if I preached that short over there they think I’ve short changed them.”
Thomas, who is the pastor at Bethel Church in Vidalia, departed Monday for Nairobi, Kenya, where he will spend two weeks spreading God’s word.
The trip is Thomas’ fourth to Africa since 1996, when he first began taking mission trips.
“We support missionaries in different lands, but there is nothing like going yourself,” Thomas said. “In the Bible it says go to the world and preach the gospel to every teacher.”
Through a Swahili translator, Thomas said he preaches for hours each day to groups of people who long to hear the word of the Lord.
“I usually get up at 9 a.m., and sometimes we’ll still be in service until 10 p.m. at night,” Thomas said. “Last time I came to Kenya, people slept on the grass overnight waiting until the next morning because they didn’t have the money to pay for hotels.”
Thomas said he had little trouble relating to the Kenyan people despite needing a translator for them to understand his message.
“I know they’re getting something out of it even if they can’t understand me,” Thomas said. “There are certain things I love about preaching in a foreign land.”
Preaching in an area with such devastating poverty, Thomas said, makes him appreciate the things he has in Vidalia more after each visit.
“A convenience we have in our church that we commonly overlook is air conditioning,” Thomas said. “Over there, there are no air conditioners, and we’re in tents for several hours.
“There were several times where so much sweat was pouring down that my socks would be wet.”
But at the end of each day preaching, Thomas said the minor inconveniences are outweighed by the positive life experiences from which he gains.
“There’s a passion the African people have for the Lord that is really contagious,” Thomas said. “I can’t help but bring that passion back with me when I return.”
Thomas has preached all over the world including Russia, Mexico, Ghana and the Ivory Coast.