Richard Gunning is the founder of ACE – the Association of Campaign Evangelists. This group of on-fire evangelists has conducted hundreds of campaigns by systematically going from town to town until an entire nation hears about Jesus. Today, Richard Gunning tells the story of how God sent him from Belfast to the Ends of the Earth.
Discover ACE – the Association of Campaign Evangelists: http://ace-evangelists.org/
Evangelism Coach Daniel King (00:00):
Richard Gunning is the founder of ace, the Association of Campaign Evangelist. This group of on fire evangelists has conducted hundreds of campaigns by systematically going from town to town until an entire nation hears about Jesus. Today, Richard Gunning tells a story of how God sent him from Belfast to the ends of the earth.
Evangelism Podcast Host (00:37):
Welcome To the Evangelism Podcast with Dr. Daniel King, where Daniel interviews full-time evangelists, pastors, missionaries, and normal everyday Christians to discover how they share their faith, their powerful testimonies, and amazing stories that will inspire you to reach people with the good news. And now here’s your host, missionary, and evangelist Daniel King.
Evangelism Coach Daniel King (01:02):
Welcome to the Evangelism Podcast. I’m Daniel King, and I’m excited about telling people about Jesus. Today I have a very special guest with me, Richard Gunning. He is the author of From Belfast two, The Ends of the Earth. He is also the founder of ace, which is the Association of Campaign Evangelists, and they are responsible for doing many different campaigns in many parts of the world. Brother Richard, thank you so much for joining me on the Evangelism Podcast.
Richard Gunning (01:35):
It’s great to be with you today, Daniel, on just sharing some of the things that God is doing around the world.
Evangelism Coach Daniel King (01:41):
So let’s start really at the beginning of your spiritual walk Okay. And how you went to Bible school and in the nation of Norway Yeah. And really got on fire for God. Tell me how that happened.
Richard Gunning (01:56):
Well, it’s quite a long story, but I’ll try to be, to be short. I, I gave my life to Jesus when I was 20. My mother gave me a book by the famous American evangelist Billy Graham. And after reading this book, I, I gave my life to the Lord just in my own room. I suppose it was about one o’clock in the morning in January. And I was 20 years of age at that time. And then shortly after that, I, I finished my training in hotel management at a college in Belfast. And I got the opportunity to go and work in a hotel in Norway. And when I was there some, I got involved in a, in a very good church, which had some really on fire young people in it. And they took me to a convention that was held each year in the south of Norway, which was organized by a very big mission organization with a, a real focus on gospel campaigns, preaching the gospel through radio and literature and national evangelists.
Richard Gunning (03:03):
And I heard then that they had a Bible school there. And I thought, if I ever went to a Bible school, I would love to go to the Bible school that’s based at that mission organization’s headquarters. After some time I came home, but I continued to pray and to seek God. And then I decided I would take a step of faith and I would apply to this Bible school in Norway. And they accepted me and they said, You can come and join us you know, the following academic year. And that put a bit of pressure on me because I could only speak a few words of the Norwegian language and all the teaching was gonna be in Norwegian. So I, I sort of gave up the job that I had. I started reading a Norwegian bible beside my English Bible. And then one day a friend of mine told me, he said that he had a neighbor who was actually an old man from Norway who had been married for many years to a lady from Belfast and who lived quite close to where, where I lived.
Richard Gunning (04:09):
And I went round to, to see this old Norwegian man. And I told him what I was planning to do, and I said, I, I’m going to Norway. I need to learn the language. And he said, Why are you going to Norway? And I said, I’m going to a Bible school. And he said, Well, he said, I am a complete atheist. He said, I don’t believe in any God. And then he said, But I will help you. So I started going to his house, you know, two or three times a week. And he started correcting me and helping me. And together with my own studies, I, I learned the language. And then in 1982, I set off for a year at this Bible school in Norway.
Evangelism Coach Daniel King (04:55):
Now, the Bible School was led by a great Norwegian evangelist who has now gone to heaven. Yeah. Tell me a little bit about him.
Richard Gunning (05:04):
The whole mission was founded by a Norwegian man called Aril Edvardsen. And he lived in this little village in the south of Norway, and he was quite dramatically saved one night, just before his wife gave birth to their first child. And God had spoken to him in a vision and told him to buy a plot of waste grind in the little village down beside a river. And that he was to build a headquarters for world evangelism in this little valley down beside the river in this little village of 3000 people in the south of Norway. And he was obedient to this heavenly vision, and he started to build this headquarters. He started to have a convention each year, and more and more people started to come to his convention and started to support his ministry. And he started supporting many national evangelists, local people in different countries to help them spread the gospel.
Richard Gunning (06:07):
And then he started doing his own gospel campaigns, and then he built the Bible school. He built a printing press. He had a, a book publishing and distribution company. Later on, he got into Christian television, which was something very new in Europe that wasn’t common the way it is in a, in America. And so God used this man in a great way. And he, he was a wonderful servant of God. He was often referred to as Scandinavia as Billy Graham. So he was a great man of God and a great influence on my life and my ministry.
Evangelism Coach Daniel King (06:48):
You do such a wonderful job of telling your story in your new book. It’s really an, an autobiography Yeah. From Belfast to the ends of the earth. Yeah. And so after you graduated from Bible school Yeah. You became a businessman for a while. You worked in hotels. Yeah. Then you started a video. Yeah. Rental store. That’s right. But then there came a point where you decided to go to Kenya Yeah. And become a missionary. Yeah. Tell me about that.
Richard Gunning (07:17):
Again, it came back to this contact with Norway. It’s funny that I come from Northern Ireland, Norway’s a completely different country, but somehow there’s a divine connection there is the way I would like to put it. And I used to get the magazine from the, the, the mission organization every month. And they announced that they were having a trip to Kenya, and you could go with Aril Edvardsen and his team and be involved, you know, really as a spectator in his gospel campaign. My wife and I had never been to Africa. We’d never been to any kind of third world country, but we just both felt, as a recently married couple, we just really felt that God wanted us to join this trip. And we went along on that trip, and on the first night of the gospel campaign we were seated on one side of the platform, and Aril Edvardsen was preaching.
Richard Gunning (08:13):
And there were thousands of Kenyan people in a, a slum area of Nairobi, the capital city, listening to this man preaching. And as he was doing that and ministering, I, I didn’t hear an audible voice, but I could sense the voice of God speaking to my heart and saying over and over again, you can do the same. You can do the same, you can do the same. So to, again, to cut a long story short, we, we, we took a step of faith. I had a, a friend who was a Kenyan, and he invited us to come out and to, to have a big pastor’s conference and to have some meetings. And we,
Evangelism Coach Daniel King (08:53):
It’s your friend Peter, who actually you translated for in the school in Norway. Yes. And then when you went to Kenya, he started to translate for you.
Richard Gunning (09:02):
That’s exactly right. Daniel. the, the, the school took two people from Kenya each year, two pastors. And these guys obviously couldn’t speak the language, but because I could speak it, and obviously English is my mother tongue, I very quickly became their interpreter whenever we went out to have meetings. So when Peter was speaking in a church in Norway, I would interpret what he said into the Norwegian language. And then when I went out to Kenya, obviously I couldn’t speak Swahili, which is the national language. So Peter became my interpreter, and our roles were, were totally reversed. So it, it’s, it’s very strange the way God led somebody from Northern Ireland to learn Norwegian to go to a Bible school in Norway, to meet a man from Kenya, and then to later go down to Kenya and start working with the, the same man. And we’ve been working together now for 32 years down there in Kenya. And also God has opened doors for me into, you know, many other countries to go and preach there as well.
Evangelism Coach Daniel King (10:11):
So in Kenya, you started training up pastors and sending them out to very remote village areas, and it, it exploded very quickly. It did. Tell me about that.
Richard Gunning (10:24):
Basically, we just started out the name of the ministry that we felt God gave us was reached the unreached. So we wanted to focus on people in Kenya who had never heard the gospel before. If you go to the big cities in Kenya, you’ll see a lot of churches and it, it things look quite developed. But if you go out into the bush, you meet people who are living a very simple and almost primitive lifestyle. And we find that many of these tribes had never heard the gospel before, and there were no churches. So we started just driving around, just me and my wife and our friend Peter, and preaching in these little villages and sharing the gospel with people and praying for the sick. And very quickly support started to come in. And within about six months, we were supporting over a hundred national Kenyan pastors.
Richard Gunning (11:20):
And we sent them out just as Jesus did, two by two to go to different villages and different tribes and to preach the gospel and to plant churches amongst them. So that was kind of how it took off and started to grow quickly. And then we felt God challenged us about doing gospel campaigns. Reinhard bonk, the famous German evangelist, he came to the time that we were living in, We went to his gospel campaign, and then we thought, let’s start doing our own campaigns, but we’ll go to smaller times where, you know, the big name evangelists aren’t likely to go. And, and we started doing the same thing, but on a smaller scale, a smaller budget, you know, smaller crowds, but still being, you know, very effective in these smaller times where there’d never been a campaign before. And that’s always kind of been my, my vision and my desire is to go where other people don’t go.
Evangelism Coach Daniel King (12:18):
So brother Aril Edvardsen, he invited you to Russia right after the Berlin wall fell, Started working there. Yes. What did you see God do in Russia?
Richard Gunning (12:29):
Yes, Aril Edvardsen here. He knew about the work I was doing in Kenya, and he helped to support us there. And we went to visit him in Norway one time. And then he said to me quite unexpectedly, he said, I’m, I’m going to Russia because the communism has collapsed and, and there’s open doors there, and I’ve been there a couple of times, and I want you to help me. And it was a tremendous experience. We used to have meetings in these big, very old fashioned, but very beautiful theaters in different towns in Russia. And everywhere we went, you know, the places were absolutely packed. You had children sitting on the floor at the front, people standing down the aisles at the side and the back. I remember going to one place and, and the theater manager locked the door, and people were banging on the door and wanted to come in. And the, the, the management wouldn’t let them in because they, they said, you know, the place is is already far too full. There aren’t seats for everybody. You know, it’s not safe to, to let more people in. So we saw a great hunger for the gospel, and many people responded to the, the preaching. And it was just amazing to see, you know, what God was doing in Russia in the, in the 1990s especially.
Evangelism Coach Daniel King (13:49):
Yeah. So you did campaigns on your own, but 20 years ago, God put it on your heart to start raising up other evangelists and training them and empowering them Yeah. To go and do campaigns in many different parts of the world. Yeah. And so you started Ace Yeah. The Association of Campaign evangelists. Kind of tell me how that vision came to pass.
Richard Gunning (14:16):
Well, a few years previous to that, I, I’d been doing a lot of campaigns in Southern India, and I started to realize that we could go a lot quicker if I involved other evangelists. So I had a few friends in different Scandinavian countries who were also evangelists. So I invited them to come and help me. And I saw that this was very effective because then we could do maybe two or even three campaigns in one week in three different places. And that was really where the kind of vision started to take place in my heart. And then eventually I decided to take a step of faith and I booked a conference room and some bedrooms in a hotel in Belfast. And I invited everybody I knew that I thought had an interest in campaign evangelism to come to this conference. And it was a big step of faith because I was very keen that people would come.
Richard Gunning (15:15):
So I told them, We will pay for all your food and your hotel room. All you have to pay is your flight to get here, and everything else will be paid for by us. But I didn’t have the money to, to pay for it. And on the second night of this conference, we had a, a night for our partners and supporters, and many people came because they wanted to see all these preachers who had come from, you know, Africa, Sweden, Norway, different places. And just before that meeting started, a man came to me and gave me a little Brian envelope. I didn’t know this guy, I’d never seen him before. And he said, There’s a gift for your work. And just before the meeting started, I went out to the washroom and I opened this little envelope, and inside was a check for about 10,000 Pines, which was about 15,000 US dollars at that time.
Richard Gunning (16:11):
And that was enough to pay everybody’s hotel room, all the meals, and also even to give some gifts to some of these guys to help them in their next campaign. So that was really a confirmation that this was the right thing to do. And, and we kind of continued onwards from that. And it, it’s been a real blessing to, to work together with different people. And you know, we, we share contacts, we share fellowship, we try to help each other. We try to encourage each other and, and we meet together once a year for a conference like we’ve been doing this week when we’re happy to have you with us, Daniel, along with others, you know, from America, Sweden and Norway, Brazil, Great Britain, it’s, it’s wonderful that different evangelists can come together, keep their own ministry identity, but at the same time have a spirit of, of being willing to share contacts and to discuss how we can work together, how we can help each other, and to open doors for each other. And I, I think that’s the way it should be, and I think it’s good to see that in, in operation and in function.
Evangelism Coach Daniel King (17:24):
Yeah, it’s been really beautiful this morning. We heard reports of what God is doing and Sri Lanka and Bangladesh and Pakistan in Brazil. Yeah. And so all over the world, God is moving and there are great opportunities for evangelism. Yes. I, And by working together, I think we can accomplish something great for God. Yeah. You mentioned how you received this gift for 10,000 pounds. What a tremendous miracle. And in your book, you, you talk a little bit about your, your philosophy of fundraising. You, you typically have not shared your needs with people Yeah. Or put, been aggressive No. In asking people for money. No. You’ve just been trusting God. Yeah. Share with me some of the, the miracles of provision that you’ve seen God do over the years
Richard Gunning (18:15):
That, that’s right, Daniel. I, I haven’t typically asked people for money or, or, or sent out, you know, letters, you know, outlining big needs. I think one of the reasons I’ve done that is that I don’t have very many people on the mailing list. So I know that really I can’t rely on a mailing list. You know, the fact that I have a big number to meet the need. I, I’ve always really had to trust God just to speak to the right person at the right time and send in the money. And we really have seen God meet our needs in some amazing ways. I remember one time we, we needed 10,000 pines. That was about $15,000 for a conference that we were planning in Kenya. And as the date grew closer and closer, we didn’t have the money that we needed. And I just didn’t know what to do because that was a huge amount of money.
Richard Gunning (19:13):
And I knew even if I sent out a letter to people on our mailing list, we probably couldn’t generate that kind of money at that time. And one day, a young man came to our office a couple of weeks ahead of this conference, and he said, I work in a bar not far from here. And he said, on Saturday night, two men came in and they had quite a lot to drink. And he said, As I was sweeping the floor, I find this banker’s check made out to your organization for 10,000 pints. And I thought, this is absolutely amazing. I thought, I wonder, can I trust this? So I took this banker’s check down to my local bank, and because it was a banker’s check, there wasn’t a personal name on it. It was check made out by the bank on behalf of a customer.
Richard Gunning (20:09):
I showed it to the manager and she said, Let me go and check. She made some inquiries. She came back about 10 minutes later and she said, I can confirm that this check is for you. And I said, Can you tell me who it’s from? And she said, No, we can’t tell you who it’s from because that’s private information. But she said, If you write a letter, we’ll pass it on to the person who issued that check. And I did that. And then I think about a week or 10 days later, I was on holiday with my wife on the beach in, in Northern Ireland, and the phone rang and it was a man on the end of the phone. And he said, I’m the man who sent you that check. He said, I sent it in the post, but the bank have told me that it somehow got lost or stolen.
Richard Gunning (20:57):
And I explained to him what had happened, and he said, Well, he said, That’s, that’s great. Obviously God has taken care of it, and it’s find its way to you, which is what I wanted. And he didn’t gimme his name, and he just said, I heard you speak in a meeting and I like what you’re doing. And he said, I’ll, I’ll try to support you again in the future. But that was just one example of many, many such cases of where God has really in quite unexpected ways, you know, met our needs and help us to do what God has called us to do.
Evangelism Coach Daniel King (21:33):
With ACE. You have really challenged evangelists to go to small towns and small villages. Yeah. Where maybe there is not a huge crowd, but to go to places that have never had a crusade before. Yeah. Talk to me a little bit about why you feel that’s important.
Richard Gunning (21:56):
Well, the, the reason I like to go to new places is I’m always mindful of something that my spiritual father, a led edwardson, the Norwegian evangelist said, and he said, Why should some people hear the gospel? Many times when millions have never heard it once? And he used the example of Jesus feeding the 5,000. He didn’t just feed the first few rows and then give more bread to the disciples, and they fed the same rows again and again, because the people at the back would start to shout out, This isn’t fair. We are not getting any bread, and the gospel is the bread of life, and we need to make sure that everybody gets a chance to hear it. So I’ve always had this desire in my heart to go to places where people haven’t heard the gospel before. And I think that they should be the top priority.
Richard Gunning (22:49):
The people who haven’t heard should get a chance to hear, rather than focusing on places where the gospel has been preached many times, there’s many churches, there’s maybe been many gospel campaigns. I want to go to these remote places. And I often find in these places that, that that is where you see a great response to the gospel. And it’s also where you see many great healing miracles and, and wonderful things happening, because it’s like, God wants to show these people that, that this message is true. And, and he confirms the preaching of his word with signs following. So that’s kind of why I, I, I like to focus on unreached places and places that have not had a campaign before, maybe have very few churches or no churches at all. I want to give them the priority.
Evangelism Coach Daniel King (23:39):
And ACE has had tremendous results through these methods. For example, in Burkina Faso, you started to do campaigns. And now over 67 campaigns have been done from village to village, town to town throughout Burkina Faso. Yes.
Richard Gunning (23:59):
Yeah, we started in Burkina Faso in 2006. And different evangelists from Ace also started to get involved and do their own campaign there. But we tried to have a kind of a strategy of trying to cover the whole country with gospel campaigns by going to all the small to medium sized times. And, and as you mentioned, we, since 2006, we’ve managed to do 67 campaigns, and we haven’t reached the whole country by any means. But we, we, we’ve done a good spread, you know, from east to west, from north to south. We, we’ve managed to have a campaign in a lot of the small to medium size times. And that, that strategy is ongoing as, as much as possible to try and reach as many different places and have campaigns in as many different places, and kind of blanket coverage, you know, the whole, the whole state. And that’s the kind of same thing as what we did in Southern India and other a evangelists are doing in, in other countries, you know, trying to saturate the country or the state, you know, with the gospel. By, by doing these pioneer campaigns,
Evangelism Coach Daniel King (25:09):
After successfully leading Ace for several years, you saw the need for a successor for someone to come after you. Yeah. And so now you’ve handed over the organization Yeah. To another, Yeah. Talk to me about that process of finding a successor and why that’s important.
Richard Gunning (25:30):
Well, I think it’s, the whole subject of succession is very, very important because I’ve seen churches and ministries that have collapsed because the person who founded it just kept going, you know, too long, became probably too old and a little bit out of touch with how younger people are thinking. And when I became about 60 years of age, I started to think about succession. And if Jesus doesn’t come back, who’s gonna take over? And I was in a shop one day, and I saw one of these little signs that people often have in their kitchen. And this one said, You can’t start the next chapter of your life if you keep rereading the last one. So that kinda really spoke to me, and I felt I need to start looking for people that I can hand things over to who will build on the foundation that I’ve laid.
Richard Gunning (26:27):
I’ve realized in my own life that God uses me primarily as a foundation layer, you know, to lay a foundation to get something started and up and running, and then to hand it over to other people. And as I reflected on my life, life in ministry, that that’s really what I’ve been doing almost since the start, is starting something, getting it going, and then handing it over to somebody else, to, to, to develop what I’ve started. And I felt I needed to do this with Ace. And we had a board meeting, and we took time to pray, and we eventually settled on a younger man who was on the board called Yona Anderson from Sweden. And I’m still on the board, but we handed over the chairmanship of that to him. I’ve done the same thing in other countries that I’m responsible for, like in Burkin Faso and in Kenya. I’m still very much involved in both those countries, but I’ve handed the, the, you know, the main initiative and, and, and leadership of the work over to younger men who, who I feel can drive the work forward and come up with new ideas, new way of thinking and are more in touch with younger people and the younger generation than I am.
Evangelism Coach Daniel King (27:42):
I think you’re very wise in how you’ve done that. If you’re listening and you are excited about evangelism, I want to recommend that you read from Belfast to The Ends of the Earth by Richard Gunning. You can find it on Amazon. I’ll also put a link to where you can buy it on the Evangelism Podcast page for this episode. But Brother Richard, I’m inspired by your ministry. I’m inspired by the fruit that you’ve seen over the years, and thank you for your example and for your faithfulness in leading the loss to Christ for going after the unreached.
Richard Gunning (28:19):
Daniel, it’s been a pleasure to be with you, and it’s great to have you with us in the ACE conferences. We really appreciate it. Thank you. God bless you.
Evangelism Coach Daniel King (28:27):
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Evangelism Podcast Host (29:46):
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