‘Some close calls’: Suffolk native pens autobiography
Published 6:34 pm Wednesday, February 18, 2015
A Suffolk native who conducts an international evangelism ministry has published an autobiography about the first 50 years of his life.
It is the first hardback book for Gene Strickland, a Nansemond-Suffolk Academy alumnus, who also has written a 30-day devotional called “I Am Free.”
The new work, “Amazed by His Grace: What God Can Do When You Surrender Your All,” started to take shape after Strickland’s 50th birthday. He’ll be 52 in May.
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“I’ve had some really cool stories and some close calls,” Strickland said. “It was kind of the catalyst for writing the book. It flowed pretty quickly.”
Strickland started his crusade ministry, Evangelism International, in 2008. He has done crusades in India, Ghana, Nigeria, the Philippines and more and has requests from 14 more countries.
“Our first crusade was in July of 2009,” Strickland said. “That was in Kenya, near the Uganda border. It went very successfully, but there was Islamic opposition. That was the awakening, to me, of what you run into if you are going to preach the Gospel in other parts of the world.”
In the Philippines, his team had to have a bodyguard 24 hours a day. Last year, he was in Africa during the time the Ebola scare was gaining steam.
“Thankfully, God protected me,” he said. He’ll be in Tanzania this spring.
To set up a crusade, Strickland takes requests from pastors in the area where he will be ministering. They are required to gather support from other pastors in their area, from every Christian denomination.
“If their church preaches salvation or a way to God through Jesus Christ, then we’re on the same team,” Strickland said.
The churches team up to provide the venue, stage, lighting and other needs. Strickland and his team, which includes two associate ministers, pays for its own lodging through fundraising throughout the year.
“We’re responsible for our part, but they’ve got ownership in it, as well,” Strickland said.
Crowds are usually in the thousands, but they saw tens of thousands in India.
“India’s probably where we’ve seen the bigger results,” Strickland said, providing a simple explanation for the reason: “They have more people.”
At the end of the 2014, the ministry had seen 33,576 people give their hearts to Christ, Strickland said.
Neither Strickland nor the associates takes a salary from the ministry — they have their own jobs. Strickland and one of the others are pastors at Norfolk’s Virginia Heights Baptist Church, and the other is an attorney in Alabama. They also have crusade directors in different parts of the world — one in Europe, one in Africa, one in Asia.
Strickland’s new book is available on Amazon and in local bookstores, including the Christian Bookstore in Suffolk. He’s holding a book signing in at the Family Christian Bookstore in Virginia Beach, 4314 Virginia Beach Blvd., on Feb. 28 from noon to 2 p.m.
For more information on the ministry, visit www.evangelisminternational.us.