The Table Podcast

Serving Communities at Home and Abroad

In this episode, Dr. Darrell L. Bock and Mr. Ron Nelson discuss serving local and global communities, focusing on his ministry with Sowing Seeds of Joy.

Timecodes
00:15
Nelson’s background in community service
11:06
How Nelson began Sowing Seeds of Joy ministry
16:54
What is Sowing Seeds of Joy ministry?
21:43
Training Christians to serve local and international communities
29:25
The impact of short term missions
39:47
How God prepared Nelson for this ministry
44:49
How Nelson and his wife serve local communities
Resources Sowing Seeds of Joy
Transcript
Darrell Bock
Welcome to The Table where we discuss issues of God and culture. I’m Darrell Bock, Executive Director for Cultural Engagement at the Hendricks Center at Dallas Theological Seminary, and my guest today is Ron Nelson, who runs a ministry called Seeds of Joy with his wife, Star, and he just has a wonderful personal story and the ministry is a wonderful ministry.

So we thought we would talk to him about it, and in the midst of sharing before we recorded here, Ron started his story back at Florida State. So we’ll start there, even though we’re in Texas. We’ll start there and let you roll.

So you were in school at Florida State and you were a sprinter. Is that right?

Ron Nelson
That is indeed right. First of all, thank you for the invitation here.
Darrell Bock
So 100-yard dash, 200, 400? What –?
Ron Nelson
All three.
Darrell Bock
All three.
Ron Nelson
300, 200 and the 400, of course.
Darrell Bock
Okay.
Ron Nelson
Started at age 16, almost broke the world – tied the world record as a 16-year-old.
Darrell Bock
Hmm.
Ron Nelson
That’s way back, back in the day.
Darrell Bock
Yeah, yeah. You’re not that fast now?
Ron Nelson
Oh no.
Darrell Bock
[Laughter.]
Ron Nelson
I’m running for Jesus [laughter.]
Darrell Bock
That’s great. So you graduated from Florida State and then what happened next?
Ron Nelson
Well, I graduated from Florida State. Of course, I ran track there at Florida State, and went on and got married. My wife and I have been married now for 38 years.
Darrell Bock
Congratulations.
Ron Nelson
Thank you, and went on down to Miami and from there, got involved in law enforcement, and from law enforcement, from Miami back to Tallahassee, still competing athletically-wise, but spent most of my time in Tallahassee in my younger days as a Tallahassee police officer.
Darrell Bock
And man, I could ask you questions about that but I’ll pass. We’ll pass through that phase, and so where did you go from Tallahassee as a police officer? What was next?
Ron Nelson
Well, as a police officer, I had several assignments. One, in particular was a DARE officer, Drug Abuse Resistance Education, loved it immensely, but the department wanted to make a change, and they wanted to put me back on what was called a power squad, and that was working from 6:00 p.m. to 4:00 a.m. in the morning.

I wouldn’t do that. It was a job I did well, but it really in terms of working with family wasn’t that good. So I wanted to make a change, and my pastor there in Tallahassee, Florida invited me to come on staff there. So he gave me up.

Darrell Bock
Well, let me go back to the police thing. So was a power squad, was that like a SWAT Team or –?
Ron Nelson
It was a squad, primarily it was the time that we were to work, from 6:00 p.m. to that 4:00 a.m.
Darrell Bock
Okay, so while everyone else is tired, they’re calling you power?
Ron Nelson
[Laughter.] Yes, that was the heat of the night, if you will.
Darrell Bock
Mmm-hmm.
Ron Nelson
Things were happening at that time.
Darrell Bock
Right, sure.
Ron Nelson
We were, that squad was —
Darrell Bock
On call.
Ron Nelson
On call —
Darrell Bock
Yeah.
Ron Nelson
— and dedicated to doing that work at those hours.
Darrell Bock
Oh, wow. So you said – and my understanding is your wife was an encourager in this regard?
Ron Nelson
My wife —
Darrell Bock
[Laughter.]
Ron Nelson
— did not really, particularly like what I was doing because remember I — in Florida State, I was a sprinter.
Darrell Bock
Yeah.
Ron Nelson
So I would love for people to run away from me. I would chase people down.
Darrell Bock
Mmm-hmm.
Ron Nelson
And there were – there wasn’t too many times. There were a number of times that she would receive a call from the police department said Ron, he’s at the hospital. He’s okay.
Darrell Bock
Mmm-hmm.
Ron Nelson
[Laughter.] But so I got in one of those foot pursuit situations a number of times, and then she just said if you’re gonna do that type of work, I’d prefer you not wear a uniform.
Darrell Bock
Mmm-hmm.
Ron Nelson
And she was with the post office at that time, and that’s the first time I heard about becoming a United States Postal Inspector, and so I left as a police officer, and eventually a year later or so, after eight years, took a position as a United States Postal Inspector.
Darrell Bock
Oh wow, and so I don’t even know what postal inspectors do. What do they do?
Ron Nelson
United States Postal Inspectors are similar to the FBI.
Darrell Bock
Hmm.
Ron Nelson
There are 200 laws on the Federal – on the books, Federal laws governing the United States mail, and there are probably about – when I was a part of the service, about 1,600 U.S. Postal Inspectors in the country.
Darrell Bock
Hmm.
Ron Nelson
They kinda like to take a back seat in terms of not that much publicity.
Darrell Bock
So you can – can you tell me what you did or is there – or –?
Ron Nelson
Yes, yes.
Darrell Bock
I’m – I just wanna make sure my life isn’t you know —
Ron Nelson
[Laughter.] Well my specialty, I was put in Little Rock, Arkansas, and I – my specialty and my assignment was identity theft, robbery, assaults and burglaries with the United States Post Office.
Darrell Bock
Interesting. So I’ve done – I’ve been the victim of identity theft. So I appreciate the work that you were doing. Okay, so you’re a postal inspector, just minding your own business, right, doing, taking —
Ron Nelson
Postal Inspector, minding my own business, working Little Rock, Arkansas, at the same time heavily involved in my church in Little Rock.
Darrell Bock
Yeah, okay. So you were involved with your pastor, and so explain that transition, because you had a taste of ministry in the midst of being a postal inspector. Talk about that change.
Ron Nelson
Well, back in Florida when I was transitioning from being with the police department, and eventually taking a position as the inspector. There was an interim there where I thought I was not gonna be involved in law enforcement, and what particulary took place is I did not become – I went back to that power squad.

Things weren’t going good there, and I shared this information with the deacons of my church at that time. They prayed, laid hands on me, and my pastor at that time was out of town, and he eventually a week later called me in his office and said if you’re willing to leave the department, I want you to come on staff.

Darrell Bock
You know, all churches have an Internet where information gets to the pastor.
Ron Nelson
Yeah [laughter.]
Darrell Bock
[Laughter.]
Ron Nelson
They do. They do indeed, and you know, he was really informed as to what took place on a Wednesday night, because he was not in town at that particular time.
Darrell Bock
And so I sat down with him. He said come on staff, so I left the police department at that time, and became what is called Minister of – a liaison. I was a liaison between the pastor and about 46 ministries. The Director of Ministries was my title.
Ron Nelson
Didn’t have any – you know, qualifications. I didn’t go to seminary or anything, but I accepted the position. So God whet my appetite with ministry at that time.
Darrell Bock
Hmm.
Ron Nelson
Mmm-hmm.
Darrell Bock
So you worked there for a while and then my understanding is you made a – well, you’d been attending conferences that Tony Evans had been hosting?
Ron Nelson
Oh yes, yes. I eventually accepted a position as the inspector. They put me in Little Rock, Arkansas, and the church in Arkansas was sending its volunteers and its leaders to Dr. Tony Evans’ conferences here in Dallas, Texas, and they were doing that for several years.

And I was – every year, I would come to those conferences to learn and to grow, and one particular year, 2006, 2007, I came to that conference and I heard God speak to me and said take your resume. That was the second time God had spoken to me.

Previously in Florida, God said in a room with leaders, he said who would go for me and I said — I mumbled under my breath, here I am Lord, send me, not knowing what the future was gonna be like.

Darrell Bock
Hmm.
Ron Nelson
Yeah.
Darrell Bock
So you submitted a resume to Tony, Tony’s a good friend and – Pastor Evans, I’ll treat him with respect and what happened? What happened next?
Ron Nelson
Well, I took that resume to the conference, gave it to then the outreach pastor, and that resume wound up on the desk of Dr. Evans, and two weeks later, I got a call from his secretary because I went on-line and found out that at that particular time, they had a position open for Director of Missions, and I had gotten so involved in missions at my church in Little Rock, and missions became a part of my DNA, and I just wanted to do something with regards to missions, and I wanted to be back on church staff, because God had whet my appetite —
Darrell Bock
Earlier.
Ron Nelson
— earlier in 1995, and so he invited me and my wife, because I asked him could I bring my wife for an interview to talk about this position as Missions Director, and I came down to Dallas from Arkansas. We had about an hour conversation, hour or so, and I accepted a position, not that position but I accepted a position.
Darrell Bock
Now – so he had you do what first? In other words you were –?
Ron Nelson
Well, it was interesting. My background of course I said a police officer, and in Florida I was a DARE officer, Drug Abuse Resistance Education officer for a number of years there, where I would work in the school system. I had about 15 schools that I worked with kindergarten on up to high school, 12th grade, and talking about staying off drugs and that sort of thing.

So I had some experience working in the school system and working with kids. Dr. Evans has a program called – where he would send volunteers into the school system to mentor.

Darrell Bock
That’s right.
Ron Nelson
And he had a position also open as a Director of Public School Outreach, and it was that position that he offered me and I accepted.
Darrell Bock
Now what led you – we haven’t talked about this. What led you into having so much a desire to serve the community? Because it’s out and most of what you’re doing represents really significant community service.
Ron Nelson
Well I just – I love working with people. I love working with people, and even as a police officer, or as a police officer, of course that’s a community position you are engaging with people all the time, and I just have this nature about me, about helping people.

I don’t know where it comes from but I do have this, some people, a servant heart. So I have that heart in me.

Darrell Bock
Hmm.
Ron Nelson
Mmm-hmm.
Darrell Bock
Okay, so you’re working in the public schools, again, just minding your own business, doing your job, right?
Ron Nelson
Right.
Darrell Bock
And another change comes. What’s next? What’s next in your resume?
Ron Nelson
Well, like I said, once I got to Little Rock and working in the – as a U.S. Postal Inspector, and then working very heavily in the church as a volunteer, I did community outreach, worked in prisons, went into the prisons, did a number of things.

My wife and I led small group studies for married couples, a variety of things, and so I started feeling this calling if you will of God just drawing me closer to him.

Darrell Bock
Hmm.
Ron Nelson
And that – it really just took over my entire being to the point where I recall on one Wednesday, noon day service, I’m sitting, listening to the preacher preach, and it was during my lunch hour from – as an inspector, and tears started flowing.

Just I could not move, and the pastor came up to me and he looked at me, and he had that look and I said – he said – I said I don’t now what’s wrong, I’m just crying. He said I know what’s wrong and I said no, no, no, no; I’m not called to be a preacher.

He said Ron, not every preacher is meant to stand on a pulpit on Sunday mornings, and then that’s when he asked me a few days later to start a missions initiative. I hesitate to say program. I don’t like the word program, but to start a program missions at this church that was not doing missions and because – and people ask Ron, how did you get involved in missions today and feel so strongly about it? One word, obedience. That’s the word.

Darrell Bock
So this was earlier. This was before you came to Tony’s church, right.
Ron Nelson
Before I came to church.
Darrell Bock
So you had – you said you whet your appetite with ministry but you also whet your appetite with missions, and then so you’re in – so years later, you’re in the public school, you know, serving Oakcliff through this initiative in the public schools, and there’s another transition. What transition was that?
Ron Nelson
Well, when I finally did get to Oakcliff and I really thank Pastor Evans for bringing me on board, learned so much under his leadership. For six months, I did that. I was in the role of public school, Director of Public School Outreach, because of my previous background as a police officer, and so I did that for six months.

Things were going okay. I remember, I recall one volunteer looked at me and she said Ron, you look like a fish out of water [laughter] and I knew what she was talking about but then things got to Dr. Evans, and he and I went to lunch, and over lunch, he asked me a question about tell me about your trips to Kenya, to South Africa, to Haiti, and I began to expound on all those trips and so forth.

And he, in the middle of a bite of a hamburger, he said you light up when you talk about missions, and indeed, I did, and we had our lunch, went back to our offices on Friday, and on Monday morning I got a call from Dr. Evans, and he said you are no longer the Director of Public School Outreach. You’re now the Director of Missions.

Darrell Bock
Hmm.
Ron Nelson
And that was the transition. So for five years, that’s what I did at Oakcliff Bible Study.
Darrell Bock
So you were working with missions there, and of course a very active church, a significant church in the city and — but I think your story is I’m not done, there’s something else coming. So what came after being Director of Missions at Oakcliff?
Ron Nelson
Well, let me back up just briefly.
Darrell Bock
Okay.
Ron Nelson
Prior – when I left and stepped down from being a United States Postal Inspector, because my wife and I were taking these teams to various locations, Kenya being one of them, and in 2006, came home from taking a team to Kenya, short-term mission, a trip to Kenya, and it was November 2006 and I heard God speak to me in my spirit, said walk away from your job, and I was doing extremely well there.

My wife was Postmaster, making a very good salary, and he said walk away, and I told my wife that evening. We prayed, we cried a little bit, and the next day, I went and resigned.

Darrell Bock
And this was a good job. I mean —
Ron Nelson
Oh.
Darrell Bock
Yeah, and – and so you were – that was risky.
Ron Nelson
Yes, it was – it was one of those things. It doesn’t make sense, did not make sense at all. I didn’t have any idea what I was gonna do and my wife and I said well, let’s just start a ministry, and we started a ministry called Sowing Seeds of Joy out of Psalms 126.
Darrell Bock
Hmm.
Ron Nelson
And we went through the process of getting a non-profit, and it took off from there, but it was also at that same time, I had this hunger to be on church staff, and at that same time we launched Sowing Seeds of Joy, I also looked at coming on board with Dr. Tony Evans.
Darrell Bock
I see, so you were doing two things at once, basically?
Ron Nelson
Mmm-hmm.
Darrell Bock
Okay, well let’s – we know what ministry in the church is like and what it’s like to run a missions program, but let’s transition now to Seeds of Joy. Let’s talk a little bit about that.
Ron Nelson
Sure.
Darrell Bock
So what year – what year was this that we launched?
Ron Nelson
This was 2006, 2007.
Darrell Bock
Okay. So you’re – you’re multiple transitions in 2006 and 2007, if I’m hearing it right.
Ron Nelson
Yes, sir.
Darrell Bock
So you’ve moved from Arkansas to Dallas and you started off in the public schools, and you transitioned to missions, and at the same time, you’re launching this ministry from scratch.
Ron Nelson
Right.
Darrell Bock
Okay, so I hear the name, Seeds of Joy and I go it’s a wonderful name but I have no idea what that ministry is about.
Ron Nelson
[Laughter.]
Darrell Bock
So tell me what Seeds of Joy is about?
Ron Nelson
Sowing Seeds of Joy is a ministry. We are mission mobilizers. My wife and I are mission mobilizers, and we felt very strongly about spreading God’s Word, the seed, and doing it not only in word but also indeed.
Darrell Bock
Hmm.
Ron Nelson
But also using that as a platform to educate and equip others about global missions, cross-cultural missions.
Darrell Bock
Mmm-hmm.
Ron Nelson
We found out that many, specifically African-American and I’m an African-American, many of them are not involved in missions, and the many places that we’ve gone: Haiti, Kenya, now and we’ve gone to Nigeria, Papau, New Guinea, all these various places that we have traveled over the years, we have been asked the question where is the African-American?

We’ve been going on trips. When I say we African-Americans do do missions, but it’s not talked about as much and it’s kinda sporadic, and not many African-American churches are truly involved in missions, and we saw that void. I like to say African-American missions, MIA, they’re Missing In Action.

Darrell Bock
So missions mobilization. So is it – so I take it, it’s a combination of awareness and experience. Well, let me ask you one other question before we get there, and that is what moved you in the area of missions? Did you take a short terms missions trip at some point, or did you do it on your own initiative, or did you go with someone? What whet your appetite for this?
Ron Nelson
There were a number of things. One, I told you, obedience, and my pastor back in Arkansas, when he asked me to take on that endeavor, I was obedient. This was the man of God.

This is my pastor and I just said this is something I need to do, and at the same time he said go learn all you can from one of the largest churches in the area who is doing true missions work.

At that time, they were going to Haiti, visiting teams. So we partnered with this particular church and I began to learn everything they did in terms of going over there.

Darrell Bock
So your first overseas missions trip was to Haiti?
Ron Nelson
To Haiti.
Darrell Bock
Okay.
Ron Nelson
To Haiti.
Darrell Bock
Which I’ve never been but I’ve heard it’s an eye-opener.
Ron Nelson
It’s an eye-opener.
Darrell Bock
Yeah.
Ron Nelson
If you can go to Haiti, you can go anywhere [laughter.]
Darrell Bock
Yeah.
Ron Nelson
Yes.
Darrell Bock
So the poverty is deep and immense?
Ron Nelson
The poverty is deep but the people are real.
Darrell Bock
Yeah, well that’s true. I find that to be – my experience at least in this part of the world began with Guatemala, and I found people who were very, very poor but managed – tried to manage to go through life as positively as possible.
Ron Nelson
Yes.
Darrell Bock
And very open about the things of God.
Ron Nelson
Yes, exactly.
Darrell Bock
Yeah.
Ron Nelson
Exactly.
Darrell Bock
Yeah, so Haiti was your first experience and you said you’ve been to Kenya. How soon after Haiti did you take a trip to Kenya?
Ron Nelson
We went to Kenya first, I believe it was right around 2004. We met a couple who had been married here in this country. They’re Kenyans and they have – they actually live here in Dallas, and we met them in Arkansas but through a course called perspective, a gentleman said – met them and said you need to meet this African-American couple whose heart is for missions.

And prior to that, I learned that this Kenyan couple had not had many positive encounters with African-Americans as far as missions is concerned.

Darrell Bock
Hmm.
Ron Nelson
And so we met them. We invite this couple to our home. We had service, worship service at our home, and I knew God was saying there was gonna be a relationshp here.

So it was in 2004 and 2005 thereafter, they journeyed, went on back to serve their people in Kenya, and it was 2005, we were asked to come and do some workshops in Kenya, and then started the relationship. So we’ve been going every year.

Darrell Bock
And how long after the Haitian trip was this?
Ron Nelson
Well keep in mind we’ve been doing, since 1998 we were doing – going to Haiti.
Darrell Bock
Okay.
Ron Nelson
Two or three trips a year to Haiti, and that was since ’98 all the way up until 2004.
Darrell Bock
Okay.
Ron Nelson
And so it was the Haiti trip, and then one trip in-between there to South Africa and then came —
Darrell Bock
Interesting. So you’ve been – so I’ve been to South Africa as well. That is also a fascinating place.
Ron Nelson
Yes.
Darrell Bock
So – okay. So obviously, you have developed a lot of experience to do what you’re doing. So let’s say I walk in the door. Okay, and I – or I call up Seeds of Joy, or I go on a website. I’m assuming you have a website.
Ron Nelson
Yes, we do.
Darrell Bock
It’s Seeds of Joy and I’m curious; okay, let me have it, what are you gonna do with me?
Ron Nelson
[Laughter.]
Darrell Bock
[Laughter.]
Ron Nelson
The first thing we’re gonna do is pray.
Darrell Bock
Mmm-hmm.
Ron Nelson
[Laughter.] We’re gonna pray and then we’re gonna get to know who you are. One of the things that we take great joy in, in terms of our ministry is there’s this acronym that we – I’ve come up with RISE, R-I-S-E.
Darrell Bock
Mmm-hmm.
Ron Nelson
Okay. Relational, Intentional, Strategic and Evangelistic. The R first, I want to get to know you. You know, one of the questions that people ask all over the world, what do you do? That’s the wrong question. Who are you?
Darrell Bock
Mmm-hmm.
Ron Nelson
And so I ask who are you, I get to know – and we hit it hard about serving, and wanting to do it globally, and then why this interest in missions, and then we talk about how we can cultivate that, because one of the things we take very serious about discipling individuals through this process, I tell people it’s not important. It’s not important where we’re going: Kenya, Haiti, Papau New Guinea. It’s not the destination. It’s the journey, you know.
Darrell Bock
Mmm-hmm.
Ron Nelson
And so that’s what we would do is sit you down and we will talk to find out why you want to get involved. Okay, what do you wanna do? Why is God calling you to the mission field?

Even if it’s short-term because our goal in Sowing Seeds of Joy is to whet your appetite so much and encourag you so much that you may even consider going long-term, because the percentage of African-Americans involved in the long-term missions is very, very – less than one percent.

Darrell Bock
So okay, so we sit down and get to know one another. So we’ve had our coffee, we’ve done our meal. We’ve had our conversation. What’s next?
Ron Nelson
Then we determine, looking at the trips, the various trips that we have going on, what would be a good fit for you, and then it’s the application process of doing that, and then we talk about how that trip is gonna unfold.
Darrell Bock
Mmm-hmm.
Ron Nelson
We start a training program in terms of – we have a training program where we start training you from anywhere from six months, eight months or six months out, before that trip.
Darrell Bock
Mmm-hmm.
Ron Nelson
Because it’s short-term.
Darrell Bock
Right.
Ron Nelson
And short-term doesn’t have – sometimes it has a bad connotation going on short-term. We like to think that we wanna do it right, and especially an African-American community, they’re not going on short terms at all that much.
Darrell Bock
Mmm-hmm.
Ron Nelson
So we take great joy and pride, and we like to say we wanna do everything with a spirit of excellence. Training is very important. Preparing you to go. I recall taking one young lady to Brazil and she was so excited about going to Brazil, but then about three weeks out, she was sitting at one of our meetings. She said this is work [laughter.]
Darrell Bock
Surprise, surprise.
Ron Nelson
Surprise, this is not a vacation.
Darrell Bock
Yeah,. Yeah.
Ron Nelson
It’s not a vacation. This is God’s work and we’re going to do what he’s called us to do, and by the way, you can find out a whole lot about him and yourself during this encounter.
Darrell Bock
Well, that’s true. I mean you know I say to people who’ve never had a cross-cultural experience that you know, try it, you’ll – you may or may not like it but you’ll learn a lot about who you are.

I mean it really is a challenge. So your short-term trips, are they one week, two weeks? How long do they generally last?

Ron Nelson
Depends on where we’re going, of course.
Darrell Bock
Okay.
Ron Nelson
We, again, we’ve been going primarily to Kenya, and then we have South – Capetown, South Africa.
Darrell Bock
Mmm-hmm.
Ron Nelson
We actually have a ministry called Sowing Seeds of Joy, South Africa.
Darrell Bock
Oh.
Ron Nelson
We have Sowing Seeds of Joy, Kenya.
Darrell Bock
Now where do you work in – this fascinates me because I have been involved with Capetown myself. Where in Capetown do you minister or is it various places?
Ron Nelson
Various places. We took a team several years back to Capetown, South Africa in the city, and in those regions there, near Capetown.
Darrell Bock
Yeah.
Ron Nelson
And we worked with a local pastor who is a missions pastor there.
Darrell Bock
Hmm.
Ron Nelson
He and his wife have spent about 15 years on mercyship, and then they left there, and he became a missions pastor at that church, and we went there, and we went through several communities, showed the Jesus film.

We had a wonderful, wonderful experience, and my wife and I brought – we came home with our small team, and then we happened to Skype, and did a debriefing with this pastor.

Darrell Bock
Hmm.
Ron Nelson
He says Ron, I really like your story, what you and your wife are doing.
Darrell Bock
Hmm.
Ron Nelson
He said I’m not – I did not ask for permission but my wife and I stepped away from our church.
Darrell Bock
Hmm.
Ron Nelson
And we have now – we now have a non-profit called Sowing Seeds of Joy, South Africa.
Darrell Bock
Oh, wow,
Ron Nelson
And we’re the star, the founders.
Darrell Bock
Oh, wow, yeah.
Ron Nelson
[Laughter.]
Darrell Bock
Well I mean I’ve been in some of the townships in that part of the – that part of the world and have spoken in churches, again, in the middle of actually one of the more violent parts of Capetown, and with a ministry that is just absolutely dedicated to serving the people.

And in fact, we had the pastor here to tell his testimony, because he has one of the most amazing testimonies I’ve ever heard in my life and just – it’s a fascinating but a challenging place to do ministry because there’s – there is so much swirling around many of those communities.

Ron Nelson
There’s one community that they do a lot of work in, it’s called Hanover Park. It’s gang-infested.
Darrell Bock
Exactly.
Ron Nelson
Yeah, and so this particular team, this pastor and his wife, they do trauma healing, workshops and healings in that community, and a couple of years back, my wife and I were there, and I was there, and walked with this pastor through those streets, and literally one set of gang was on one side of the street, and the other, but where I was so impressed with this pastor, he was going door to door.

We were walking the streets and you can hear voices in the crowd saying don’t mess with the pastor. So they didn’t mess with the pastor. So they respected him.

Darrell Bock
Yeah. That’s a very similar story to the community that I ministered in and I mean in fact the last time I was in South Africa and we had actually just spoken at his church, and there had been literally a murder a few houses away from the church that he was having to deal with from a pastoral perspective.
Ron Nelson
Yes.
Darrell Bock
It’s an incredibly intense ministry.
Ron Nelson
Yes.
Darrell Bock
Well, so you’re – you’re – if I can say this way, you are taking people into some really challenging situations in many cases.
Ron Nelson
Yes, for example in Kenya, we do a lot of work on the coastal region of Kenya, just in the Samaria and we go in the areas. That particular area is 98 percent Muslim, and so we go share the gospel and we have been in situations where of course there were a number of shootings in the area, church bombings.

I recall at one particular church, I had to preach directly after there was a bombing not too far from that church.

Darrell Bock
Hmm.
Ron Nelson
So yes, we’ve gone into a number of places where it’s very dangerous, very dangerous.
Darrell Bock
Wow, well so we’ve had our coffee and you’ve done the training, and now you’ve told me about where you’re taking me and I’m really nervous.
Ron Nelson
[Laughter.]
Darrell Bock
But so what do you hope happens with someone who takes on a short-term experience?
Ron Nelson
That last word you just said: I want them to truly have an experience with God. I want them to learn and understand that God, you know, he is doing an amazing work all over the world. I like to tell individuals, find out where God is at work and join him there.
Darrell Bock
Hmm-hmm.
Ron Nelson
Okay, and to have an experience. One of the books that we do devotionals on our trips, and one that I’ve gone back repeatedly to is Experiencing God, Henry Blackaby.
Darrell Bock
Mmm-hmm.
Ron Nelson
And then every time I use that as a devotional on the field, I learn. I learn something different every single time.
Darrell Bock
Mmm-hmm.
Ron Nelson
So but again, to your question, I really want them to have an experience with God, and I try to tell them be opened to have an experience in the littlest of things. In the littlest of things, don’t miss. I said do not miss God in the littlest of things.
Darrell Bock
Interesting, so when you go overseas, I mean obviously there’s ministry but is it strictly preaching and evangelism or is it – are other things associated with what you end up doing when you go overseas?
Ron Nelson
There are other things that are associated with it. One of the things that we take great joy in doing, and it’s a non-negotiable. We do not go with our agenda.
Darrell Bock
Mmm-hmm.
Ron Nelson
I tell individuals we’re going to serve, and so I ask wherever we’re going, I ask our host how can we serve you, and there are times where we’ve gone and what we have intended to do completely changes.

Completely changes, and so we’ve gone and we’ve done, we worked in schools, going into schools and to teach. We just brought – I took a team to Belize not too long ago; very easy country to go to, two-hour flight from Houston, probably one of the most visited locations for short-term teams.

Darrell Bock
It’s true, yeah.
Ron Nelson
And we went there to do one thing but then we were asked when we got there to do some training and teaching with young students. So it really – it didn’t – it just threw us – threw us off of what we normally were gonna do and that was evangelizing, door to door street evangelism and that sort of thing.
Darrell Bock
So when you go into a school, what kinds of things did they have you doing there?
Ron Nelson
Well, let me just talk briefly about Belize.
Darrell Bock
Okay.
Ron Nelson
We’ve gone there and we’ve ministered in the schools. We’ve shared the gospel in the schools, but as also we’ve gone there as encouragers. Belize has a situation where there’s abuse with the young girls, real tragic situations in terms of the young girls being abused and taken advantage of, and that sort of thing.

The young boys, the young men are being ministered to but we have been told and have experienced the fact that a young girl is not being ministered to.

So my wife and I have been taking teams for the past two years to go into schools and minister to the young people, talking of a variety of things of how God wants to use them, but also talking about their own self-worth.

Darrell Bock
Mmm-hmm.
Ron Nelson
And how valuable they are.
Darrell Bock
So on the one hand, you’re preaching the Word. On the other hand, you’re kind of serving in the way that the host community is asking you to serve.
Ron Nelson
Yes.
Darrell Bock
Are there any other – this is not the best description but are there any other related kinds of things that you do besides preaching and sharing, besides the local schools?

Is there – you know, the short-term work that I’m familiar with, oftentimes people go in and they’re building stuff or things like that. Are you doing those kinds of things as well?

Ron Nelson
I have done things like that. For example, in Haiti, we added additions. We went and took a group of men down there and added to a church that needed some additional space. So men like to do things.
Darrell Bock
Yeah.
Ron Nelson
So we gathered some men here locally from one of those smaller organizations, some homeless people too, men, and took them to Haiti to do that addition. We were building wells.
Darrell Bock
That was the next question.
Ron Nelson
We got a well.
Darrell Bock
Flash to the next question, yeah.
Ron Nelson
We had just finished in partnership with a church out of Arkansas and just completed a well in Malindi, Kenya, and then we’re looking at a location about two hours outside of Mombasa, putting in a well there. So there are a variety.
Darrell Bock
Why is that important? I mean most people say well, so what’s the deal there? I mean –?
Ron Nelson
Well the deal there is that I spent three months just recently in Kenya, and I journeyed with a pastor friend of mine in Mombasa. He had planted a church two hours outside of Mombasa in a very rural area, and he and I journeyed there.

It took us two hours by car, bad roads and everything, and I’m looking around and I’m going where in the world are you taking me, and we finally landed and drove to this location where he had planted a small little church, and out of the woods and everywhere, these people started coming.

Darrell Bock
Hmm.
Ron Nelson
Women, small children and the elder. I met the elder of the church and he – God had blessed him to the point where he gave land, so the church could be planted there.

And as a result of that one church, the government decides to bring a school to God be the glory, but I asked the elder what was it – what else is needed? Because one of the things I noticed, as we sat there for a brief little message, they didn’t have any chairs, and these children went in the fields and started bringing out these large boulder rocks.

Darrell Bock
Hmm.
Ron Nelson
And that’s what we sat on in this little small building, all right.
Darrell Bock
Hmm.
Ron Nelson
So since that time, the church that planted it had been able to get them some chairs. They preferred benches but they got them some chairs, but I asked what’s the greatest need? They said we have no water in this area.
Darrell Bock
Hmm.
Ron Nelson
So they cooked for us and the water they brought in was carried by hand, buckets over their heads and that sort of thing, two miles out.
Darrell Bock
Mmm-hmm.
Ron Nelson
And that broke my heart.
Darrell Bock
Hmm.
Ron Nelson
You know, no water.
Darrell Bock
Mmm-hmm.
Ron Nelson
You know, not only did that – they had no electricity. They were playing their – they worshipped and prayed, and did all these things, and had this little keyboard but it was hooked up to a car battery.
Darrell Bock
Hmm.
Ron Nelson
[Laughter.] Things we don’t —
Darrell Bock
I’m sorry, I haven’t seen that. I have to be honest with you.
Ron Nelson
Yeah.
Darrell Bock
So this is a challenging ministry but when you do something that seemingly is that simple, it really does change that community, doesn’t it?
Ron Nelson
Oh, yes. A matter of fact, the ministry, Sowing Seeds of Joy, Kenya, their motto is transforming the community through the local church.
Darrell Bock
Hmm.
Ron Nelson
And it does make an impact. The smallest things make an impact.
Darrell Bock
So what happen – you build a well and what happens? I mean the people now have access to water. They’re able to take care of themselves better, et cetera. It just improves the environment of the community.
Ron Nelson
It improves the environment, improves the community. The whole status in terms of the community, in terms of pride and joy, not only do we – did the wells.

I recall in that community, not too far from that community, well there’s actually Malindi, near a place called the Sabaki River, we outfitted some like 70 families with water filters.

Darrell Bock
Hmm.
Ron Nelson
Because in the Sabaki River, that’s where they got the water and in that river, everything you can probably imagined happened in that river, and the diseases that come from that, the children and that sort of thing.

So we went in there, and using as a point of entry, because the ultimate thing is to share the word of God, and so we used water filters as a point of contact, point of entry into sharing the Gospel.

Darrell Bock
Because I imagine the reaction to that is that these people have come from a long way and they really show that they care about us, and then all of the sudden, people’s ears are opened, and they are really, really ready to listen to what it is that you have to say.
Ron Nelson
Yes, indeed, and I’m glad you brought that point up because everywhere we’ve gone, we haven’t gone just once.
Darrell Bock
Mmm-hmm.
Ron Nelson
How about twice? Three or four times, because people, they don’t wanna – there’s the old saying, people don’t wanna know how much you know. They wanna know how much you care.
Darrell Bock
Exactly.
Ron Nelson
They’re just building relationships.
Darrell Bock
That’s right, yeah.
Ron Nelson
Just building relationship, and that’s what we take joy in. Remember, I said RISE, Relational. We take a great bit of joy in trying to build an established relationship.
Darrell Bock
And so I take it then that just to flip back, your training is designed to help people understand kinda just, one, what they may face but two, kind of the mindset of what you’re going in to do. Is that where the training is focused?
Ron Nelson
Yes, yes. It is focused on really taking God and taking Christ in there and being a great example, a great witness. You know, it’s not so much about the doing. It’s about the being.
Darrell Bock
Mmm-hmm.
Ron Nelson
And that’s what we take it, and so people go well, I’m going to go take Jesus there. First of all, Jesus is already there.
Darrell Bock
Yeah, it’s right.
Ron Nelson
He’s already there, okay.
Darrell Bock
Yeah [laughter.]
Ron Nelson
All right, but God may be speaking to you, more so than you going to speak to someone else. All right, so the training is, the emphasis is placed on going in there, and going in there with the right mindset. Okay, and not to mess things up because there are people who are doing a great work wherever we go.
Darrell Bock
Mmm-hmm.
Ron Nelson
And you just don’t wanna go in there and mess things up. You wanna go in there with a God-like mind, Christ-led, and be willing to learn and be very teachable. I like to say be FAT. Be Flexible, Attentive and Teachable.
Darrell Bock
Nice.
Ron Nelson
[Laughter.]
Darrell Bock
So, I’m fascinated. So where did you learn all this? I mean because I mean you know that doesn’t just drop in your lap.

Where did you develop this sensitivity for – one, for missions and two, for people, and three for the cross-cultural experience that says we’re gonna go in and we’re gonna serve, and we’re gonna serve wherever needed, and we think all of that enhances what we do when we wanna share the gospel.

Ron Nelson
Very good question. I like the – I like to say God has just tagged me to do it. It’s been placed in my heart. I didn’t ask for this. I thought —
Darrell Bock
Well, that’s been clear from your story.
Ron Nelson
[Laughter.] I didn’t ask for this. No and – not indeed, and my wife did not ask for it. When people see us and they see what we’re doing, I remember – recall just even just recently we had an interest meeting, and the lady that came and said you guys are annointed to do this.

Whatever that means, again, we’re obedient. We’re following but we have a love for it, a passion for it. It’s trial and error. One way we’ve learned things. I mentioned, if I did not mention, I took a course called Perspective and there’s a very, very good discipleship, leadership course that focuses on missions, but you will – it’s an eye-open – it will give you an eye-opener in terms of what God is doing cross-culturally, globally.

Darrell Bock
Yes.
Ron Nelson
What he’s calling all of us to be about, the Great Commission, you know.
Darrell Bock
It’s a fabulous story. I mean I just – I just really wanna commend you just for one, the nature of the ministry and two, the way in which you’re going about it.

It’s – and my guess is that you’ve also had probably some pretty good mentors in teaching along the way that have helped to frame the way you view ministry.

Ron Nelson
Well, I mentioned also – I mentioned Dr. Tony Evans [laughter.]
Darrell Bock
Yeah, well, that doesn’t surprise me.
Ron Nelson
You know, one of his books, The Kingdom Agenda is – I highly recommend it, and then there’s been other books that I’ve read: John Piper, let the nations be glad, you know, a hole in the gospel.
Darrell Bock
Yes.
Ron Nelson
So a lot of reading that I’ve done, all right, going to a lot of seminaries. I mean it was conferences as such, and then and just being open to what God is leading us to do, and I say that one term that I develop is that when I was in Kenya, riding sort of like a conveyor belt from one floor, it was in a mall.

A matter of fact, it was the mall that was shot up by terrorists, and we had just missed that situation, but in that mall, you could take a conveyor belt that will take you from one floor to the other, and I stepped on that belt to go to the next floor and I heard again – God does a lot of speaking to my spirit.

He said what you’re doing, this is what I want. I want you to flow in obedience, and the only way you would get out of that is that you decide to step off. Now he was talking spiritually to me. Of course, I had to step off and go.

Darrell Bock
Right, right.
Ron Nelson
But he said with all with – just flow in obedience.
Darrell Bock
Mmm-hmm.
Ron Nelson
And this has not ben the easiest work I’ve ever done.
Darrell Bock
No.
Ron Nelson
This has been tough.
Darrell Bock
Oh, yeah.
Ron Nelson
I mean I tell people working as a police officer is a lot easier than this.
Darrell Bock
Interesting. You know, we haven’t talked about your wife very much and the role that she plays in this, which is probably – I mean we’re running out of time which is sad but tell me a little bit about what Star does in the ministry?
Ron Nelson
Star does everythign. Like I said, we’ve been married 38 years and even in retrospect, I can see how God has placed us together to do what we’re doing today.
Darrell Bock
Hmm.
Ron Nelson
She is right there by my side. She handles a lot of the logistics, and then she’s a praying woman, a Godly woman, and so that makes doing this a lot easier. I just told her last week or so, I said I cannot do this without you.
Darrell Bock
Hmm.
Ron Nelson
And so yes.
Darrell Bock
Yeah.
Ron Nelson
She’s a strong lady.
Darrell Bock
Well, this is an amazing story. Tell us a little bit about how, if people wanna find out about Seeds of Joy, how they can find out about you?
Ron Nelson
Well, a couple of ways. One, you can go to our website, SowingSeedsOfJoy.org, and you can even send us a message.
Darrell Bock
All one word, SowingSeedsOfJoy?
Ron Nelson
All one word, SowingSeedsOfJoy.org.
Darrell Bock
Yeah.
Ron Nelson
And of course you can go to our website and send us a message by that, by way of that. Also, the mailing address is SowingSeedsOfJoyInfo@Gmail.com.
Darrell Bock
Okay.
Ron Nelson
So that’s one way, and then of course you can give us a call.
Darrell Bock
Okay, and how often – how many trips do you take a year?
Ron Nelson
We take at least five to seven trips a year.
Darrell Bock
Oh, wow.
Ron Nelson
[Laughter.]
Darrell Bock
And those are all overseas, so you’re —
Ron Nelson
Those are all overseas.
Darrell Bock
You’re Visa busy.
Ron Nelson
Visa busy.
Darrell Bock
[Laughter.]
Ron Nelson
We have been known to take teams. We trained a church in Mississippi and we took them. They were wanting to – wanting to take baby steps, if you will.
Darrell Bock
Mmm-hmm.
Ron Nelson
And we took them somewhat in their own neighborhood. We took them to New Orleans. On at least three occasions, we took them to New Orleans and partnered with an organization called Wah-Wham.
Darrell Bock
Well, that’s actually cool, I mean to think about doing this kind of work locally, because most people will jump at the chance to go overseas, but will be slow to do it internally.
Ron Nelson
One of the things, when we train churches, one of the questions we ask them, what are you doing here at home?
Darrell Bock
Mmm-hmm.
Ron Nelson
We don’t – to go somewhere else and you’re not doing it at home, that’s not good.
Darrell Bock
Mmm-hmm.
Ron Nelson
Okay. We even have a workshop called Bloom Where You Plant It.
Darrell Bock
Mmm-hmm.
Ron Nelson
And so we talk about it, and my experience with Dr. Evans and leading ministries and working as the Director of Ministries, I was the Director of Missions and Evangelism. So prison ministry, I’m familiar with. Street evangelism, I’m familiar with.

There are about four or five other ministries that I oversaw, okay, in additions to missions, but so I can walk into a church and say what are you doing here at home, in your Jerusalem?

Darrell Bock
That is great. Well Ron, I mean it has been just a real – it’s been a joy [laughter.]
Ron Nelson
[Laughter.] I’ve enjoyed it. Thank you, sir.
Darrell Bock
To hear your story and to hear about your ministry and to see how you are putting together really just a commitment to walk with God and in the midst of that, grow this ministry that has such terrific sensitivities in terms of how to apply what the Word calls us to do and to be.

I really appreciate your taking the time to be with us and I – and we just trust that the Lord continues to bless your ministry, that you and Star just shine as you minister to people and seek to help these various communities, that you get the opportunity to go into. It’s a real pleasure.

Ron Nelson
In Swahili, sawasawa [laughter.]
Darrell Bock
[Laughter.] I have no idea what you just said to me but I’ll tell you it’s good, yeah, yeah, and we thank you for being a part of the table and we hope you will join us again soon.
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Darrell L. Bock
Dr. Bock is senior research professor of New Testament and executive director for cultural engagement at Dallas Theological Seminary. He has authored or edited more than forty books, including Jesus according to Scripture: Restoring the Portrait from the Gospels, Jesus in Context: Background Readings for Gospel Study, Studying the Historical Jesus: A Guide to Sources and Methods, Jesus the Messiah: Tracing the Promises, Expectations, and Coming of Israel’s King, Who Is Jesus?: Linking the Historical Jesus with the Christ of Faith, and Key Events in the Life of the Historical Jesus: A Collaborative Exploration of Context and Coherence.
Ron Nelson
Ron Nelson is a licensed and ordained minister, is co-founder of Sowing Seeds of Joy, an organization founded in 2007 to connect the hearts of people to the heart of God. We do this by empowering church leaders and believers through discipleship and training. Our belief is that effective evangelism leads to community transformation. Ron holds a B.A. in Vocational Rehabilitation and Counseling, and is a former police officer, US federal agent, and mission director at Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, TX.; he now serves as a mission mobilizer, Perspectives Coordinator, and certified Evantell trainer. Ron’s travels and experience has taken him to Haiti, Belize, Brazil, Jamaica, Papa New Guinea, Austria, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Nigeria, Kenya, Philippines, South Africa, and countless regions and cities of the US.
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