Ralph Bethea

Ralph BetheaI grew up as Douglas said, with the most incredible life you could imagine. I had the burdensome task of providing the meat for a hospital in Southwest Tanzania where my father was a medical doctor. The hospital had 92 beds, but we usually had about 400 patients.

To provide an adequate meat supply, I had to go big game hunting four times a week. For a teenager, that was a tough task; but I endured the hardship. Because the hospital was short of medical staff, my father taught me how to perform hernia operations when I was 15 years old. We had many awesome times.

It still thrills me to go back to Southern Tanzania. These were places that we never thought there would be an expansion of the gospel like there is today. But when you go there, village after village displays the sign of the cross. What an awesome thing. I used to run with the Masai people when I was a kid. In fact, I was a blood brother to a group of them which was a great honor to me when I was growing up.

Hunting in America is different.  In Tanzania, you go after Cape buffaloes with spears. Now that is hunting! We usually won 15% of the time, and the buffaloes won 85% of the time. We usually said that the buffaloes won after the fifth guy got a broken leg or broken arm. It was magnificent to have grown up in such an environment, and I've been blessed by these experiences.

Like a lot of people growing up in Christian homes, I never really knew what you had, until you realize what a non-Christian home is like. I thought my home was just like the homes of others. I heard my parents talk about the Lord, and I learned all the language. I never made it real in my own heart. How many of you know you can say all the right words and miss God? And you know whom I admired.

I used to go big-game hunting with a guy from New York. He was a rich, old guy who had about a dozen high powered rifles, and I thought, man, that's really living. He is the only guy I knew that would fly his own motor home to Africa so he could go big game hunting. He would employ me as his game scout, and I thought this is it.

Once in Africa, there was a lot of turmoil in the eastern part of Zaire, which is now the Republic of the Congo. The rain forest gets about 400 inches of rain per year. Everything grows huge in that place where the gorillas live. There was also an enormous quantity of natural resources, including diamonds. I had heard that they were mining diamonds in the region. I decided I was going to make my fortune in the diamond mining industry. It didn't take me long to find out that it really wasn't a place for a young kid. It was a rough and tough life. It was the first time I had ever seen a place that had a military perimeter. I should have known that this was not a good place to work. But, I had heard about how you could get rich quick mining diamonds.

They needed workers and supervisors for the mines. I went to the mines, and they ran me through the paces, kind of put me in a few menial jobs, gave me a better job, and finally they put me in charge of one of the mines. We were mining and hauling diamonds. The company was flying jet planes from who knows where to haul out the diamonds every day.

There was a group of people who were called mercenaries; they were based out of Madagascar at that time. They worked for the President of Zaire. They had put down what was called the Simba Revolution in Sudan. They had slaughtered hundreds of thousands of Christians, a terrible massacre in Southern Sudan. The president had hired the mercenaries to go up to Southern Sudan which they did ruthlessly. Some of these mercenaries were hired as employees of the diamond mines. Everything was going along well until the mercenaries got involved in a pay dispute; and the mercenaries decided they would pay themselves by taking over the mines and mining the diamonds in this region of Zaire. They figured they could whip anybody in Africa, which was probably true at that time.

I was working for them and knowing it wasn't the right thing. Then one night at about 2:00 AM, bombs and grenades started going off and the whole world seemed to explode. I looked outside to see tracer bullets flying through the air. At that time, nobody in Africa knew how to do a "High Altitude, Low Opening" (HALO) approach. This means that you skydive at nighttime over the African Jungle and open your chute about 200 feet off the ground and hope you don't misjudge. Only a few of the special ops teams can do this. It is very dangerous to do, but is very effective as a surprise attack. The President of Zaire had made a pact with the Belgium paratroopers who knew how to do the HALO approach. All of a sudden, they made a HALO approach; everything was exploding, bullets and guns. I had never seen anything like this. I did the intelligent thing; literally, I dug a hole and got in it.

There were about 550 mercenaries and many mine workers. Only 48 of us survived, and we were captured. They rounded us up and were very angry as you can imagine. Most of the Belgium troops pulled out and left the slaughter that had taken place. The mercenaries and mine workers were in jail facing judgment. This was typical, if you have been in a lot of the parts of the world where there are no human rights. The captured were angry and fighting each other. We were given a brief trial and were told, "See that wall over there?" There were already bodies lying at the bottom of the wall where the Belgians had executed the prisoners. The Belgium leader said, "Tomorrow morning, you will never see the sunrise, because your bodies are going to lay crumpled in the heap at the bottom of that wall."

Then we were put in prison. This was the first prison cell I had ever been in. We were crammed in there. Most of the guys were wounded. This was the first time it had ever occurred to me that I could die. When you're young you just don't think of dying because you have your whole life ahead of you. It had never occurred to me that I wasn't going to have a long and happy life with time to make decisions. This was a real wake up call for Ralph. There were fights that night in jail. People were angry, and one of the Cuban guys was sitting over near the wall with half of his leg blown away. He came up to me and said, "Do you know God?" I said, "I know about God." He said my mother told me I was going to die like this. He quoted me, "He who lives by the sword dies by the sword." He said "I didn't believe her, but somebody told me you had missionary parents. Would you tell me about God?" I said, "Senior, you are going to have to give me a little bit of time, because I have to get right with God first myself."

I was so embarrassed because I had no excuse. None. I had all the privileges to know who Christ was, more than anybody on the face of the earth, but I had never made Him Lord. Beyond anything else that I say this is the most important thing. Get straight with God. You can fool everybody else, but you can't fool God. I fooled everybody else. Everybody that knew me would have said, "Oh yeah, Ralph's a Christian." But I knew I wasn't. I intellectually believed in Christ; I just didn't believe it with my heart. I hadn't given my life to Him. I got down on my knees and started praying. I asked God, "Forgive me for being an embarrassment and making such a horrible waste of my life." One of the mercenaries came over, and started urinating on me while I was praying. He said, "You little pansy, what's wrong? Can't you die like a man?"

But I was committed. I was so committed to changing my life that I wasn't going to let any more excuses stand between me and God. You see, there are plenty of hypocrites in the world. If you let a hypocrite stand between you and God, that just means he's a little closer to God than you are. "Oh somebody did me wrong!" --That's no excuse. The whole thing is about what you are going to do about God. That night, I asked Jesus Christ into my heart and into my life. I asked Him, “Lord these few hours I have left, I want to live for you.” I turned facing Manuel, and told him I was ready now. It wasn't long before Manuel was on his knees, and we had to pretty much hold him up because one leg had been half blown off. While he was praying, one of the other guys came up and slugged him in the side of the head. That was about the way things went -- back and forth all night. Later that night, they brought in four more guys who had been hiding. This brought our number up to 52 guys. Out of this group, eighteen professed Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. We got in a little huddle and pretty

 much settled everything. Eighteen had made their decision. We were ready for death. For the first time in my life I could face death, and I wasn't afraid. It was an amazing transformation. Every thought was about my impending death. I didn't have long to live, and I have been an embarrassment to God on this earth; He's going to let me into His Heaven!

Dear friends, even though you don't think you have time to witness to somebody, take the opportunity that is available. It may be at work, it may just be a few seconds that you have with somebody. You never know what it will mean.

I didn't find out until a year later that my parents had gotten up in the middle of the night, led by the Holy Spirit, and got on their knees in prayer. They didn't know where I was because I didn't tell them where I was working. I knew they wouldn't approve. But they walked with the Lord so closely that they knew something was wrong. God still does care for His own.

A man came to the back door of the prison cell and things had degenerated. We tried to pray, but things were degenerating faster. He was wearing a white Belgium pilot's uniform. He touched the cell door, opened it, walked into the cell, and motioned for me to come out. Some of the others in the cell said, "Don't go, it's a trick, you're an American. They'll let you go out and then shoot you in the back and claim you were trying to escape."

I thought, so I'm going to die an hour earlier? When you die in Christ, it makes you dangerous to Satan. You can live boldly. You can risk what nobody else is willing to risk because you know that God is with you even unto death. He motioned for me to come out and I did. I went outside and he said to me the strangest words, "Your life has been spared. Live it for Him." I knew exactly what it meant. People can say angels don't exist here on earth, but I can tell you I think I met one. But I wasn't really sure because he told me to go down to the river and I would find a canoe. So I went down to the river and, sure enough, there was a canoe, and I paddled cross the river. When reaching the other side, I climbed up the plateau and heard airplane engines. Right there was one of those DC3's. I went up to the plane and the little doorway was still open so I went inside. On the folder, on the side of the plane, was a blue passport, an American passport, my passport. I looked at this passport and I thought, well that wasn't an angel. That was one of these Belgium pilots. Thank you Lord.

I walked into the cockpit to thank the pilot that had gotten me out prison. One of the pilots said, "Who in the heck are you?" I had never seen either one of them before. They had never seen me. Another pilot said, "What are you doing here?" I said, "What are YOU GUYS doing here?" The pilot said, "Well, we got lost and we had to land our plane here to refuel. We're about to get out of here, do you want a ride?" I said, "Yes sir." We flew to a place called Gaboo, one of the armpits of the world. The next day the headline in the newspaper read,

"52 mercenaries executed in Zaire."

I was the fifty-second prisoner. I think about it a lot of times. Who took my place? And the answer is so plain. Of course, my Lord took my place. He took every one of our places. When we deserved to die, he stood in our place. Now that you have heard an incredible testimony, it is important that we ask Christ into our life. It is important for us to receive the power of the Holy Spirit. We can ask to receive the Holy Spirit according to Luke 11:13, and God will give it to us. Scripture also tells us that the Holy Spirit was given to believers through the laying on of hands. The empowerment for witnessing enabled the speaker to lead eighteen others to Jesus Christ.

Ralph Bethea Hearing His Voice Testimony

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Ralph Bethea Testimony