Originally published in UG Christian News
Watoto Church in Kampala hosted Evangelist Bob Hoskins whose ministry organisation is on a mission to reach every young person, in every continent, with the Gospel.
Hoskins’ unquenchable desire to share Scripture has led him into sensitive nations where there’s intense opposition to the word of God.
The founder of OneHope (formerly Book of Hope International) has been an evangelist and missionary since the age of seven, and is one of the world’s most successful publishers of the Christian message in various forms of media.
Hoskins this year celebrates reaching 1.5 billion children and youth with the Good News.
In his sermon at Watoto Church on Sunday, Hoskins revealed that at a tender age, he launched his evangelism ministry, regularly speaking at tent revivals and Christian crusades in the United States.
“At the age of seven, I received an incredible baptism of the Holy Spirit. And as God’s Spirit came upon me, my body fell prostrate. I do not recall it as a dream or a vision. I felt myself literally being lifted from my body. And as I ascended heavenward, I could look back and see my body with my parents, and some other friends. And then somewhere in the heavenly, Christ appeared to me. And over the next several hours, He escorted me on a vast journey in which I saw things past, present, and things that are yet to be,” he said in his speech.
Bob Hoskins told Watoto Church that the impact of that experience was so powerful that he preached his first public sermon two weeks from that night.
“The phenomena of a small child who, because of God’s anointing, spoke with authority, and had the vocabulary of an adult, drew a lot of attention. With publicity crowds came. For the next 10 years, I traveled across America for citywide crusades preaching to tens of thousands of people every week,” he explained.
God then led Bob Hoskins to Britain, where He miraculously provided for every expense that the preacher needed during the crusades conducted in one of the nation’s biggest stadia.
“There were miracles of healing. Blind eyes opened and deaf ears heard. People came in wheelchairs and pushed their wheelchairs home. And by the third night, we had to move out of the building into the stadium. And for the next six weeks, I preached to more than 30 000 people a day.
“During the day, I had discipleship services. And among other things, I taught them God’s law of giving and receiving and, gave them the chance to give and though they were poor, they [gave]. And by the end of the crusade, every expense had been paid. There were funds to buy a piece of property to plant the first church in that country. And they gave me a love offering that enabled me to travel to countries I never dreamed I would see. From there, I continued in evangelism,” Bob Hoskins explained.
Coming to Africa
Bob Hoskins first set foot in Africa in 1955.
“I first came to evangelise in South Africa, and then in what was then called Tanganyika, and Kenya. From here, I continued evangelism around the world,” he said.
Along the way Bob married, and after that he continued with various evangelical missions in several other parts of Africa, Asia and Latin America.
He deeply desired to minister to the Muslim world in the Middle East.
In a 1964, following God’s call, Bob moved his wife and two baby boys to the city of Beirut, Lebanon, hoping to establish a base to evangelize the Arab Muslim world.
Unlike other nations where preaching the Gospel cames with less resistance, this was not the case for the Muslim countries he arrived to.
“You don’t go to Saudi Arabia, Iraq or Tunisia, and have a salvation healing crusade. They were frustrating months. I asked God, why did you bring me here where the gift of evangelist has no application,” he told Watoto Church.
“Not only could I not preach in those countries, I couldn’t even get a visa to visit those countries. But as I was fasting and praying, I began to recognise the respect that the Muslim had for their book, The Quran, and I began to study the Quran. And I found Jesus in the Quran. And I said, What about I take Jesus in the Quran, and I sort of lift Him out of the Quran, and repackage and reintroduce Him for who He really is. And by God’s grace, I created a simple set of literature pieces, which we advertised in a Beirut newspaper.
“Inquiries began to come from different countries, the Word of God began to go out to places where there were no churches, and many instances, probably no known Christians. And I made that great discovery that the power of the gospel is simply the gospel.”
Bob said as the Word of God began to go out in the Muslim world, testimonies of conversion and salvation were reported. The evangelist discovered that the power of the gospel is not in the sower.
He explained that however eloquent or capable a preacher may be, the power is only in the seed, which is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
“The Word of God is indestructible and unstoppable. God said that His Word will never return, void or empty. I found out the Holy Spirit didn’t need a passport. He is free to go where He will, when He will, how He will, among whom He will, and nothing, and no one can stop the sovereign moving of the Spirit of God.
“Across North Africa, and the Middle East there are hundreds of practising bodies of believers that never saw a church building, never met a Christian from outside; they simply received the truth contained in the Word of God. And the Holy Spirit brought divine revelation and transformation. And churches began to spring up,” Bob Hoskins told Watoto Church.
What really inspired Bob to reach out to the young generation?
He told Watoto Church that in 1987 he had a vision.
“In division, I saw that Satan was going to marshal all the devils of hell. And they were going to be given orders; attack children, destroy a generation, I saw those evil powers moving across the planet. I saw how through violence and war, how through hunger and famine, how through the proliferation of alcohol and drugs and sexual immorality, with diseases like Aids, satan was going to slaughter millions of children,” he narrated the vision.
“For days I was weeping over what I had seen. And calling out to God, I asked: ‘What am I to do?’ And the Spirit of God spoke into my spirit, and said: ‘The only thing that will rescue these children is the truth that’s found in my Word. I want you to take my Word to the children of the world. I have sent my word to heal the children.’ And then something was added that I didn’t fully understand. He said: ‘You will do this through leaders.’”
The Book of Hope
By the time Bob had the vision, his ministry was one of the largest publishers of Bibles. In obedience to God’s call, Hoskins launched Book of Hope International ministries. Over the next 30 years, as the ministry expanded beyond print to digital media, the ministry was renamed OneHope.
OneHope was founded with a goal to provide all the world’s children with the message of the Bible. The first 968 000 Books of Hope—customised, Bible-based children’s publications — were soon delivered to every schoolchild in El Salvador at the request of the country’s Minister of Education.
“We created a book called The Book of Hope. Where God guides, God provides. Now, you have to share the vision. I shared the vision and the funds came. The books were printed, and they were shipped to El Salvador, and great missionary leaders organised all the churches in El Salvador, trained people to go out into the villages to the schools, they went down the rivers, they went up to the mountains, they went to every town, every village, every school, and they shared the Word of God with every child, and the children rushed home to show the book to their parents, because it was the first book most of them had ever had for themselves.
“And parents and children begin to read the Word of God together. And what did we discover? This book is alive! God’s word is alive. Pastors reported so many new people started coming into the churches. Churches were overrun, they had to start putting up new buildings… 6 months after the children received the Word of God, peace came to El Salvador. And there has been peace in El Salvador for 33 years. And you can say it’s an accident, you can say it’s a coincidence. No, my friends, it is a transforming power of the Word of God. This book [the Bible] is alive,” he said. “For 72 years atheistic communism ruled in the Soviet Union, the churches were closed, the pastors were imprisoned, and Bibles destroyed.”
Bob tried in 1967 to take Bibles to Russia. “I was stopped, and they seized my Bibles, confiscated them all,” he said.
Later, however, following a prophetic word which was confirmed by Christian philanthropists from Sweden who were taking container loads of food into Moscow and Leningrad as the Soviet Union seemed to collapse, Bob was able to take bibles to Russia.
72 years of atheism come to an end in Russia
“For 72 years, no Bible was permitted by the Soviet Union. I met people whose parents died in prison because they had a Bible. And because of their desperate economic plight, the Soviets gave the Swedish men permission to bring 50 000 Bibles to Moscow. But they said: ‘We want the distribution to be evangelistic. We’ve seen the book of hope, we believe the book of Hope is what we should deliver. And we’ve come to get permission.’ I said: ‘My calling is to children, if ever, there’s a chance to take God’s word to children, count me,’” he said.
“Imagine the emotion we felt, knowing that for 72 years, God’s word had been forbidden, knowing that people were still in prison for having a Bible. One day, as we were taking the books to a new school, this lady rushed out to meet me. She said: ‘I’m the director of the school. As you know, I’m a history teacher. And as you know, it’s been forbidden for us to even study the history of religion. But now I have your book, and I’m going to read the book, and I believe it will help me understand the history of religion.’ I responded, ‘Excuse me, ma’am, I have to tell you. This is not a book about religion. It’s not a history book. What you are holding in your hand is the word of an eternal and living God. And in this word, He tells how we may experience His presence in our lives, through His Son, Jesus Christ.’ We entered the classrooms to share the Word of God for the first time in 72 years. There was joy and there was excitement. And we went to the next school – and the next school,” he said.
More pastors emerge!
“They thought after 72 years of atheism, the children would say God’s Word is a fairy tale and throw the books in the trash can. They were upset because the children were embracing the Word of God. Even teachers were asking to be prayed for,” Bob said.
This move resulted in the government requesting 156 million copies of the Book of Hope. Bob nearly turned down the request owing to the fact that he had no team to handle the capacity.
“In 1990, there were no churches in Russia, we couldn’t find any pastors to help us. And I had to go back and tell the mayor, I’m sorry, we can’t do it. Because there are no people to help us do the distribution.He was a communist mayor. He said to me, a Pentecostal preacher: ‘You have millions of Christians in America, go to America, get Americans to come and do it.’ Who would have ever believed such a thing?” Bob wondered.
In 1991, 270 Americans arrived in Leningrad, and Bob began to go to the schools. His team had to use Communist teachers as translators from English to Russian.
“I told you in 1990, we couldn’t find one pastor. Three years ago, I was back to do a conference in Russia for pastors. There were over 3 000 pastors, which as many as 1 786 having accepted the call to ministry due to the step of faith we took in obedience to God’s Word. God has promised that the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdoms of our God and our cries. It’s not a possibility. It’s an inevitability, it will happen because God has declared it in His Word,” he said.
Let God write your story
“Today, the Word is not only distributed in the printed form. It’s distributed through a multiplicity of technologies, and media. We have the Bible app for kids. We now are approaching 40 million downloads in over 100 languages around the world. Guess the number-one-downloaded app for Google Play in the country of Iran? It is the Bible app for kids,” he said.
“God wants to write your story. But it’s up to you what that story will be. You can decide to accept the story God wants to write, or you can reject God’s story and go your own way. And the end of that way is going to be heartache and destruction. If you let God write your story, it will not be a story of materialism, it will not be a story of secularism, it will not be a story of narcissism, it’ll not be a story of pleasure, it will be a story of commitment. It’ll be a story of sacrifice. And it may be a story that sometimes things can be difficult. But I can promise you that through every step that you take, If God is writing your story, your heart will overflow with joy. Let’s not leave one child in Uganda without witness to Jesus’ saving grace. Let’s not stop until every child in every village of this entire nation has received God’s love letter and knows that God has a story for them,” he said.
Today, Bob lives in Hillsboro Beach, Florida. He has three grown children and eight grandchildren. Bob Hoskins has survived cancer three times.