John Rusk doesn’t mind being called a “maniac” for missions. During his more than three decades in global ministry, the Foursquare area missionary for Southern Africa has been on plenty of extreme adventures with God. His latest one begins in May, when he plans to trek by motorcycle from California to Georgia to ignite excitement for Jesus and a passion for missions.
On May 2, John, 59, will drive his Kawasaki KLR 650 motorcycle off the stage of Angelus Temple at the close of the Sunday service and onto the streets of Los Angeles, then follow the center stripes all the way to Foursquare Connection 2010 in Atlanta.
His 5,500-mile zigzag course will take him through more than a dozen states, where he’ll connect and pray with Foursquare pastors in more 30 cities. He wants to inspire others to take similar radical steps for God while also raising financial support for Foursquare Missions International (FMI).
“I want to stir people up to get out there and ask themselves, ‘What can I do?’ ” John told Foursquare.org. “And my hope is that this trip will generate some giving that will help raise money for missions.”
He expects to arrive in the Georgia capital a week before Connection 2010, where he’ll take part in pre-convention activities. In choosing to be sent out with prayer in dramatic fashion from Angelus Temple, Rusk said he will be following the example of Aimee Semple McPherson herself.
“To illustrate one of her sermons, [Aimee] rode a motorcycle onto the stage,” he said. “I’ll ride off the stage instead.”
John will ride solo on his dual-sport Kawasaki, a hybrid street and dirt bike, but he won’t be alone during the mammoth road trip. He will travel with a two-person crew who will film the journey. Video feeds will be posted to the FMI website regularly during Rusk’s nearly three-week journey. John also plans to blog along the way at maniac4missions.blogspot.com.
In Phoenix, he will be joined by Jake Voskuhl, a 10-year veteran of the NBA. Voskuhl heard John preach about Maniac4Missions on April 25 and told him he wanted to be part of the ride. “Just imagine a 6-foot 11-inch basketball player riding a motorcycle,” John noted.
Another rider will drive a motorcycle identical to John’s that will be a back-up in case of mechanical problems. John expects other riders to join him for stints along the way and welcomes anyone who wishes to ride a segment with him.
The Face of Missions
In 2007, John made a similar ride, driving a motorcycle a whopping 17,000 miles in nine weeks. God promised him that if he would hit the road and “pray and talk about missions,” people would give.
He stopped at Foursquare churches in every continental U.S. capital and planted a vision for missions. From that experience he began a new ministry that he dubbed Maniac4Missions, and dedicated it to using “extreme events and actions to energize and inspire more involvement in missions.”
George Cline, associate director of FMI and U.S. missions coordinator, said John’s effort for FMI is key because he is “making a connection of Foursquare pastors and missions” while “putting a face on missions.”
George said FMI wants to expand Maniac4Missions, with its “extreme” theme, into other similar efforts. As a new FMI initiative, it could become a way of peaking an interest in missions, he said, with its goal of using extreme activities and events to mobilize God’s people.
Financial donations can be made during John’s ride to Atlanta and will go to the FMI Global Missions Fund, which invests 100 percent of receipts into foreign missions to support missionaries, projects, national leaders and national churches. For online giving, visit give.foursquare.org. Online donations can be given directly to the Global Missions Fund.
That John is even attempting his ride meant he had to make an extreme decision during a deep personal low. His wife, Becki, died on Feb. 5 after an eight-month battle with cancer. For John, the thought of going on in ministry without Becki wasn’t very desirable. He considered pulling back.
“But I felt God saying to me: ‘Don’t stop, John. Get back in the saddle,’ ” he says. “It felt like Becki was saying it too.”
Feeling her reassurance was significant for John, because he and Becki had always worked together—as a ministry team. For 36 of their 37 adventurous years of marriage, they had served Foursquare churches the world over, from Southern California to South America to Africa to the Middle East.
It had been an exciting ride from the moment it began in 1974, the year after they married. As missionaries sponsored by a local church, they had driven from Texas to South America and evangelized across the lower Americas. After a year they came back to the U.S. and began more than three decades of pastoral church planting and serving on Foursquare mission fields.
From 1991-1998, John was FMI regional coordinator for Africa and the Middle East. Until three years ago, when he and Becki moved to Cape Town, South Africa, for new ministry responsibility, they pastored Trinity Christian Center in Artesia, Calif.
As a school teacher with a master’s in English, Becki wrote children’s books. One, Wisdom for Children, used prayer points and theological teachings to instruct African parents how to disciple their children. Currently, the Rusks’ middle child, Elisabeth—who is married with three children and lives in Azusa, Calif.—is helping with Becki’s writings, which are published by Foursquare Missions Press.
When Becki complained last year of pain in her side and was diagnosed with severe kidney cancer, the couple flew from Cape Town to Phoenix, where Becki had successful surgery but, later, died peacefully.
The Rusks’ pastor, Marion Ingegneri of Grace North Foursquare Church in suburban Phoenix—the couple’s home church in the U.S.—came to the family’s aid. Pastor Marion arranged the doctors, worked out insurance details and coordinated meals for the family during the entire eight-month period. She also communicated with the Rusks’ network of friends who were praying.
“She was amazing,” John said. “I couldn’t have made it without her over-the-top help.”
After Becki’s death, John was aware that he was free, in a sense, to make new choices about ministry. “I thought: Maybe I can do some things now that we couldn’t have done together,” he said. “I prayed: ‘Lord, I’m available.’ “
Soon after that, he and his friend Jonathan Hall, vice president of global operations and director of Foursquare Missions International, discussed the idea of John making the May ride to inspire a new focus on Foursquare Missions.
Says John: “My ride to Atlanta is to encourage people not to pull back, not to get afraid, not to stop being radical for God.”
One person already inspired by John to make a similar extreme effort is Stan Jones of Pasadena Foursquare Church, who hopes to initiate a 300-mile bicycle ride to raise money for missions.
John is also considering an international motorcycle ride for FMI—but the lure of the open road is not his motivation for continuing to ride.
“This is not about motorcycles,” he said. “It’s about being extreme for Jesus. It’s to inspire people and say, ‘Let’s get radical again.’ “
By: Jimmy Stewart, managing editor of Charisma magazine and a freelance writer, who lives in Orlando, Fla.