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My Story: The Formative Years

Welcome to my blog! I have been writing it since 2005. For the first ten years, I wrote almost every day. I have been blogging less frequently of late. I invite you to join me as I periodically delve into the subjects that move me and stir my passion. I’m motivated to join God in his glo…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

Welcome to my blog! I have been writing it since 2005. For the first ten years, I wrote almost every day. I have been blogging less frequently of late.

I invite you to join me as I periodically delve into the subjects that move me and stir my passion.

I’m motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He’s on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he’s partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

His son Jesus announced that project to all who would pay the price of following him. “Whom the son sets free is free indeed!” He said. And that challenge has stirred me to my bones. I want to pay the price to follow him and partner with him.

In 1979, I connected with the first of two passages of Scripture that have helped crystalize that challenge for me. In Isaiah 58, I saw an exchange that God is interested in. If I’ll set aside my needs and prioritize the needs of the weak and oppressed, he’ll take care of me. 

Years later, what I saw Jesus doing in Matthew 10 fascinated me. I saw the journey of abandon that Jesus sent his disciples on. The implications of these passages were life-altering.

God gave me a tool to walk out that biblical pattern in a contemporary context with the World Race. If Jesus took his disciples on a three-year discipleship journey, I reasoned, could we perhaps get young people started on a similar journey in this modern day?

It grew out of my own personal journey – a physical journey that took me from Virginia to Central America, then to Indonesia and the Dominican Republic. And it found its roots in some of the trauma of growing up in Washington DC at the height of the cultural tumult of the late 1960’s. Here is that story: 

When I was nine, my father left my family for a year to serve in the Viet Nam war. It was a sad day in our family when he left. We didn’t know if he would return one day in a body bag.  My mom had us two kids (I was eight and my sister was five) and life wasn’t working too well.

Every week my father would send a letter or tape from Viet Nam telling us about the horrors of war and how much he loved us. My mother would get my sister and I together on the couch and share them with us.

If your father has ever left you, you know how painful it can be. There was a hole in my heart that only the love of a father could fill.

Though my mother loved me very much, she couldn’t give me a father’s love. The weeks went by and my father’s absence was a great void in my life. There was no one to throw the football to me. No one to take me fishing. There are things that only a father can do for a son. All of us have a hole in our heart that only a father can fill. I craved a father’s approval and his affection. 

One day Shirley Wratten, a friend whose husband had died in the war, shared with my mom about a God who loved her in spite of her shortcomings. And my mom decided to put her life as she’d lived it up for foreclosure. She decided to move from a place of stiff religion to personal faith. 

My mom went all-in with her new faith. Later, as I entered by teen years, I realized that she looked to the world like a crazy lady – a fanatic. But to us, as kids, her life of faith was normal. Mom passed out tracts to parking lot attendants. She led Bible studies in the bad part of town. She got up early and prayed on her knees.

I remember my mother read me the story of how God the father loved me so much that He sent His son to die for me. She read about Jesus’ painful death, a death he died so that I might have eternal life. I was cut to the quick.

God wanted to use my dad’s absence as a space to show me his fatherly love if I would just accept it. One night I did so, thanking God for what he had done for me and asking forgiveness for my sins. I didn’t understand Lordship, but I committed my life to Jesus.

So I grew up in a Christian home. My parents loved me and gave me many opportunities. My mother is a prayer warrior and a disciple maker. All my life I never wanted to be a fanatic. The life of a fanatic scared me to death. As a teenager and for a number of years thereafter, I afforded myself the luxury of not joining her in her craziness. I had never been a hot mess like her; never been wrecked. And so, I was able to follow God from a distance, like an admirer.

When I was a junior in high school, my mom encouraged me to go on a two-month mission trip to Guatemala. That took a lot of effort on her part, because I was shy and had no desire to do so. She propped me up in front of her friends and had me ask for prayer support. I thought to myself, “Why in the world would anyone ever want to support me?”

In 1975, things weren’t like they are now. Nobody in Columbia, Missouri went on short-term mission trips.

I got on a bus bound for Florida, and in a way, I was journeying away from my childhood and into the future. The trip to Guatemala was eye-opening in many ways. I saw poverty that I never knew existed. I fell in love with the exotic Indian culture. The beautiful volcanic landscape was beguiling.

The following summer I went on another mission trip, this time high into the Andes mountains of Peru. The love for missions that the Lord had awakened in me in Guatemala continued to grow.

But I later realized that this mission trip was missing two key factors that have since become essential truths to me. Instead of discipling me, the agency I went with focused on teaching us other things like personal hygiene and construction techniques. That led to a second gap in the experience – because most of our ministry was construction, I missed a great opportunity to interact with the nationals.

Still, as I went off to college, I knew that my future lay in overseas work. I was convicted by God’s heart for the poor and oppressed in Isaiah 58 and determined to commit my life to helping others understand that they can make a difference in the world.

During my senior year, a great human tragedy was unfolding. The Khmer Rouge was killing nearly two million of their countrymen. The Cambodian people were fleeing to the Thai border by the hundreds of thousands. As they spilled across the border on the brink of starvation, they were placed in large refugee camps.

When I read about what was happening in Cambodia, it cut me to the quick. I knew I needed to do something to help. I looked for an opportunity to go work in a refugee camp and within a few weeks, I was on a plane to Thailand.

Leaving college wasn’t easy. I’d recently fallen deeply in love with my wife-to-be and was courting her. I had a group of friends that I was looking forward to spending time with. I had all my courses lined up. But what could I do? I knew God was calling me.

The experience with refugees inspired me to go deeper in pursuing a life of ministry. After college, Karen and I were married. We went directly to Indonesia where I did economic development work to help the poorest of the poor. Later, we moved to the Dominican Republic and did the same thing there.

It was only after completing business school and continuing on in ministry that I discovered what had been missing from my walk with the Lord all my life. It was intimacy. While I’d always heard about having a personal relationship with Christ, I’d never understood that it’s possible to hear his voice.

I was at a retreat where author and pastor, Peter Lord, spoke to us about hearing God’s voice. It was a hard time in my life and I was in a broken and desperate place. And as I prayed, I heard God speak to me and say, “I love you, Seth.”

It overwhelmed me! This was not something I’d imagined – it was God the Father bending down and speaking to me in such an intimate way. 

After that experience, I began to earnestly seek the Lord. Prayer became much more important to me.

As I pressed into him, for the first time I began to see what a personal relationship with God can be. I wanted to share the good news I’d discovered with others. So evangelism became a passion.

As my children began to grow up, I discovered what it meant to disciple them. This then began to spill into my ministry as I applied what I was seeing with those going on mission trips. A passion to follow Jesus’ methods became more important than anything else. And I saw that they worked – young people were changed as we invested deeply in them.

I’ve been in full-time ministry for a while now. I’m a work in process. I’ve found that the main thing one needs in a relationship with God is hunger to know him and be in his presence.

As for the rest of my life, Karen and I are in an empty nest phase of life. We have one child living with us still plus usually an intern or two, a dog and the deer and turkey in our back yard.
One of our great blessings is the wonderful group of friends at Adventures. They are truly the body of Christ to us. Life here is always an adventure and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

To read about my call to ministry, click here.

Comments (39)

  • Man dad, most of these things I never heard you say. It makes me wonder what else I don’t know about you.

  • “I’m a work in process”…that touched and encouraged me the most. Praising the wonderful Sculptor-the Master at work.

  • Rev . rJules Peteers

    i also had the same encounter when i was young but remember that God is our father who will always be there.

  • Thank you for your writing. It has given me assurance in my journey with God. I like the article you have written about difficult people. God bless brother!

  • Thank you for this article. At age 54 I am going on a short term missions trip to the Dominican Republic. Raised in a Missionary/Preacher’s Home (my parents went to Borneo Indonesia under C&MA) I have had the fire of missions but have never had the opportunity to GO other than my homeland. I step out in FAITH believing that this trip will be an encouragement to someone in the DR and will be an experience that will bless me to carry on the Jesus’ command to GO (wherever). Thanks again!

  • Pastor Akinwatimi J.Ayowole

    Thank for the work you are doing .Giving people hope in life, God will reword you in heaver and on this earth in jesus name amen.The Book ISAIAH 28:9-10,Say- Whom shall he taeh knowledge?and whom sall he make to understand doctrine?hem that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts,For precept must be upon precept,line upon line.Thank you for all article you are write in your WEB ,You make precept upon precept and line upon line .IT has given me assurance in my calling to teach people,THANK FOR TEACHING THE WORLD.I GIVE YOU TIHS -ISAIAH 33:5-6.THANKS ONECE AGAIN.

  • its unbelievable to get a confirmation of what the lord wants to do in your life.well,the lord has been talking to me about mission and today my devotion was on this topic and to top it all i read about your mission work around the world i believe that it only takes a yarning heart and a will to accept to do what you can and by trusting the lord then he will your effort to further his plan.may God continue using you all the days of your life

  • sir,

    i want to know about the orphanage for thr boy child those are living nearby to my house. please send ur address i am living in new delhi capital of india. please let meknow about the details

    waiting for ur reply eagrly

  • Did you get the Baptism in the Holy Spirit as well? Salvation is awesome and as for me, there wasn’t a Christian in sight so my walk was uncertain. I wouldn’t change a thing though…it was the uncertainty that called attention to the leading and prompting of the Holy Spirit. Without earthly guidance you can get lost. I had no church or formal training and 20plus yrs. and countless horrifing trials later, I was at the end of me. Now thinking of it, I was hardly recognizable. The Holy Spirit then prompted me again to tydthe and to, praise and worship. Bewildered, I asked where and he showed me. I am now a member of an Apostolic Chuch, and in the past couple of years I have had one supernatural experience after another, to include being soverignly baptized in the Holy Spirit where I was experiencing shikiner glory in The Holy of Holies. I Knew Not any of these things which auththenicates them, I only found out after discribing the events to my prayer minister. Thank you Jesus for being the 4th man in the fire and lifting me up to where you had for me to be, but I couldn’t find the way…more accurately didn’t even know where I was supposed to be. Awesome. Apart from Him I CAN DO NO THING!!! Nor do I want to! Amen.

  • Dear Sir,
    I would like to know where is ur orphanage is located at delhi, basically i am working at delhi, if you give me the adress i can come their and spend some time with the people and i want to help to some extent

    thanks and regards,

    Srinivasa Rao K

  • dear sir.
    most of the people think to serve and help, but cant do due to many reasons, u r doing. so hats off to u sir. kindly reply me the address, where the located this at new delhi. i will be oblized.

    thanx n regards

  • well i can very closely relate to all these feelings that you felt…i would like to work in an orphange in south delhi…suggest plz

  • brother Seth yr story is amazing i live without my parents for 10yrs an nuns looked after me they taught how to be close to christ and to be independent i have 4 kids an they always call me their angel I have seen CHRIST a few times in my dreams an know he is with me people r amazed how I am always helping the poor by myself and ask me to stop its enough but my LORD put me hear for this and this makes me happy and I ingnore them so this is my life to live an please my LORD.yrs in CHRIST

  • Dear Seth:
    Thanks for your testimony. I has been very inspiiring and encouraging.

    I am from the Dominican Republic, but at the present time reside in New York city. I have been to Guatemala twice, and a great deal of Guatemalans attend the church I Pastor.I also have fallen in live with the beautiful country of the quetzal.

    I thank you also for the materials you have provided on short term missions. I intend to use some of your trainning material for my short-term mission teams. Let me know if it is okay with you. I do not intend to sell or publish your stuff, just to translate some of it and discuss it with my groups.

    God bless you and your ministry.

    Pastor Rafael Puente

  • Dear Seth,
    I just wanted to comment that your story has touched me greatly. I found your website through a Beveni Carepoint member and my family just began sponsoring three little boys from Beveni. We are missionaries in Costa Rica and our passion is discipleship. I have booked marked your blog and have many hours of reading to do just on your discipleship blogs alone. 🙂 I thank you for your honesty and challenges. We are thankful to know that the orphans in Beveni are being discipled and you are carrying out the Great Commison! Praise be to God!

  • Hi dear to all
    when i was child,i thought i would do something for the orphan people.but i have there are alot of problems before me.so i would like to know how to join the this types of family…

  • if i look back thear is nothing meening ful..i hav done lots of misteks..but now i want do some thing meening full.–i m vry good in arts..i hav no money 4 donation..but i want to teech children..becoz i allso wants smile for a one movement..plz help me..and give me the address —specily..ncr aanand vihar..thanku,god bless u..

  • Seth, thank you for sharing your life story so profoundly here. My dad and mom divorced when I was only 9 months old. I was raised by my grandparents. My granddad gave me a father’s love, but I always longed for my “daddy’s” love. The void in my heart was filled by Jesus Christ when I was 16 and a Sophomore in high school and accepted Him as my Lord and Savior. As you know, our daughter, Marlena, is serving with AIM in Malaysia right now. She has accepted the call on her life to be the hands, arms, mind, feet, and life of Jesus to a lost and dying world. Her mother and I are so proud of her…thank you again!

  • i have recently been led to erase my delete my facebook and myspace pages, as i have realized i abused the opportunity of ‘social networking’ in our day and age. i hid behind the internet and promoted myself as something i was not out of fear that somebody would find out that i really am what i was ashamed to be. there was no REAL networking and intimacy in this. like the pharisee’s it all just led to a beautiful, decorated clean cup, dirty within. in a current desire to be ‘violent’ in my spiritual life according to mathew 11:12 (‘forcefully advance’ for the less macho), i desire to take away all things, as hard as its been to let go, of the things that keep me from being truly intimate with my God, my family, friends and strangers.

    i say all this just to thank you for using the internet to glorify God, encourage intimacy with God, and ‘violently/forceably’ fight for the advancement of Gods Kingdom on earth.

    20 years of having extreme faith in God… but no love sucked (my father abandoned me before i was born). 6 months ago i was introduced to Gods real face (the one that you say ONLY God can reveal to us and that we can be fully satisfied by) in the verses of Jeremiah 31:3-4 and 1 corinthians 13:1-3.

  • Helo Seth’lm pastor in africa serving there with my husband. lam so much encouraged by your life story,and thanked God that he allow such to happen to us to prepare us for his work.l my self have no father my mother got preganat with a man she met the firt time and never saw him again.only to realise she is expectant, looedfor the man but did not find him. l have never expirenced the love of a father but jesus became my father. and for that reason l love to show love to those who are orphans.lm doing that to six of them but l want to build a home for them.would anyone help me do that.God bless you for beinging of great help to many.

  • Good morning Seth,
    I was really touched by your life story-and I also enjoyed the comment from your son..”Man dad..” (smile) It reminds me of my son who is 11 and is an excellent student, attends church with dad and loves sports. As he gets older I pray that I am doing my part to instill in him a love for God and people.
    I have worked at the Childrens Home now for almost 25 years and I have a great love for teens and their growth. The kids I serve have gone through sooo much and the challanges of instilling in them a love for themselves and God and people is daunting to say the least. But I just had to write to let you know that I am very much more encouraged to continue to work with the youth to show them the love of God after reading your articles.
    Are you the same guy thats on tv?
    Take care man of God and keep up the great work!! I will add you to my prayer list.

  • My wife, my 1yr 9mo son, and I are currently volunteering with an organization called Extreme Nazarene serving in Colombia. It sounds like we have similar missions… discipling others and helping them realize they can serve God full-time no matter what they do. I was encouraged by your testimony I’ve shared a link to mine…its in video format. Someday we may be interested in your Race tour but are currently at the age limit.

    Link to my video testimony:

  • hi strong man of god i am pastor scott serving the lord in varanasi u.p. india. i am really touched by your life testmony and encouraged to know about ur passion for christ.i also want to do something for the orphans pls pray and help me to do good for them who is lost.

  • Hello dear in Christ ,

    I Greet you in the name of our lord Jesus Christ . My name is Faisal Saleem i am an Evangelist and i am from Pakistan . i would like to tell you that i am director on spread the word ministries here . i want to tell you all about our ministries work here . i like to tell you that we are doing many different works here for God in Pakistan. i am really very glad that God has chose me for his work here . we love to work for God . i would like to tell you all about our works here . i like to tell you that we working here for Orphans and poor street needy children . we helping 18 Orphans children for food , shelter , education and everyhting here .

    i would like to tell you that we working with disabled and other poor people also here . instead all this work i love to tell you that we preaching the words of God here . we have a prayer group we going to other Christian Village town and cities for tell the people about our Saviour Jesus Christ.
    we teach the bible to the people and we doing worship with them . i want to tell you that we trying to reach those Village and other Areas where no one Pastor going for preach . we are thankful to God all the time that God is working in our life with different way .

    i would like to say that i visited your ministry website and i like your work a lot you are doing wonderful job for God . i want to say please keep in touch and keep our ministry works in your prayer . we need your prayer very much . i want to say that i would like to keep contact with your ministry and i love to work with your ministry together if you would like to work here in Pakistan .
    it will be great honor for us if you work with us . it will be great blessing for Pakistani Christian people . please stay in touch i would like to tell you more about our ministry work . i am waiting for your back e-mail ! . i hope to hear from you soon . God bless you and God be with you forever .

    Evangelist : Faisal Saleem
    Email : [email protected]
    website : http://www.spreadthewordministries.webs.com/

  • Interesting bio… You say you were born into a Christian home but you didn’t mention when you were born again.
    When did that happen?

  • Thanks for asking, Russ. When I was nine I accepted Jesus as my savior, asking him to save me. That’s when I was born again.

  • Hi Seth:

    Thanks for your great testimony, Brother Seth. I was really glad that your dad made it home. 🙂

    I love & can identify with the part of you having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Jesus is really easy to reach than most people think. You have to surrender all to Him; don’t hold anything back. It’s been said that some Christians have this but not all. Wouldn’t it be great if we all had this. I say the more the merrier. How awesome. In fact God is easier to reach. There are no busy signals. 🙂

    God’s Richest Blessings To You Brother. 🙂

  • Thanks for sharing your story. This past year has been such a blessing to our family as our youngest (then 23) decided to embark on this journey you call the World Race. My husband and I have always supported missions financially and through prayer but this experience has shown us a more personal look into missions and a much deeper admiration for those that are willing to leave the comforts of home to go to reach the uttermost for His Kingdom. It’s been amazing to see and hear the changes in our son’s heart through this experience. My husband has wanted to go on a mission trip for several years but it always seemed not to work out because of his work load with our business. We are so thankful that the Lord has made it possible for him to meet up in the Dominican Republic with our son for the PVT in a few short weeks. We are so excited to see where this decision to go on this mission trip will lead our son. It’s hard to believe a little over a year and half ago we had never heard of your organization. Thank you for using your heart for missions to help bring purpose and a deeper relationship with Christ to so many young lives. I am truly thankful for this roller coaster of a year…. it has once again reminded me that when we dedicated our children to God many years ago, our job was to care for them and instill in them the values and teachings of Jesus. To “bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord”. While it’s been hard to see them leave the nest, it is also very rewarding to see them find purpose in their life and most importantly live for Jesus and follow His will for their life. I am praying for you and your family as you continue your work. Maybe one day soon we will be able to go on a family mission trip 🙂
    God Bless!

  • Thank God for the work you deliver to the Nations and pray that the Lord may continually provide.

  • I love this phrase: “And my mom decided to put her life as she’d lived it up for foreclosure. She decided to move from a place of stiff religion to personal faith.” Isn’t this what the hungry and the thirsty need to do to be filled? What an awesome testimony, Seth, and a legacy of faith.
    God always keeps his promises. He is faithful and true, and those that seek him will be filled. Those that long to hear his voice will indeed hear him speaking. God Bless you!

  • Seth, thank you for sharing your testimony. The biggest thing I can relate to is the transformation God began for me in the fall of 2019. I am now a 58 year old divorced father of three sons. My son JP, who is now in Guatemala on his WR journey, is the one who inspired me. I had been lost off and on for many years and due to JP finding a church on his own after be invited by a friend, I would often drive him to church and sleep in my car in the parking lot until the two services were over. Finally, I saw the amazing things that God was doing in his life and realized that I wanted some of what he was having. In October 2019, I walked in that church on my own and within only a couple months, I felt more of a connection than I felt at any other church, even the Catholic Church I grew up in. By the end of the year, I had taken a Next Steps class with my youngest son and we were now plugged in and ready to serve. In January 2020, I put the old me in the past and was baptized into my new life in in Jesus Christ. Then Covid-19 hit and all of my support system fell by the wayside. I struggled again and then I realized by March, that my ways were not working and I had to do something about it. That is when I gave everything I had to God and began that intimate relationship with him, which I wished I had done many years before. God began to show me the plan he has had for me for quite some time, but I was too blind to see it. We have had hours long conversations with each other. Last May, I went back to college after starting that journey back in 1980 and I am happy to say that in May 2022, I will be graduating from Liberty University with a bachelor’s degree in Christian Counseling and then I plan to stay to get my Master’s, which will mean at age 60, I will finally have a master’s degree. Thus far, God has made this journey very successful for me, allowing me to excel and get extremely good grades. Also, in 2020, I took a Foundations class at my church and was confirmed in November of 2020. Now that things are opening up and getting to the new normal, I am using my church support system to stay on task. It has been by my never ending faith and love for God that has gotten me where I am today. Everything I do and all of my accomplishments, I give God all the glory.

    This past week, in response to my son JP’s blog, I gave him the question of “what if?” With those two words alone, you can question your entire life and all the decisions you have ever made. The one important thing I told him on the phone is that when you give all of yourself to Christ, you no longer have to ask you yourself that question again, because with God leading you in everything you do, there is no need to question anymore the authority, the guidance, the wisdom, the power and the love of God because he’s got your back.

    Sorry for rambling, but I felt compelled to share my testimony with you because according to my son, he says that you are an amazing man of God and not only are you allowing our sons and daughters to learn from your example, but you are teaching, we as parents, how to love not only our own children, but to love others through their eyes. Thank you for all that you do. I hope that one day I will have the honor of meeting you personally. God Bless!

  • John – thanks for sharing this. JP is an outstanding young man. I’ll reach out to you privately to connect.

  • Seth, I am a serving Christian from Canada and I have just recently retired from policing. During my career, Canada sent me to China as a liaison officer to the Ministry of Public Security. My wife and I, now back in Canada, long to return to Asia in an active type service capacity. We have applied to Vietnam and both of us have been granted a visitor visa for Da Nang. While in Da Nang we hope to search for Christian outreach organizations to offer any type of support! We are wondering if there might be a short term opportunity for service in Da Nang?
    Alex & JoAnne

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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