SWO Introductions: Robert (Bobby) Lane

We’ve got lots of great content planned for the Snowbird blog and resource area in 2019, and we wanted to introduce you to one of our writers. Robert Lane is a long-time SWO staff member and now serving with the IMB (International Mission Board) in Sub-Sahara Africa as a church planter. We are forever thankful for his evangelistic passion and missional perspective from the other side of the globe. This post was originally posted on his personal blog in 2018.

By Robert Lane

Let me introduce myself. I’m Robert and this is the story of my life part-one…

I look back on the early part of my life with little regret and a grateful heart. My family has been blessed with a strong Christian foundation. Both my grandfathers were Christians. These men were faithful believers whose faith in Christ greatly influenced me in my childhood. Also, my mother and father were powerful examples of lives lived in devotion to Christ.

I was born in Fort Worth, TX while my father, Bob Lane, was a student. I’m the youngest of four, the only boy, and deeply grateful for my three older sisters. Each would later marry full-time ministers. They all remain ministering families to this day. My birth certificate identifies my mother as a homemaker and my father as a grocery clerk. We were a humble family, living in a small house near the Seminary. Money was tight, as it still is, but we enjoyed the closeness of family and the joy that comes in service to Christ.

Memphis & childhood

Shortly after I was born my father and mother decided to return to Memphis, TN, where we moved into a house near my paternal grandparents. I have many fond memories of these small years. During this time my father served on staff at two large Baptist churches, but he knew that God had called him to a senior pastor role. This was confirmed when my father was called to pastor a small country church in Tipton County called Faith Baptist Church. I was four-years-old when we moved to Tipton County and my real boyhood began.

In the summer of 1989, I attended our church’s Backyard Bible Club and it was there that I first remember hearing the story of Jesus Christ. As our neighbor told the simple Gospel story my mind and heart were opened and I was impressed with the desire to give my life to Jesus. I talked with both my mother and father about this. I remember my father walking me through what the Bible teaches on salvation and what it meant to be a follower of Jesus. I was ready. On August 8, 1989, I was baptized in the presence of Faith Baptist Church. My life had been changed and the joy I found in Christ was to follow me throughout childhood.

Evangelism & discipleship

I remember the first person I led to faith in Jesus, his name was Dennis. He was my fifth-grade friend and I was amazed when he asked Jesus into his heart in the back of class before the bell rang. I tried to live out my faith during these school years and found great encouragement when other friends would come to faith in Jesus. In high school, I volunteered with my Church’s children’s department and I led Bible studies in different places in my town.

At eighteen, I felt a different calling coming from the Lord. I knew that God wanted me to do something but I did not know what. I had recently graduated high school, found a job as a warehouse worker, and started night classes at a local community college. My life was to change when I met a local minister, Phil Wade, who was teaching a Bible study at my college. Pastor Phil began to challenge my way of thinking and helped me to look at ministry in a new way. I assumed that a call to the ministry gave me only two options: youth pastor or preacher. Neither of these positions seemed right for me. With the advice of Pastor Phil, I left home for my first great adventure. I moved to Andrews, NC and began a lifelong relationship with a Christian camp called Snowbird Wilderness Outfitters. I arrived the day after my twentieth birthday. I was immediately impressed to see young men and women living out their faith in a truly authentic way. I realized so much of my Christian life was underdeveloped.

Snowbird & growth

At Snowbird, I was taught how to memorize and study the Scriptures. I grew in depth and maturity. I felt that every part of my being was being challenged. I had never had this level of mentorship and intentional accountability. During my first summer at Snowbird, I heard of something called an unreached people group. Previously, I figured that everyone had at least some idea of who Jesus was. I was wrong. The fact that there were millions of people still lacking in their understanding of the Gospel cut me to my core. I had to respond. At the end of the summer, I called the IMB. I don’t remember who picked up the phone, but I told them my story. I thought there was no way I would qualify with my few community college classes. The lady on the other end of the line told me to apply for an ISC position–these were Journeymen-type jobs without the educational requirements. I was elated.

I set a two-year timeline for myself. During this time, I worked hard in ministry and mentorship, I studied mechanics in college and took a semester off to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail. All of these activities helped to ready me for the mission field, but none more than being part of a small group of people that would plant a Church that today has become a sending church to the uttermost parts of the earth. The church is called Red Oak (SBC) and was been my sending church since my first mission trip. I was a young member of the church and had little to offer, but I gave all I had. I watched as God took a small group of men and women and formed us into a church for his glory with global consequences. I was sent out from that church in May of 2006. I was heading to the Jungles of Peru to work with the IMB’s Extreme Team for the next two years.

Peru & Scripture translation

My time in the jungle was the most difficult thing I had ever attempted. I was given four months of training; all with nationals–none of whom were English speakers. And then I was given two words: Yaminahua and Jurua. The first was the name of an unreached unengaged people group and the second was the river where they were known to live. My partner was an indigenous man from Columbia named Efrain. Efrain and I would become dear brothers and remain so to this day. We were flown out to the Jurua in a small bush plane and arranged a time to be picked up at that same remote airstrip four months later. This was the first of three trips into the Jungle where my life would forever change. We lived in an elevated hut near the river. We hunted for our food. The Yaminahua are a foraging society which meant we had a lot to learn. Like all the men we took game with a crude shotgun and shells were used as currency.

We studied their language and later began to teach Bible stories among the few believers in the community who were helping SIL/Wycliffe to translate the Scriptures into their language. Gradually, I became more comfortable in the local language and knew that God had called me to study linguistics in the future. After completing my two years, I was eager to return to the field but I knew there were other things to do first.

Marriage & adventure

Earlier in the story, we met Pastor Phil. Well, he had a daughter; Maridith, who I had developed a deep respect and attraction to. We had worked together at Snowbird and while I was in Peru she was in Honduras helping to start a bilingual Christian school in Tegucigalpa. We returned to the US at the same time and in the summer of 2008 Pastor Phil Wade became my father-in-law.

Maridith and I were married in Andrews, NC in the presence of our church, family, and friends. This day was the happiest of my young life and we were off to attempt great things for Christ together. Our adventures in following Jesus continue to change my life. Maridith has been a wonderful companion and challenging influence in my life. My love for her is deep as I am deeply indebted to her refining love for me… Cont.

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Robert (Bobby) Lane is a former SWO staff member who now serves as a church planter and missionary in N’Djamena, Chad (Africa). He’s now spent over a decade serving with the IMB (International Mission Board). He specializes in linguistics and training indigenous pastors to faithfully plant and shepherd new churches. You can read more from him on his personal blog.