The Sailor & the Comic Book

TORONTO – It has been said that God uses common things to accomplish uncommon things. Whoever said that may have been thinking about loaves and fishes or Balaam’s donkey. It is not likely that they were thinking about sailors and comic books, but God can use them, too. He has, and He still is. Warmolt Houwing, a native of Holland, began his life at sea at the age of 17 as a cook boy in the Dutch Merchant Marine. Despite having been raised by faithful Christian parents, Houwing would later describe his shame that he spent his 30-year naval career living “like the Prodigal Son.”

Three years after his retirement, he committed his life to follow Jesus Christ. Little did he expect what the future would hold as he began to seek how to serve the Lord.

Two years later, in 1988, he began working as an evangelist in and around the port of Antwerp, Belgium. Because nearly a dozen and a half Russian ships docked in Antwerp daily, he had the vision to reach the thousands of sailors coming into port. He and his co-workers distributed tens of thousands of Bibles and New Testaments to them.

In 1989 something uncommon began to develop. A British pastor gave Warmolt Houwing two copies of a comic book – hardly a ministry tool. He Lived Among Us was written in French by Pierre Thivollier with illustrations by Noel Gloesener. It’s 128 pages tell the Gospel story, including every main event in the life of Jesus.

His immediate response was, “This will open their eyes!”

The same day that he received the two comic books, he gave one of them to a 28-year-old Russian officer.

“The following morning, I waited for him, and when he appeared, his face and eyes were shining – and he said two words to me: ‘I believe!'”

Warmolt Houwing drove into Antwerp and sold his car so that he could purchase the copyright and start printing copies. Then he began raising funds from Christian friends so that he could continue to print the comic book and offer it free of charge.

In 1993, in cooperation with Open Doors, he printed 1.7 million copies and delivered 1.2 million of them through their field partners all across Russia.

“It became the most popular book in the Russian prisons. We had lots of feedback and reports telling how many, many children — and often, through them, their parents — became believers.”

The ministry expanded as the book was translated into 17 different languages including Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, Farsi, Japanese, Urdu, Hindi, Tamil, Bengali, and Telugu. He distributed over 25 million copies in India alone. Eight million of those were distributed via Vacation Bible Schools in rural areas where millions are still unreached.

In addition to his evangelistic work and the distribution of more than 35 million copies of the comic book, Warmolt Houwing, who is now in his 80s, also continued using his sailing skills by serving as a relief captain for Mercy Ships and Operation Mobilization.


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