October 1, 2013
By Dan Aznoff
Automotive specialist shifts gears to saving lost souls
After 15 years of keeping cars and trucks on the road, Nate Bean, owner of Integrity Automotive Maintenance & Repair in Issaquah, discovered his true calling had little to do with changing spark plugs or servicing radiators.
The North Bend resident has joined forces with a local prison ministry that reaches out to men and women who may have lost their way. The stamps on his passport trace missions to three continents and more than seven countries in less than 36 months.
Bean’s curbside ministry dates back sharing portions from the gospel on the sidewalk outside Bellevue Square.
“Nate has an evangelistic call on his life. He shares the gospel in outdoor settings regularly in malls and street corners,” said Dr. Robert F. “Bob” Jordan, a board member of Prisoners for Christ. “He has an arsenal of gospel tracts and is very forward in sharing his faith.”
In 2010, Prisoners for Christ President Greg Von Tobel invited Bean to share that calling, and he participated in his first prison outreach program that year with the Bible study group at the King County Jail in Seattle. A few months later, he was asked to share his testimonial with inmates at the Washington Corrections Center in Shelton.
Inside the walls
“We did three or four Sunday worship services at the state prison. Our group was then given time after the service with several of the inmates,” Bean said. “Our goal is to see lives changed through the Gospel, but we were always on the lookout for individuals we could train to become Christ’s voice inside the walls.”
In his first overseas assignment, Bean traveled to India, where he visited a leper colony, a prison and the orphanage that housed the children of many inmates. That first trip included an afternoon in the slums of Delhi.
“The strong smells coupled with the fact that India is so crowded made the experience something that made a permanent impact on my soul,” Bean said. “There are six times more people there than in the United States in one-third the space. That was a fact I could not envision until I actually saw the masses of humanity and the extreme poverty for myself.”
Jordan, who said Bean is beloved in South India, described him as a “warming and caring heart” to adults, inmates and especially children.
The next destination for Bean was four days to Honduras in August 2011. The ministry gained access to three prisons and held a training seminar over four busy days.
He returned to India in November 2011 to visit nine prisons and an orphanage in six days. Hyperabad, he said, is known in the West as a center for technology and telephone customer support centers. But the streets outside the sterile office buildings were filled with despair.
“The people in India were hungry,” he said. “Not just hungry for food. Many of them desperately wanted spiritual fulfillment.”
Bean continued to answer his call in the spring of 2012 for a 2,000-mile trek to six prisons in West Africa. He squeezed in time for two ministry training seminars.
“The primary purpose of our trip was to introduce the prisoners to Prisoners for Christ, bless them with teaching, train them, provide fellowship and give them humanitarian aid. We then ask the prisoners to evangelize within the prison walls by holding crusades,” he said. “When that was accomplished, we moved on in an attempt to train the nationals to be able to grow the ministry by recruiting others.”
Bean then quoted from Romans 10:14-15: “And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent?”
He returned to Africa in October 2012 for visits to three prisons in Burundi and a training seminar in Rwanda. This May, Bean joined a party of four missionaries to visit prisons in the Republic of the Congo. He is scheduled to spend 12 days at prisons in West Africa this month.
Bean said the mission in Africa has been made even more difficult by corruption inside the government, and often inside the church itself. He said contributions to remote churches must be sent in the form of tangible items, such as farm tools or Bibles, because cash will inevitably fall into the hands of rebels.
The ministry and its travel expenses are funded by support from its members. Jordan said Bean, the newest member of the PFC missionary team, “is a cherished brother who is faithful in the local jails, on the streets, with international missions and is one of the leaders who sets the course for both the international ministry.”
No greater calling
“There is no greater calling—for me—than to help spread the Word of the Lord to a group of sinners,” Bean said with conviction. “The Lord teaches us to forgive. And there is no place like prisons to find sinners who have been given the time to reflect on their own sins and are ready to ask to be forgiven.”
He explained that the men he has met in prisons are ready to change “once they learn of the truth of God’s grace and mercy.
“Asking for grace and mercy must be a voluntary act of the sinner through the preaching of the Word,” he added. “We can only lead the sinner in the right direction down that long path.”
In addition to a supply of Bibles, Bean never leaves on an international mission without a personal stockpile of soccer balls.
“Soccer balls are an international form of good will,” he said. “Many times, a soccer ball can open doors that are normally closed to visitors from the West.”
Dan Aznoff was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of the toxic waste crisis in California. He is now a freelance writer with a passion for capturing the stories of past generations. His website is www.dajournalist.com. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.