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Cover 49


April-May 2013

The Many Faces
of Outreach


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Smoke It Over


Smoke It Over

by Bill and Brenda Evans


Jimmy Aldridge was in grad school, married to a nurse named Janie, and studying missions at Columbia International University, but he didn’t know how to “smoke it over.” So he asked a car dealer to teach him. As it turned out, the lesson became one of the most valuable skills he ever learned.

Simply stated, smoking it over involves knowing how to separate truth from lie, the wisdom to detect deceit and trickery and, on the other side, to lay hold of the good and the right. Spiritually, it is exercising discernment.

To teach Jimmy, the dealer started with what he knew best—a used car. “Look at everything,” he said. “Don’t let anything get by you. Smoke it over.” And so, Jimmy learned to probe, analyze, and assess…not only cars, but also life and ministry.

“I’ve used it in everything,” he says. “If you and God agree on it, it passes the test. So go for it.” That creed has shaped Jimmy and Janie for more than 50 years of marriage and ministry.

After grad school and French language study in Switzerland, they landed in Ivory Coast, West Africa, as missionaries. It was the mid-1960s. Village work came first and then the move to Bondoukou, north of the capital city of Abidjan. “There, everything was toward church planting,” Jimmy says. “Early on, Bill Jones and I started a Bible institute, but illiteracy was widespread in those days, and converts were not ready. We found that a one-on-one Paul and Timothy arrangement worked better.”

When the Ivorian government gave them permission to teach Bible lessons in Bondoukou schools, Jimmy used his old smoke-it-over creed: Don’t let anything get by you. He taught high schoolers and Janie the younger children, but outside the classroom Jimmy launched another model. “Children left their village homes and came to town for school. All they had was a room to sleep in and food purchased on the streets,” he says.


“If you and God agree on it, it passes the test. So go for it.”

So Jimmy built a place to be, a place with things to do: a youth building beside a bookstore with games, activities, Bibles, with general coming and going—the hustle and bustle students like. Determined to reach young people, he talked, encouraged, befriended. Adults noticed. One man said to him, “If you had come 50 years ago, we would all be Christians instead of Muslims.”
Islam did have its appeal, Jimmy says. “Muslims were often literate traders who prospered, and prosperity draws men, even if they are exploited by it.” Poverty and deprivation were ever present for Ivorians in those days. Even indigenous religions bowed to the lure of prosperity.

“A man could do Loukoubé. He could take a rooster to the animist shaman to be sacrificed. If the dying rooster stumbled into the fire and was burned, it meant the spirit of Loukoubé had accepted a pact with the man: the man’s soul would burn in the afterlife, but he would enjoy riches in this life. So, when I preached, I showed every way I could that God was greater than Loukoubé,” Jimmy said.

Ordinary life brought the opportunity to smoke it over as well, Jimmy says. “We needed a more reliable used car, so went down to Abidjan. It took six or seven hours. The road was unpaved and terrible. Their rainy season does awful things to ruts and holes.” The seller praised a vehicle Jimmy had his eye on, called it perfect—no problems, no wrecks, completely reliable. Jimmy smoked it over, even underneath. “When did you have the accident?” he asked. The man looked startled, but admitted he had lied.

The first years of missionary ministry are always testing grounds, Jimmy says. “Early on, I had to decide if I really believed God was who He said He was and would do what He said He would do—the impossible.” Bumping up against Islam, animism, illiteracy, hunger, and disease measured Jimmy’s faith in the God of the impossible. “First term is like that,” he says, “always a test.”

But Jimmy held to the God of impossibilities. When Christians wanted a place to meet, an official said, “Forget it. This is a Muslim town.” But Jimmy pressed on. He looked at everything. So, believers built a brush arbor in a cow pasture along a dirt road outside the city limits. Later, that road became the main one between town and the airport, and a brand new church building sat on the former cow pasture.

Jimmy’s foresight to work with children and young people brought rich harvest as well. In one village, he saw a small boy grow into a godly, educated man who built and paid for a church, but asked that no one know who did it. On a side-trip to France, Jimmy met a young mathematics teacher whom he invited to Bondoukou. Gerard Tynevez became a three-year Godsend to the youth work and later, back in France, became a pastor.

“If the Lord ever wants us out of Africa,” Janie told Jimmy one day while watching children teach an illiterate elderly woman how to memorize Bible verses, “it will take dynamite.” They had planted and reaped for 22 years, and Jimmy knew more harvest was coming. But God used His dynamite, and Jimmy’s complicated and recurring bouts of debilitating malaria blasted them out of Bondoukou and back to the States.

“God made it clear we had to go, and we had one week to get ready,” Janie said. Jimmy took care of the business end. She did the rest. “I walked through each room, looked at everything, packed one 55-gallon drum and four suitcases. That’s all. I knew a time and season had passed, and a new one had begun. That’s all we would need.”

At the airport in Abidjan, they were emotional but steady. They had smoked it over and knew God was in charge. Jimmy talked about football. “I remembered the time I was taken out of the game on a stretcher, but the game still went on. ‘This will, too,’ I told Janie. And Mr. Alexander, a godly brother in Bondoukou, knew it, too. He kept saying, ‘Missionaries will not be here forever, but we’ll carry on.’ And they did.”

Back in the States, Jimmy was tapped as overseas secretary for International Missions. He prepared candidates for service, kept contact with international missionaries, and traveled to various fields to help solve problems. Later, he became Advance coordinator, a celebration of 50 years of Free Will Baptist international missions. He was charged with raising $1 million for new training among nationals, new buildings, and new missionaries for the fields.

“To me, the Advance project was never about money as a goal,” Jimmy says, “but about money as a tool to reach the goal. I didn’t want to count dollars; I wanted to invest in getting the gospel preached.” Even after official retirement, Jimmy smoked it over and traveled to Russia again and again to help send what he called “a boatload of Bibles” to people who had never seen one. And Jimmy is not finished yet.

“I’m a contented man,” he said recently. “God has given me the desires of my heart, and when Janie and I die, everything will go to the Lord’s work. We’ve got the trust, the plans. We’ve put everything in order.”
As usual, Jimmy Aldridge has smoked it over and hasn’t missed a thing.


About the Writers: Bill Evans, former director of the Free Will Baptist Foundation, lives in Catlettsburg, Kentucky, with his wife Brenda, a retired English teacher. Visit for more information on planned giving that benefits your favorite ministry.


©2013 ONE Magazine, National Association of Free Will Baptists