After putting off his interest in missionary work for most of his life, Brad Stoner has been making up for lost time.
The Rancho Penasquitos business owner and father of two has made 38 trips to 10 countries in the past decade, mostly through a Texas-based evangelical organization called E3, to spread the Gospel and do charitable work.
"I'm kind of on the adventurous side," said Stoner about his weeklong trips to Argentina, Brazil, Cuba, Ethiopia, Lesotho, Uganda, Ukraine, and India, which he has visited 11 times.
Stoner said he's found various reactions to his message in his travels, which have taken him to countries where people already are Christian to other areas where people have never heard of Jesus Christ.
In almost all cases, the reaction was noticeably different from what he has experienced as an evangelist in the United States.
"One of the things I enjoyed about it was that the people were very receptive," he said. "I've done a lot of door-to-door evangelism in United States, and people weren't that interested. But these people were interested in why an American would want to come all that way."
Not only did the trip seem possible, but also Stoner even took along his son, Aaron, 12, and daughter Stephanie, 10, on his first trip to Argentina. Both have gone on six or seven trips with their father since then.
"It's extremely unusual," Eisemann said about the number of trips Stoner has taken. "He's very tender-hearted. To be able to help people who are not as fortunate as he is very meaningful to him."
Eisemann, who works in the San Diego office of E3 and has been with the 20-year-old group since 1995, makes four or five trips a year to Ethiopia and Ecuador as a church planter.
E3 ---- the name stands for Equip, Evangelize, Establish ---- has more than 400 staff members, and about 3,000 volunteers and makes more than 150 trips a year, Eisemann said. Of those volunteers, about 40 percent have gone on trips before, but most will go only two or three times over 10 years, he said.
Stoner, owner of Brad Stoner Painting, said having his own company provides him the time and money to pay for the trips, which cost him between $2,400 and $3,600 each.
"In my business, I've been able to make more than I need, so I've been able to help others," he said.
"Most people who make more than they need just spend more on themselves," Eisemann said. "Brad's not that
type of person."
Stoner said the main focus of the missions is to promote evangelical Christianity, but E3 also has brought reading glasses, medical supplies, wheelchairs, water-filtration systems and AIDS awareness to other countries.
Sometimes those items open the door to countries he otherwise could not visit.
"In Ethiopia, they say if you just want to come in and talk about your religion, you can't," he said. "So we take reading glasses as a way of getting our foot in the door."
Stoner said the most interesting place he's visited was Cuba, where all religion has been outlawed since the 1959 communist revolution in the country.
"We'd have evening meetings in people's homes, and there might be 10 or 20 people outside listening through the windows," he said. "The people in Cuba just had this look in their eyes like they were defeated."
"In some places they've never even seen white people," he said. "These folks have no concept of Christianity. They have got no clue. You show them a picture of Jesus on the cross, and they'll say, 'Who's that?'"
Stoner said the most resistance he's had to his evangelical message has been in Argentina, which has a large Catholic population, but he never gets discouraged.
"We don't know what tomorrow brings," he said. "We sort of have to live by faith every day here, but we need to get out of our comfort zones."