Special Forces – Tampa, FL

Jim Van GelderenSpecial Forces Updates

In 2007 the War of Special Forces came to West Gate for the very first time. It is hard to believe it has been 10 years since our first visit. We have come to love and appreciate these good people. If you are ever in Tampa, visit West Gate Baptist Church.


One young man came all three nights, but didn’t get saved until Friday. Gabe, the Seals team captain, asked him about his salvation on Wednesday and he said that he was all set and very coldly shut him down. Later Wednesday, Ryan, the Marine team captain, confronted him again with the Gospel. Although he said he was going to heaven, his delayed and stammering response betrayed his own doubt about eternity. It was quite clear that he was not saved, but he did not want to talk.

Thursday night Ryan was surprised to see him come back for the invitation. Ryan counseled him and soon realized that not much had changed from the night before except that God had obviously begun convicting him of sin. Again he said he was all set, though he could not point to a time when he ever put his trust in Christ. Ryan gave him the list of evangelistic verses and told him to read them before he came back on Friday.

Friday night Ryan stayed outside while some were being counseled inside. One of the church workers came out and told Ryan there was a teenager who asked to talk to him in the counseling room. Sure enough, this young man had come back again in the invitation. He told Ryan that he read through all the verses before bed and when he woke up that morning, but again said he was all set. Ryan was burdened that he had to be straightforward. He challenged him, “You came back these two nights because God is working in your heart. As long as you deny that and say you are all set, I can’t help you. If you will be honest with me and tell me where you know you would go if you died right now, then I can show you how to be saved.” He finally broke and admitted he was on his way to hell. Ryan went quickly through the gospel, because he really already knew it. The only thing missing was the call. He was not an emotional kid, but he definitely was at peace once he finally prayed and accepted Christ.


The Seals team captain, Gabe, was out recruiting when he took a wrong turn. As a result, he saw a young man who he recruited for the War of Special Forces and his team. The young man gave him his mom’s number. Gabe texted the number on Tuesday night, but there was no answer. He texted again on Wednesday, and again no one answered. On Thursday this young man’s mom texted and said she would be bringing him both Thursday and Friday evenings. On Thursday, this young man went back at invitation. Gabe dealt with him. “I don’t want to go hell!” was the first thing out of his mouth. He understood the gospel clearly. On Friday he gave this testimony.

“The day before, Thursday, I would have gone to Hell . . . because I was a sinner and on Thursday I realized I was going to Hell because I didn’t know that just one little lie could get you sent to Hell. So I just, like, I decided to go to the back with Gabe and he helped pray so I could go to Heaven. So now I’m just glad . . . that I’m not going to Hell. I’m going to Heaven eternally!”


One young man responded to the invitation in chapel. He broke down in tears before Ryan, his team captain, said anything. He confessed looking at and listening to things behind his parents’ back. Ryan asked about cheating and he admitted to that as well. He said he would talk to his parents that night. He agreed to talk to the principal for accountability and to confess cheating, so Ryan took him to the office and left him with the principal. Praise the Lord for a willingness to uncover sin!


Here are some of the testimonies from Friday night.

“Most of you know me and…I’ve been watching, like, bad videos and not watching good stuff and it was the wrong things. And I was…get it right with God and my parents right now!” He then left to go find his parents.

“And last week I was going to Hell, but this week I got saved and I’m going to Heaven.”

“I’ve been saved for, like, for about 5 years now. I’ve been slipping out. I’ve been doing bad things. I’ve been going my own way. I’ve been skipping church to hang out with my friends. This week, I made decisions that I’m going to change that. I’m going to start coming to church every time and stop skipping church. I’m going to stop doing all the bad things I do on a regular basis.… Anyone who here that isn’t saved and you have a burden on your heart to get saved, I encourage you to get saved. It’s the best thing that’s happened in my life! The best decision I’ve ever made!”

“. . . he preached on bitterness and doubting God. And I didn’t realize it at the time, but I had let bitterness take over my life. And I was bitter towards some people. I was mad and . . . I didn’t realize it at first, but I started getting worse and worse and worse. Then, that led to doubting God and I started asking, ‘Why do You have me here? What’s the purpose of me being at this school? What are You doing in my life?’ And I began to fight with God about this. And Dr. Jim said a verse, ‘All things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.’ And I had to realize that whatever God is doing in my life right now, He’s using that . . . and I had to realize that I can’t do anything on my own. . . . I have to depend on God. And no one else can take away the bitterness and all the doubts that I have, but only God can. And for all those who are out there and you’re dealing with bitterness and doubting God, just trust Him. He knows what you’re going through and He’s going to be your best friend during that time.”

It was a blessing to be at West Gate. We understand that four teens who visited the War of Special Forces came to church on Sunday. May the Lord continue to work in teenage lives in Tampa!

About the Author
Jim Van Gelderen

Jim Van Gelderen

Dr. Jim Van Gelderen is president of Minutemen Ministries, vice-president of Baptist College of Ministry, and evangelist out of Falls Baptist Church. He and his wife, Rhonda, travel the country in evangelism. They have three daughters.