Sorrowful Yet Always Rejoicing...

Sorrowful Yet Always Rejoicing...

Mike Barko reflects a journey of faith and evangelism, encapsulating the mix of sorrow and rejoicing inherent in the Christian life. The author shares personal experiences and interactions while spreading the Gospel, highlighting the moments of profound impact and transformation in the lives of those he encounters. Throughout his narrative, Barko acknowledges the challenges of sharing his faith, the lessons learned from others, and the interplay between personal struggles, divine grace, and the joy of witnessing lives changed through encountering Christ. The post underscores the profound connection between sorrow and joy as integral facets of the Christian journey, where moments of vulnerability and sorrow ultimately pave the way for profound rejoicing and transformation.


Mike Barko

3/26/202323 min read

Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.

(This should take 20 -25 minutes to read. It has been a while. My plan is to try to do these much more often and much shorter. Please pray for me about this.)

Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.

This could be a summary of the Christian life.

Certainly there are seasons with more of one than the other, and very few of us have had the same intensity of 'sorrow and rejoicing' as the apostle Paul. Nonetheless, we all as Christians can identify with these words.

I would like to share this newsletter in the context of 'sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.'

My love to you all. I hope you are blessed.

The last newsletter was beautifully written by my dear friend and ministry partner Eric Kabler. I trust that you enjoyed it. God really blessed us together as we ministered for three days on the Ocean City boardwalk last August. The icing on the cake was three more days of ministry with my dear brother and friend Sam Hammaker.

Sam brought his autistic son Ben with him and met me at the Wicomico County Fair in Salisbury Md on Saturday, August 20th. Because of a water leak at his business, Sam wasn't able to join me on Friday. He told me when he arrived that he was very concerned about my welfare having to minister alone. Sam really loved me. Sam really loved people.

On Saturday, we got to minister to Jim and his wife Marcie. Jim's first wife died six years ago and as a result confessed that he had harbored some hatred in his heart towards God. The Lord sent Marcie two years ago.

After presenting the Gospel to him, Jim wanted to trust in Christ alone and prayed with me. He told me, 'He opened up my heart. My heart feels big, like it's opening up...100%...I believe.'

Marcie told me, 'I believe that He got it this time...' and she was crying.

Then Jim told me, 'If you had preached to me I would not have understood. You shared the Word. Thank you.'

(Ben and Sam in the middle of picture.)


Why did I 'share the Word' and not preach?

Sam Hammaker.

Sam sat with me last March at the Highland Co. Maple Festival for two weekends and watched me. Several times he was troubled as I shared. As gently as he could, he indicated that he felt 'at times', that I needed to be more sensitive to the people.

Honestly, at first, I just thought that he didn't understand and his comments actually irritated my heart. However, I have learned over the years to listen to people and submit the matter to the Lord. He is faithful to show us.

I think I understand now. Many times when you are 'preaching', you can tell someone is struggling to understand. However, if you keep preaching, many of these people will experience the 'light bulb' moment, and they will come to understand. The confusion and coldness gives way to understanding and peace. However, to get to this point there are casualties. In other words, some of the people walk off.

Well, I just looked at the casualties as a 'result of the war'. It is a battle sharing the Gospel, and some people will be irritated and some won't. That is out of my hands. That is God's territory.

Yes and no. What if the casualties are on me and not on Him? If the Word causes someone to leave, okay and just fine. He does all things well. But what if I cause someone to leave?

'But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.' (Matthew 18:6)

Holy sobering words.

I think the answer is found in 1 Peter 3:15...

'But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.'

I think sometimes my 'passion for the work' can interfere with my 'compassion for the people.'

God help me as I continue to struggle with this.

Sam had great compassion for people. At the Maple Festival last March, He spent 6 hours on top of my ministry van fixing a leak in the roof. He was a large ministry supporter.

After Sam's challenging words to me last March, I really wanted to share more lovingly when he met me in August. His presence kept me accountable.

Sam's gentleness kept me in the right spirit. We truly are sanctified by the presence of one another. (1 Cor. 7:14)

Here we are sharing with Zilal, Mohamed, and Moaz. I believe they were all Muslim. Amazingly, back in June, I had shared with Moaz on the Ocean City boardwalk. The Lord brought him back to hear the Gospel again two months later and thirty miles away. Most Muslims don't respond. All professed Christ as God and wanted to trust Him as Savior.

Sam made me a better evangelist.

Sam made me a better man.

Mohamed told me, 'He helped me eternally trust in Him.'


Here we are sharing with 'Knowcash'. Look at the smiles of Sam and Knowcash. Just beautiful. I guess the presence of Sam and 'cash' would make you smile too.

Knowcash said, 'He saved my sins by just believing...'Wonderful'...'Joyous'...100%...'I believe''


Here is Sam loving on two more who professed Christ as Savior: Destiny and Caden...


Sam was a very loving father of three: Sam, Ben and Emma. Diedre was his wife. He sacrificed very much for all of them. I saw it especially for Ben who had autism. Sam took him along on this trip and I saw the sacrifices he made for him. Sam wanted to stay longer, but needed to leave Tuesday afternoon partly because of Ben.

After Sam left, I shared some the rest of Tuesday evening and then left on Wednesday. Here are a few of my favorites.

Jesse was with three others. Here is what he told me after hearing the Gospel and professing Christ as his Savior. I believe that he is the one on the end with the black nails.

'He inspired me to be my best. I am perfect in His eyes. I learned to trust in Him. My heart feels 10X purer. I am positive I am going to Heaven because I learned to trust in Him. In all my life, in all the churches, it was never explained like this.'


One of my last blessings from Ocean City was Adonesce. It took awhile, almost an hour, but I went deeper with the Gospel by addressing those sticking points which were hindering him from fully trusting Christ. Listen to all that he had to say...

'He made me realize that I'm not the worst person. The burden that I carried is non-existent. He already carried it. I am very sure that I will go to Heaven because God already paid the fine for me. You help a lot of people who are carrying guilt and He already carried it. Thank you, I really appreciate it.'

His prayer to God, 'Thank you for giving me eternal life by taking my spiritual death on the cross.'


There was great rejoicing on this trip. The first three days I had the pleasure to spend with my dear brother Erik from Pennsylvania. Erik got to 'spread his wings and fly' as he began sharing the Gospel.

The icing on the cake was three more days with my dear brother and friend Sam from Maryland. I witnessed him loving his son so sacrificially. We truly experienced a divine love connection as we shared the Gospel together. His love and concern for me was balm for my heart still grieving from the loss of my dear dad.

These truly beautiful days together.

I returned home that Wednesday with a renewed vision, joy, and vigor for the ministry. My heart was already thinking forward about how the addition of Sam and Erik would propel the ministry to new heights for the glory of our Lord.

Plans were forming in my heart...

'A man's heart deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his steps.' (Prov. 16:9)

Man proposes, but God disposes.

Sometimes the icing on the cake is 'bittersweet'.

Sober sweet Christians are better than syrupy sweet ones...

'A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one's birth. It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the heart of mirth. It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise, than for a man to hear the song of fools.'

Saturday, August 27th, Samuel Hammaker died tragically in a motorcycle accident.

He is now safe in the arms of Jesus.

'God, thank you for blessing me with my dear brother and friend Sam. I am very thankful that we got to spend his last days together. You showed me much love and grace through Sam, a reflection of your love and grace for me. Forgive me if I sorrowed and grieved too much. You are good and only good. Help me to trust you moving forward, Amen.'

'Please help and bless Sam, Emma, Ben and Diedre and bring them safe across the other side (me too) where we can all rejoice together for all eternity. Amen and thank you Jesus.'

Most of you have experienced deep loss. It can take the wind out of your sails. God as a faithful Father, has been breathing his wind back into my sail.

'But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk and not faint.' (Isaiah 40:31)

The responsibilities of life call us on. The next week was the Canfield Fair in Ohio. My dear friend Johan Weiss traveled with me for five days of ministry.

It was difficult for me to minister. My heart was heavy. I also got sick while I was there. It might have been laryngitis (it affected my voice), or something else. The doctor back here says it might have been Covid.

I am very thankful that God carried me through this as well. Here are some blessings from this trip:

I shared with Dante on Saturday. He was struggling to understand that there was a penalty for our sin. He said his mom taught him that he should always have 'a positive confession' and should not accept anything that was negative.

Honestly, this one was very difficult. I did not push the truth (thank you Sam), but gently shared the 'very negative' parts of the Gospel (sin, punishment, Hell) with as much love and compassion as I could muster.

I have come to understand the more we understand the negative, the more we appreciate the positive.

We won't take needful medicine from the doctor unless we know that we are sick.

We won't appreciate joy until we have experienced sorrow.

Your sorrow will be turned into joy.

Maybe the deeper we go in sorrow, the higher we go with joy.

And that joy will not be syrupy, but spiritual, super-abounding, springing up from the wells of sorrow.

May we humbly submit to the sorrows so we can supernaturally soar with the joys. Amen.

Maybe the two become one?...I am still learning.

That night, I was thinking about Dante. Was I too hard on him? Should I have shared differently?

God is faithful. He is the Savior. He takes our stumblings, rumblings, and bumblings and makes them right.

Before I showed up the next day (I needed rest), Johan called me...

Dante had showed up to thank me. Johan stressed that he was very thankful. The message had meant a lot to him. Thank you Jesus.


Another great blessing from this trip was my dear brother and friend George from Pennsylvania. Because I was having trouble speaking and was still pretty weak, I decided to sit next to George and let him share.

I met George last year with his son Todd. They really enjoyed watching last year as I shared with people. This year, George brought a custom made notebook with pictures, illustrations and scriptures to share with people. I got to watch him share this year.

We should yield control and depend upon others in our sorrows and infirmities.

Humbling indeed.

Here is George sharing with Richard and Sivert. I provided assistance as needed. Richard's response is beautiful...

'I feel like I've been cleansed...100%...I believe in Him.'

Sivert: 'He made me feel safe, more secure, it's not all doom and gloom. I put my faith in Him and not myself.'

George is on the right.


We had the pleasure of sharing with Damone, Angelo, Joe, Tyler and friend. All responded, but it seemed like the message went deepest with Damone who told me...

'100%...I'm changed'


I was too exhausted to share last day of the fair, September 5th, Labor day. I texted George a few times and he said things were going very well. He was very excited at the end of the day to let me know that 15 - 20 people had professed Christ as Savior.

Our sorrows may facilitate other's rejoicing.

Then their rejoicing becomes ours.

Our sorrow is then turned into joy.

We truly need each other.

I returned home to have an infected wisdom tooth extracted. God blessed me with a wonderful Christian dentist, Dr. Goodwin.

That Saturday was Sam's funeral.

Here is Sam and Ben in a big red truck they both loved...


I decided to take an extended period of rest for about six weeks until the last week of October. During this time I saw an ENT doctor who examined my vocal chords. By the grace of God, there was no damage. He did tell me to use a microphone to amplify my voice. God continues to heal my voice as He is my faithful Father.

When I got back out there, here are six JMU students with whom I shared while holding the cross on Route 33. They all responded and professed faith in Christ as Savior.


For the last 10 years or so, we have joined Alum Springs Baptist Church and assisted them in their annual Trunk or Treat Harvest Festival. Many in the church body come together to serve the community with the Love of Christ.

Treats for the children...


Games as well...


And, of course, the best treat...

The Gospel...

'Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good.'


I got to share with Aaron and Hailey first. Both really seemed to understand and eagerly wanted to trust in Christ alone...


The last one was little Bradley. He really seemed to get it as well...


One of our volunteers Rob Gilmer is now the associate Pastor at the Dayspring Church of the Nazarene in Mt. Crawford, Va. He is also now working as a chaplain at the local hospital.

Rob has the privilege and challenge of sharing the Gospel with those who are at the end of their journey. Please pray for Rob. He has a grace and sensitivity that I truly admire.

Rob's grace and sensitivity sanctifies me.

Rob graces us with his presence when he has some free time. Here is Rob sharing with a gentleman on court square...


Another ministry volunteer is Karen Brooks. Karen is a great 'foot soldier', a humble servant, and does an excellent job sharing the Gospel. Here we are sharing the Gospel with Shannon on court square in Harrisonburg, Va.

Shannon wanted to trust in Christ and prayed.

I asked him if God did anything for him 'today'. I want to let the people tell me. I don't want to assume anything.

'Yes, He did. He made me 100% sure that I'm going to Heaven because He died for me on the cross. My heart is very happy. (As he turned to walk into the courthouse, he said)'re going to send me in here with tears.'


Thanksgiving this year was definitely a 'sorrowful, yet always rejoicing' for me. We were without dad for the first time, and definitely 'fumbled around' a bit, missing the 'great stabilizer'. God is faithful. He works it all out in the Spirit, but it does require a whole lot of grace, patience, loyalty, love and time on our part. Amen.

Here is one of my favorite Thanksgiving memories. In the pic, Mom and I are at the Dutchman Creek Baptist Church in Mocksville, North Carolina. It's a 'hootin', 'hollerin', 'unrefined choir singing', 'old fashioned hell-preaching (with grace in the Spirit), 'lots of Spirit filled grinnin', fundamental Baptist church. Mom and I definitely left filled and encouraged by the Spirit.

One of the deacons worked at the funeral home that handled my dad's arrangements. That is how we ended up here.


Some of our sorrowfuls are our own doing...

On the way home, coming through Roanoke, I was caught going 74 in a 55. This cost me a nice chunk of change, a visit to the Roanoke courthouse, and a whole Saturday for a driving class. (Maybe sorrowfuls also help us to slow

December 1st at J.M.U. turned out to be a great rejoicing for me. Paul Collins, Karen, and Thomas, a new convert from Paul, helped. Interestingly, as I walked up the hill to where we share the Gospel, my heart was definitely heavy with sorrow.

God really used that sorrow to put extra love and sensitivity in my heart towards the students. I could hear it in my voice. It was all Him.

I was pretty amazed as I watched the Spirit work. How can we 'watch the Spirit'. Well, I think I started sharing with one or two and then more came till there was five. God gave special grace as I shared. When I gave the invitation, I did it very slowly and purposely and held my hands out to the five young boys: Taylor, Tim, Ben, Will and Doug.

There was a long pause...(contemplation, waiting)

Then, all at once, simultaneously, they all moved forward together drawn by the Spirit. All five held hands with me in a circle and prayed to trust in Christ alone. At a certain level, I wonder if the Spirit is pretty irresistible.

I really wish God would do it like this every time. More sorrowful...

God knows best. We trust Him in the bumblings and stumblings...More rejoicing.

Maybe the two do become one...

Four had to get to class. One remained with Paul and me for the pic.


Lo and behold, another group of five: Jalen, Thomas, Thomas, Griffin, and Nick. It seemed like the exact same thing happened. Blessed.


We saw 17 students respond to the Gospel this day. Last two were Zeke and Matt. Paul methodically, relationally, and lovingly shared the Gospel with them. Paul is much better connecting relationally with the people he shares.

Paul's presence sanctifies me.

Paul met Thomas while holding the cross the previous week, who came out to join us. Thomas is standing next to Paul in the pic. Listen to Matt's response after we asked him what happened...

'He helped me breathe.'


Write your text here...More sorrow the following week...

For a few days, I used a 'chair back massager' to help relieve the pain in my lower back. It was working very well, but, unfortunately, I forgot about a large cyst I had on my upper back. Fluid filled cysts don't respond well to back massagers.

The cyst got infected. I will spare you the pic...quite nasty. Thankfully, Dr. Pence drained it two days later. Unfortunately, it was too large for him to complete the job, so he sent me to a surgeon at the hospital.

Thankfully again, the surgeon drained it just two days later. I was very concerned about infection, having an open cyst on my back. Dr. Findley (wonderful Christian), the nurse (she and her son honk at me holding the cross) and the associate were all so compassionate and kind.

Thankfully again, Dr. Findley was able to remove the entire cyst. He initially said that he might not be able to get it all out and that I might have to return for another surgery. Thankful again dear Lord. When the associate saw the size of the hole in my back (icebergs are generally much deeper below the surface), she gasped and said, 'My, that's a big hole!'

She was the one that held my hand through the surgery. I asked for a tennis ball, but she offered her hand. It was very painful...pray for her!

They ship you out with wound packing materials and limited instructions. After surgery, I was thanking God for his goodness and had not yet shifted gears...'What do I do now?'

That night, my dear friend Karen packed the wound. It was an adventure, or maybe a nightmare. Mom called as Karen was packing...'Maybe it's cancer!'...Karen got nauseated with all the blood running out of the huge hole and had to retreat several times to exhale and catch her breath before returning...and the sterile packing which was on my shoulder fell onto the not so sterile carpet...
a stressful situation. There was a little boy inside of me that was s