John’s Salvation & Calling

Salvation at a Young Age

I was raised in a Christian home, by parents who had been saved only about 5 years before my own birth. We attended a few Nazarene churches in Colorado until I reached school age. I had asked the Lord to be my Saviour at the age of three while alone in my bed. I never forgot that moment, though due to my age, I did battle with doubts later on. God gave me complete assurance of my salvation, but it was not until I was well into college, a fact I will address below.

Christian School Influence

In a leap of faith, my parents decided to try an independent, fundamental Baptist school, which was a tremendous change from my older sister’s public school upbringing. This single decision was one of the most profound in my own life and that of my family’s. (God used what I and my younger brother learned there to move my parents to become independent, fundamental Baptists as well. They did not make the entire change though until I was in college.)

Church Transition

As time progressed my heart was pulled away from the Nazarene church and I eventually joined the Baptist church (of which the Baptist school was a ministry).

Christian College & Its Positive Influence

I did respond to light occasionally, but I still had a good bit of rebellion and pride in me. I wrestled against my parents’ desire for me to go to a Christian college. Praise the Lord, they did not give up though! They placed me at Pensacola Christian College, which proved to be another turning point in my life. God used the regular preaching of His Word and Bible classes to awaken me to Him in a very profound way! I realized that I needed to follow Him with a much more serious frame of mind. I learned that God is not the “partying God” that the CCM movement proclaims Him to be (which was a movement that had strongly influenced me). He is holy, omnipotent, omniscient and eternal. His choices are His prerogative. I am entitled to nothing. This transformed my entire attitude before Him.

Surrender & Calling

Interestingly, two weeks before my freshman year, I opened my heart up to God and offered my life to Him, in what I imagined was a full surrender. It was in that moment that I responded to the call of missions. As I prayed, Brazil came to my mind. I actually told the Lord that I did not know where that was, but I would find out!

I struggled telling people about this. In fact, I remained a computer science major at college for the first semester, because of doubt. God, however, would not let me go. I completely surrendered, demonstrating this to God by changing my major to missions.

Two Years of Darkness

Sadly, I went through two very dark years in the midst of all this excitement. My freshman and sophomore years were plagued with doubts, primarily because of the textual issue. Since my family had long used the NASB and other versions, I was quite alarmed by how these versions were criticized at college. It bothered me that these teachers would claim that only the KJV was a fit translation in the English language. With my rebellious nature, I rejected that teaching, and actually chose the alternative–that the Bible had a measure of error, being corrupted over time. Oh, what a dreadful error! From that point forward, for two years I could not get anything comforting from the Bible. In fact, when preachers would proclaim that the Bible is a book of hope, I would ask, “How, if I cannot trust that every word is the Word of God?”

As I look back on that time of my life, I see haunting darkness. It was an awful experience, a time in which all hopes to find hope were tripped up by doubt. Plus, I feared that if I was truly doubting the Bible, then I must be doubting Christ, and if so, logically I was not demonstrating faith sufficient for salvation. No faith means no Heaven! Every time I envisioned Hell it was a great horror to me. My thoughts plagued me day after day. I wanted to believe the Bible, that it was in fact the Word of God, but my rebellion had led me into deeper and deeper confusion. Now, instead of simply humbling myself and even seeking the counsel of the teachers who had told me the KJV was trustworthy, I refused. I chose rather to weather this storm on my own, and come to terms with what the Bible really was, who Christ really was and what I was. In this rebellion, however, fear did not hide itself. In fact, my rebellious choice to go at it alone was also part due to the fact that I fearfully did not want people to know my inner turmoil. Looking back, I suppose I hoped to find the answers to my questions alone and then secretly come out of my darkness on solid ground; no one would be the wiser.

The horror and confusion intensified. (I now believe) a God-authored blindness kept me from from coming immediately to the light. I wanted to find concrete evidence that the Bible was true, but I kept going in circles. I would read the critics and find myself unable to answer their remarks. Sometimes I would read for hours just trying to find some faint glimmer of hope in the veracity of Scripture. God knew what He was doing, and instead of satisfying my hunger, He kept away from me what I needed, and continued to make the void larger and larger.

Eventually, I began to wonder about core Christian doctrine, like Christ’s deity. I hunted for it through the gospel records, and amazingly could not find it. I thought, “Have we all been fooled? Does the Bible never clearly teach He is God?” God, of course, continued to hide the answer to this question from me. The Lord was weeding my heart, so that when the good seed finally entered, it would find good soil in which to grow.

I wanted Christ but I was not sure if I could trust of Him. I wanted to believe He was God, but when it came to actually seeing it concretely in Scripture, I just could not find it. At this point, as I longed to find the Bible to be inerrant and Christ to be God, but failing to come up with solid evidence, I began to wonder about my perception of anything and everything. I began to doubt everything. I had painted myself into a corner, a corner I feared would somehow fall off the face off the earth straight into Hell. Of course, one may wonder how a person could want Christ so much and yet fail to recognize Him after reading the Bible for hours upon hours. I am convinced though that God was breaking me down to make me a useful vessle for Him.

Things got worse as I began to listen to the voices of rationalism. I wondered how I could actually know there was a God; in fact, I wondered how I could know if I existed! In desperation I would go again and again to the college library and devour books on the subject. I wanted to read the critics and I wanted to read the apologists. I had no idea that God was using this to develop me into a reader. At the time, my mind was consumed with finding answers to my deepest questions. I did not even realize how much I had read; it was a journey through a storm out of which I soon feared I would never escape.

God Breaks Through

God broke through my rebellious heart the summer after my sophomore year. I was in my father’s study, praying, begging God to show Himself to me. Dying for fear so to speak of what was true and what was not. (My doubts had not just led me away from complete confidence in the Bible, but from complete confidence in anything!) I remember closing my eyes in prayer. When I had finally opened them, I saw the same world around me I had seen before closing my eyes, but this time I suddenly realized this world is the creation of God, the world that He had marvelously formed with His own infinite wisdom. I immediately realized He had to be real, and the Bible had to be true!

God let the scales fall from my eyes and everything I had already been looking at suddenly came into focus. I knew unquestionably that all my preceeding doubts had been unfounded. Suddenly, the beauty of common things became more apparent. I remember looking out the windows in that study, seeing the sky, trees and grass. It all simply seemed so much sweeter, as I was finally convinced they had been created by God–for me.

This led to an immediate question. I asked myself, “What does all this imply?” Or, that is, as God is true and Christ is His Son, how ought that to impact the way I live my life? The reality of God began to infiltrate all my thoughts. The dark clouds scattered, never to return!

A New Search, not for Truth, but in the Truth

By the grace of God, I began to pore over my Bible, commentaries, dictionaries, etc. I wanted to know all there was to be known about God and the Bible. Now, I was no longer reading the Bible in doubt, but in faith, and what seemed so dark and dreary became bright, full of life, wonder and hope! Daily I saw more and more the Bible’s emphasis on the complete sufficiency of Christ’s work on the cross and resurrection for our salvation. It was absolutely thrilling!

When I returned to college, all the preaching seemed richer, the music seemed more beautiful and holiness became important to me. I finally knew what it was to rest in the Lord.

Sanctification

Of course, this journey into the heart and mind of God revealed to me my utter sinfulness more than I had ever seen it before, and my life realized many changes. I gave up so many forms of humor, ways of talking, types of music, etc.

Marriage

Not only that but it was in my latter half of college that I met Julie, now my wife. She had been raised in a preacher’s home, and their conservative stand really helped to sharpen me. Her conscientiousness has helped me to see the strengths in others and the faults in myself–a task which is quite a reverse from my natural character!

She agreed to be a missionary with me. That was in 2000. We were married in VA in 2001.

Early Ministry & Proving

We worked together at a Baptist church in Petersburg. It was there I learned more than ever about serving God by the power of His Holy Spirit alone. Now, this was very painful; it was a constant attack on my self-confidence. I had learned a lot in college, but I still had not fully grasped what it was to look to God alone in ministry. God ground me to powder. I was on proving ground again. Through this very trying time, I sought God, and He led me to seminary. After much prayer and discussion, the Lord led my wife and I to choose Crown in Knoxville, TN.

Our Sending Church & Ministry in Tennessee

What a tremendous show of mercy and grace! I knew literally nothing about Crown College, Crown Seminary, Dr. Clarence Sexton or the Temple Baptist Church, but in God’s providence He brought us there, and we are absolutely grateful! As we visited, the Lord spoke directly to my heart and made it clear that I was to be under the ministry of Pastor Sexton. Little did I know that he would hire me one year later to develop curriculum for the Crown Seminary, as well as work on numerous other projects. Our total time there began in fall of 2002. While earning my M. Div. I was able to see Temple Baptist Church become my church home and eventually my sending church.

Divine Appointment for a Ministry Partnership

God works in ways far better than we expect. When I had called Crown to enquire about the Seminary initially, I spoke with the secretary. She was a kind lady, and very helpful. I expressed my interests and I relayed to her that I was called to be a missionary to Brazil. She was ecstatic, because her husband just so happened to be an MK from Brazil and hoped to return one day. Her name is Amanda and her husband is Jeremy Tyler. They are now here with us in Brazil! There at Temple Baptist we spent much time praying together, soulwinning and discussing missionary work. God used this to unite our hearts in our missionary philosophy. Though we are very different people, we see eye-to-eye on missionary work. Acts 14:21-23 became the framework of our philosophy, utilizing the 8 verbs in those verses.

From a Bud to a Blossom

While helping Pastor Sexton at Crown Seminary and eventually Crown College also, we had much discussion about missions. I remember watching my dreams about missionary work develop under his tutelage. I began to see that though my ministry ideas were a bud, the blossom had not yet come forth. He revealed so much about God to me, that my vision for the work broadened more than I ever imagined possible. Principally, I became aware that world evangelism does not stop with a missionary going to the field; that is where it begins. I now hope to reach the world through Brazil.

Eventually, I was teaching in the Crown College, the Crown Seminary and coordinating the mission program. This was a tremendously instructive time. I have been drawing from these experiences ever since.

Sending Church

I had especially been impressed to go directly through a local church to the foreign field, without a board. This is exactly where the Lord was leading our pastor! And so, we went ahead with it! Our ministry partner, Jeremy and his family, did the same thing. Now there are other missionaries being sent out of our church the same way.

Dr. Keen

Right when I was transitioning out of the ministry God was bringing in Dr. Charles Keen. It was such a pleasure to have Pastor Sexton teach me so much about pastoral work and then to have Dr. Keen educate me in numerous matters in regards to world evangelism. He was instrumental in getting the newly developed mission program of our church off the ground, which was a special blessing to our family and ministry.

Children

During our time in Knoxville, God gave us three wonderful children. And, since coming to Brazil, we have had our fourth! Their names are Selina, Gabriel, Elijah and Christian. They have been such a blessing and our prayer is that they will each come to Christ and join us with all their hearts that we might truly serve Christ together.

Deputation

In 2007 I made the decision to begin deputation. God immediately brought people along to support us. It was a marvelous time. We were treated like royalty.

We made some specific commitments to God and He allowed us to leave the US for the field on December 28th, 2009. We traveled extensively in the east and the Illinois area, but we were also able to get out as far as Phoenix. This was a great time to hone my preaching skills and practice what I preach. All in all, it was a proving ground designed by God in preparation for the busyness of missionary life on the field.

Internet Ministry is Born

Now, back in 2007 I attended our pastor’s July “Pastors’ College.” In that meeting our pastor said, “We should be doing anything we can to reach the lost!” That immediately got me to thinking. I am here in Knoxville, what am I doing to reach Brazil now? Awe, the Internet! And, so was born (through more miracles) our first website http://www.ConhecendoDeus.com.br (Knowing God). This website is strictly about knowing God through Christ in salvation, and has seen an amazing amount of hits. We immediately started seeing Brazilians visit. Now, every week we are answering questions from folks all throughout Brazil, some who have questions about their salvation, others who are hurting, others who have particular sins, etc. Brazil itself is a very religiously confused country, and these types of questions coming at us are to be expected. We are so grateful to God we have means of facilitating answers!

In the midst of this Internet effort http://www.BraziltotheUttermost.com was born. This site is intended to keep our supporters in touch with what is going on, on a more day to day basis (through our blog which is occasionally updated throughout the month), as opposed to our general prayer letters that are sent out monthly.

We also are interested in engaging the Independent Fundamental Baptist community in Brazil in deeper fellowship and service. This has given rise to a few more websites that are still in the works. We hope these will facilitate interaction and productivity throughout the country and around the world.

Current Responsibilities and Ministry

I have completed language school, but my wife is set to be done in May. (I finished early because I obtained advanced standing do to prior language studies.)

We have been using this time to get to know the churches in the São Paulo area, to learn the language and to integrate into the culture. This has involved a tremendous amount of paperwork, which essentially has not stopped since we arrived, but we trust is soon to be completed. We have already obtained our permanent visa protocols! Now we just wait to receive the official documentation.

Since I was able to move quicker on the language, this opened doors for evangelism, teaching and preaching opportunities. For some time now I have had opportunities in various churches to present God’s Word, both by sermons and lessons in Bible institutes. I have also been able to lead several people to Christ and see some even come to church! This has been a great encouragement!

The subject of my preaching has been of great concern to me. Brazilians as a whole are not readers, and worse yet, of the small amount of decent literature available, one must carefully weed through a lot of corruption. Even though many good books have been produced, they do not continue to stay in print. I have, therefore, gone about writing out what I teach and preach (in Portuguese, of course) to fill in gaps I find along the way. This includes anything from polemics to the Baptist Distinctives. Jeremy and I have also developed a quarterly e-magazine to help facilitate reading, writing, and Bible study among believers here.

We have also had the opportunity to meet with missionaries, national pastors and publishing houses to discuss these matters. God is opening doors and we are hoping to see much fruit in the near future!

I had been burdened for months to have a weekly prayer meeting for revival among the Independent Baptist missionaries in our area. Finally, the opportunity arose on Thanksgiving day of 2010 to present it to them. They all had interest in it, and so on Monday nights we meet for two hours to seek God in prayer. The fellowship has been very precious! It is such a wonderful thing when God initiates something and we act upon it.

Our Current Long-Term Goal

Our goal is to get to a city far north of here: Porto Velho. We believe that this strategic location fits our philosophy, which is, not merely coming to Brazil to reach Brazil, but actually to reach the world through Brazil. We want to heavily emphasize in our church planting that each church reproduces and has a goal to one day send missionaries worldwide. Porto Velho is a city very central, not to Brazil, but to South America. Furthermore, it is nestled among one of the largest populations of completely uncontacted people groups in the world. We would love to see the churches we plant reach their own people, and also these indian tribes, the surrounding Spanish-speaking countries, and eventually the uttermost part of the earth.

What Keeps Us in São Paulo Now

Of course, we must continue completing our paperwork. When that is done, we will be much freer to move up north. Also, Julie is still in language school, and we dare not interrupt or shorten that. Communication is key as a missionary.

Primarily, these two factors keep us in São Paulo. There is also one other–God’s timing. We want to know when He wants us to move north. Currently, we are prayerfully considering how we might be of help to the missionaries and nationals in this city. They would like to see the education of preachers better facilitated. Since my background includes curriculum development and Bible college education, I do not want to miss a God-given opportunity, if this is one. It may be that God would have me get things going here to some degree, before our departure.

Finally, there are a good number of missionaries here who have some connections to missionaries up north; it may be that God will open a strategic door between them. If so, we would love to see friendships strengthened in our time here before heading north. If so, our presence in São Paulo will be lengthened to some indefinite degree. God knows; we are looking to Him.

Previous Update of December 16th, 2011

Julie and I have both completed language school. What a blessing those teachers were to us! Now, we daily put into practice what we learned and are constantly adding to it.

We are currently taking care of a church in São Paulo, and plan to stay here until May of 2012, unless God directs differently. In a marvelous way, this dear group of people has continued to bless us. We are wanting to minister to them, but their real-life situations are such an education for us. As so many preachers before us have said, Bible college is a great thing, but there is nothing that compares to putting your own hands to the plow and doing the work yourself.

The church here is simply called São Paulo Baptist Church. Our first service was August 18th, 2011. Missionary Juan Vallejo (from Mexico) with his wife, Amy, (an American) and their five children had to take a furlough, because she was experiencing health trouble. We have also learned that she is expecting twins, a boy and a girl! (They call that a couple here in Brazil.) She is due to be delivered in February. Please pray for them.

In the meantime, we are living in their home, pastoring their church, keeping them in our prayers and continuing to make plans for our ministry up north in Porto Velho, Rondônia, Brazil.

On February 29th, 2012, we have our last scheduled meeting with the Federal Police. This meeting, we trust, will complete all our paperwork, and from that point we are free to move northward. Please pray that this process is not impeded in anyway.

Previous Update of September 4th, 2012

On Februrary 29th, we completed our paperwork for the permanent visas! This was a wonderful experience. Now the cards that declare our permanency must be shipped to the Federal Police in the state of Rondônia, so that we can pick them up. This whole process started back sometime in 2008, as we gathered up paperwork and saved money. We may not have the cards yet, but it is a relief to know that we have the permanent visa protocol numbers and that the final step rests on the shoulders of the Federal Police. We simply wait until the cards are ready! Praise the Lord!

On the first day of August, we completed our work at the São Paulo Baptist Church. Missionary Juan Vallejo and his wife, Amy, return with their seven children (their twins were born and are in good health!) to take care of the flock. We had a hard time emotionally leaving this dear church, as we saw them grow so much while we were there. Plus, God added to the fellowship a family of four and a young teenager. Also, a lady in her twenties has started to attend, whose faithfulness we pray increases. We saw others make professions of faith, etc., and hope that from this number even more people will begin to attend the church.

We moved to Rondônia, about 1,500 miles northwest of São Paulo, at the beginning of August. The church back in São Paulo has regularly contacted us, letting us know how things are going. Our prayer is that they make it through the month of August in strength, so they can be an optimal blessing to the Vallejos upon their return in early September. As far as our situation, we have chosen the city of Ouro Preto do Oeste. It lies in roughly the middle of the state of Rondônia. It is an agricultural community like most of the state. I compare the culture here to that of Colorado, and the people themselves like to say they live in the “Far West” (yes, in English). It does remind me a bit of the wild west, cowboys, horses, cattle, rodeos, etc. The weather, however, is more like south Florida. There are just two seasons, the hot and dry and the hot and wet. This last week, we saw temperatures read between 102 and 107, depending on the report.

Currently, we are settling on a house, and looking for a car. Once we get established, we hope immediately to get started working on the church plant. We are also expecting a missionary lady named Rosângela to join us in December. She is a passionate soulwinner. We look forward to seeing how the Lord uses her!

Previous Update of February 5, 2013

God has been tremendously blessing the work here! A church in the States bought us a 7-passenger van. We have two Bible studies going, and are beginning a prayer meeting with the key men. And, last but not least, we are expecting a baby girl in May!

Meanwhile we are also planning a furlough in May of 2014.

Rosângela is planning to join us next year, so that she can raise support throughout 2013. If you would like to assist her so she can assist us, please let us know!

Update February 17, 2015

Moriah was born. What a sweet little baby. She has grown so much, and will be turning two in April. Her siblings love her, and she is already showing interest in helping us. Just today she set the table (as best an almost-2-year-old can).

Ministry in Ouro Preto do Oeste, RO has continued, steadily allowing us to meet new people. I checked the spreadsheet a couple days ago. It includes the information of 156 people! It will soon have over 160. These are people that we have been able to give the gospel to in a very clear way, gather their information and in many cases see in a Bible study or church service.

We were obviously saddened when the Lord made it clear that Rosângela was not to join us here. God, however, had other plans to provide help for us. A young lady named, Teylor, has joined us (at least temporarily) to teach our children. She is proving to be a great blessing and shows an aptitude not only in the classroom but also with Portuguese. We will see what the Lord has in store for her before she returns to the States.

We have also entered our second term. In May of 2014, we returned to the States for our first furlough. It was a tremendous encouragement! We had the privilege of visiting many places, going to the majority of our supporting churches, seeing our family (more than once) and acquainting our children with their American heritage. Time well spent!

While on furlough, the Tylers were able to rent a small store front for us to hold more formal church services. We have been encouraged by those who have faithfully been attending since then. We regularly have visitors. Our main Bible study also continues, and another we intend to restart over in another city.

When we arrived back in January of 2015, it was not too long before the Lord allowed us to see people saved. Junior, the (now former) mayor’s son, invited me to preach to some men at his farm. Two trusted Christ! One, Thiago, is to be baptized this Sunday! We have had some great talks with him.

The Lord also put me in contact with another Tiago (spelled slightly differently), who was raised as a traditional Baptist, and has proven to be a tremendous encouragement. He hopes to become a member of our fledgling church as well!


 

Always feel free to contact us if you ever want an update on our ministry, or you would like to receive our prayer letter. We work to have it out monthly.

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