Conversion and Call to the Ministry
May God always be glorified with our lives and service!
Kelly and I met at Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina. God had already been directing each of us toward service for him in South America before we met. We got married on August 4, 2007. God gave us both jobs at BJU while I was working on my Master of Divinity degree which I finished up in 2013. During that time God gave us opportunities to serve in a local Spanish-speaking church and take several survey trips to Peru. He has blessed us with four daughters, and we now enjoy serving the Lord in Peru. We thank God for so clearly directing our steps over the years.
Isn’t it incredible to think about all that God has done for us? That really is the story of your life and mine - what GOD has done for us! The Bible tells us that apart from God we are in a hopeless state.
- Romans 1 tells us that
in our sins,
we are under the wrath of God.
- Ephesians 2 tells us that
we are “dead in trespasses and sins.”
- II Corinthians 4 tells us that
we are in a state of darkness and spiritual blindness.
But Romans 5:6-8 reminds us of what God has done! “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
Ephesians 2:8-9 puts it this way: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”
That grace of God was powerfully working in my family to allow me the privilege of being around scriptural truth from the time of my birth. That privilege is incredible to think about, considering the fact that my maternal grandfather was an alcoholic who wanted little to do with God until months before his death when he repented of his sins and believed in Christ for salvation. By God’s grace, my grandmother and father’s parents took my parents to church where they heard of Christ’s salvation and believed. My parents followed their faithful example – they taught me the truth and took me to church to hear God’s Word preached and taught.
When I was five years old, one night after a Bible class at Calvary Baptist Church in Winter Garden, FL, I confessed to God that I was a sinner and that only Jesus Christ could save me from my sins. But in the years following that, I wondered whether I was truly a Christian or not. I was focusing on whether or not I had prayed the right things that night as a five year old, rather than grounding my faith in the One who saved me. At the age of twelve, my fears and doubts came to a climax after a night of preaching on sin, hell, and judgment. That night at home, after talking with my parents, I reconfirmed my belief that I am a sinner that is incapable of saving himself. I reconfirmed my faith in the sinless Son of God, Jesus Christ, who alone can save me through His work in shedding His blood on the cross for my sins and rising in victory over sin and death. I know for certain that I am a Christian today based on my belief that Jesus Christ is my only Savior. As a boy, I publicly identified myself as a disciple of Jesus Christ by being baptized by immersion. By God's grace, He has done a powerful, redeeming, and sanctifying work in my life!
At the age of thirteen, after hearing another powerful sermon preached in my Christian school chapel, I made a purposeful decision to serve God with my life. It has been amazing to see the work of the Spirit using the Word of God in my life through preaching and biblical teaching. Shortly after that, I noticed a growing interest in foreign missions. God used missionary biographies and stories that I heard and read about, interaction with missionaries at my church, and books and TV shows about other parts of the world. He then used all of those things to give me a specific interest in ministry to the Spanish-speaking parts of the world.
Since my junior year in high school, I can look back and see many specific opportunities God has given me to serve and prepare for cross-cultural service for Him. It has been a combination of practical training and survey/confirmatory trips. I began studying Spanish in the 11th grade. That next summer, I went on a week-long trip to Puerto Rico with my church youth group. I then took a second year of Spanish. After graduating from my Christian school, I went to Bob Jones University in 2003, majored in Christian Missions, and minored in Spanish. God directed me to a Spanish-speaking church in Hendersonville, NC that I was a part of from 2003-2013. From 2006-2013 I enjoyed weekly preaching / teaching opportunities in Spanish. After my first year at BJU, I went on a seven-week trip to Panama and Puerto Rico with the BJU Spanish mission team. After my junior year in 2006, I went on a nine-week internship to Peru. There I enjoyed incredible preaching (preached twenty times in Spanish) and ministry opportunities in the mountain and jungle regions of Southeast Peru. God used the contacts that Mr. Mark Vowels, the director of missions at BJU, had made to provide the specific ministry opportunities that I had felt God directing me to for several years. God provided opportunities to see local church and seminary ministries in the mountainous regions of Cuzco for about five weeks of the trip. The other four weeks were spent teaching the Bible and English in the low-lying jungle village of Miaria (Yine tribal group) on the Urubamba River (one of the many tributaries of the Amazon River). God used that trip to confirm a desire that He had given me to make disciples, train men to be pastors, and assist local churches in the jungles of South America. Since then, Kelly and I have been back to Peru together several times for short-term survey trips.
I was raised in a Christian home and was taught about God, His work in history, and His salvation. When I was 6 years old, I began to really think about salvation, sin, death, etc. One day as we were driving, I asked my mom, “If we were in a car accident and I died, I would go to hell wouldn’t I?” My parents really wanted me to make the decision on my own and not force me into praying a prayer. So she answered my question, and quietly prayed the rest of the day. That evening with my mom, I knelt by my bed and asked the Lord to forgive my sins and to be my Savior. As a girl, I publicly identified myself as a disciple of Jesus Christ by being baptized by immersion.
My junior year in high school was a big year in my spiritual life. My pastor and his family began planting a new church. My family went to help them. I saw ministry – the good, the bad, the ugly – and I loved it. I became very involved with the children’s ministry, music, whatever I could. Around this time, I began to seriously doubt my salvation since I couldn’t remember what I actually said. Did I say the right words? Did I really know what I was doing? But I kept ignoring the conviction because I didn’t want to have to give my testimony and say that in high school I doubted my salvation. One day while doing my devotions, I decided that I did not want my pride to stand in the way of my eternal life and made assurance of my salvation. I came to realize that ultimately it's not about simply saying the right words. Becoming a true disciple of Jesus Christ is not a magic trick. I realize that I am a Christian because I repented of my sins and believed that Jesus Christ came, died on the cross for my sins, rose again, and is in Heaven today. I know 100% that if I died today I would see and live forever with my Savior, Jesus Christ.
As I continued to grow spiritually, I knew that the Lord wanted me to serve Him although I didn’t know in what particular way. I remember telling my mom that I wanted to do something important with my life. During my senior year in high school, my youth group attended a missions conference. At one of the sessions, we watched a video about Jim and Roni Bowers, missionaries in Peru, whose plane was shot down by the government thinking they were smuggling drugs. Roni and their little girl were killed from the same bullet. At the end of the video, Jim came on and pled for people to come to Peru to reach the lost. The Lord really used that story in my life to direct me to mission work in South America. Through the help of my parents and pastor, I connected with some missionaries in Chile and spent 2 weeks with them during the summer after I graduated from high school. The Lord used that trip to give me a greater burden for children in South America. That fall I went to Bob Jones University with a desire to learn, grow, and eventually return to South America. Little did I know that several months later I would meet Jay, who was also preparing for ministry in South America!