Who We Are

My journey to serve Christ cross-culturally to a least reached people group starts early. I was born in Chihuahua, Mexico, where I grew up among the Tepehuan people of Northern Mexico. My parents lived their lives to love these people, yet my young heart only saw how different they were from our family. I loved that they spoke a unique language and worked hard (working the rocky soils to put meals…commonly beans and tortillas…on the table when they could). As the mountain terrain is rough so was my heart toward others. It is sad to say, but honestly, I didn’t even like the Tepehuan kids when I was growing up—how sinful is that! Even as a missionary kid! But those little moments of everyday life were what God quietly and consistently used in showing me the need, the depravity, and the hopelessness that I was in. As my parents faithfully taught us kids the truths of God’s Word, I trusted what the Bible said was true. And as the stories led to Christ and that He died for me, a sinner, so that I didn’t have to…I believed that and trusted this was truth. I started to understand that my parents were living among people so that they could demonstrate the love of Christ to them and share with them these same truths of God’s Word in their language.

When I was 11 years old, I dreamed of “becoming a doctor!” On occasion, we would have dentists and other doctors come to our remote location to provide medical care, I found these to be some of the best weeks! I believe my personal experiences with needing physical therapy and eye surgeries, my fascination with wounds, my desire to help others, and the task oriented-ness of “treatment,” excited me to want to “be a doctor.” To “be a doctor” I would need to do well in school (which I enjoyed and excelled at), and I needed the practical skills (fine motor skills and the working use of both hands…which I did not have from my prenatal stroke). Even with this hurdle of my left motor skills or lack thereof, I was determined to “be a doctor.” The more I pursued “being a doctor,” God reminded me of ministry and missions. I had good intentions of supporting my brother and others who were “in missions,” but I did not see this as an option for my life.

I remember that every year growing up all the missionaries in Mexico would come together to one location for a couple day “retreat.” At this retreat a church from the United States would come down and lead the adults in a time of fellowship. It was intended to revitalize the soul for the missionaries after months of hard culture and language acquisition, Bible translation, and Bible lesson development. There were also programs created for the kids during this time so that the adults could have a morning of intentional time together. I remember despising the time when I would have to leave mom and dad to go with the other kids. My happy place was with the adults and listening to what was being said. Often there would be missionaries there whose first language was not English, and so one missionary was tasked with the job of simultaneous translation into a headset. During one of these sessions Kevin Case, who translated the New Testament into Northern Tepehuan, commented to me saying, “JJ, you would make a great translator.” I always loved languages, but my external response to Kevin was a simple smile; however, these words had deeply penetrated my heart and would not go away.

After graduating high school, I attended College of the Ozarks in Missouri where I started my first three weeks of college with a major in the sciences and a pre-medicine emphasis. It took only three weeks into my first semester before God changed the entire direction of my life. After many conversations and times in prayer with people I trusted, God resurfaced that comment from Kevin. God also revealed to me my selfish motives for pursuing a career in medicine. The values of God’s Word, His revealed selfishness of my heart coupled with my own physical limitations prompted me to “give up.” I knew that I was striving in my own strength and power to pursue a career in medicine. Part of me felt like I was failing myself and my dream, yet another part of me felt liberated from the chains of “pure determination” to get what I wanted. I studied Spanish with a hope to do Bible translation and church planting. At College of the Ozarks, I was able to take three semesters of New Testament Greek as well. These courses were such an encouragement. I loved learning language, studying the intricacies of Greek, and translating parts of God’s Word.

From my third week of college to the present, God has been adding flesh to my hopes of doing translation and church planting: I attended one summer of Linguistic classes in North Dakota, I married an amazing woman whose heart is directed toward the same ambitions, I attended two years of Bible School where I developed deeper roots into His Word, we moved to a place where we have found a church who wants to be our home, we have lived the “normal” post college life for a couple years learning what it takes to work jobs and balance life’s demands, we were able to attend the New Testament Bible dedication in November 2019 to the Northern Tepehuan because of funds raised by children at VBS, we have completed missionary training at Ethnos360 Training, and are seeing the Lord build His team around us to go to Mexico. In looking back, I see how God worked on my heart and uprooted me from “what I wanted in my own strength” to “how I can be a part of what He is doing in His strength and power.” The more I learn to walk with Him the deeper the truth of His Word is revealed to me. As I (we) pursue this desire of reaching the least reached, I am reminded of 2 Corinthians 12 where Paul is boasting about his weakness because only then can Christ truly shine through his (and my) life. One of my prayers is that in whatever trial I face I reflect the person of Christ.

~ JJ

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