PERSPECTIVE: When I grow up
When I grow up, I want to be like my friend, Jim. He is an 81-year-old Caleb. Jim is unique. While a member of North Phoenix Church, he felt led to study the Old Testament, and for years, he met once a week with a rabbi in Phoenix. He eventually used his understanding of the Old Testament to become a professor at a small Baptist seminary in Mexico.
Jim had one major obstacle to overcome. He did not speak Spanish. He told me he got up very early in the morning and used an English-Spanish dictionary to translate his lectures. He now speaks fluent Spanish.
Jim spent 20 years teaching at the seminary, where he met Jani, the love of his life. She was there to help her widowed sister. Jani cooked for the seminary, and Jim liked what he ate. They were married, and Jani chose to study at the seminary. She has become a wonderful partner in ministry with Jim.
Jim has a remarkable ability to bring young people around him and encourage them to serve Christ and His church. While at the seminary, he traveled to mission points with his students, helping them catch a vision for church planting and ministry. He invested in hundreds of students who now pastor churches all over the state of Guerrero.
After 20 years at the seminary, Jim and Jani retired. OK, so not really. In the last three years, they planted two churches in Acapulco. He reminds me of a modern-day Apostle Paul. He and Jani plunge into the darkness of the city and scratch out a toehold for the Gospel. The first church plant now has a young pastor; it is growing and moving forward. Alan Day and Edmond, First partnered with Jim to help plant that church.
Last year, Jim talked with me about planting another church. To listen to this man of God give expression to his dream is thrilling. His dream included holding evangelistic services each Saturday night. So Jim and Jani moved across the city and planted a new church across the street from a major sports complex. The new location provides great visibility, and those Saturday night evangelistic services have begun. Jim also wants to have facilities to start an extension of the seminary in his church.
A couple of weeks ago, Polla and I had the privilege of visiting Jim and Jani and seeing this new church plant. In only a few months, they have made an impact. The weekend we visited, 40 young people attended on Saturday night, and more than 40 were there the next morning for Sunday School and worship. Sunday night, more than 20 couples participated in a marriage seminar taught by a visiting Hispanic pastor from Phoenix.
I loved watching Jim involve people in the work. He had adults and young people setting up tables and chairs and serving food. Young women from the seminary helped lead music and ministry. Once again, he is investing in young people who will become the future leaders in the churches of Guerrero.
At 81, most people would have hung up their spurs. Many would spend time rocking. Not Jim. No, he spends his time doing the work of the ministry—building people and building churches. He and Jani continue to spread the Gospel and the Kingdom of God.
When I grow up, I want to be like Jim. I want to spend all my days wearing out—not rusting out. Jim is one of my heroes of the faith. May God bless him and Jani as they serve the King of kings.
Anthony L. Jordan is executive director-treasurer of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.