John Leonard – The Missionary Miracle

The Leonards

Today it is my privilege to re-blog an article that my alma mater, Faith Baptist Bible College, posted on October 15, 2019. Our Associate Pastor’s wife gets some great publicity in this article… 🙂 Yes, this article concerns none other than Jonna O’Tool’s father, John Leonard, “The Missionary Miracle”…Enjoy!


The fact that John Leonard is still alive is a miracle. That he returned, at all, to the mission field where he was nearly murdered, and continues to minister today, is nothing short of heroic.

John Leonard was born in Des Moines, Iowa, and raised in Brazil, South America, as a missionary kid. His wife, Bev, was born and raised in Marysville, Kansas. They both attended Faith, where God prepared them for ministry. While at Faith, Bev said she gained confidence in her belief, and she was then able to talk to the unsaved and give good answers when asked about Christianity.

The two met at church while they were attending Faith in 1981. They were married on December 31, 1983. Before meeting Bev, John had served in Brazil for four years as a leader of a church that had closed its doors. He felt called to return to Brazil as he knew of their great need for the Gospel. Bev also had felt led to ministry, and her “life calling” was confirmed when John wanted to minister for the Lord. They now have four adult children who are grown and married and serving the Lord.

When asked what he would tell a current student interested in ministry, John said, “Missions is not for the faint of heart, but if God is calling you, you won’t be happy doing anything else. God will make a way where there seems to be no way!”

There certainly seemed to be “no way” for John to ever return to Brazil after he was shot six times by a pair of drug lords outside of his church in Alagoas, Brazil, in 2005. One of the bullets struck Leonard in the spinal cord, and doctors in Brazil were unable to remove it. Leonard was in a coma for 12 days and was not expected to live. After being transported back to Iowa, doctors were able to remove the bullet, but not without consequence. Leonard woke in his hospital bed, paralyzed from the neck down.

John has faced significant challenges being in a wheelchair, but he said the biggest lesson he’s learned in his ministry is “How big God is, and how little I am. Nothing is impossible with God.”

John and Bev returned to the mission field in 2007, where they continue to serve the Lord faithfully. Recently, two young families have been saved as a result of their courageous work. John spends time preaching, teaching, counseling, and discipling, as well as overseeing building projects. Bev works with ladies and children’s ministries, and music ministry.

The story of missionaries John and Bev Leonard demonstrates God’s glory received even through trials. John’s testimony is a powerful tool used to witness to the people of Brazil. Together John and Bev have been involved in ten church plants.

You can follow the work and ministry of John and Bev Leonard on their blog: prayforjohnblog.wordpress.com

From Megachurches to Micro-churches: What Ever Happened to Faithful Churches?

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As a local church pastor, I like to keep a good pulse on church trends and fads. At the very least, it provides interesting entertainment value. Like clothing styles and music styles, church styles can be all the rave one season and totally drab the next season.

Such is the case with the megachurch model. Indeed, it seems like Americans are quickly becoming disillusioned with the idea that “bigger is always better” when it comes to church life. So, enter the latest all the rage church model – the micro-church!

This model of church goes by many names. A recent Christianity Today article states, “These communities go by different names – fresh expressions, missional communities, micro-churches – but they bear many similarities….Though the structures of these communities vary, their values are generally consistent. These include intentional focus on mission to a specific population (fitness enthusiasts, or single moms, etc.), an emphasis on lay leadership, low costs, and a high rate of reproduction.” Interesting, isn’t it?

My goal in this short blog post isn’t to argue the merits of micro-churches over megachurches (or vice versa), but to simply ask a simple and direct question: What ever happened to the biblical model of church? What ever happened to churches just being faithful? What ever happened to this whole Pauline notion that “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth” (1 Corinthians 3:6-7)?

Does it really matter how big or small a local church is? Maybe to a degree. I mean, numbers tell us something, right? But isn’t it possible for a church to be on fire, faithful, and fervent in their mission to “make disciples” (cf. Matthew 28:18-20) and be either huge in numbers or quite tiny in numbers? I think the answer is obvious.

Perhaps local churches that intentionally strive to be either mega or micro are totally missing the boat. Maybe, just maybe, we should desire church growth without demanding church growth? Perhaps trying to reach the crowd for simple numbers sake isn’t really fulfilling the Great Commission after all. And is the solution to this problem really to tailor church to a specific demographic just because big church isn’t working out so well? Again, I think the answer is obvious.

Here’s the bottom line, perhaps churches have a responsibility to steward, plan, and strategize for church growth BY MEANS OF staying faithful in prayer, preaching, and meeting the needs of the people that God brings to them (cf. Acts 6:1-7). Perhaps we should keep the main thing the main thing. So, in the case of Prairie Flower Baptist Church, what is the main thing? Well, it’s “to be a strong church that makes disciples for the glory of God.” Can’t we just devote ourselves with white hot passion to that mission and vision and leave the growth results to God?

I mean, who was it that said, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it”? Oh yeah, that was Jesus. And who is Jesus? Listen again to the words of Paul from Ephesians 2:19-21, “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.”

Honestly, I don’t think it’s all about being a mansion of a church or being hipster with a tiny church model. Perhaps you can be a megachurch and faithful. Perhaps you can be a micro-church and faithful. Perhaps you can be a “normal church” and faithful. Indeed, at the end of day, I think that mere faithfulness provides some rich fruits, whether that be visible, tangible fruit like numerical growth or invisible, spiritual fruit like spiritual growth. But faithfulness always yields the sweet rewards of fruit. Yes, at the end of the day, I think Jesus just wants us to strive to be faithful churches. Amen?

Three Videos of Interest…

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  • This Sunday is Communion Sunday! We’ll showcase the following video during our Communion Service, but it’s worth checking out beforehand…So moving! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RfLWA5G8jSI.
  • This Sunday we’ll also continue with our special fall series, “Core Values: Who We Are – Take 2” by discovering our sixth value – “Inspiring Worship.” To do this, we’ll dive into Isaiah 6 and witness a magnificent scene – a holy God upon His majestic throne! But what does it mean that God is holy? We’ll showcase the following video during the message…http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l9vn5UvsHvM.
  • This Sunday is also the day of our Quarterly Meeting. What a busy Sunday! But during our meeting, we’ll showcase the following video in order to encourage you to continue to give, serve, and INVITE – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=myhjFikFrbE.

Enjoy and (Lord willing) we’ll see you Sunday!

 

PFBC: October’s Upcoming Events…

October

Another exciting month is upon us out here on the prairie! Here is what you can expect…

Wednesday, Oct. 2 = Kids4Truth (Bring a Friend Night) and Outfitters at 6:30 PM; Prayer Meeting at 7:00 PM 

Saturday, Oct. 5 = Faith Fest Outfitters Activity at Faith Baptist Bible College (Ankeny, IA) from 7 AM – 8:30 PM

Sunday, Oct. 6 = Communion Sunday, Food Fellowship, and Quarterly Meeting at 10:15 AM (No Growth Groups); Nursing Home Ministry at Halcyon House at 2:30 PM; Friendship Bible Study at 4:30 PM

Tuesday, Oct. 8 = Men’s Prayer Group from 6:30 – 7:30 AM

Wednesday, Oct. 9 = Kids4Truth (Favorite Sports Team Night) and Outfitters at 6:30 PM; Prayer Meeting at 7:00 PM

Sunday, Oct. 13 = Growth Groups at Various Times

Monday, Oct. 14 = Pastor Dave at IRBC Board Meeting at Camp at 9 AM; Women’s Prayer Group from 10 – 11 AM

Wednesday, Oct. 16 = Kids4Truth (Dress Like Your Pastor or Bible Character Night) and Outfitters at 6:30 PM; Prayer Meeting at 7:00 PM

Friday, Oct. 18 – Saturday, Oct. 19 = Saylorville Men’s Conference (Pastors Dave and Tim Attending)

Sunday, Oct. 20 = Growth Groups at Various Times; Leadership Team Meeting at 2:30 PM; Friendship Bible Study at 4:30 PM

Wednesday, Oct. 23 = Kids4Truth (Crazy Hair Night) and Outfitters at 6:30 PM; Prayer Meeting at 7:00 PM

Saturday, Oct. 26 = Outfitters Activity (TBD)

Sunday, Oct. 27 = Growth Groups at Various Times

Wednesday, Oct. 30 = Kids4Truth (Super Hero Night) and Outfitters at 6:30 PM; Prayer Meeting at 7:00 PM

From the Associate Pastor’s Desk: Outfitters Student Ministry

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Modern youth ministry has been with us now for about 30 years. I believe the distinguishing feature of this youth ministry movement is founded on entertainment. The idea is if we make the church seem “cool” to our youth than they will desire to come and maybe hear the Gospel and maybe not even leave the faith when they leave their parents’ home. This movement has been around long enough to cycle through multiple generations of youth ministry participants. The results of this entertainment model have not been positive. The youth of this age are fleeing the church faster than ever. Worse yet this entertainment model of ministry has spread to almost every facet of the church. Ministries seem to think that their job is to ensure people are having a good time and if they are not entertained then they will not stay.

Why would we double down on this failed entertainment model of ministry? It hasn’t worked in youth ministry and it hasn’t given long lasting results in other ministries either. As I think through my own role in leading our youth group, I must decide, will we be entertainment driven or discipleship driven? Some of the wisest words I ever received when first beginning my ministry was this, “What you win them with, that is what you must keep them with.”

In anything we do we should ask, “What are we trying to accomplish?” When dealing with ministry the answer should always be “to make disciples.” This is what every Christian is called to do. Now more than ever it is vital that we create disciples of our youth and not consumers. This is because today’s consumer youth will be the church shopping, lukewarm adult. Worse than that, we can convince them that it is alright to not take living the Christian life seriously. We send our children out into the world with a shallow and cheap brand of the Christian faith and expect them to somehow keep this said faith. Worst of all, we create environments where they never come under conviction of their sin and are therefore never born again. Regeneration comes by the Spirit, but the normative means of the Spirit is hearing the Word of God as “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” Why are we watering down the message and distracting from what is most important?

Brothers and sisters, this cannot be! We need to center our youth ministry around the same thing we center our church around, the Gospel of Christ. This is why here at our church we have named our student ministry “Outfitters.” Our mission statement is this: “Outfitting young adults with the Gospel of Christ for life’s journey. Ephesians 6:13, ‘Take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to with-stand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.'”

As a minister to our youth, I want to outfit our young people in preparation for the battle they will face in the future and even the battles they are facing at this present time. And just like the concept of discipleship, where all Christians are both being a disciple and working toward making disciples, so too we want our young people to be “outfitted” and to be working toward the process of outfitting one another.

This approach also gives them a model of living in community that will equip them well as adults. We want to create out of our youth, strong Christian adults who first grasp tightly to the Gospel, live in Christian community, and serve the body of Christ. If this process is not being taught from this very early age, when will it begin? Fellow ministers, parents, and church members, let us build our youth ministries, and every other ministry of the church, not on the shifting sands of this entertainment culture, but on the solid foundation of Jesus Christ.

An Old Familiar Friend: My Love-Hate Relationship With Depression…

Depression

For as long as I can remember, my battle with depression has been a constant theme in my life. What manifested itself in my childhood as a small dark storm cloud soon morphed in my adult years into a gigantically scary, but somewhat charming mansion. Indeed, when the pressures of life start to mount, the caretaker of this mansion begins to call my name, “David…David. Stop by for a while and sing a song with me, chat with me…Let’s take a break together.” Yes, this caretaker, Depression, offers something that I desperately desire – peace and control.

I don’t quite know when my love-hate relationship with Depression began, but it most certainly surfaced in a big way during my elementary school years. I remember going to school one day, and just before class began, the school bully pushed me up against the wall and shouted, with grit teeth, “You little punk! Nobody really likes you.” Those words took a stab at my soul and brought to life the fear and anxiety buried deep within my heart. “Does anybody really like me?” I struggled with that question for many years, and even now, as an adult, with a loving family and church family, I wonder (every now and then), especially as the pressures and stresses of life mount, “Do they really like me?”

Depression really grabbed a hold of my heart during my time in the U.S. Army, especially during my two tours in Iraq. If I close my eyes long enough, I can still hear the sound of the alarm system go off on the forward operating bases I was stationed at, altering me, and my fellow comrades, of incoming mortars. I would lay awake in my bed, on quite a few nights, and just stare into the blackness of night and whisper, “God, if tonight I die, into your hands I commit my spirit.” Too morbid? Too dark? Yep. I know, it’s a dark and scary world…and Depression seemed to offer me a refuge of escape from all of it…But in the end, the very things it promised (peace and control), it took from me. Yes, it robbed me of the very peace and control that I desperately craved.

Marriage to my wife, Heather, on July 10, 2010 was, and continues to be, one of the happiest days of my life. But even on that day (my wedding day), my old familiar friend was with me, whispering his strangely comforting words, “I’ll be here at the mansion when you need me. Bring your wife along if you two ever need a break…” Indeed, marriage and our subsequent children increased the pressures and stresses of life. And Depression, and his mansion of darkness, though scary, always felt familiar and strangely safe…It would fool me into thinking (time and time again), “Well, I can’t control this or that…I feel like this or that is out of control, but at least I can control these dark thoughts…”

I eventually entered pastoral ministry in November 2013. Pastoral ministry may be many things, but it’s certainly not boring. The frontlines of ministry provide to a human being a front row, dazzling seat to the extreme joys of life: Weddings, babies born, salvations, baptisms, and lives changed. But at the same time the frontlines of ministry provide you a front row seat to the extreme horrors of life: Suicide, drugs, addictions of all kinds, divorce, church splits, betrayals, and the list goes on and on and on. And when the extreme pressures of ministry start to mount, Depression, my old familiar friend, offers an escape into his dark mansion, calling my name, “David…David…”

I took up residence in Depression’s mansion in the early part of 2018. This had to be the absolute worst time period of my entire life. I was exhausted. Physically, I was drained. Emotionally, I was spent. Mentally, I was just plain done. And spiritually…Well, I’m a pastor. I preach the Word! I know Jesus. I love Jesus. I love Him more than life itself. Indeed, this love for Jesus can play strange tricks on your mind during dark times. For instance, Depression likes to quote Scripture to me in sadistic ways, “To live is Christ…to die is gain…to die is gain…to die is gain.” 2018 was an ugly year for me. So dark. So scary. And in the end, the very thing that Depression promised (peace and control), it took from me…again.

I’ve come to realize that Depression is many things, but it’s certainly an addiction. I fight this battle daily. This sin-cursed world offers so many valid reasons to flirt with Depression and take up residence in his mansion of horrors. Any of you understand what I’m talking about? I can’t be alone in this…Indeed, I know I’m not.

So, what do I do? How do I fight this? Well, in part, and this isn’t some cutesy, pat response in which all of your fears and anxieties go away, but I fight this enemy, that masks itself like an old familiar friend, by: 1) Trusting the promises of Scripture. Depression promises peace and control. But Depression is a liar…a good liar…but a liar nonetheless. What does the Word of Truth state? Proverbs 18:10, “The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe.” I have to choose (time and time again) to trust my Savior’s voice over the tempting voice of Depression, 2) Praying like crazy. I talk to God frequently…I give him real talk, like, “God, I’m scared. Help me…I need you right now…I need you!” Talking to God gives me an outlet. It allows me to dump all of my fears and anxieties before someone (God) who fully understands and cares for me completely, and 3) Writing it out. Welcome to my public journal entry #1 on this issue. Putting these thoughts to paper has been good for me…Does it cure me of all my depression? No. Absolutely not. Depression still calls my name. It’s faint right now, but I know that as new seasons of difficulty arise, Depression will always be there. So, I will have to choose now (for the billionth time) and I will have to choose then (in the future when life heats up) to fight…to fight hard. Why? Because “to live is Christ!”

Growth Groups 2019-2020

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Get ready! Growth Groups is set to relaunch this Sunday, Sept. 8 and extend through Sunday, Nov. 10. Here are the current groups:

Dillon and Bailey Gingerich (Meeting at their home on Sunday afternoons):

  • Tim and Jonna O’Tool
  • Klint and Kendra Gingerich
  • Brian and Nancy Wilson
  • Nathan and Michaela Tinnes
  • Mike and Kira Fikes
  • Larry Northway
  • Jan Rosien

Steve and Cheryl Bohn (Meeting in the church fellowship hall on Sunday afternoons):

  • Willie and Lisa Van Der Molen
  • Dave and Heather Cotner
  • Darwin and Lori Carroll
  • Ray and Jessica Cooper
  • Greg and Marsha Vogel
  • Janine Rosien
  • Gary Melanger
  • John Hardt
  • Rosemary Luers

Steve and Bonnie Donnolly (Meeting at their home on Sunday afternoons):

  • Zach and Beth Shepherd
  • Will and Melissa Luers
  • Jesse and Sarah Neitzel
  • Mike and Christina Boos
  • Jess Caster

Also, as a reminder, here are some expectations concerning Prairie Flower’s Growth Groups:

As a Growth Group Member, you are promising to:

  1. Endeavor to make it to each Growth Group session and to make these sessions a priority in your life.
  2. Prepare well for each Growth Group session by means of Sunday morning church attendance and by bringing your Bible to each Growth Group session.
  3. Maintain confidentiality of any and all sensitive information that is given to you by other Growth Group members.

For more information on Growth Groups, or to join one, please contact the church office at 319-653-2400.

 

PFBC: September’s Upcoming Events…

Harvest Season

Sunday, Sept. 1 = Special Fall Series Launches, “Core Values: Who We Are – Take 2” at 10:15 AM & Friendship Bible Study Relaunches at 4:30 PM

Friday, Sept. 6 – Saturday, Sept. 7 = Women’s Renew Conference at IRBC

Saturday, Sept. 7 = Braden Carroll and Liz Yoder’s Wedding at 1 PM!

Sunday, Sept. 8 = Relaunch of Growth Groups (Various Times) & Kids 4 Truth Volunteer Training (TBD)  

Monday, Sept. 9 = Women’s Prayer Group from 10 – 11 AM

Tuesday, Sept. 10 = Men’s Prayer Group from 6:30 – 7:30 AM

Wednesday, Sept. 11 = Kids 4 Truth Launches & Youth Group Relaunches at 6:30 PM…Prayer Meeting Relaunches at 7:00 PM

Saturday, Sept. 14 = Service Project at Prairie Flower Shut-In Steve Fordham’s Home at 10 AM

Sunday, Sept. 15 = Membership Sunday at 10:15 AM & Nursing Home Ministry at Parkview Manor at 3:30 PM

Tuesday, Sept. 17 = Pastor Dave at IRBC Board Meeting at Camp at 9 AM

Thursday, Sept. 19 = Pastor Dave at IARBC Council of 10 Meeting in Ames at 9 AM

Sunday, Sept. 22 = Gideon’s Presentation at 10:15 AM and Leadership Team Meeting at 2 PM

Sunday, Sept. 29 = Combined Sunday School With Missionary, Susie Kallal, at 9 AM

VBS 2019: “In The Wild” Was Wild

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Hello, friends! Just a quick blog post to say that VBS 2019 is officially in the books. We had a great week with nearly 45-50 kids every night. Songs were sung, crafts were done, games were played, and (of course) lessons on Jesus were taught. The kids eagerly participated in all of our nightly activities and had a wonderful time. A BIG “thank you” goes to each person who took their time to pour into our kids out here on the prairie. But a SPECIAL “thank you” goes to Kendra Gingerich and her crew for decorating, Nancy Wilson and Jesse Neitzel for coordinating the snacks, Aline Schipper for designing and putting together the cute safari vests, and Jess Caster and her crew for the hilarious and well-done skits! Everyone really pulled together and passionately gave it their all during the week; and, in the end, the kids had a great time, Jesus was praised, and God got a lot of glory. VBS 2019: “In The Wild” was wild! Can’t wait till next year!

Five Seriously Serious Stormy Statements…

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Last Sunday, we looked at a most spectacular account – Jesus calming a huge storm on the Sea of Galilee (Matt. 8:23-27). In Mark’s parallel account (Mark 4:35-41), we read that Jesus calmed this storm with just three words, “Peace! Be still!” So many things could be said about this powerful account, but let me just offer five applicational thoughts from this demonstration of Jesus’s power and authority. Four will sound familiar as I mentioned these items in last Sunday’s sermon; and the fifth thought is an addition, but a needed addition. Check out these five seriously serious stormy statements (try saying that five times faster)…

  1. Storms in life sometimes happen BECAUSE you are following Jesus. Think about it. Who commanded and led the disciples to cross the Sea of Galilee? You betcha. It was Jesus who commanded and led His disciples to cross the Sea of Galilee and subsequently led them right into the middle of a fierce storm. All of us must learn to decipher the difference between storms brought about because of our sin (storms of punishment), storms brought about because of Satan (storms of persecution), and storms brought about because of the Savior (storms of pruning). Bottom line, not all storms are because of your sin or Satan. Some storms in life happen precisely BECAUSE you are following Jesus.
  2. Storms in life sometimes happen out of nowhere – they’re unpredictable. Again, think about it. The disciples in Matt. 8:23-27 were totally not expecting a storm. It hit them, seemingly, out of nowhere! Because of how sudden and fierce the storm was, they were filled with great fear and even accused Jesus of not caring. Are you facing a storm right now? Did it seemingly come out of nowhere? Often this is how storms work. You are moving through life (work, vacation, school, family) and BAM you are hit with an incredible, overwhelming storm. Bottom line, the only expected thing about the storms of life is that they are often unexpected – they’re unpredictable. So, here’s some pastoral encouragement: Don’t live your life as if storms aren’t allowed to enter it. Storms happen.
  3. Storms in life is NOT an indication that God hates you or is unnecessarily messing with you. This is what the disciples momentarily thought as they shouted at Jesus through the roar of the storm, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?!” Please hear me, God is not some cruel puppet master in the sky who finds joy in your pain and suffering. God is good, kind, and loving even when we’re in pain…pain that He Himself puts us through. How can this be? Well, that’s the million-dollar question, isn’t it? But let me just offer this thought. Do you know how muscles grow? I suppose there are many right answers, but let me simply state it with this…”time under tension.” That’s right, you have to put your muscles through tension for a set period of time. The longer the tension, the greater impact you’ll receive with muscle growth and development. Perhaps God is putting you through a storm, not because He hates you or is messing with you, but to grow and develop your faith as He puts you in some “time under tension.”
  4. Storms in life give to you an opportunity to practice one of three kinds of faith: No faith, little faith, or great faith. Just before Jesus calmed the storm at sea, what did He do? Yeah, He rebuked His disciples for their “little faith.” Now, just hours before, Jesus had been wowed by a Roman Centurion’s “great faith.” So, in the words of Pastor Tim O’Tool, “How will Jesus marvel at your faith?” Will He marvel at how small it is or how great it is? Bottom line, all storms in life give to us a prime opportunity to exercise one of three kinds of faith: No faith, little faith, or great faith.
  5. Storms in life do NOT last forever. Praise the Lord for seasons in life! Darkness gives way to light. Hurt gives way to healing. Storms give way to calm. Hear me…the intensity of your storm right now might be fierce, and you may feel like you’re not going to make it, but storms do not last forever. Indeed, the One who put you into the storm has the power to still the storm – the one raging outside of you and the one raging inside of you.

As we close out this blog post, check out this song from the band, Skillet. It’s entitled, “Anchor.”