Jacques’s world was turned upside down when his family moved to Palmdale, California, and he had to go with them. In a new town, in a new school of about 4,000 students, Jacques was out of his element. His life was typical for many guys his age. He was looking for fun and friends, but he knew there was something missing from his life. Sometimes he got high, sometimes he got drunk, and he had a few bad dating relationships. That all began to change when he followed some friends into a Christian club at Highland High School.
Lunch time was the worst time of the day. During all the other hours Jacques knew where to be and what to do, but lunch was different. Thirty minutes of free time for the new kid from the Midwest meant thirty minutes of sitting by himself. Eventually, Jacques made some friends and clung to them as his only meaningful social connection.
One day during lunch, Jacques and his friends were walking down the hall, and his friends turned into a classroom. That was a little confusing to Jacques—lunch is the one period you get to escape the classroom. It got even weirder when one of the students in the room started teaching the Bible. His friends had dragged him into a Christian club! Even so, Jacques was a little curious, and he managed to hang around long enough to hear the lesson and argue with the guy afterward.
He came back, if only to argue with the Christians again. After a few months of this, something was happening in Jacques’s heart. He compared his own life to the lives of those Christian classmates, and he knew there was something they had that he did not. He started to read the Bible and read where Jesus said, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” He was tired of life and knew he needed that rest. Jacques opened his heart and accepted Jesus Christ as his personal Saviour.
Jacques had no church, but he did begin to go to a second Christian club, this one led by a youth pastor named Jeremy from Lancaster Baptist Church. Jacques and Jeremy became friends, and Jeremy invited him to every activity his youth group had. For years Jacques never went, but he did learn a lot from Jeremy in that Bible club.
“I was just flabbergasted with the things he [Jeremy] would tell me,” says Jacques. Without any church background, every Bible truth was so new and astounding. Truths like, “God is our Father and our Friend” were completely outside of Jacques’s experience. He remembers many of the illustrations from that Bible club because they were the only scriptural truths he had ever heard.
Life was looking up. Since Jacques became a Christian and began learning the Bible, he started to take his academics seriously. He joined the wrestling team and made some more friends. Then his world was turned upside down one more time when his mom and step-dad divorced his senior year.
It was a tough time, but through that event Jacques’s mom decided she needed to get into church. She was a Christian, but she had not been in a church for decades. She asked her son if he knew of a good church, and he recommended Lancaster Baptist Church (though he had never been there himself). After her first Sunday going alone, they went together as a family every week.
Jacques’s spiritual growth accelerated once he began attending Lancaster Baptist Church. He became a kind of “student ambassador” at Highland High School. He passed out flyers to other students to come to the Christian club. Many of the students he invited visited the club and were saved. God used that time to nurture in Jacques a desire for ministry.
Decision time for college came Jacques’s senior year. He was a strong student—a valedictorian—and a Golden League wrestling champion in his weight class. Several good universities were open to him which led to a solid career path, but he knew God wanted him to live for something greater than himself. Jacques said, “I made the decision to surrender to God knowing my life is not mine, but His.”
At first Jacques struggled with the decision to go into ministry and train at West Coast Baptist College. “I knew God was calling me, but I fought it bitterly,” said Jacques. When his friends who were going to UC Berkley and UCLA asked him where he was going to college, he would hesitate and tell them, “West Coast Baptist College.” They asked him where that was, and he would cough and mumble, “Lancaster.” He was stuck in his home county! But when college began that fall, he knew he had made the right decision. Living for others would soon take Jacques from the desert to places he never dreamed possible.
Jacques came to West Coast Baptist College without an agenda. “I had no idea what I could do,” said Jacques. “I came with a blank slate.”
Less than two months into Jacques’s first semester of college, God used the church’s missions conference to direct Jacques. As he heard these men and women share their burdens to take God’s truth to people of other countries, his heart resonated with a desire to join in their labors. One missionary told about the house churches in his country where Christians worshiped quietly for fear that their neighbors would turn them into the government authorities. Several people in this missionary’s church had been arrested, and some were sent to prison camps for their “unauthorized worship.” Jacques heart broke for the people of that country.
For the next few years, Jacques kept missions in his prayers. He read biographies of Hudson Taylor and Jonathan Goforth. He kept in communication with several missionaries on the field. When he heard Dr. Don Sisk tell about his trip to Asia in 2005, Jacques knew God was calling him to minister in that region.
Fast forward: Jacques finished college, married the girl of his dreams, and became a dad. He served for two years at a church with a large Asian congregation and is now raising support. He knows some of what he will face when he arrives—religious oppression, cultural barriers, and possible deportation. But he cannot wait to serve God by winning people to Christ, planting churches, and training pastors. Looking back, it’s been an amazing journey from Lancaster, California, to East Asia. And it’s a journey Jacques is so thankful he made.