Finding our way home

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by BRITTANY HALL

They say that God moves in mysterious ways. Through people, places, moments, and words. Beloved Evangelist Billy Graham once said, “My home is in Heaven. I’m just passing through this world,’’ Like Billy Graham, there is a man, so filled with the gospel, that he’s made it his mission to help strangers everywhere, find their way home too. “I was raised in church,” Evangelist Jon Reed began to explain. “My dad was a Deacon. Both of my brothers sang in the Gospel Quartet, and I was baptized at 8 years old.” But Reed says that at that time, his baptism wasn’t for himself. “I always tell people that, ‘I just got wet,’ because all the other kids did it and because I wanted to please my parents. I wanted to do right by them.” As Jon became a teenager, he started to fall into despair without the realization of it. “I ended up going down a bad road. People say I was sowing my wild oats, but the Bible calls it, being ‘lost,’ so I look at that time from the age of 8 to the age of 21 as my time of being ‘lost’. I didn't lose my salvation, I just never had it in the first place.” Sometimes when you lose your way, you find yourself. For Jon, this was his salvation. “I have great parents who raised me to always do the right thing and two brothers who were incredible role models. We went to church all the time. I was just hanging out with the wrong people, doing the wrong thing and it cost me a lot.” As John transitioned from a teenage boy to a high-school graduate, his anticipation to leave home and experience new things, grew stronger. Jon moved from his Buford family home to Statesboro, searching for the wild freedom that every Georgia Southern freshman seeks to find. As years went by, Jon continued to live for the thrill of the party life but as his adolescent years started to fade and adulthood began to catch up, he started noticing a change in those around him. “At 21, my friend and roommate, suddenly just stopped hanging out with us and doing the things that we were doing. He never gave us a reason or told us that he got saved. He was dating a girl that wasn’t like the girls he usually dated, and they knew that I wouldn’t go to church so they tricked me by asking if I wanted to go snow skiing for fifty bucks. I didn’t know that it was a set-up, so I was like ‘Sure’!” He said with excitement. This church that he got saved at was Hebron Baptist Church. They did a college retreat, and I went thinking that I was going to just go skiing but that's where I first truly heard the gospel with my heart.” and where Jon’s testimony began. “I’ve heard the gospel with my ears before but not my heart. That was the first time that I saw the cross, not with my eyes but with my heart and that's when I got saved, on January 23, 1992, in Gatlinburg Tennessee at the Edgewater Hotel at 10:00 at night.” Since that life changing moment, Jon says that he has dedicated his life to following Christ. He began to read his word every day because of the divine love that he bestowed on him and how he transformed his life for the better. “I never sought to go into the ministry but the people that were around me always asked, ‘John do you think the Lord may be calling you to minister?’… Because I was at church all the time. Anytime the doors were open I was there. I always told them, ‘There ain’t no way that God is calling me to preach!’ but he did.” Reed followed the calling that God placed upon his heart and moved to New Orleans to obtain his masters in New Orleans Seminary... “The first time I ever preached was in front of a bunch of professors and a bunch of seminary students in 1996. I cried the whole time and asked if I could go again and my professor said, ‘No.’ and I said, ‘Well I’m going to fail!” John laughed as he reminisced, “He said, ‘Well yeah, you’re probably right but you don’t get a do-over when you’re in the pulpit.’ I had never preached before, and my greatest fear was that God would want me to speak in front of people. I went to Seminary because I just wanted to know more about God. I knew that I would do whatever he asked me to do but I just thought, ‘surely he won’t ask me to preach because I don’t talk very good,’ but he did. I guess he has a sense of humor.” Jon’s role from Pastor to Evangelist officially changed in 2004. That’s when he turned his focus to Evangelism which was a cornerstone in his life that created a beautiful butterfly effect on the lives of almost everyone that he encountered, as the ministries that he supported grew numerically from new believers. “The ministry just really grew, and people kept asking me, ‘How do you do it?’ and ‘What are you doing?’ I was like, ‘I’m just sharing the gospel.’ The ministry is 99% brand new believers, and they haven't learned not to tell others about Jesus.” Jon had never dreamed of being an Evangelist, but the Pastor who saved him knew that he was meant for greater things and invited him to join the staff at his church which is made up of a congregation of several thousand people. Though Jon knew that it would be an honor to serve under the man who helped him find life through Jesus, God had other plans, and he remained in Florida where he and his wife, Inga were living. Then, sometime later, he received a second call from the same Pastor, asking if he had ever considered working as a full-time Evangelist. “He said, ‘I think that's what God is calling you to do.’ So, it was almost like I didn’t even have to pray about it. I was so happy. I asked him, ‘I can do that?’ and he said, ‘Yeah! You can do that!’ He said with a laugh. In 2004 Jon along with his Pastor, launched focused Evangelism. “He took a church from 50 people to 6000 people,” Jon explained “And he told me, ‘I’ll put you all over the Nation and let you share your testimony. My title changed in 2004 but I’ve been doing the same thing since I got saved. You know, even when I first got saved, I didn't know a lot of scripture because I didn’t have any interest in the Bible, but I just started sharing my testimony and how God saved me and because of that I got to lead so many people to the Lord and create a closer relationship with him. That’s what it’s all about.” There is no specific method for leading someone to Christ. Some find him through hearing his word, some through reading it. The way that the gospel entrances the souls that it touches is unique for each person. An opportunity like this that God presented to Jon, is one of memorable measure that he will treasure for the rest of his life. “My dad, who was a deacon for 30 years, called me down to the basement and looked at me with tears in his eyes and said, ‘Jon, I don't know if I'm saved.’ and I was just in shock. I said, ‘Good gracious daddy, if you’re not saved… you’re the best man that I know!’ I was in shock and was like, but you’re such a good guy!’ and he said, ‘Yeah but you say the Bible says you can’t go to heaven by just being good. He looked at me and said, ‘I raised you from birth and you’re not the same son that I raised. God has completely changed you. What you have, I don’t have.’ and it dawned on me in that moment that I had never heard my dad's testimony. I just never questioned it because he was such a good man. So, I said ‘Daddy, when did you get baptized? When did you get saved?’ and he shared how he was raised in church, and he was painfully shy and his dad just tapped him on the shoulder and said, ‘You need to go on down, you’re just afraid.’ Because he had several brothers and sisters that had already been saved. That was the gist of it. He said, ‘You know I’ve just always tried to be a good man, a good dad, a good husband, and serving the church.’ which he did, successfully, but he didn’t know Jesus. So, when I got to lead my dad to the Lord, if I don’t do anything else in this life, that was my favorite moment.” He recollected the sweet memory with teary eyes and a smile. There’s always joy to be found in leading people to Christ and Jon wouldn’t change his calling for anything. However, the greatest challenge of being an itinerant Evangelist, is leaving home. “My wife Inga has been my greatest encourager throughout the years. I’m old enough now that I’ve been married to my wife longer than I lived with my parents, so she has of course been with me every step of the way. There have been a couple times where I’ve almost bailed on traveling to revivals because it is hard to leave home but she’s the one who says, ‘No. This is what God has called you to do and as hard as it is you need to keep going.’ There have been so many kind people who have never met Inga but have sent her cards, flowers or something sweet to say, ‘Thank you for sharing your husband with us.’ “She really appreciates that people recognize the great sacrifice that her and our boys, Ben and Andrew, make.” While Jon has an incredible support system, he conveys that many churches do not. Something peculiar that he has witnessed while traveling is the irony that many congregations don’t speak to non-believers about their faith. “People have bought into the lie that it's politically incorrect to share their faith and witness. I found the greatest joy in doing that and can’t imagine not being able to share how God saved me. It's the greatest event that’ll ever happen to a person and for people not to share it is odd and strange and it's just not biblical. We must get back to telling people about Jesus. That’s why I do what I do.” Because the negativity of the world tries to divide us by politics, race, and culture, it’s hard to find a way to be united ‘under God.’ This is what encourages Jon to continue his Crusade for Christ. “I love going to small towns like Swainsboro. The energy in places like this encourages me to preach. There are so many Pastors here who are willing to work together so that people will be saved. We’re much stronger in numbers so it does my soul good to see others come together and work towards that one purpose.” You can meet Jon as well as the worship team, His Way, May 22 to May 25 at the Swainsboro City Auditorium. Services begin at 7 p.m.

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