Below is the testimony of God’s work in both of our lives:
I was born and raised by Christian parents and in the church. I do not remember a time in my life that I was not attending church every Sunday as well as extra church events, programs, and camps. As a child I remember praying to receive Christ with my mom. As a teen I became convicted that I needed to surrender my life to Christ and live for Him alone and that I had not been doing that. I believe my heart truly was regenerated as a child or maybe when I was a young teen.
When I was dating my future husband (David), I desired a Christian marriage that would be pleasing to the Lord. After we got married we faithfully served in our church and I continued to be involved in and leading Bible studies with other women.
The Lord worked mightily in the heart of my husband David in the year 2007 (3 years after we got married) and this brought about tremendous spiritual growth in my life. Since then, I would say that I have grown in my knowledge and love for the Lord and His Word more than all the years before. Although I believe that the Lord saved me at a young age, my growth as a believer has now flourished because of my husband’s leadership. Through biblical teaching, I began to truly understand the depravity of my own heart, the sin that still dwells in my flesh, the holiness of God, and the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ. I have also learned about the sovereignty of God in all things, including salvation. There are many magnificent truths that I have embraced in more in recent years.
In Arizona, the Lord led us to a church where we were able to experience the joy of a biblical church that taught us the Word, obeyed the Word, and was unified in sound doctrine. The Lord also used pastors and teachers outside of our church (e.g. John MacArthur, John Piper, and Steve Lawson) to teach me and help me to understand God’s truth more clearly. I praise God for all He has done in my heart! It has been such a blessing to truly see the Gospel for how amazing it really is. The teaching I have received and the people God has provided through His Church are continuing to help me to have a deeper love for God, a stronger desire to know His Word and to share the gospel with the unsaved world. Jesus is the Lord of my life and His Spirit dwells within me. He is sanctifying me day by day as I grow in the grace and knowledge of God – to Him alone be the glory forever!
David’s Story (from Ashley’s perspective):
In the summer of 2007 God began to work in my husband’s heart in a dramatic way. David believed he was a Christian since he was a young child. He grew up in the church and in a Christian home and had prayed to receive Christ as a boy and been baptized at about 10 years old. I met David through church youth group when he was finishing High School. He was active in leading Junior High small groups, going on mission trips, and attending church every Sunday and Wednesday evening. Throughout our dating relationship I believed David to be a Christian, and after we got married I still believed he was a Christian. However, he was not faithfully studying the Bible or spending time in prayer, and he was not leading me spiritually. He was, however, active in serving in ministry at our church and attending every Sunday.
In 2007, David heard his first sermon on predestination on the radio as he was driving to work. It really troubled him at first since he had not heard this teaching before and he did not agree with it. However, the exposition of verses he heard was faithful to the text. This led him to begin searching the Scriptures to see if this was true. After much study of the Scriptures, God began to change his heart in a dramatic way. While studying the Doctrines of Grace and Lordship Salvation, God changed him from the inside out. Ever since then, David has had a love for God and for His Word that he never had before. David became a man that was so different from the man I married; I could see that Christ was truly working in his heart.
In 2009, David got baptized as a true believer after becoming convicted that he may not have been saved when he originally was baptized. God has continued to grow and sanctify David since then.
Sometime after this, I came to the realization that God had been giving my husband the desires that he has to study God’s Word with fervor and passion because He is preparing him for a greater work ahead. David loves to study the Bible and it has become his primary passion in his life and truly his only hobby. I have seen him not only zealous to understand the Word of God, but to submit to it in his life. He also enthusiastically is leading me and others into a deeper understanding of the Bible and helping me grow closer to God through his example.
It also became clear to many at the church we were members of for 4 years that David had the gift of teaching. David’s desire to understand God’s Word is also driven by his desire to see others understand the Scriptures. I have seen how hard he labors in the Word to make sure he is interpreting each passage correctly and he takes his teaching opportunities very seriously.
I have known for a couple of years that David’s dream would be to attend The Master’s Seminary and be in full-time ministry. However, this did not seem possible or reasonable for our life. One day when I was at home and my babies were napping, I began to think about all that God has done in David’s life and the desires and spiritual gifting that the Holy Spirit has given him. I realized that God may be truly leading my husband to be in ministry and to be a teacher of God’s Word. I was convicted that I did not want to be a barrier to how God is working in my husband, but I wanted to be a helpmate. That day I began to look into the costs and details of The Master’s Seminary. When David came home that day, I told him that I had been looking into the costs for The Master’s Seminary. When I shared this with him, something seemed to come alive in him and he became extremely excited and amazed that I was looking into it at all. After that day, we committed to pray about seminary. The next step was asking others to pray for us. Many people who we asked to pray for us in this matter told us that they already felt that David was being called into teaching ministry. One couple told us that they had already been praying that we would go into ministry. Another couple told us that if David went to seminary they would commit to supporting us financially on a monthly basis. These responses amazed us and brought further confirmation.
I can say honestly that I never dreamed that God would take us in this direction when we got married. However, God has changed him and given him a new heart with new desires and spiritual gifts, and I have watched it first hand. At the time I couldn’t say that I was not nervous about this new direction in our life, but I was honored to support, encourage, and be a helper to my husband as he obeyed the call God had put on his life.
One day after work in December 2011, I was surprise when I came home to find my wife looking at what the estimated tuition and living costs would be if we lived in Los Angeles for me to attend The Master’s Seminary (TMS). When I later applied to the seminary in March of 2012, as part of my application I had to explain the reasons why I wanted to attend TMS. Read my explanation below and you’ll see how I recounted this event:
I desire to go to seminary because I would love serve in full-time ministry as a teacher of God’s Word. Not only would I love to do so, but I feel compelled to do so. God has given me a strong hunger for His truth and I passionately long for others to know it as well. Studying the Bible has become the thing I find myself doing most often because I want to understand it and continue to be transformed by it through the Holy Spirit.
For the last few years I have often told my wife Ashley how I would love for my full-time job to just be to study the Word and teach it to others. During this time though, I never thought this could be a reality for my family. However, at the end of last year (in December 2011) I came home and Ashley shared with me that she has been researching tuition costs for The Master’s Seminary. She shared with me how she had seen the desires God had given me and that the Lord had opened her heart for me to pursue seminary and future ministry. This came as a welcomed surprise to me since we had not discussed it and I had not asked her about pursuing seminary. After that day, we committed it to prayer and also began researching and seeking counsel and confirmation from others. It very shortly became evident in our hearts that we should pursue the path to seminary.
Our pastor as well as many friends and family members have confirmed my giftedness and strong desire to know and teach the Word of God. The elder who leads our shepherding group wanted to encourage me in my desire to teach by giving me more experience. Since October of 2010 I have enjoyed the opportunity to teach for this group on regular intervals through the book of 1 Corinthians.
Some have asked why we would consider making such a big life change and move to California to attend seminary for 4 years. I believe that if I desire to teach others the Word of God in depth, line upon line, and precept upon precept, that I need to be fully equipped to handle the Word accurately and fully with the tools that only a robust seminary like TMS can provide. Seminary will provide a structured and disciplined environment, with godly professors, and in-depth training on how to serve the church and my Lord.
The Master’s Seminary has been the only option for me for pastoral training because attending a seminary with a conservative, consistent, unwavering and unswerving commitment to the exposition and proclamation of God-breathed Scriptures was non-negotiable. The Master’s Seminary is the only one that I know of that is faithful to this commitment that had very solid doctrine. Doctrine matters and it affects so many areas of life and ministry. My doctrine lines up on every front with the seminary. I also have a high regard and respect for many of the professors at TMS as I have learned from them in their books, their articles in The Master’s Seminary Journal (TMSJ), and through many Shepherds’ Conference seminars.
After graduation, ministry options abound. Currently, however, our hope would be return to Tucson and become a full-time pastor in our church as another teacher to our church body. The Lord may have other plans and may take us in other directions such as training pastors in other countries (for those that do not have access to solid biblical training), or perhaps, being a pastor in another location or capacity. Some friends have even suggested that I may be a skilled seminary professor in the future, if the Lord wills.
In May of that year (5/2012), I was graciously accepted into the seminary. See the acceptance letter from President John MacArthur below:
During my first semester of seminary in California, our seminary chapel had a number of speakers teach on missions. It was on November 7th, 2013 that Nathan Wells, a missionary in Cambodia spoke to the students and said these memorable words that impacted my own thinking:
Most guys, when I talk to them and beg them, ‘Please come to Cambodia, consider world missions, there’s so many people that need the Gospel,’ and they say, ‘Oh, you know, I’m not called to that.’ I’m in one hundred percent agreement that if you’re not called to go into overseas missions, you should not go. I agree, but I have a question for you if that’s what you say: ‘When were you called to America?’ Most of you sitting here this morning, you believe that God has called you into ministry, but why do you feel so strong a pull to stay here? Why is America, or your home country your default? If you’re going to have a default, why not somewhere else where the gospel is not proclaimed? We like to complicate the call to overseas missions, I believe. It’s not so much because it’s really complicated, but I think when it comes down to it, we don’t want to go. Most of us just don’t want to go. [….] It was true for me, I did not want to be a missionary. That was the farthest thing from my mind. I had my plans, my ideas about what my life should look like. [….] But deep down, I just didn’t want to be a missionary. God had to work hard in my life. [….] I can still remember, it was about 10 years ago now, sitting in my car knowing that I couldn’t run any more. I couldn’t run… just feeling the great loss, because I love America. Feeling the loss of family because I wouldn’t be able to be near my family – my nieces, my nephews – I love them. And yet at the same time feeling this great burden lifted from my soul because I was running from God’s call on my life.
Nathan’s words caused me to ask myself: “Why is America my default? Why do I assume that my ministry calling is to America? Why would I not pursue overseas missions as my first priority until God changes my course? When the needs are so much greater in other countries, why do I automatically plan to stay in America?”
I knew that the spiritual needs were great in America. I knew that many American churches were weak, that many Christians lacked spiritual discernment, and that many people did not know Christ in this land. But, I also knew that true biblical teaching was readily available, that solid churches were often within driving distance, that if someone wanted biblical truth in America, that they could readily find it through a Gospel-teaching church, or through solid resources and sermons on the internet, or through Christian bookstores, or through many other avenues. In many other countries, however, if someone wanted biblical truth, they would likely not be able to find it. There would be few solid biblical churches, few solid biblical resources (if any) translated into their language, and a great lack of theologically trained pastors. All of this transformed my openness to go into overseas missions into a compelling desire for overseas missions.
Once I began to pursue missions as my primary plan after seminary, I was slowly introduced to this world of overseas missions by things like the TMS Missionary Fellowship, where a group of missions-minded seminary students met each month to pray about God’s work around the globe and to hear advice and testimonies from missionaries (both current and previous). TMS professor Brad Klassen, himself a former missionary, led the group each month and brought in speakers like Dr. Bill Barrick and Paul Washer to give us a practical and biblical perspective on missions.
At the Shepherds’ Conference in March of 2016, Paul Washer spoke on Priorities in Missions and highly recommended the training model that we plan to employ in Madagascar. This is a very instructive message that you must hear.
The Lord was gracious and since January 2014 He allowed me to be able to work in three different departments at Grace Community Church (pastored by John MacArthur). I began in the Human Resources department where I spent three months on a specific project. I was then offered a position in the Accounting department where I worked for another three months before the Lord provided a full-time position in the International Outreach department. In this role, I am able to interface with almost every one of our 95+ missionary families and provide them with support in various capacities. God has been using my time in Outreach at Grace to give me a greater understanding of the needs and challenges on the mission field and to gain a small glimpse of God’s amazing work around the globe. To God be the Glory!