John Portrait - 1

John Slater

John Portrait - 1

My testimony…

Many people who were raised in a Christian home and were saved at a young age often feel that their testimony is not really that special. We have probably all heard comments like, “I wasn’t saved out of a life of addiction and deep sin,” or, “My testimony isn’t really as good as some people’s.” It is as if our testimony isn’t really worth telling to others, because they have heard one just like it a million times before. I used to be one of those people, and then I truly realized how amazing God’s grace is, to save a sinner like me.

I was born and raised in a Christian home; of course, what that means is that I had the privilege of hearing about God and His love for me since before I could even understand it. It didn’t take me long to realize that I was a sinner and needed a Savior. When I was about three years old, I prayed a prayer and was baptized, and for a long time I based my salvation on that experience. There is a huge difference, however, between knowing something and believing it.

My dad was a pastor, and, like most pastor’s kids, I could almost recite many of his messages from memory. I listened to countless presentations of the Gospel from him, revivalists, evangelists, missionaries, guest speakers, Sunday School teachers, children’s pastors, and youth pastors… but the entire time, I never examined my heart to determine if I truly believed all that I was hearing.

The church was my life growing up. My dad always liked to joke that we had a “drug” problem; we were “drug” to church every Sunday and Wednesday, starting nine months before we were born. I threw myself into church life from a young age – singing, teaching, preaching, participating in Vacation Bible School, Backyard Bible Club, really anything and everything that I could. I had a strong desire to be just like my dad and become a preacher just like him. He even helped me write my first sermon outline when I was seven years old.

All this time, I believed that I had it altogether. I knew that I was a pretty good person who was really working hard to serve Jesus. I didn’t realize that I didn’t even know Him…yet.

A big part of my life every summer was Bible camp, and I looked forward to it every year. Now, the camp we went to had services four times a day, along with singing and preaching competitions, and a lot of fun activities. In the summer of 2001, I wasn’t looking forward to camp. I wanted to go try out for my school’s soccer team, but my parents insisted that my spiritual needs were more important than sports.

This is how I found myself on a hard pew on a warm Thursday night, listening to an evangelist preach on hell. I was actively tuning out what he was saying, in part because of my anger towards my parents, and also because I already knew about all that stuff anyway. Toward the end of the evening, the Holy Spirit gripped my heart like I had never experienced before, and I was struck by the realization that I had never really believed any of this before. All my life, I had been pretending, playing at Christianity while being filled with a cancerous evil in my heart. I had truly been deceived by Satan and my own pride, never aware of the emptiness in my life. In that moment, I called upon the name of the Lord, and He gloriously and miraculously saved me! Praise God for His amazing grace!

No, I never lived a life of gross sin or addiction. I never had a problem with drugs or alcohol. My sin was much more deceptive and hard to pin down – hypocrisy, pride, selfishness, sins that were just as addictive and destructive as any vice. I will never understand how God broke through my arrogance and self-righteousness and convinced me of my deepest need, but have been forever changed by His love. My heart’s desire is to share His amazing grace with a world that is lost.

Not long after my salvation, I began to feel that God was calling me into full-time Christian ministry. It had always been my desire to preach, but I wasn’t sure where or how. I had fully surrendered my life to Christ, and I was looking for direction. I continued to preach and teach in my local church, especially in children’s and youth ministry. During my junior year of high school, God used the wisdom of an evangelist to show me that, if I felt God’s calling, I should follow His leading.

I had the privilege to begin my ministry training at Trinity Baptist College in Jacksonville, Florida, in the fall of 2006. When I was a child, my parents had cultivated an understanding of the Great Commission and a love for missions in my heart, but I had not yet received that confirmation in my heart that God wanted me in another country. Our church hosted annual missions conferences, and I was able to meet and interact with many missionaries and preachers during my college years. Through the preaching of God’s Word, Bible study,  and prayer, God confirmed in my heart that He desired for me to minister on a foreign mission field.