Ken Jolley has spent over 25 years with Fellowship International working as a missionary, pastor, and mentor. His passion is for all people to understand God’s Word. Ken spoke with Fellowship International about what it looks like to empower common, ordinary people with the authority of God’s Word and Holy Spirit.
Fellowship International (Farrah Soliman): First, tell us a little bit about yourself — who you are, what brought you to the world of missions, and where you have served.
Ken Jolley: The interest in missions started when I was really young. It happened in my home church growing up in Boston, ON. My church was very active in supporting missions and missionaries — in fact, when a missionary went on furlough, they wanted them to come for not just one, but four Sundays and be involved in taking over the Sunday School classes! Or they’d run our VBS programs in the summer. With that kind of missionary involvement and hearing their stories, God planted a seed in my heart. And basically that seed was this: being a missionary would be really cool. It wasn’t something fearful for me. God planted that seed and it grew from there, and it just hasn’t stopped.
We did end up in Caracas, Venezuela, basically in a pioneer church planting situation amongst the first-class, as the evangelical church was established, but it was established only amongst the poor. If you’ve ever been to Caracas, you realize that half the city is not poor. When we went there, it was a very prosperous city. So that’s where we ended up — church planting amongst the professional class.
FI: The Disciple-Making Movement (DMM) has become a very popular and effective movement amongst all people groups, no matter their socio-economic standing. Can you speak a bit about DMM?
KJ: For me DMM isn’t something new, it’s just another new expression of the way God has always done things. If you understand just what Patrick did in Ireland, amongst households, you realize that DMM isn’t new. It’s new in terms of, maybe it’s not the focus we’ve had, it’s new maybe in that we’ve developed some different vocabulary, but it still involves the same premises of empowering common, ordinary people with the authority of God’s Word and His Holy Spirit. And that’s how God’s “Kingdom Come” happens on this earth. And that’s how the movement happens. It’s about rescuing the priesthood of believers versus the priesthood of pastors.
FI: Amen. That’s a great lead into our last question. One of the principles of DMM is ‘extraordinary prayer’. Can you share an experience of extraordinary prayer in your life?
KJ: Oh, wow! What I would say is that what happened (through) extraordinary prayer happened — God did something completely different than what I thought. Often my prayers were answered in ways that I did not expect.
When we arrived in Caracas, [my wife] and I wondered who God had given to us as neighbours in our first apartment, because we heard major fighting going on next door — doors were slammed, things were being thrown, yelling. There were many times after the kids were put to bed that [my wife] and I were on our knees in our living room praying for our neighbors next door, not even knowing them, but realizing that this family was in major, major trouble. And there was violence, real violence.
Within a few weeks we got to know the family a bit, and realized that the couple was actually divorced, but were both in an economic position where they were obligated to stay in the apartment. But, get this one, she had to put a dead-bolt on her bedroom door to keep her ex-husband from violating her.
Can you imagine what they were living in?
When I first met Beatrice (our neighbour) I was scared to be with that woman, because just the face of anger, bitterness, of rage — I’ve never seen it so strong in a person.
Well, we continued to pray for the family, we continued to reach out to them, and the short story is that Beatrice was amongst one of the first to sit down with the Scriptures with us. She was amongst the first four people we saw baptized and became the core of the church. And Beatrice — the transformation was incredible. Her countenance was totally changed, she was so full of joy. We ended up getting her out of that situation, and she was just so full of joy and her life was transformed — it was so obvious.
But six months after she got baptized, she also was diagnosed with cervical cancer. And a year later, she was also my first funeral.
And I had a real hard time with that. God and I had a lot of hard discussions over that one. ‘Cause I mean, number one we were seeking to plant a church — you see someone’s life transform this way — the hell she was living on earth and how God freed her from that. And the joy! And God — couldn’t you use that?! I mean, what are you doing? I mean — I was Habakkuk, I was Job, struggling with God’s ways.
I can honestly say I’m still not at peace over it, what God did. But I do acknowledge that the testimony that I was able to give at her funeral, and the people that had witnessed the change in Beatrice, that were close to her — her family, relatives — they all saw it. And I spoke to it at the funeral, and we ended up baptizing a lot of relatives, contacts, and other employees of Beatrice.
It’s like, you know when Jesus says “unless the seed dies”? That was brought very vivid for me, and it produced a lot of fruit. And so, I just have to say, “God, I trust you. You knew what you were doing”. But you see, what I was praying for in seeing people come to Christ and develop a church — it got answered in a way that I wasn’t expecting and didn’t necessarily want.
But it’s how He answered.
Any strategic plan I’ve had, I’ve never seen it follow through according to how I planned, but God still did something. And that’s my story about extraordinary prayer.
FI: Thank you, Ken.