October Alumni Spotlight: John Leonard—The Missionary Miracle
The fact that John Leonard is still alive is a miracle. That he returned, at all, to the mission field where he was nearly murdered, and continues to minister today, is nothing short of heroic.
John Leonard was born in Des Moines, Iowa, and raised in Brazil, South America, as a missionary kid. His wife, Bev, was born and raised in Marysville, Kansas. They both attended Faith, where God prepared them for ministry. While at Faith, Bev said she gained confidence in her belief, and she was then able to talk to the unsaved and give good answers when asked about Christianity.
The two met at church while they were attending Faith in 1981. They were married on December 31, 1983. Before meeting Bev, John had served in Brazil for four years as a leader of a church that had closed its doors. He felt called to return to Brazil as he knew of their great need for the Gospel. Bev also had felt led to ministry, and her “life calling” was confirmed when John wanted to minister for the Lord. They now have four adult children who are grown and married and serving the Lord.
When asked what he would tell a current student interested in ministry, John said, “Missions is not for the faint of heart, but if God is calling you, you won’t be happy doing anything else. God will make a way where there seems to be no way!”
There certainly seemed to be “no way” for John to ever return to Brazil after he was shot six times by a pair of drug lords outside of his church in Alagoas, Brazil, in 2005. One of the bullets struck Leonard in the spinal cord, and doctors in Brazil were unable to remove it. Leonard was in a coma for 12 days and was not expected to live. After being transported back to Iowa, doctors were able to remove the bullet, but not without consequence. Leonard woke in his hospital bed, paralyzed from the neck down.
John has faced significant challenges being in a wheelchair, but he said the biggest lesson he’s learned in his ministry is “How big God is, and how little I am. Nothing is impossible with God.”
John and Bev returned to the mission field in 2007, where they continue to serve the Lord faithfully. Recently, two young families have been saved as a result of their courageous work. John spends time preaching, teaching, counseling, and discipling, as well as overseeing building projects. Bev works with ladies and children’s ministries, and music ministry.
The story of missionaries John and Bev Leonard demonstrates God’s glory received even through trials. John’s testimony is a powerful tool used to witness to the people of Brazil. Together John and Bev have been involved in ten church plants.
You can follow the work and ministry of John and Bev Leonard on their blog: prayforjohnblog.wordpress.com