By Grace Thornton
The Alabama Baptist
Tara Jones had never really given much thought to going overseas.
“I just thought I’d stay in Alabama, live there, get married there — the typical,” she said.
Then while she was in college at the University of Mobile, God started stirring her heart for the nations. She felt the conviction growing as she attended Redemption Church, Saraland.
And the next thing she knew she was on a missions trip to Germany, then later to Japan. She loved both. But Japan felt different, she said.
“I got there and realized for the first time I could see myself living somewhere else,” Tara Jones said. “It surprised me and I said, ‘God, if this is what you’re calling me to do, tell my mom.’”
He did, according to her mother, Barbara Greene.
“I could tell there was something different about her when she came back from that trip,” Greene said. “I said, ‘So God spoke to you — what are you planning to do and when are you planning to go back?’”
Turns out, it was soon, Jones said. As she finished up that year of school she applied to the Journeyman program of the International Mission Board (IMB) and was accepted.
Around the same time in Missouri, God was working on the heart of a farm boy who had felt a call to the ministry in high school but said his worldview “had a 50-mile radius.”
“I thought I would meet my wife where I grew up, maybe work during the week and preach on the weekends,” Jared Jones said.
But over time, he said he realized that he had “taken God along instead of letting God take me.” He told his pastor he didn’t know what God had planned but that he finally surrendered all.
And the next thing he knew, he was on a plane to Japan to serve with the IMB in a different 50-mile radius — one that included Tara Jones (then Greene).
Fast-forward a decade and the now-married couple has five kids — four biological and one adopted Japanese son, something they say is a miracle in and of itself. They’ve made a home of the East Asian nation.
And they’ve seen God open doors people told them would never be open.
“People told us that it would be difficult to adopt but God has blessed us with a son,” Jared Jones said. “That little guy has given us multiple opportunities to talk about the Lord and the blessings of life.”
And people told them that it would take years to see fruit in Japan but God is doing a work there that can only be attributed to Him, Jared Jones said.
The Joneses have gotten access to orphanages and schools, something unheard of in the nation where less than 1 percent of the population claims Christianity. They were there through the earthquake and tsunami of 2011 and got the opportunity to minister to people’s needs in ways they never would’ve expected.
And they’ve seen God answer years’ worth of prayers to plant a church — they just couldn’t have imagined where it would be or how God would work, Tara Jones said. One day when she took their adopted son Ezra to the doctor, the pediatrician asked her if she and Jared were church planters.
“She said she had been praying about starting a church there at her office,” Tara Jones said. “As she shared, I knew God had brought our paths together.”
Amazed, Tara Jones went home and prayed with her husband, and they knew God was confirming that this was exactly what He had in mind.
The first week the new church opened its doors, more than 70 people came.
“Jared and I were amazed — people showed up that we hadn’t seen in years, people we had tried to share the gospel with but thought that nothing had taken root,” Tara said. “We just looked at each other and wept. It was a beautiful picture of what God had been preparing.”
‘God can make doors’
The hearts they’ve seen change in the months that followed are something only God could bring about, Jared Jones said.
“God can make doors where doors don’t exist,” he said.
The Joneses are among more than 3,600 IMB missionaries supported by funds given to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.
For more information about the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, visit www.imb.org/lottie-moon-christmas-offering.
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