Our names are John and Joyce Roper, and we are engaged in the ministry of pastoring, teaching, and discipling internationals in the Oklahoma City metro area. Some of the people we reach out to are only here for a year or so, making evangelism and long-term discipleship difficult. Our congregation is predominantly young and still growing in the Lord. Please pray for them to fully embrace all the plans and ministry that God has for them.
In Jeremiah 1:5, God said that, even before Jeremiah was formed in his mother’s womb, God knew him, and that even before he was born God set him apart as a prophet to the nations. Sometimes, I feel that is how God dealt with us also. Both Joyce and I grew up in strong Christian homes where the groundwork for a career in missions seems to have been set in place from the beginning.
Joyce’s oldest sister Jan was a missionary with the Conservative Baptist Foreign Mission Society (CBFMS). Her mother served as their church’s mission committee chairwoman. Traveling missionaries often stayed in her family’s home. Hence, missions were an integral part of Joyce’s childhood.
Despite being raised in a small town in Oklahoma, I grew up being exposed to different languages and cultures and found myself gravitating toward those deemed as “foreign” in my community. People in my home church predicted I would become a pastor, a missionary, or a politician. Even though I was not even remotely interested in any of those careers as a young person, their foresight into my future would be proven true on the first two.
Joyce and I were called to be missionaries in the spring of 1988 within a month of each other. By that summer we were serving in Cote d’Ivoire at the International Christian Academy with CBFMS where I taught English, drama, and journalism at the high school level. A year later our oldest daughter, Katharine, was born at the mission hospital in Ferkessedougou.
The Lord led us back to the States in 1990 where I taught for two years in Camp Verde, Arizona. Despite my position being in a public high school, we saw it as a mission field. Another teacher and I started a prayer meeting for students before school, and I even prayed with a young woman to receive Christ in my classroom after school one day.
Alexandra, our second daughter, joined the family that first year, but by the end of the second the call to return overseas became strong. God led us to Japan in 1992 where I taught English as a Second Language (ESL) and Joyce taught cooking as outreach for a local church. In 1993, our first son, Dane, decided to make an appearance at a clinic in Yokohama. By 1994, we were pursuing career status with the mission and in the summer were appointed to Senegal, West Africa.
After raising support, we arrived on the field in January 1997. That year also marked the birth of our fourth child, Peter, in Dakar. While there, I taught at Dakar Academy, co-founded and directed the International Refugee Center of Dakar, and co-planted and pastored Family Christian Fellowship–an international church targeting diplomats as well as foreign business and military families. In 2002, during a home assignment in Arizona, our fifth child, Nicholas, was born on his big sister, Alexandra’s, birthday.
We served in Senegal until 2008, but then that spring my father had a massive heart attack. We came back to the States for a sudden home assignment and to take care of both my mom and dad. By 2009, it became clear that we would need to take care of them for the long haul. Our mission, now renamed WorldVenture, agreed to transfer us to the States to work among internationals in the Oklahoma City metro area.
The Lord opened the door to a vital and dynamic ministry among Asians in the suburb of Edmond, home of the University of Central Oklahoma. While Joyce became the primary caregiver for my parents—and eventually her mother—until all three went to be with the Lord, I became more and more embedded in the work among the international community. I now pastor a growing English-speaking congregation made up predominantly of college-aged internationals and American-born Chinese youth called Rejuvenate Worship, lead Bible studies, mentor leaders, counsel, speak at camps, fill-in periodically at a Vietnamese church, teach ESL, etc. Joyce mainly serves in the vital role of keeping the family running, but she also has found herself co-leading Bible studies, engaging in personal mentoring, etc. Although the circumstances that brought us back to the States were difficult, we feel humbled and blessed as we see how God has opened up the doors for such a vibrant and fruitful ministry here.
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