During our Faithful Servant Award chapel on Friday morning, September 16, we recognized three alumni for their service for Christ.
REACHING THE GOAL: JEROLYN VIRGILLO
It all started with a trip to Navajo Nation when she was 14, and the goal was set—Jerolyn Virgillo (’73) wanted to spend her life cross-culturally serving this Native American tribe in Northeast Arizona.
Jerolyn grew up in Northwestern Washington where her family continually served in churches. She and her family even helped her grandfather plant two churches. At the age of 12 Jerolyn sensed God was calling her to missions. Even at that point, she knew she wanted to serve Native Americans. She wanted to attend Bible college, but due to family finances, she knew going to college would never be possible.
“Right after graduating from high school, a speaker came to our church telling of a place called Faith Baptist Bible College in Iowa,” Jerolyn explained. “That seemed like going to China. It was so far away and unreachable, but I knew right away that I wanted to go. I applied and was immediately accepted, being sure I could pay my tuition through working.”
When Jerolyn came to Faith, she studied Christian Education with a minor in Missions. This program helped prepare her to teach many age groups, as well as gave her a firm understanding of Scripture. After she graduated and worked several jobs, Jerolyn was accepted by Baptist Mid-Missions as a missionary to the Navajos. During her deputation time, she spent her summers on missions trips to Native Americans in Montana, New York, and Arizona.
After deputation and a month-long study in linguistics, Jerolyn moved to her new home in Winslow, Arizona, in 1982. She and her coworker, Joan Oakland, began holding ladies’ Bible studies, children’s clubs, summer activities, and church ministries in Winslow and nearby Birdsprings. Jerolyn has been working with the Navajos ever since.
Through the years, Jerolyn has learned several lessons about being a missionary. First, a missionary must to be open to the needs of the people where he or she serves. Second, any training or experience learned along life’s journey will never be wasted—from cleaning and caregiving to automotive work and teaching, no skill is ever useless. Third, never let fear of failure stop a potential missionary from going to the field. While in college, some retired missionaries discouraged Jerolyn from pursuing Navajo missions due to the difficulty of the work. She continued to pray fervently that God would just let her get to the field. Jerolyn encourages anybody pursuing missions to remember the great need for missionary work and the fact that God will prepare people for the work to which He has called them.
Jerolyn Virgillo was selected to be among our first Faithful Servant Award recipients because she has spent her lifetime faithfully and patiently ministering to people who are often overlooked.
PLANTING A FOREST OF CHURCHES: BRAD AND JOANNE HOFF
Brad (’82) and Joanne (Rasmusson) Hoff have spent their life investing in church planting across America. Their church planting work began when they were in college and continues to today as Brad serves as the field director for Continental Baptist Mission.
Brad spent one year at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. While at UW-Platteville, Brad attended the Campus Bible Fellowship retreat where Dr. David Nettleton, Faith’s president at that time, spoke.
“I was impressed with his spiritual depth and balance,” Brad explained. “When the Lord began redirecting me toward ministry, I wanted to attend the Bible college where Dr. Nettleton was the president.” So the next year Brad transferred to Faith.
While at Faith, Brad served at Faith Baptist Church in Cambridge. There he met his wife, Joanne, when they were asked to help in a children’s ministry. “It may have been a setup,” he said, but they have been happily serving Christ together for 35 years. During his senior year, Brad and Joanne got their first church planting experience by serving at Calvary Baptist Church, a church plant in West Des Moines.
Brad and Joanne partnered with Continental Baptist Missions in 1985. Their first ministry with CBM was serving as the missionary pastor at Lakeside Baptist Church in Iron River, Michigan. After six years in Michigan, the Lord moved them to plant Good News Baptist Church in Sioux City, Iowa. Through the years Joanne faithfully served with Brad in the many duties of a pastor and wife.
When GNBC became self-supporting in 2009, CBM asked Brad to transition into his current position as field director. “As the field director for CBM, I get to focus on more of the church planting forest and not just one tree, as is the case when you are planting a church. I have the privilege of visiting our church planters in the context of the communities where they serve and meeting the people God is bringing to Himself through the gospel shared by CBM missionaries. It’s a thrill!” Joanne assists Brad in his work and also serves as an administrative assistant in the CBM office in Rockford, Michigan.
Through the years of ministry, God has taught Brad and Joanne that things are not always as they seem. Sometimes God may bring glory to Himself through changing bitter disappointments into sources of rejoicing. Although often a challenging task, church planting is a rewarding endeavor. “If the only thing God does through your ministry is to bring one church into existence, that’s not a bad way to invest your life.”
Brad and Joanne Hoff were selected to be among our first Faithful Servant Award recipients because of their lifetime commitment to church planting in America.
TWO CONTINENTS—MANY CHURCHES—STEVE AND KAREN BORDERS
Cross-cultural service can take a missionary anywhere—from Peru to California. In Steve Borders’ case, it took him to both. Steve and Karen Borders (78’ & 76’) have spent their lives ministering to Spanish-speaking people both in Peru and in California.
When Steve was a junior in high school, God called him to go into full-time preaching ministry. After praying about several colleges, Steve decided to go to Faith Baptist Bible College after visiting the school with his pastor.
While a student at Faith, Steve met Karen during their freshman year and they began dating during their sophomore year. One summer while at Faith, God opened a door for Steve to spend six weeks in Peru through the Missionary Apprenticeship Program. It was through that opportunity that God eventually led Steve to Peru to serve as a missionary.
After graduating and getting married, Steven and Karen partnered with ABWE and headed for Lima, Peru as church planters. While in Peru for two terms, the Borders served in three churches. After returning home for their second furlough, God began tugging at Steve’s heart to transition his church planting ministry back to the States. This was confirmed after meeting a church-planting pastor from Menifee, California who asked Steve and Karen to visit their church. That was the start of their current 26 years of ministry in California.
The Borders are currently serving at Esperanza Baptist Church in Vacaville, California, which held its first services in October of 2015.
“Through the preaching and teaching of God’s Word, leadership and discipleship training, and other ministries gradually to be added,” Steve commented, “ our goal is to see the Esperanza Baptist Church grow into a church-planting center. Our hope is to eventually send out leaders and plant many other churches both in this area and around the world.”
Looking back on his time at Faith, Steve says he appreciated the investment of Dr. Bernard Bancroft of the missions department as well as the friendships made at Faith. Many of his friends are now missionaries serving across the globe. As the Student Missionary President one year, Steve scheduled many guest missionaries. This exposure to missions increased his desire to serve God on the mission field.
Throughout their years of service, the Lord has taught the Borders lessons that can only be learned through experience. He encourages new church planters with some helpful tips:
“There will be trials for you in some area—raising partners for support, living away from family, learning a culture and language, or something else. Allow God to grow you through these trials and learn contentment. Keep a journal to help you remember God’s blessings and the lessons you’ve learned through those trials. As church planters in the U.S. we’ve learned you can ‘cross cultures without crossing borders.’ The mission field has come to us. See the people all around you as the mission field where God has placed you.”
Steve and Karen Borders were selected to be among our first Faithful Servant Award recipients because of their lifetime ministry to reaching Spanish-speaking people on two continents.
Steve and Karen Borders were unable to attend the service, so Karen's parents, Ron and Dorothy Grandia from Newton, Iowa, received the award in their absence.
2016 HONORARY ALUMNI AWARDS
HONORARY ALUMNUS—JOHN HARTOG II
From time to time the Faith Alumni Association recognizes individuals as honorary alumni of Faith. This distinction is granted to people who did not graduate from Faith but who have made a significant contribution to Faith. This year we are pleased to recognize Dr. John Hartog II as an honorary alumnus of Faith.
In 1968, in only Faith’s second year on the Ankeny campus, President David Nettleton hired a young man named John Hartog II to teach Bible courses. Though he would leave twice, he always came back to Faith, spending a total of 34 years on the Faith faculty.
Dr. Hartog began his service for Christ in Texas in 1964 with a literature ministry followed by a pastorate. In 1964 he also married Martha Nuñez.
Dr. Hartog earned the Bachelor of Arts degree from Wheaton College, the Master of Theology degree from Dallas Theological Seminary, the Doctor of Theology degree from Grace Theological Seminary, and just for good measure, he earned anther doctoral degree—the Doctor of Ministry degree from Central Baptist Theological Seminary. He has also earned the Master of Library Science degree from East Texas State University. Read more
HONORARY ALUMNI—JIM AND JOAN TILLOTSON
During the Awards Chapel preceding commencement on May 6, the Faith Alumni Association made President and Mrs. Tillotson honorary alumni of Faith in recognition of their servant leadership since coming to Faith. President Tillotson and Joan have shown a humble spirit willing to be used of God as they invest in current students, encourage faculty and staff, as well as reach out to alumni of Faith.
Both Jim and Joan graduated from Northland Baptist Bible College. However, that institution closed a year ago, leaving them without a school to call their own. Because of their significant role at Faith, it only seems fitting that we make them honorary alumni of Faith.
Welcome, Jim and Joan, to the Faith Alumni Association!
Click here for a list of past recipients of the Alumnus of the Year and Honorary Alumnus awards.