Jodi Harrison

Pastor Walton interviews missionary Jodi Harrison. She began her ministry on Guam with HCA students, but now serves as part of a church planting team in Spain.

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Episode transcript:

Chris Harper: Welcome to Harvest Time. My name is Chris Harper, and our host on this program is pastor Gary Walton, the lead pastor at Harvest Baptist Church. Every week, we spend these 25 minutes together telling the stories of our church by interviewing our members and other friends of the ministry. We’d like to invite you to join us at Harvest Baptist Church. This week, we have services at 8:45 AM and 10:45 AM Sunday morning.

We offer Spanish translation during the 8:45 AM service, Japanese and Korean translation at 10:45 AM, and that’s when we also live stream at, This week, we’ll be back in our series in 2nd Corinthians 8 and 9. Let’s begin today’s harvest time by welcoming pastor Gary Walton. Hi, pastor.

Gary Walton: Hey. Hafa adai, Chris. Yeah. We’ve been in this series for a few weeks now talking just teaching through what the Bible has to say in the middle chapters of 2nd Corinthians. You know, at harvest, we say this from time to time.

It kinda comes back into some of our terminology, but, there’s really sort of 5 expectations that we would have of people that are part of our church and part of our membership. Hang on as I tell you this because they pull together. But at harvest, we expect you to be growing. We expect you to be faithful. We expect you to be serving.

We expect you to be giving, and we expect you to be sharing your faith. And I always try to tell people that those aren’t like some kind of a list that, you know, that church talks about in terms of sort of a mean spiritedness. It actually is because as we have both studied the word and then walked the Christian life, we know that there are certain spiritual disciplines and, spiritual life habits that are just part of the life of happy, joyful, blessed Christians. And the way that I’ve tried to say it is that we love you enough almost like a parent would to try to help instill the kinds of life habits and the life character traits that will allow you to really live a fulfilled and genuine life. And so, these are some of the things that the Bible calls us to, and we try to encourage each other along that way, kind of exhorting one another as the day approaches.

But in the middle of that, if you heard it, is this idea we expect you to be giving. And the Bible talks repeatedly. There are so many passages in the scriptures about the joy of generosity. And so, we’re talking about that and we’re not ashamed to do that here in this in this series because, the discipline of being a joyfully generous person is something that actually just fills your life with fulfillment and purpose. And so, as the scripture teaches it, we’re going to we’re committed to teach it as well.

And you’ll be blessed. I really believe that you’ll be blessed if you join us on Sunday. Listen again to what God’s word has to say about our life, our stewardship of our life, including even our our finances. And so we’d invite you to come and join us here this Sunday at harvest. We have a seat for you and we’d love to save it and get a chance to meet you.

Well, I’m really glad to, welcome Jody Harrison, one of the Harvest missionaries and former church member and staff member here a little while back. Welcome you back to Guam and welcome to Harvest Time. So welcome, Jody.

Jodi Harrison: Well, thank you. It’s good to be here.

Gary Walton: God brought Jodi to, Harvest in 2005. I think I have the the right date. And then, really 2 different times here for a few years and then God called her away for a couple of years and then back. So over a period of, I don’t know, 7 or 8 years, you were here for 5 years out of that time. And I’ll let you talk about that in a minute, but deep friendships, you are part of the Harvest family.

You always will be. And then in that time frame, God called you, out. Really fulfilled the calling that you felt like you’d had, you know, from even when you were younger to go and serve him in Spain. And you’ve been serving in the land of Spain as a missionary for how long now?

Jodi Harrison: For 9 years.

Gary Walton: Okay. 9 years. I’m eager to talk with you and ask you some questions about all of that. But we’re glad that you’re here. Jodi was here for our missions conference.

In fact, as she and I and Chris are talking right now, we’re just finishing up our missions conference and we’re in the middle of what we call our Freshwater Conference with HBBC, but we thought we’d take an opportunity to talk with her, record it for a little bit later on. It’s been a, you know, where you’re listening now, it’s a few weeks later, but to be able to hear what God’s doing in her life with, with our listening audience. So, Jodi, tell me a little bit about your background. Where’d you grow up? Kind of a family, and God’s work in your life.

Jodi Harrison: Sure. I grew up in Hadley in Hadley, Michigan. I was just gonna say Hadley, but nobody knows where that’s at. And I’m the youngest of 4 kids. Grew up in a Christian home.

So went to church from as as long as I can remember. We were there. And, just really thankful for parents who knew the importance of having us in church and, learning the gospel from a young age. I actually got saved when I visited Vacation Bible School at my friend’s church, when I was 5. And then not long after, was able to be baptized in my my home church, the same time as my brother, and, just grew, in my love and knowledge of the Lord from that time.

I’m thankful that he can save us as a young child who doesn’t understand everything, but we understand the importance of what Christ did on the cross for us and, be able to grow in our knowledge of him as we grow older and are able to learn more of his word. So I, grew up there and, went to public school, started studying Spanish when I was in 7th grade, and had teachers who talked about Spain a lot. And the Lord just really gave me an interest in the language and, the country of Spain. I I wasn’t necessarily thinking that I was gonna be a missionary, but the Lord used several different things. One was a lot of visits from missionaries, at our church to just hear what they were doing.

And, of course, when I was younger, I was interested in the food they ate and the places they went. But, you know, even that, I think the Lord was just, starting to grow a burden in my heart. And, I was able to go on a missions trip with my youth group after my 10th grade year. And, we went to Mexico for a year of a year? A week?

And, we I I was just very impressed, I think, by the love of the people that were there. It wasn’t really anything that we did, but just seeing, these people who didn’t really have very much because we were in a very poor area of the country, but they were willing to give and to love us, give to us and love us, and also the children that were invited to VBS. And I think the Lord really impressed in my heart then, that he can use us no matter what. We don’t have to be, like, a super Christian to be used by the Lord. In fact, he wants to use us and, to be a light to those around us.

And then after I graduated from high school, the Lord led me to Maranatha Baptist University. And, I was able to be part of BMM’s Arriba team then. So that’s a 11 month program in Peru for

Gary Walton: BMM is a mission board, Baptist Mid Missions that we have, you know, a lot of connections with here. Yeah.

Jodi Harrison: And, again, just solidified, in my heart that missions was the direction I should be heading. So when I graduated from college, I was ready to go to Spain, but the Lord had different plans and he brought me here to Guam and I’m very thankful he did. I loved my time here. I loved my students and just really learned a lot about serving the Lord and about, discipleship and investing in lives, that I might not have learned, in that in the way that I did here. So

Gary Walton: I wanna ask you about that. Let me back up for a minute though. Thank you for sharing about kind of your growing up, years, Christian parents, growing up in a, in a Bible teaching church, those experiences with missionaries were pretty formative for you. It’s actually one of the reasons why we try to do some of the things that you just talked about here. At harvest, we, even though we’re, you know, out here a ways as much as we can, we love to have missionaries here.

And by that, we’re meaning people, just normal people like you said, that feel God’s called them to some places where maybe the gospel or bible knowledge is not as great as in some other places where they’d be able to share, the gospel and be part of young churches growing. And, but but really that the exposure that you had as a child really did allow you to see that these missionaries can just be people like me. Right? You had maybe meals with them or watch them, heard their stories. Mhmm.

And even though it was really cool to see it, you could tell they were like you. And then I love the second part about the, the mission trip that you took in high school. Mhmm. Again, these are things that we really desire and want in our part of our church and really encourage people to take these opportunities because to get to the place where you’re living for a week or 2 weeks or whatever that would be with the missionaries serving alongside helps it to be real for you. It’s not just something that’s out there.

So thank you for sharing about that. Anything that you’d say like, when you look back on the missionaries that came through, I mean, you said that, you could tell they’re real people. Anything that you remember that, like, stood out, like, wow, I really this was important for me?

Jodi Harrison: Well, this is gonna be really silly, but there was a missionary. She was a single nurse, and she came and, she was talking to my brother and I and just talking about what she did and and her ministry. But one thing that really stuck out, and my brother still talks about this to this day, but, she arm wrestled him and, like, he just thought that was the coolest thing that here’s this missionary who’s like a nurse, you know. And he was, like, he was certain he was going to win, but he did not.

Gary Walton: Oh, my

Jodi Harrison: And, so I again, I think it just made it like she is a real person. She’s not some, like, far distant person that I can’t I can’t ever reach that level. And so that’s

Gary Walton: That’s fantastic. That’s a great story. Yeah.

Jodi Harrison: That’s something I try to remember when, you know, when I’m visiting people, like, my coworker likes to say, like, that we’re interesting because we get to do things that other people don’t. Yeah. So, of course, they have lots of questions, but we don’t want to be like so interesting that we’re above them because that isn’t what the point of being a missionary is at all. We want to reach people because we are needy just like they are for, the grace of God.

Gary Walton: Yeah. Right on. So arm wrestling, that part of your missions presentation?

Jodi Harrison: Well, no. Oh, okay.

Gary Walton: I didn’t

Jodi Harrison: Not for me. But

Gary Walton: No. That’s great. Yeah. And then you said that, you know, kind of this growing burden in your life that maybe God’s calling you high school, college, and then specifically for Spain Mhmm. Because of the language and some other reasons.

But instead of going to Spain, God called you here. Right? Tell me a little bit more about that.

Jodi Harrison: So I was like I said, I was planning to go to the mission field. I contacted some mission boards. I was, like, really, looking into that. And my last semester of college, I ended up having to take out a loan, which was the first time, through school, which was a blessing. But, that just meant that I had to be able to pay that off before I could go to the mission field.

And so, I was just I had some actually, I had some friends at school who had one girl who was from Guam and one who had, been on Guam and then worked at an office, that I worked in at Maranatha. And, they were both like, you should go to Guam. You would love it. You should really go there. So literally, like, the last thing I said when I walked out of the office before Christmas break was, the only way I’ll go to Guam is if they need a Spanish teacher.

And I was, like, thinking that’s not that’s not gonna happen. So I’m going to Spain. But, obviously, the Lord worked that out and opened the doors. I had, a an interview and then just was like, well, this is something that’s exciting. It’s something different.

And, while it isn’t missions, I recognize the opportunity, to be some place and share the gospel with my students. So the Lord opened that opportunity and just helped me really grow in that too. I have always been, like, very timid and shy. I I talk a lot so people don’t believe that, but it is hard for me to get in front of people or to meet somebody. And I think, being here, really helped with that, recognizing that, you know, it’s it’s good to step outside of your comfort zone, to be able to share the love and truth of Christ with people.

I don’t know if I’m actually answering your initial question.

Gary Walton: Yeah. No. It’s great. Yeah. Really really you are.

Yeah. I think that’s an interesting thing, and I I kinda term it this way even though, it’s not, it’s not missions in the way that we might formally describe, go raise support, go someplace. It is missional. And, I mean, I have to for so many people, it is really education as missions. So, for people that have a burden for, you know, God’s kind of equipped them as a teacher, you’re equipped in that way.

And then there really is unique opportunities here. And you said, that, you know, kind of your some of your equipping and I don’t remember how you said this earlier, but relationships or discipleship. I know you’ve told me that before. Tell me what exactly that meant. What did how did you grow in that way?

Jodi Harrison: Yeah. Well, just with the opportunities that were so available to me, I’m sure that it’s probably still the same that it’s very easy to, build relationships with your students. Yeah. And so I just always had that opportunity. I got to be close with several of my students and just be able to share, the God’s word with them whether it was in like a, kind of a, like sit down bible study sort of situation or just because they would come to me and ask questions.

And, I realized one thing that has helped in Spain as well that, you know, a lot of ministry, missions, sharing the gospel with people really has to be relationship focused because, people don’t necessarily always recognize, what their need is. They don’t think, oh, I I need the gospel. I’m going to look for it. And they don’t always want to hear like, they don’t they don’t care what your religion is necessarily. But when they see that you love them and you care about them and that what you’re telling them is what you’re living out, then that opens doors.

And that’s something that’s been a huge part of ministry in Spain because, people are very relationship oriented, but they’re also, in a sense, very close to the gospel. And so I I can’t just walk out and hand somebody a tract or walk out and invite them to church. I have to actually build a relationship with them. And having taught here and it was a lot easier here because it was, you know, that student teacher relationship. They were in my classroom.

I had a lot of opportunities, but the Lord taught me that I can be much more effective if I actually truly do love this person that I am ministering to instead of just seeing them as, like, like an object to be like, oh, can I proselytize you? If not, I don’t wanna talk to you.

Gary Walton: Right. You

Jodi Harrison: know? But to actually build a relationship with them that might span a long time, it might take a very long time to be able to actually share the gospel. But, the Lord gives those opportunities little by little, and that was something that I learned here as well, because it wasn’t always we’re sitting down and I’m telling you all what the gospel says, but I’m I’m sharing little by little pieces of truth from God’s word just in daily life and, conversations that we had.

Gary Walton: Yeah. That’s really that’s really interesting, really good for us. So, you said you’ve been in Spain for 9 years, right? So 2015, 16? 15.

Tell me about well, tell us generally about Spain for somebody that doesn’t know a lot about the country, where you live. Okay. What’s unique about it?

Jodi Harrison: Sure. Well, Spain is, a very beautiful country. It’s very diverse as well. So, we just moved about a year ago to our region we live in now. So it’s very different than where we were before.

I now live in the northwestern corner of Spain and a lot of Celtic influence, and a lot of interesting history there. They speak Spanish as well as Galician or Gallego as we call it in Spanish. And so that has been interesting to kind of see this new language. I hear it all the time and I have bilingual conversations rather frequently. But, the overall, the culture in Spain, traditionally, obviously, it’s very very Catholic.

So Catholicism has always been a big part of the history. I’m actually preparing to speak to the HBBC students and I was just going through all of that and, you know, why it’s important to understand that because, you know, you have, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella who led really the biggest part of the Spanish inquisition, because they only wanted Catholicism in the country. And then as as recently as Franco, who is the dictator, from the late thirties to the mid seventies, who was all who, you know, there were people killed and, persecuted if they were not Catholic. And so there’s in some sense, there’s a fear of not being Catholic if they’re an older like, from the older generation. But then you have the very opposite side with the younger generation who sees the emptiness of the Catholic church of and some things that have happened, and they want nothing to do with organized religion.

So that’s kind of what we work with. And that’s why, as I mentioned earlier, relationship is so important because I’m not there to offer them a religion. I’m there to offer them the love of Christ, and they won’t know that without a relationship that is showing them what that looks like.

Gary Walton: And then, you know, we’re talking about this term missionary. Mhmm. You’re you’re there very specifically to, you know, try to share your faith. You’re part of a church plan. Mhmm.

You didn’t go as a as a pastor. You’re really going to help. So what what’s your role within the church and what’s life look like for you?

Jodi Harrison: So when I originally went, my goal has always been to be part of a church planting team to see churches planted. Spain is the least evangelized of all of the Spanish speaking countries. So there is definitely, a great need there for for churches. And, so I went, my first two years I was in Salamanca. I worked with Campus Bible Fellowship which does a lot of, bible studies and, outreach to students at the university.

But I was part of an established church there. And then, after that, I was in a city with my teammates and we were able to see a church planted and and, started there and it’s growing. And, we’re very thankful for how the Lord worked there. And then, like I said, just about a year ago, the Lord led, one of the couples that I was working with and myself to this new area. So church planting for what what it looks like for me on a daily basis is, just trying to meet people, build relationships, be able to share the gospel.

I lead a ladies bible study. I’m currently teaching Sunday school for our kids. But it’s just getting to know people and inviting them into studying God’s word together, whether that’s at 1 on 1 or a group bible study throughout the week. But that’s where I focus most of my my time is on preparing for bible studies and then studying with the ladies there.

Gary Walton: Yeah. That’s cool. You’ve been talking about this new church plant you and your coworkers are a part of, which I love always. It’s always so fascinating to me. You showed us some pictures in church of, of a new facility that’s it’s gotta go through permitting and all that.

But tell me how how that group is coming together. How do you I mean, how does the church just start in a place that you’re, you know, saying is very difficult for people to come to Jesus.

Jodi Harrison: Yeah. Well, it this is actually my first time that I’ve been in the part a part of a church plant from the very beginning, from the ground up. So we really just prayed that the Lord would give wisdom, as to where we should be. And, I’ll try not to make this too long because it’s an interesting story. But Yeah.

My coworkers had decided that they were going to walk a section of the Camino de Santiago or the way of Saint James, which goes through our city. And we knew we wanted to be on one of the routes because there is such an opportunity to share the gospel with the pilgrims who travel that. But while they were doing that, they ended up meeting a couple. They stayed in their Airbnb. And so Seth, my coworker, was trying to witness to, this man.

And they finally, like, recognized it. They were both trying to share the gospel with each other, which is not something that happens so commonly in Spain. You don’t you don’t find a Spaniard who is witnessing to you. So we got connected with them and they had been part of a church that had lost their pastor years ago. And so they just had a small bible study group, and, they invited us to come and to help them or just encourage them, or to be in that area so they could help us figure things out.

And so that’s what we ended up doing. And we thought we would be planting a church in the city of Pontevedra where where I currently live. But the Lord worked through some other connections that we made, and we met a couple who, live in the city or the town of Caldas de Reis, and they had been praying that the Lord would bring somebody to help them grow and to teach their children about God’s word. And, just through some different situations and the Lord’s clear direction, we decided that we were gonna plant our church in this town of Caldas de Reis. So, it is the Grotsky’s who I work with, and then we have another couple, the Torres family, who are there just for, 2 years for now.

And then a Spaniard who had moved to the area with us. And this this one family who comes very faithfully and very regularly, and she invites everybody she knows to come. So we have we have visitors come. But, so right now, we’re a very small group. But, it’s encouraging to see their faithfulness and their desire to grow and learn and, even to invite people and share that that love of Christ that they have with others.

So, that’s where we’re at right now.

Gary Walton: It’s in this nucleus of people. I I’m just reminded of those new testament stories, Jody, where, you know, the church really, got planted on these intersections of the traveling roads of the people of Rome. And I know we don’t travel as often by that, but you’re in a place where that’s happening. You know, people are hiking and walking. And in these intersections in the years to come.

We’re anxious to hear more, both by, you know, letters and and connections and then even as you have a chance to come back. So we’re thankful for your ministry. Really thankful, that you were here. Harvest has been had the privilege of supporting your ministry since, well, since you left along that path, but you haven’t been back here since that time. So it’s been sweet to have you back.

Enjoyable for you?

Jodi Harrison: Yes. Absolutely. It feels like coming home.

Gary Walton: So I really enjoyed it. Yeah. I love that. So, Jodi, thank you for being here. Thank you for your faithfulness to God.

We’re praying that God would bless you, pour out his blessings on the ministry there.

Jodi Harrison: Thank you so much.

Chris Harper: And thank you for listening to Harvest Time. Of course, at this point in the program, we always wanna personally invite you to services this week at Harvest Baptist Church, 8:45 AM, 10:45 AM, Sunday. We have Spanish translation at 8:45, Japanese and Korean translation at 10:45. We also broadcast the 10:45 AM service here on 88.1 FM and We hope to see you this Sunday.

Thanks again for listening to Harvest Time.

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