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john charles

I was born into a simple Lancaster County Mennonite farm family, the third of five children, but my childhood was not the typical life of a farm boy. At age five, I contracted rheumatic fever and was confined to a hospital bed, not permitted to get out of bed even to go to the bathroom. Around the same time my sister developed a serious kidney disease, Dad was critically injured falling 36 feet, headfirst, from a silo onto the concrete pad, and Mom was surviving on tranquilizers, close to an emotional and mental breakdown.

In desperation, first Mom and then Dad reached out to God. Although both had been Christians for years, they each made a fresh commitment to follow God and believe and obey His Word no matter what the cost. As a result of this transforming encounter with the Lord, my parents began to pray about everything, believing that Jesus truly is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). They prayed for healing and one by one each of us was completely healed. One of my earliest wonderful memories is jumping on my tricycle after coming home from the doctor’s appointment where he had, in amazement, pronounced me free from any heart valve problem.

This dramatic life-change on the part of my parents led them from the farm, to missionary service in Brazil, South America. So from age eight through my senior year in high school, I lived in Brazil, attending the Brazilian public schools, learning the Portuguese language and coming to love the country and its people.

At the age of eight, I asked my parents to pray with me. I wanted to ask Jesus to be my Savior and my Lord. From that point on, I believed He wanted me to prepare for missionary service, so upon completion of my high school studies I attended Fort Wayne Bible College in Fort Wayne, Indiana. There I met Sharon.

We were married soon after I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Pastoral Ministries. For two and a half years I served as pastor of youth and youth music at a church in Berne, Indiana. During that time we prepared for missionary service through training with Missionary Internship program in Dearborn, Michigan. Then Sharon and I and our first child, Monica headed to Brazil for what we believed would be a lifetime career there.

After almost three enjoyable years in Brazil, working with youth and in the local churches, we felt the Lord telling us to return to the United States. I struggled with this issue, wondering why the Lord would have taken us to Brazil, only to send us back to North America so quickly. But His direction was clear! As we made the decision to return to Pennsylvania, we had complete peace that we had made the right decision… even though we weren’t yet sure why we were returning.

At the same time we were praying about returning to the United States, the Lord was speaking to my parents about starting a Christian counseling center. They had returned to the U.S.A. while I was in college, in order to care for my bed-ridden grandmother. On weekends they would be invited to churches to share what the Lord had done in their lives. Inevitably, individuals who had heard them speak at a church on Sunday, would call Monday morning wondering if they could come and talk personally with my parents. Their testimony had given these individuals hope that perhaps God could help them, even as He had helped Dad and Mom.

This happened so often that it soon became apparent Dad and Mom could be kept busy encouraging, praying with, and counseling people full-time.

In September, 1978, Abundant Living Ministries was formed. Right from the beginning, Sharon and I sensed God asking us to work alongside my parents, supporting the counseling ministry the Lord had given them. Initially, my primary role was administrative, but soon Sharon and I also began to counsel and were invited to speak at seminars, retreats, churches, etc. In a few years, Dad handed over the directorship to me, although both of my parents remained active in the ministry until their deaths.

I am absolutely convinced that life’s challenges have answers in God’s Word, the Bible. It has been rewarding seeing marriages saved, families reunited and individuals experiencing new joy, hope and purpose, as they apply the practical principles of Scripture in their daily lives. Our counseling is based on God’s truth, as well as lots of practical examples from our own experiences. We rejoice as we participate with God in His healing process!

For relaxation, I enjoy traveling, doing math puzzles, playing the piano and reading about airplanes… actually, I enjoy reading about and looking at most any BIG mode of transportation: airplanes, trucks, buses, trains, and ships. My most favorite activity is spending time with Sharon, something I never get tired of.

My mission is to honor God with my life. I purpose to be a loving husband, father and grandfather and to be helpful to those around me.

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