We all take different paths in life. We start down one path and may end up on another. For Pastor John Barba, of New Direction Church, that’s how his life in ministry began.
“I went to an assembly of God college in Lakeland, Florida in the late eighties it was studying to be a missions major, planning to go over to Mexico as a foreign missionary with the Assemblies of God. And during my studies, I met a guy on campus, and he heard that I was trying to go overseas,” said Pastor John. “I was in my final year, and he asked me why I was going. I told him, and out of the clear blue, he said, have you ever thought about going to El Paso?”
That led to a change in Barba’s major.
“I looked at him,” John recalled. “El Paso was, yeah, that’s where I’m from. And I had never met the guy before, he was in one of my classes, but we really never talked, but I never met him. And so, I began being intrigued about El Paso, and so I wind up changing a little bit of my major and was able to configure it. And in ’92 or I came to El Paso.”
That’s the short version of how Pastor John ended up in El Paso. There is, however, more to the story. John Barba was not always a Christian, not always wanting to be a pastor.
“I had a pretty volatile life. My parents were divorced. I grew up a latch key kid in the seventies I had no direction. And so basically, I did what I wanted,” says John of his childhood.
“My mother was a single parent trying to work. I got into a lot of drugs. I got into a lot of alcohol. So I didn’t really want to work when I graduated. So, I went into the military, got out of the military in 1978, got back into the drug and the rock scene. And I just knew something wasn’t right in my life. I heard my father became a Christian. I was angry at him. And so, I decided I really need to talk to my father and air some things out about how mad I am.”
John set off to see his father. He felt, of his dads conversion to Christianity, that it was a fad, something that was passing and would be forgotten before too long.
During the late sixties to the mid-seventies, there was the “Jesus Movement.” This was a time when people though out North America, Europe, and Central America were becoming Christian in numbers never seen before.
It was also the time that not only Christian media but secular media was giving mass exposure to the various movements and music born out of the Jesus Movement. It was during this time, in the 70’s that John turned a corner.
“Well, I saw him the first time,” says John. “Then the second time, I came down, he had a business, and I sat in there, and there was a man sitting next to him. He had a transmission shop. And what they would do was, it was like a Pep Boys. You would come into the office, a waiting area while your car is being fixed. And so, I was sitting there, and my dad signaled me like I’ll be with the a minute. And so, he was talking to this guy, and they were talking about Jesus as if he actually was living like they knew him. So, they’re going back and forth and then all of a sudden, the guy that was sitting next to looked at me, and he said, would you like to know Jesus?”
John remembers being a bit shocked by the question.
“I said, yeah, I guess. And so, he said, all right, stand up. I stood up, and he said, put your hands up. I raised my hands up, and he said, I want you to say this prayer. And in my mind, I’m thinking, this guy is going to rob me in Jesus’ name. I got my hands up,” recalls John, who wasn’t robbed of anything but sin that day.
“So, I prayed this prayer with him and asked God to come into my life and forgive me. And I say this with all sincerity, in reality; I heard something inside of me say, you will never be the same again. I walked out of that office, got in my car and I began crying. I don’t know what was going on, but I felt I felt God’s love. And the next day I got up, I started reading the Bible, I never read the Bible. And at that time, uh, God delivered me of all the, around 30 different kinds of drugs.”
From that point in his life, John began to follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit, and eventually found himself in Bible College and El Paso, Texas.
“So, when I came to El Paso, I didn’t really know what to do. Every day I would walk around, all over the city on different parts,” recalls John of those early days in El Paso.
“One day I was on Yandell – Cotton and Yandell – and I was at a stop sign, and a guy came up, and he said, hi, how are you doing? I said, great. He goes, are you from here? I said, no, and so I began telling him, I said, yeah, I feel God wants me to start a church in central. Do you know where it’s at? He said you’re standing it right here. I said this is it. And he said, yeah.”
For ten years John pastored a Church in Central El Paso. For ten years he would preach the Word of God and feed the souls of people who were lost, hurting, or simply needed to know they were loved.
Now, Pastor John and New Direction Church are in Northeast El Paso. Not only is his Church still ministering to the needs of individuals spiritually, they are also working to meet the needs of people physically.
“So in the last six years we started a program called the Helping Hands Food Pantry, where once a month we give out grocery bags to the community, especially here in Northeast El Paso,” said Pastor John.
“I just felt like the church needs to do more than just tell people they need God,” says Pastor John. “Jesus in Matthew 25, really, He said, I tell you the truth, whatever you did for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine you’ve done for me. And He goes on to talk about when I was thirsty, you gave me something to drink when I was needing of clothing, you gave me something when I needed food and, and the disciples looking, when did we do that, Lord? He said, as much as you’ve done it to these, and I’ve taken that, that the church, the body of Christ, we need to reach out to, to mankind. Our fellow man, and we’ve done it for six years now.”
The food program is funded entirely by members of the church. Each month the manage to feed between eighty to one-hundred people. They don’t do it because Pastor John compels them, they do it out of love, out of compassion, out of a desire and willingness to serve.
That is what I find amazing about New Direction Church; they see themselves as the Body of Christ just as much as they see those they serve, be they members of the church or not, as fellow members of that body.
I do want to mention on thing that struck me as special when speaking to Pastor John. He asked for help to meet the needs of others. If you want to volunteer with them, help others obtain needed benefits, or provide food, he welcomes everyone.
Your denomination does not matter. Your political beliefs do not matter. What matters to Pastor John is your willingness to have the spirit of a servant.
I was once told that when one part of the Body of Christ is hurt, injured, sick, so is every other part. New Direction Church is working towards making sure each part of the Body of Christ is well.
Visit them at 9565 Dyer Street, Suite B. You can also catch him Saturday’s at 2:30 p.m. on KELP Christian Radio or you can also reach Pastor John at 915-588-7297
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