Isn’t it remarkable that a baby, born in an obscure / small town 2,000 years ago, could change the world? What is even more amazing is that individuals, born in the small town of Pulaski, VA are still impacting the world by embracing the teachings brought to Earth with the arrival of that baby.
Of course, that baby is Jesus the Christ, who Christians believe is the Savior of mankind. The individuals from Pulaski are Jolene and Paul Cox, two people among thousands of local Christians who have a burning desire to share the life-changing Gospel with people around the world.
How does someone start from small beginnings and progress to changing peoples’ lives worldwide? Jolene and Paul believe that in their 22-years of mission work they have been God-directed, God-connected and God-protected.
When Paul graduated from high school, he scored extremely high on a military electronics test and was sent as a civilian to the country of Thailand as a cryptographer. Although he acknowledged Jesus as his Savior, Paul said that Jesus was not his Lord. He enjoyed the country of Thailand, but did not consider being there as a missionary. Jolene graduated from Radford College with a degree in education and pursued a 30-year career as a teacher in Pulaski County.
As long-standing members of Memorial Baptist Church on Peppers Ferry Road in Pulaski, where Paul has served as a deacon, they have received extensive training and preparation for the mission field. Additionally, they know God has provided opportunities and connected them with people who have been instrumental in helping them accomplish their mission. Their education, careers and volunteer experiences helped prepare them for their future work in missions. They have been attending Memorial Baptist for 60-years, teaching Sunday School, singing in the choir, delivering food to shut-ins and making home visits.
Since 1996, when they were tapped for a mission trip to the Czech Republic, Paul knew they were on the right path. Jolene was still teaching second grade at Clarmont Elementary School and did not have a passport. Contrary to normal lengthy procedures, her passport was expedited and arrived in a couple of weeks; just in time for them to leave on their first mission trip. Paul says, “Once I got a taste of missions, I knew this is what I was supposed to do. I enjoyed it so much, I wondered if it was me or the Lord.”
Other mission trips include the countries of Hungary, Honduras, Jamaica, China, Singapore, and Albania where Paul got caught up in a revolution; and had to pay a mafia-type person at the airport so he could leave the country.
While serving in the Honduras, they helped construct Betina Baptist Church located in a very poor section of the city of Siguatepeque. Over the years, Paul and Jolene, along with several other missionaries and friends from Memorial Baptist Church in Pulaski, formed a special friendship with Pastor Raul Villatoro and his family. Together, they (along with several local doctors) paid the tuition for Villatoro’s daughter and son to go through medical school; and their other son through engineering school. Memorial Baptist purchased and donated land next to Betina Baptist Church, where Villatoro’s son is engineering and building a three-story medical clinic.
Pastor Villatoro’s wife is a registered nurse and works at the clinic adjacent to Betina Baptist Church. She and their daughter stayed with Jolene and Paul for a few weeks while receiving advanced medical training at our local hospitals. Additionally, Seagles Funeral Home taught Mrs. Villatoro how to prepare bodies for burial. An on-going ministry, called the King’s Kids, has been established through Memorial Baptist Church, which administers donations for educating children in the Honduras. There are no administration fees and all donations are sent directly to the head of each ministry.
Now retired and in their 70’s, Jolene and Paul continue to use their time and talents serving the Lord wherever He directs. Their most recent mission trip was to Thailand where they spent two months handing out 16,431 Mandarine language Bibles and sharing the love of Jesus with Mainland Chinese, and others celebrating Chinese New Year. Teams of 6-10 people strategically stand on the pier that houses three dinner theaters; holding up signs in Chinese, “We have a free gift for you.” “Free Bible.” “Jesus loves you.” Between the hours of 5:00 pm to 9:30 pm, up to 8,000 visitors pass by them each night on their way to the theaters and other entertainment located on the pier. Chinese Christians are begging for Bibles written in Chinese. There are house churches in China where they may have only one Bible, so they tear out pages and share them with each other. “There is such joy you can see on the faces of the people we are bringing the Good News to,” comments Jolene.
While handing out Bibles, Jolene and Paul engage the passers-by in conversation, asking them what will happen to them when they die. Most people in Thailand believe that when they die, that is all there is to life. During the Chinese New Year, devout followers take paper money and burn it at the graves of their ancestors.
Young people and students often take the Bibles, sit on the curb, and read them. Jolene explains, “For strangers to come in and talk to students about a God they can’t see – and who lives eternally – is amazing. God does the work.”
Paul adds, “This is an example of the power of the Word to transform Isaiah 55:11.” (So is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.) NIV Bible translation.
In addition to handing out Bibles, Jolene and Paul have assisted with the Grace Foundation, which rescues children from distressed areas, feeds them, provides a Christian education; and helps their parents learn English and find employment. The cities of Pattaya and Puket, Thailand, are major centers for sex trafficking and pedafilia. Families in the nearby agricultural area send their attractive daughters, as young as twelve-years-old, to Pattaya and Puket to become prostitutes.
When not ministering on the pier, Jolene and Paul travel to Bangkok to fellowship and worship with Chinese university students. Eight Chinese students who Jolene and Paul ministered to were recently baptized. Jolene states, “It’s about what God is doing, not what Jolene and Paul are accomplishing on their own.”
The Southern Baptist Convention has about 5,000 missionaries placed all over the world; but more teams of missionaries are always needed. Some U.S. teachers and college graduates go to countries where they can teach English, math and science. At times, their salary and expenses are covered. If you are interested in missionary work, would like Jolene and Paul to speak at your church, or if you wish to make a donation, you may contact Memorial Baptist Church in Pulaski at 995 Peppers Ferry Road, phone: (540) 980-4731 or visit https://www.facebook.com/memorialbaptistpulaski/
By DANIELLE REID, Special to The Patriot