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No longer ‘white-knuckling it’

1001 leader starts new worshiping community in an RV park

April 8, 2013

Tamara John putting up the RV Ministry park "steeple,' a flag with a cross. —Photo courtesy Tamara John

Louisville

New worshiping community leader Tamara John knows what it’s like to lose everything. “I’ve been brought back from nothing,” she says, “to the other side of learning trust in Jesus.” The story of how she ended up starting a new worshiping community in an RV park in Huntington Beach, California is ultimately about the redeeming and healing power of Jesus Christ. “Without Jesus, I’d be white-knuckling it,” she says. “Trying to walk away from power that’s destructive to me.”

Fifteen years ago, John was into fashion, clothes, jewelry. For hours she’d sit in front of her custom-made vanity with makeup, playing with her long wavy hair. “The more [money] my husband and I made, the darker it got,” she says. “We’d party—drugs and alcohol—then recuperate and do it all over again.”

John was living in a big city attending a Bible study at a nearby nondenominational church. One day, a woman pulled her aside, telling her, “I love you, but you are going down a bad road.” Shaken, John began to pray. Over time she felt God saying, ‘I have a life for you; this is not the life I have created for you.’ John began to step out of the party scene, hoping her husband would follow her example. Instead he gave her an ultimatum—become the woman he married or leave.

 John went through emotional, physical, spiritual, and financial trauma. Divorced and starting over, she ended up living in a guest room in the home of a friend in Marina del Rey, California. She got involved in a Stephen Ministries program at nearby Bel Air Presbyterian Church, where she felt a call to minister and care for people who had been wounded by life. To her great surprise, this desire deepened at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena. Nearing graduation, she got a feeling that she would have a base to do this kind of ministry, but it would be mobile.

John was unsure what her feeling meant. “I was a bit unsettled about being mobile,” she says. “But one night as I was praying it became very clear to me. I saw this white RV with a chapel in the back. “  Knowing she would need help and additional training, to start a new ministry she received church plant training at the Presbyterian Centers for New Church Innovation (West Coast). “It was very helpful in acting out what God had already impressed on my heart.”

Prayer in RV Ministry park chapel

Tamara John ministers to RV park residents in a 10 by 12 foot chapel in the back of her RV. —Photo courtesy Tamara John

 John began looking for the perfect place to do RV park ministry. One night near dusk, she pulled into a park she’d driven by earlier. Noticing the young woman in the office was wearing a cross, she blurted out, “You’re a Christian; you’ve got to pray with me!” The woman ran to get her husband. “You’re not going to believe this,” he said, “but we’ve been praying for months for some kind of ministry here.” 

 Two years ago, John began her RV ministry in the park. It is full of people who have lost their homes because of foreclosure, who are going through a divorce, who are sick and need to be close to a nearby hospital. Living in her Fifth Wheel custom-made RV with a 10- by 12-foot chapel in the back, she minsters to those God placed on her heart.

 “I’ve talked with people who have walked away from God, who are struggling to trust God again,” she says. “I’m dealing with kids’ bullying issues, shame, guilt, and despair. People feeling lost, trying to restore their broken relationships.”

 It took John nearly a year to earn the trust of her new community, which includes 52 RVs in the park full time, each housing one to six people. There are five children under the age of 7, four 10-year-old boys, six teenagers, and four young men who live together, on their own. “I’m learning about surrender to Jesus, total dependence on God,” says John. “There’s a huge difference between who I was and who I am now. ”  

John’s RV Park ministry—which operates under the umbrella of the nonprofit Life Is Full of Choices—recently received a $7,500 new worshiping community seed grant from Presbyterian Mission Agency. “It means everything to me,” John says. “I live very lean, off people’s donations. I even cut my own hair. Unexpected gifts help get me through the tough times.”

John is on track to be ordained as an evangelist to the RV Park ministry by the Presbytery of Los Ranchos in May.  Other ministry partners include two Christ Presbyterian Churches, one in Huntington Beach and the other in Hollywood. “I get to baptize people now, to bring them down into the water and raise them up into new life in Jesus Christ. That is my hope for everyone I meet—for Jesus to make them new, with all the old gone.”

  1. Thank you, Tamara, for your witness and your ministry. We need to think "out of the box" about what it means to be church. My husband, a native of Honduras, works as a pastor through Mid-Kentucky Presbytery with mostly undocumented immigrants. One of the ministry sites is in an RV park here in Louisville. Blessings on your continued ministry! I look forward to hearing more about your work.

    by Ellen Sherby

    April 29, 2013

  2. Very inspiring work. Thank you, on behalf of all of us who have been there, for listening and responding. May God bless your life and ministry!

    by Michelle Lori

    April 26, 2013

  3. Hi Tamara. I loved reading this . May God always bless you richly in your life and ministry.i am still writing my songs for Jesus I have over 50 now.he is such an awesome God. Love you. Carol

    by Carol. Stone

    April 23, 2013

  4. This is wonderful! I was afraid the 1001 vision would be destroyed by "administrative over-site." So far I have been nothing but wrong and eating crow* ever since- thank God! *Yes, as a matter of fact crow does taste like chicken,

    by Philip Nesset

    April 22, 2013

  5. Praise God for what He is doing in the lives of those that Tamara is reaching for Jesus. We are excited about the future of this ministry!

    by Sheryl Emra

    April 10, 2013

  6. What a powerful story of someone who has been through the dark times, meeting Jesus as the apostle Paul on the road to Damascus. Turning her life around, and obeying the Lord, finding a way to help others in their time of need. A story compassion, love and sacrifice for those in the RV court. May God continue to bless Rev. Tamara John's ministry and give her the increase and fill her abundantly.

    by Thomas Chinen

    April 9, 2013

  7. Great article and inspiring story

    by Chineta Goodjoin

    April 8, 2013

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