Jeremy Lara ’11, a missionary in New Zealand, looks back on his time at Ontario Christian
If not for the firm foundation that he received at Ontario Christian, Jeremy Lara (’11) said he probably would not be ministering in New Zealand with Youth With A Mission (YWAM), an inter-denominational, international organization that equips and sends missionaries around the world.
Jeremy attended public school until 5th grade. When he and his sister Jordan ‘16 transferred to OC, he met like-minded friends immediately, with whom he still keeps in close contact. Looking back, he says that while his public school experience was good, it paled in comparison with the solid education and Christian foundation he received from OC.
“But I didn’t truly appreciate it until I was out,” Jeremy says. “What OC offers is a safe environment where you find your identity in Christ.”
He thanks his teachers for being a channel of God’s love and truth during a crucial time for his identity formation. They invested in him and met him where he was. For a while, his mind was not focused on academics, and his teachers sat down with him, telling him that they knew he could do better.
“They encouraged me, loved me, and called out the gold in me,” Jeremy says, thankful for teachers like Mr. Jon Schaap and Mr. Mitch Stutz who consider their work a ministry.
“I took it for granted that I always talked to my teachers,” he says. “Now, looking back, I was like, wow, that was something special that doesn’t come often.”
Jeremy also has his classmate Trevor (’11) to thank. After graduating from high school, Jeremy started taking EMT classes, thinking he wanted to be a firefighter. Soon he realized firefighting was not for him. Confused about his next steps, he enrolled in Chaffey College. That was when he received a Facebook message from Trevor asking him to join YWAM. Trevor left for YWAM’s New Zealand site right after high school.
“I didn’t even know where New Zealand was,” Jeremy said, but he knew he wanted to go. He began to pray about it, and he asked his parents to pray with him. The confirmation from everyone was a resounding yes, so off he went.
Upon his arrival, he received a three-month training from YWAM’s Discipleship Training School. For the following two months, he joined more than 60 of his fellow classmates to minister to people in Tauranga, one of the fastest growing cities in New Zealand with a population of more than 120,000. He thrived in the new environment and decided to stay for more training. Eventually, he joined the staff of YWAM. He now lives and ministers in Tauranga.
“God poured into my heart the love I was looking for,” Jeremy says of his YWAM experience. “I shifted my perspective from looking at me, my life, to doing what God wants me to do. I began falling in love with God.”
With many testimonies of God’s faithfulness, he is grateful for the OC community for steering him toward God in ways invisible and intangible.
“I see the fruit of it now— parents, staff, friends who kept us in prayer,” he says.