I absolutely love John and Sheila. They have huge hearts. They let their light shine so fully and so simply that even a stranger can see it. Through their marriage and their individual personalities, they seek every chance they get to serve anyone who they meet. they love the kids around them, really honing on the brokenness that needs mending. I hope this interview inspires you. This is living—This is a great example of storytellers who shine their light to the world.
~Ben Dulay, Chief Storyteller of 777 Collective
WHAT ARE YOU PASSIONATE ABOUT?
SHEILA: I work with Junior High and High School kids and I have since I was like 20. So 33 years. I absolutely love them—the good ones, the bad ones, the fat ones, the skinny ones, the ugly ones—they’re just amazing. I would do anything to get them walking with the Lord, keeping them in the right path, and if they’re not Christians yet, for them to find Christ, and get saved, and keep bringing them to the Lord.
JOHN: I want to serve the Lord. And I found my niche serving the Lord through the children. And even as I’m three times as old as them, I can still relate to them. And then watching these kids that are such introverts that don’t know what’s happening, watch them light up, watching their eyes get bigger and yearning for more—more truth, more learning—of Christ. I’ve only been doing it for a few years. Three years with Sheila and a couple years before that. And just watch these kids light up and bloom from little brats, little weeds, to beautiful men and women.
SHEILA: Being there for their good stuff, being there when they’re broken-hearted, and breakups, and grandparents dying, and mom going through cancer.
JOHN: I think it’s easier for us being older, to carry the message, than it is for our interns we have now that are only a couple years older. That because of our life experiences, our trials and tribulations, and how at times we may have failed, to get back up again. And we have these life experiences to tell the children that, “It’s going to be okay guys. And look what God has done for us today. God has taken care of the rest and He will for you too.” Look at Sheila being 50 years old before she got the husband she wanted. You don’t have to get girls at 17 or 18. God has other things in mind for you right now. We don’t know the answers all of the time. Trust God.
HOW DO YOU "LET YOUR LIGHT SHINE" IN YOUR LIFE?
SHEILA: I’m just going to go to him, myself. Nothing makes me happier than Sunday mornings and Wednesday night. He’s standing at that front door greeting every kid when they walk in and kids who have probably never had anybody at church talk to them before. They like hug him, kids I never really had talked to. They love him. You’re like, “What?” That girl has never even smiled before. They come, they sit in the back, they have their hoods up. And then, when they’re leaving, he’ll shake their hand and tell them he loves them. And the next week, they’re hugging him. And when they’re walking in, they’re looking for him. I love that! But then I just hope they see the way we love each other too and can see God through us and just knowing as old as we are, we’re still in church, we love the Lord. I didn’t do the: when I was 20, disappear for five years and never go to church. But it’s like, “You guys, you gotta get connected, you gotta get involved, you gotta minister somewhere. Cause that’s where it is. But even little things like going to the grocery store and just being nice to people. Grabbing some old lady’s cart for her, helping her with her stuff. I just always try to be nice.
JOHN: I try to be a good example every time, all the time. Open the car door, wait, let somebody else in. It’s difficult sometimes cause life is so busy. But, I want to be the best person I can be on a regular basis, whether you go to my church or not, whether you’re another nationality, wearing a different outfit. I want to be all time. And hopefully, I am a shining example. In our daily prayers, it’s “God, soften our heart that we can better carry your message to those who haven’t heard it yet.” And I gotta remind myself everyday that, I’m not perfect. And I need God every single day to help soften my heart, to help carry the message to these kids that…Watching these kids in the high school…some of these kids are undecided. Their minds are messed up. They don’t know where they’re going, or where they should be going, what they’re doing. And I can just tell them, “I love ya. Come on back. I love ya.” And like Sheila was saying, the hoodies are coming down. They’re standing in line to get a hug. And I’m just standing there and looking back three or four rows deep of kids and thinking this kid wants a hug. I don’t know their names. I wish I could remember their names. But this is a child that walked in, the hoodie all wrapped tight, head down, and walked around to get in a corner. And now they’re standing in line with their arms open.
SHEILA: He’s just connecting with people that he could never connect with. But then also Taco Tuesday, we go to the same place every Tuesday cause our little waitress, she’s not a Christian. But sometimes, she’ll jump in and hold our hands and pray with us when we pray for our meal. And she’ll tell us now, “You guys better pray for me this week. It’s been really hard.” And now her mom will come in sometimes and sit with us and have dinner with us. This is awesome. She grew up in El Cajon where we have all been our lives. So we have plenty to talk about. And she’s like, “I can’t believe it. Thanks for being so nice to my mom.” I’ll bring her bath salts because she like to take baths. And she’s just in shock. But she’s like our kid. We’re not doing nothing extra. You’re just being people.
JOHN: But you have a God heart and you accept these people no matter who they are, their statute in life. And that allows them to be more open and accepting. Our waitress didn’t want to hold hands.
SHEILA: It took her a few weeks. And then one night she’s like, “Yes, I need this!”
JOHN: We’re praying she’ll jump in and want to hold our hands for prayer and say “Amen.” I don’t know her background, where she came from but this is a breakthrough. And she’s a 21 year old woman. If we can just carry this little light. A light starts small. A flame starts small and gets big. And if we can just plant this little seed, this little flicker of light into this child, in this case a woman, 21, maybe it’ll start lighting up and glowing inside of her. That’s what I love about these kids. These kids come from a great background. But they’re still broken inside. They’re tired of hearing this God thing beat into them. And I’m just, “God loves ya. We love you and we want you back.” And it gives them a different avenue of it. And they have the authority figure of their pastor or their intern leaders. But then they Sheila and I. “We love you no matter what. You’re okay no matter what. Yeah, and boys suck no matter what.
SHEILA: And when you show up on our grass at 11 o’clock at night because you need to talk to somebody. They’ll text, “Are you up?” "Well I am now.” “I’m at your front door, I need a hug.” So you go get dressed. What do you need to drink, what do you need to eat. And it’s always a boy or sometimes something is going on with mom or something is going on with dad. I just love that they come to us and they’re not going to go smoke pot with their friends from school to make everything go away. They’re coming to just talk it through and be okay. Cause I sure didn’t have that when I was a kid.
~Ben Dulay, Chief Storyteller of 777 Collective