Life seemed to be looking up for Dean and Lupe, but a storm was about to hit.
They had just moved to Tauranga, New Zealand, with their young children, John and Vae. Lupe was expecting their third child, and a week before giving birth, Lupe contracted chickenpox. After a difficult breach birth, their baby Juanita developed severe jaundice and chicken pox. At six weeks, a bad reaction to an immunization gave Juanita extreme, chronic spasms. Doctors could not solve her problems and told Dean and Lupe the problem would either correct itself, or she would have permanent brain damage.
Although Dean had never been saved, Lupe had. As an adult, she had drifted from God but always talked to Him in her quiet moments. With Juanita’s near-hopeless situation, those talks increased. Thoughts of getting back into church pressed Lupe’s mind. One Sunday, she impulsively gathered her children and said, “We’re going to church!”
Lupe did not want to go to nearby Calvary Baptist Church, because she wanted to attend the kind of church she grew up in. But in the end, Calvary was the only one whose services weren’t already in progress. As she walked in, she felt instantly at ease; it was as if God had already planned for her and her children to worship there. She asked the missionary pastor, Bill Preston, to pray for her daughter. He readily said he would and asked if her husband would come back the next week. Again impulsively, Lupe said yes. Dean did want to go and was surprised at how the church treated the Bible as relevant to his life. It was the first time he’d heard the gospel.
The church began praying for Juanita, and about a month later, she was miraculously healed! Dean and Lupe kept attending, although Dean found himself increasingly uncomfortable, burdened by guilt and by Pastor Preston’s messages of a personal Savior dying for his sin. His discomfort grew stronger when Pastor Preston and his wife, Tobi, invited Dean and Lupe to their house for a talk. A week after the meeting, Dean quit fighting with his burden. He repented and acknowledged Jesus as God’s Son and his personal Savior.
Lupe was overjoyed, and Dean was relieved. From that point, their love for the Lord grew and grew. Dean became a vibrant witness at his job at a local shipping wharf, and he began to regularly fill Calvary Baptist’s pulpit on Sunday evenings and when the need arose. Lupe teaches the Bible in public schools and in Sunday School and the ladies' group. She has written two Christian books in her native Tokelauan language for her people in the South Pacific. Men and women come to Dean for counsel, which opens the door for a witness for Christ. He and Lupe have been involved in missions projects and hope to minister short-term in Lupe’s homeland. Their greatest desire is to lead others there to the Lord.
God has expanded that desire. In the spring of 2014, Dean surrendered to become the pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Mount Maunganui. The church ordained him in November 2014, and he took over the role at the end of January 2015, replacing Bill as pastor and making the church fully nationalized.
The Prestons rejoice in how God has worked in the church during their 25 years there, and how He has worked in Dean and Lupe.