Hi, my name is Juan Sanchez, and I’m the senior pastor of Highpoint Baptist Church in Austin, Texas.
I came to faith in Christ when I was 17 years old after having heard the gospel for the very first time only when I was 15. I never envisioned going into full-time ministry. In fact, my parents couldn’t afford college, so I enlisted in the Navy when I was 17 and went into a special program. After a year, I won a scholarship to the University of Florida. I was in the Navy ROTC and they were paying for my school. Actually, my dream was to really go into the Marine Corps and to fly jets. However, somewhere during my second semester of university, I began working at a church. The Lord had used young people in the church’s youth group and Sunday school teachers to bring me to himself. I thought I’ll just do work in that area. They serve me, and now I want to serve them. While serving in a small, rural church outside of Gainesville, Florida, that is where the Lord began to really ignite in my heart a desire to do this.
So my third semester, I went to my commanding officers, and I told her that I wanted to relinquish my scholarship. They laughed at me, and my lieutenant told me he was going to send me the worst ship in the Navy. And he did. After finishing my enlistment contract, I came back to the University of Florida, finished up my music education degree, and I just began to serve in small, rural local churches. The Lord grew in me a desire to work with young people, and over time, that really became a desire to preach. I wanted to stay in a comfortable church doing student ministry for the rest of my life while getting a seminary degree at an extension center. Which everything was comfortable with that plan, but the Lord really pushed me in that moment. I remember calling my wife late one evening while I was in Puerto Rico, and I said, “Look, we’re going to move. We’re going to go to seminary full-time.” I remember that being a very difficult situation because my wife loved the church. I loved the church. The church loved us. We had great relationships. Our kids were young. We had three girls at the time, and we were going into an unknown. We were going to seminary where I would be unemployed, have to pay for school, and had no idea how God would sustain us during that time.
I remember one time when we were in seminary, on Mondays the local grocery store would bring food over. They weren’t expired, but they were about to be, and they couldn’t sell them. My wife, every Monday evening would stand in line to get food for us. And we were down to about $35 in our account. We just looked at each other and said, “we’re just going to pray.” We can ask Lord this is what he has for us to do. We’re just going to ask him to provide for us and to sustain us. It was one of the most significant times in our marriage, and in our life together because the Lord began to provide in ways that we couldn’t really explain. The church that we had come from in Georgia, blessed us tremendously. The Lord sustained us through that time.
I finished my Master of Divinity degree, went on to do a ThM and a Ph.D. So I thought I was going to be a student minister with a Ph.D. for the rest of my life. However, as the Lord gave me a desire to pastor the church, I began to pastor in Madison, Indiana, in August of 2000. We have been able to see the Lord’s hand in our lives, number one by how he provided for us through seminary. We thought no one else understands what this is going to be like. No one else has a story like ours. What we discovered is that almost everybody in Seminary has the same story. Everyone’s struggling in various ways and trusting the Lord to sustain them. We built lifelong relationships in seminary. Again, even there we saw the Lord’s hand in our lives because those relationships, we built in those few years in seminary, are relationships that we carry on for the rest of our life and in ministry. And I see how the Lord has sustained us in that.
As far as what the Lord has for us, I’ve been at High Point Baptist Church for 14 years now and just started our 15th year. I have no desire to be anywhere else. I get to teach at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and around the world, where I focus a lot of energy in Latin America. The Lord has really opened the door there. We’re seeing what we’re calling perhaps an “awakening” in Latin America. So, the Lord has allowed me to be just a small part of that through coalición, which Miguel Nunez, my friend, and I founded in order to help encourage the awakening that we pray will become a revival, and really ignite a reformation throughout Latin America.
I have the best role in the world. I’m a local pastor, I teach at a seminary training up pastors, and then I travel, primarily throughout Latin America, trying to equip pastors, so that we can leave a lifelong legacy. It is a 2 Timothy 2:2 legacy of training men who are faithful, who are able to teach, and who will then be able to train others also.