John and Wanda Casias

John and Wanda Casias

 I have been asked to write a short essay about two of the greatest people I have ever known. John and Wanda Casias who seemed more like family than friends. In fact, the Casias’ often referred to me as their father. Some of their children at one time or another called me, grandpa.

I met John by virtue of the old fashioned watt line (telephone). I was in Indiana preaching when the phone rang in my motel room.

The Voice said, is this Dr. Wilkins, Dr. James Wilkins. Boy, you are sure a hard man to run down. This is John Casias in Amarillo, TX.

Thereafter, my phone would ring 3 or 4 times a week and it would be John. His questions were always about the Big Brother (New Convert Care) books, discipleship or soul-winning.

I learn that John at the age of 21 went into sales . By 25 he was the district manager over several states making in excess of $300,000 per year.

His last job was as a salesman for a new care agency in Amarillo. Although he had owned several businesses he found that the could make as much money as a car salesman without all the problems that went with owing his own business. He had customers from three states, New Mexico, Oklahoma as well as Texas. His file box had cards of dozens of people from those states who were repeat customers.

He had a Catholic background when a friend led him to the Lord in personal work. He was politically a strong conservative and was active in local politics. Soon after his conversion he was baptized and become a member of the Central Baptist Church.

It was at the funeral of a friend that his life was changed. The Pastor mentioned that this very good Christian friend was a member of the Big Brothers. John was shocked! How could a godly man like his friend be a part of the ungodly secular Big Brothers Organization. There had been a recent story in the newspaper about one of the secular Big Brothers molesting a young boy.

John went straight to the widow with his question. She said, “Oh no, Bro John, its not that Big Brother. It’s a book to train New Converts.” With that she gave him a copy.

That was when the Phone calls began. John often stated that he was discipled over the telephone. He showed the book to his Pastor, Bro Bingham. He soon had permission to start a discipleship class in the church and order some books. I was invited to come to Central Baptist to preach and help start the Big Brother Program (New Convert Care Program).  I was invited to stay in the Casias’ home. It was here that I met Wanda. As I knocked on their door a very, attractive woman with a big smile opened the door. “So you are Dr. Wilkins! I have been dying to meet you. I’m reading one of your books right now.”

Wanda was a good mother , wife and gracious woman. Her modest home was well kept and she worked part time in real estate.

I didn’t know when she opened the door that day some almost 35 years ago what an important part she would play in my personal life. She was an exhorter and encourager. (More about her later)

John stated with about 6 to 8 in his Big Brother discipleship class. The church was only running about 45 to 50 in attendance. Only John, the pastor and another member or two went out visiting on their visitation program on Thursday nights.

Under John’s leadership twelve months later there were 45-50 in his class with the church attendance up around 150. There was 20 or 30 out visiting every Thursday night. But John had a problem, God had called him into fulltime ministry. I was surprised to get a phone call, not from John but Wanda one night. She said, “Dr. Wilkins, the next time your preach in this surrounding area will you call John and take him with you. He is driving me nuts! He’s called to preach and knows it, and he is so hard to get along with.” I told her that I had an invitation to preach at Temple Baptist Church in Tucumcari, New Mexico in the near future and would be a guest in their home soon.

John drove me to Tucumcari, and sure enough came forward and surrendered his life full to God at the close of the service.

Wanda’s mother also lived in Amarillo and was ill. Wanda had told John she would follow him when he went preaching any place in the world as long as it was near her mother in Amarillo.

When we drove the 100 miles back to Amarillo after the service Wanda was waiting to inform John she had surrendered her life to the Lord and would go anywhere God should lead John.

Monday MORNING john gave his COMPANY a 30 day notice and went full time for the lord. They sold their house in Amarillo and moved to the metro-plex.

For the next year or so John put in full time assisting me in training people in the Big Brother Program.

Before leaving Amarillo John had a jail ministry. One day he visited Cullen Davis a famous millionaire who was charged with murdering his wife. John led him to the Lord. Cullen lived in Fort Worth and was later influenced to join a larger charismatic church.

The Church John was a member of was taking a mission trip to Mexico. Since John had no appointments that week he decided to go.

What he saw, the poverty, the religious ignorance and the bondage to the Catholic church, it broke his heart. He recognized and surrendered to the call to go as a missionary before he had gotten back home.

He could not read or speak Spanish, but he was a very disciplined man who read four chapter in the Bible and prayed every morning before breakfast. He was up some morning at four A.M. That was a vow that he made to God. When he got to Mexico he read from the Spanish Bible, with the aid of a dictionary and concordance. It took him up to six hours to keep his promise to read four chapters and feed his inner man before having breakfast and feeding his outer man.

After returning from the mission trip John instantly made plans to move to El Cercado, Mexico where he started the first and soon to be the mother church for 13 other churches over the next 35 years.

His wife and family along with John lived in a poorly insulated mobile home which was just a little larger than a camper the first year of so. It is so hot there in the summer time that Wanda lost weight so much so that it almost took her life.

Sean, their youngest son lived several months in our home in Arlington, Texas as he finished high school.

John found the property in which their beautiful church facility is built. It was  a little more than a city dump when he approached Cullen Davis for funds to buy it. I am not sure how much Mr. Davis helped but I know he helped some. John and family began to clear the lots and soon was having services out under a tree. Soon I was summoned to come and hold a meeting for two or three nights for John.

I was privileged and marveled as I saw John and Wanda labor to first clear the lots then built a tiny little building which was soon added to until they have one of the most beautiful facilities of any Independent Baptist church anywhere in the world.

With John and Wanda it was up in the morning , reading four chapters, then out to work on the building by 6:00 AM. Regardless of what the morning or day would bring they were in a home witnessing or disciplining several nights each week. Most of the time John took someone with him while Wanda did the same.

In my opinion Wanda was as good or better at discipling that John. She was the best woman’s disciplier that I have ever known. There are many mature women in the Lord in Mexico, that can testify to this.

Penny, my wife, lost her husband after 40 years of married. Since she and the Casias were good friends she re-surrendered at the age of 60 and went as a missionary helper to Mexico to assist the Casias. Penny and Wanda started an annual prayer retreat for women. Several hundred women from churches both in Mexico and in the United States have attended. They are to have their 21st annual prayer retreat there in September 2012.

My first wife died after 41 ½ years of marriage. I was a very happy man travelling and preaching.

Penny has a severe car accident which caused her to move back to Amarillo Texas and become the church secretary at Central Baptist, Wanda’s old home church. The two had previously started a ladies prayer group there.

On Mother’s Day the church had a mother-daughter banquet with Wanda as the special speaker.

At the close of the dinner Wanda and another lady, called Penny up before the group and gave her a gift. When she opened the box it was a pair of men’s trousers. One of the ladies had read that a single lady had found a husband when she placed a pair of men’s pants on her bed post and asked the Lord to fill them with a husband.

Penny and Wanda had taught their prayer groups to pray retail (for an exact request) and not wholesale (things in general).

Penny thanked the ladies and reminded them not to pray wholesale (for any husband) but retail, that God would fill the pants with Dr. James Wilkins. Little did I know that two groups of women, one in Amarillo and the other in Mexico had written in their prayer journals and daily ask God to fill those pants with me, Dr. James Wilkins. Wanda was the originator and instigator of it all. Thank God she did! And thank God for the dozens of times she would call with a little problem and to remind me of her gratitude and love for Penny (her best friend) and me for being John’s father in the ministry. Very few people will miss her more than Penny and I.

John and Wanda have been a blessing to many people and churches. Here in Espanola there are people whom John and Wanda have won to Christ when they were here a day or two. That could be said about many churches where they have visited and preached.

On one occasion I was preaching for a church in Denver Colorado. The pastor knowing I was a good friend of John and Wanda asked me about their work. He said God had laid them on his heart. I told him they desperately needed $3,300 to finish a project but Wanda was praying for $34,000 which would finish up the room and building.

The pastor asked, “Do you have their address?” I answered sure but they will stop briefly at my home next week. You could send the offering to them in care of my address and I’ll give it to them when they stop by. The following week Wanda came in first while John made a phone call. I gave her the envelope and she let out a little yell and fainted dead away. In a few seconds she came to and from the floor handed me the envelope. It was a check for $34,000.

John and Wanda reminded me of the man who found the pearl of great price. They sold all and forsook all earthy things to pursue eternal things. They had successfully pursued wealth and learned the secret of making a lot of money which didn’t not satisfy the inner longing which God had placed in them. When John was saved and totally surrendered himself to learn to win souls in his daily life – then he found the tremendous joy of discipling others.  He sold all he had and followed the Lord’s call to win and disciple others to seek eternal riches.

They were two of the most joyful people I ever knew – please – please – please dear reader consider the greatest lesson their lives declared.

They, who had tasted what money could buy forsook it all in order to live in an out of the way dangerous place in Mexico and humbly and thankfully serve their Lord in seeking others eternal welfare.

I received a message on my cell phone which declared that Wanda had gone to eternal rewards. This message should have read, Blessed is Wanda who died in the Lord – who rest from her labors (resting in heaven or on vacation in heaven – and her works do follow her.) She and Brother John went to heaven on Sunday night there to rest until the soon coming of Jesus who will judge and reward them for their faithful years of service. It is then when they will receive their reward they will also be reassigned a position of rulership on the earth for 1000 years during the Millennial Reign of Christ.

The statements, their works do follow then, means the works of rearing their children to serve the Lord and the works their grandchildren do for the Lord partially go to John and Wanda’s account and add to John and Wanda’s reward at the Judgment Seat.

Their (John and Wanda) works in the thousands of souls lives which they influenced to be save and then serve the Lord – will follow them and will partially be added to their account which will give the accumulative rewards at the Judgment seat. These rewards will be in the form of a place of leadership for a full 1000 years. (Revelation 14:13).

Remember if you are one of John and Wanda’s family members or one of their converts. Whatever you do will further their reward. One of John and Wanda’s favorite scriptures was I Peter 5:10 which states:

“But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.”

The God of all grace called John and Wanda to share in his eternal glory.

His Grace enabled Wanda to leave her sick mother.

His Grace enabled them to give up living close to the children and grandchildren.

His Grace enabled them to enjoy the many long, tiring, and sometime trying years of service in Mexico.

And it was God’s wonderful grace which enabled them to endure the brutal murder which they endured on a Sunday night after church.

Across America and around the world many Christian’s went to some place for a bite to eat and for fellowship. After church on that Sunday night John and Wanda were invited to come up and fellowship with Jesus. And you know, they are still fellowshipping!

Across America the newspapers and television media reported “tragic death of two missionaries in a little town in Mexico.” But in heaven there was quite a different headline! It reported, John and Wanda Casias, two of God’s most faithful saints safely landed at the “inter-world airport” Sunday night where thousands of the family and converts were there to welcome them home. They will rest a little while before they go to the Judgment Seat of Christ where they will receive many honors. Among those honors will be a Martyr’s Crown of Life which will single them OUT FOR ALL TIME AND ETERNITY.