From the Pulpit to the Big Screen, Pastor Plays a Leading Role
By Fred Zermeno, Exclusively for EGP
Many people, when they hear the name John Paul Jones, they immediately think you’re talking about the bassist for the popular rock band Led Zeppelin. But in Montebello, John Paul Jones is a man people can count on for advice, bible studies, counseling and as a friend.
Pastor John Paul has been involved with the Montebello Calvary Chapel for 10 years, the last year or so as its pastor. He takes an active part in the community outreach and bible study programs, collects food and goods the community needs, not only in Montebello but on L.A.’s skid row as well.
The Montebello chapel, which started off as a small bible study group, has grown to include three buildings on Montebello’s southside, just off Maple and Washington Boulevard, and now draws hundreds each Sunday for prayer and worship.
Lea esta nota EN ESPAÑOL: Desde el Púlpito a la Pantalla Grande, Un Pastor Desempeña un Papel Protagónico
But being a pastor was not Jones first, or his only calling.
He was born in Santa Ana but moved to his mother’s homeland of Caracas, Venezuela when he was six-years-old. He studied theater there, and dreamed of being an actor, deciding one day to return to California.
He got involved with the Bilingual Foundation of the Arts in Lincoln Heights and the Los Angeles Theater Company where he performed in a couple of plays, which led to commercials and other small roles.
He said he never had the lead role, but was satisfied being involved in the theater. But the money he earned was not enough to support his wife and his mortgage, and when his wife told him a baby was on the way, he says he knew he things had to change.
“That’s the day I spoke to God. I said, ‘I will give you my life and you make me a good daddy,’ that’s all I wanted to be,” he said.
He worked as a used car salesman, realtor, and even a broker. But something was still missing in his life, Jones says. His daughter’s birth was a blessing, he said, and made him want to share with people his love for God. That’s when he decided to attend Calvary Chapel Bible College and graduated.
He concentrated on his family and helping the Church, he said. “I basically had given up on acting,” Jones said.
Years later, he found a casting call announcement on the Internet, and he went out and got a couple of headshots to audition for a role in “Los Traficantes,” a Spanish-language Christian film about a real drug dealer from Tijuana, Mexico.
Our pastor here at Calvary Chapel, Pastor Pancho Juarez, once told me, “don’t ever lose your dream as an actor, if the opportunity ever comes up, take it,” he said.
The low-budget movie was shot in Mexico. When he wasn’t acting, Jones would preach the gospel, always feeling that the crew was protected during their filming in Mexico.
Los Traficantes is about God’s power to transform people’s lives from bad to good, and is based on the life of Esteban Mendoza Cruz, a former Mexican drug lord who in 1999 found his redemption through his faith in Christ, while serving a 33-year sentence in La Mesa prison in Tijuana. The prison, one of Mexico’s most corrupt, was called “El Pueblito” by locals that frequently entered to buy drugs, hire prostitutes, or carry out other legal activities.
Cruz is credited with taking over 4,000 men off the streets of Tijuana.
Jones had a chance to meet the former drug lord and watch the movie with him. Jones says Cruz told him he had perfectly portrayed the role of a lost soul who is now found and helps others through faith and prayer.
With all the bad stories of drugs and crime coming out of Mexico, this movie is about the good things few people ever hear about.
Asked if he was now going to pursue acting full-time, Jones responded that no matter what happens, he will preach God’s word for the rest of his life.
Los Traficantes opens Nov. 27 at the Noho Laemmle Theater in West L.A.
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November 21, 2012 Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.