Indiana Jones and the Honorary Doctorate

SES Real Stories #6

“Here at SES we see him as our Indiana Jones.”

Dr. Richard Land, President of Southern Evangelical Seminary, is speaking about John Freyler.

“Freyler’s father, John Sr., and mother, Bobbie Freyler, came to SES to volunteer for ‘a few weeks’ in 2002, and that stretched into over 18 years of commitment to the mission of SES,” explains Land. “All who know them will readily say that both John and Bobbie were pillars of the institution.”

John Jr., who has served with Samaritan’s Purse in various roles for the past 18 years, received his Master of Arts Degree in Religion from the seminary in 2015.

Even after her husband’s death in 2009, John’s mother Bobbie has continued serving the Lord at SES. “Clearly, John is an acorn that did not fall far from his parents’ tree, but has grown into a mighty oak in his own right,” affirms Land.

During ten of Freyer’s 18 years at Samaritan’s Purse he oversaw Samaritan’s Purse field offices in Africa and Latin America, as well as the 2010 Haiti earthquake and the 2011 Japan earthquake/tsunami disaster responses.

In the last eight years he has served as a chaplain to the staff overseas, giving encouragement as well as workshops on burnout, stress, resilience, spiritual warfare, conflict resolution, and more.

When he moved into staff care, John says he knew immediately that he needed theological training — training in the big questions of life.

“I’ve seen the toll it takes on our staff overseas. They do relief and development work in the name of Jesus. They’re away from family and their support network. They have reports, markers they have to meet. And they’re working in a different language.”

In 2014, Dr. Kent Brantley contracted Ebola in Liberia, and John prayed through the hospital window and read scripture to Kent as he recovered.

“We’d call it ‘Fear-bola,’ because it was so deadly and people got it despite following the protocols.”

Freyler says that his education at SES has given him answers to some of the toughest questions people ask during times of crisis. Questions like “Where is God in all this?” and “Why is there so much suffering?” His training has even helped with answers during his own crisis.

Three years ago John’s wife, Lina, was diagnosed with cancer. During a recent challenge around this diagnosis, SES notified John he was to receive an honorary doctorate.

“It was just in this time when they notified me about the doctorate. It was a bright spot in a storm. It was an encouragement. It’s a God thing. I thank God for it,” reveals John.

“I can think of no one who is an SES graduate who is more deserving of this honor than John Freyler,” notes Dr. Land. “Every week, every month, year after year, John is demonstrating the love of Christ to people in desperate need, and in the process putting his own health and safety on the line. We are proud to be associated with John.”

Freyler’s desire is for field staff to develop an intimate walk with God as they serve Him in difficult areas and many times under difficult circumstances, and credits his theological training at the seminary with the tools to promote this.

“It’s given me a backbone to know the answers I’m giving are theologically sound. And it’s also given me a place to know that if I don’t know the answer, I know where to get it.

“At the end of the day if you have a relationship with the Lord and it’s thriving and you’re walking close with him, you can put up with a lot of stress” John explains.

“Henry Blackaby once said, ‘Find out where God is working and join him’. Before people can understand and hear and be open to the truth, they have to have their basic needs met, whether that’s shelter, food, water, or safety. Once you can meet those basic needs people can see God’s love and they are open to truth. They are open to the gospel.

“And SES has given me a focus on the truth, that truth changes lives.”

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