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“When you discover God is all you have, you realize He is all you need.”

As a child, Joshua Paxton believed God was evil for allowing him to suffer because of a rare kidney disease he has battled his whole life. After a painful but successful kidney transplant during high school, Joshua went to UCM with plans to become a geneticist, where he was invited to church by a group of Christians. He ignored their invitation but started reading God’s Word looking for fallacies. One night as he was reading, he became intrigued by the story of Jesus healing a man who had been born blind. Jesus’ explanation that the man’s blindness wasn’t a result of sin but so that God could be glorified resonated deeply with Joshua. “I realized that there was a reason for my kidney disease, and it wasn’t my fault—or anyone else’s.” 

On November 1, 1998, Joshua placed his trust in God and was baptized the same night. However, when his body rejected his kidney transplant exactly one month later, he had to take a break from college. During this time, he sensed the Lord’s leading toward missions but talked himself out of pursuing a life in mission work because of his health and the financial challenges involved. Instead, he began studying engineering at UMKC, and then spent a semester at Longview Community, but faced increasing health challenges until he ended up in the hospital with a condition the doctors could not seem to make sense of. 

In January of 2002, Joshua was done trying to run away from God and transferred to Calvary University to pursue Biblical Counseling as his undergrad. Through courses like “Missions in the Local Church” and “Introduction to Missions” and conversations with missionary Glenn Morgan, Joshua realized that while there were many witnessing opportunities in the United States, there were people in other parts of the world who had never heard Jesus’ name. Moved by this awareness, Joshua went on a mission trip to Italy, and became convinced that God was calling him to serve in international missions.

After graduating with a seminary degree from Calvary, Joshua and his wife, Amber, joined Avant Ministries and launched into raising support. The arrival of twin boys complicated their plans to go to the mission field and, unable to raise enough funds, the Paxtons settled to serve at Eco-Ranch Bible Camp in Alaska. After the camp ended, they returned to full-time missions support raising, but met with what Joshua described as the “final death-note” to their dream of pursuing missions: Avant Ministries’ health insurance was not able to cover the cost of Joshua’s anti-rejection meds.

While Joshua’s personal plans of pursuing the mission field in the traditional sense were over, God’s plan to use Joshua’s heart for worldwide missions was not. After one year of being Calvary University’s missionary-in-residence, Joshua transitioned into his role as missions professor. In his current role, he has had the opportunity to impact global missions in many ways. Joshua established the Burnham Center for Global Engagement to mobilize students to spread the Gospel to every tribe, tongue, and nation through classroom instruction, partnerships with mission organizations, and connections to mission-supporting churches. He also helps lead missions-focused groups at Calvary such as Haystack, a club in which Calvary students gather weekly to hear from and pray for missionaries. In addition to mentoring many students, Joshua also plays a major role in leading Calvary’s annual missions-focused Conference on Global Engagement. 

When reflecting on the spiritual life lessons he learned over the years, Joshua stated: “If I had not gone through so many trials, I would not have been able to do things I do every day here at Calvary—like counsel and mentor students who have faced similar challenges and trials.” 

Ultimately, Joshua has learned that no matter what trials have come his way, God has never left his side, and His sovereign plan is always best. “In Proverbs, it says that the mind of the man plans his way but the Lord directs his steps. This verse was my life. I had my plans and the way I wanted things to go—but God had a different plan, and in the end, His plan was better.”