Jon was born November 18, 1955, the third son to Mack and Nan Nelms, both of whom were first generation Christians. Though both desired to serve as missionaries, neither felt called to do so. Nan was a school teacher and spent the summers of Jon’s youth teaching in “Back Yard Bible Clubs”. Mack was an employee of Southern Bell and served as a Deacon and Trustee in every church that he was a member and as a layman, helped to start three churches. Finally at the age of seventy he was ordained as a Baptist pastor and passed a year later. Jon was heavily influenced by both his parents who always opened their home to missionaries who were passing through and entertained the family with their stories and experiences.
Jon felt a call to missions at the age of eleven and won his first souls to Christ at the age of twelve and also began preaching at that time. At the age of fifteen he began working in the bus ministry and street preaching. At the age of seventeen he enrolled in Bible College and graduated four years later, the youngest in his class. Immediately upon graduation he left for White Plains, NY with a small group of friends to start the Westchester County Baptist Church. Two years later he moved to Pomona, California where he had met and married his wife, Juanita Fisher, and became an Assistant Pastor at the Central Baptist Church. There, for two years he worked with the youth, was bus director, organized the church’s camp ministry and street preaching ministry. During that time his son Daniel was born.
Jon’s street preaching resulted in the birth of a “park church” of more than 1000 in weekly attendance that merged with Calvary Baptist Church in Boyle Heights. Jon then moved to Georgia for a short time seeking God’s will and serving as an interim pastor at Hines Baptist Church in Midville, GA. The church grew from a handful to nearly one hundred in a few months. Jon declined a permanent position in order to return to California, believing that God would provide a position for him there. After a number of months he was invited to pastor the Temple City Southern Baptist Church. The name was soon changed to the Believers Baptist Church. It is here that God confirmed his call to missions and used this ministry to break and mold him for that call. It was also there that his daughter Sara was born.
The church sent Jon on several mission trips to Asia in late 1986 where the call was reconfirmed. On the last day of 1986 Jon resigned the church and four months later, after they had called a new pastor, he moved to Georgia after having legally incorporated the Final Frontiers Foundation. At that time the ministry was supporting preachers in Thailand only. Since then the foundation has sponsored more than 1,400 preachers in seventy-four nations. These men collectively have sponsored more than 31,000 churches, averaging a new church being started every 5-6 hours.
In 2006 Juanita passed on to Heaven after twenty-eight years of marriage, leaving her imprint on Jon, their children and the ministry. A month later Sara was married to Michael Horne, a British ministry employee and they have a daughter Jennifer. A few months later Daniel was married to Nolvia Aguirre from Honduras and they have two daughters, Valentina and Elizabeth. In May, 2008 Jon was married to Nolin Vargas, a Honduran ministry employee who now travels with him worldwide and is a great asset to his ministry and life.
I came to know the Lord through an accident that happened to my daughter. She swallowed a coin and we could not get it from her. We took her to a Christian lady to pray for her and then took her to the doctor and after three days, the coin came out. I had told God that if He would save my daughter's life, I would give my life to Him. When He gave life to my daughter, I wanted to keep my vow. My family did not agree, but I honored what I had said to God. I went and sought out the pastor. He told me about Jesus dying on the cross and I confessed my sins and put my faith in Jesus.