Josephine Jody Connors Coopers Life Story
~ In Her Own Words~
I was born in Los Angeles, California on April 27, 1929 with a newspaper article stating: This young lady, named Josephine Marion weighed in at 10 lbs. 11 oz which set a new record for the hospital. My father, William Thomas Connors, was from a strong Irish Catholic family. My mother, Evelyn Ardell (Powers) Connors, was from a Protestant (Methodist) background. I was named Josephine after my fathers mother and Marion after his aunt. I didnt care for the name Josephine, so several nicknames were tried: JoJo NO! Jo Maybe! Jody OK! At first, I thought it was a boys name, but I liked the sound of it. It stuck like glue.
I was sent to Sunday School and was awarded some memory awards, but there was no understanding that Jesus died for my sins. While at Porterville High School (outside Bakersfield, CA) I was in the honor society; played the French Horn in the band; participated in the Spanish club; and earned a sports letter in tennis. This was a difficult time for me; during high school, my mother was married three times, so my home life was not the best.
After graduating from high school, I moved in with my grandmother in Hollywood and entered my first year of junior college. That year turned out to be a very pivotal year in my life. I met a girl named Betty Spencer who befriended me. She shared with me about the salvation that Jesus Christ offers. As I like to put it, she loved me to Christ! My sister, Helen, and I attended Fountain Avenue Baptist Church in Hollywood where Dr. Jack MacArthur (the father of Dr. John MacArthur of Masters University) was the pastor.
I decided I wanted to be a nurse, so I applied to Knapp College of Nursing in beautiful Santa Barbara, CA. A youth pastor and his wife, Joe & Ana Lee Keating, adopted me and gave me a home away from home. My college friend, Betty, had transferred to Westmont College in Santa Barbara. We attended the same church and spent many times together fellowshipping in The LORD. I went on to complete the California Nursing Exam, but I wanted to learn more about the Bible. This led me to my decision to apply to the Bible Institute of Los Angeles (BIOLA). I didnt have any financial backing to pay for my tuition, nor my room and board, so I applied and went to work as a nurse at the Ross - Loos Medical Group of Los Angeles which was the very first health maintenance organization (HMO) in the United States. This medical group was founded the year I was born (1929) by two physicians (Dr. Donald E. Ross & Dr. H. Clifford Loos) who believed that health care should be improved by combining prepayment of services of its members, in order to alleviate the financial burden that patients faced at the time of need. At this time, I began to notice that I had a hearing problem. I was diagnosed with Otosclerosis which is an abnormal development of the bone in the inner ear canal, leading to a loss of hearing. My doctors decided to contact the now-renowned Howard House Hearing Clinic, which since 1946 has been regarded as the worlds foremost private research institute for otology and hearing science. My prognosis was ear surgery - Fenestration. My employers at Ross Loos Medical Group offered to pay for my treatment! They could have never known that their investment into my health & wellbeing would serve me well throughout the rest of my life. I am deeply grateful.
During life at BIOLA, I gained many new friends and learned about all the different ministries around the world. Dorm life at BIOLA was a pretty big adjustment after a beautiful student nurse's dorm in Santa Barbara. I studied passionately and graduated with honors Magna Cum Laude with a Christian Ed Teaching Credential. I even had the opportunity to write my graduating Class Song of 1954.
Immediately after graduating from BIOLA, I attended a 2-week Vacation Bible School with a group at the Sea Side Mission in Manhattan Beach, CA. There were 10 of us in the group, but one young man named Leon Cooper really stood out to me. To say it plainly, I thought he was pretty nice. At one point during the vacation bible school, some were sharing their plans of becoming missionaries around the world. A couple of girls expressed a desire to be missionaries in Africa, Alaska and even China. Leon said he felt a call to be a missionary as well probably in Latin America. I liked the idea and after some months of talking about it, we decided to join forces and get married.
As Leon had another semester to finish some credits to graduate, he and I worked with the young people at the Glassell Park Baptist Church. The young adults and parents at the church gave us a beautiful wedding on June 10, 1955. I probably shouldnt admit this publicly, but the minister who married us, Pastor Kenneth Ross, forgot to send the marriage license into the Los Angeles Hall of Records. We only recently discovered this while handling our estate matters and we finally recorded our wedding date as July 30, 2019. If someone were *just* looking at our story through the paper-trail over the years, they would think this was pretty scandalous of a missionary and his wife never being married until late in their lives. Leon and I laugh at this technicality as proof that God has a sense of humor!
After our honeymoon in Yosemite, Leon took a new position as Youth Pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Whittier. During the next three years, Leon also attended California Baptist Theological Seminary in Riverside, CA. In 1958, we were appointed by the Conservative Baptist Foreign Mission to serve in Brazil. We enjoyed 21 years as pioneer church-planters in developing churches in Brazil. My nursing training was truly appreciated by my family and the Brazilian mothers, dads, and kids. Also, a unique way that I helped attract children and adults to the gospel was with my ventriloquist doll Rosemary named after Pastor Bob Warrens wife, Rosemary.
Of the many challenges of living abroad, my concern for my children was most important to me. Our four children had to be taught; this is where my teaching certificate from college helped me to instruct them as they grew up. I utilized the Calvert Course curriculum. It was helpful in teaching them, and I trust that the opportunity that The LORD gave to me to teach my own children provided a foundation for them to learn and grow in The LORD to this day. Our four children loved the Brazilians. They especially loved being involved at the Acampamento Vida Vitoriosa Youth Camp. Our daughters, Martha and Jamie, came back to the States and graduated from Fortaleza Academy High School in 1974 and 1976. After high school, they stayed in the States. Patty also moved back to the US and graduated from Fortaleza Academy in 1979. and at that time we decided we needed to help our children in the States. Dan then studied, played soccer and graduated from Whittier Christian High School in 1982.
In 1976, I learned Morse Code and passed the tests to get a Ham Radio License. My first USA call was WB6WCN. My second call was Extra Ham License USA KA6KSQ KD0BR and Brazil PT7ZMC (Ceara). One of my motivations in learning to use the Ham Radio was to talk to the kids in the States while Leon and I were in Brazil. I should have mentioned before, but when I was in elementary school, I used to visit a neighbor and she let me learn to play on her piano. I wasnt very proficient, but it gave me the skills to pump a portable organ in the Brazilian churches and play the accordion in open-air meetings. How amazing it is that God can take experiences from our past to bless our most unexpected situations throughout life!
At the end of 1979, we resigned from the Conservative Baptist Mission and joined Campus Crusade for Christ. Leon was challenged to begin a new work for Athletes in Action in all of Latin America. From 1981 1997, he served as Latin America Director for Athletes in Action. Leon & I traveled and worked with the Campus Crusade National Directors and Sports Federation Presidents. Often, I could go with him depending on the sports teams we sponsored and in conjunction with the airline companies that offered us free flights. When I stayed home, I would enjoy other hobbies & interests of mine, including cake decorating, needlework tatting, quilting and crocheting to help pass the time.
The LORD has blessed me, in that, for 40 years I have been able to enjoy and share Jesus with my four children, Martha Jo McMahan, Jamie Lou Winter, Patricia Lynn Croy & Daniel Leon Cooper; my 14 grandchildren; and my 11 great-grandchildren. I summarize my life by saying this:
My lifes journey directed by God and with Leon has been very rewarding