John Tolo


“He has put a new song in my mouth” . King David (Psalm 40:3)

I was sitting in a church feeling the demons inside of me cursing and angry for bringing them into this holy place. A place for God.

As I stared at the verse painted on the wall. I could hear the Holy Spirit comforting me in my torment, speaking into my heart; “…this is a promise for you, a new song, a new life.”

Growing up  my father was a pastor in a tough inner city church. As the oldest of eight kids, I often felt isolated and alone. At twelve, while on a part time job, I found a pornography magazine filled with stories of sexual encounters.

The people in the stories kept talking about making love. I felt lonely and I wanted to feel love. As I grew up I was convinced that a girlfriend was the answer to my loneliness. This became an obsession for sexual love. It drowned out God and filled me with rebellion. When I fulfilled my obsession with my first girlfriend I wasn't satisfied. Next came alcohol, followed by drugs. At 18 years old I was so frustrated and angry at God that I said, “God, If you won't give me what I want, then Satan I’ll serve you and you give me what I want.” Immediately demons came rushing into my life and I began to be filled with all kinds of crazy things, sexual obsession, addiction and the occult.  Because of this abandonment to demonic activity I was in torment. I saw the evil spirits around me all the time and knew that they were lying to me, stealing my life and ready to kill me. Finally at 27 years old during a week of continuous partying, I nearly got killed twice in insane circumstances. After getting hit by a car, having my stomach pumped and being released from the hospital, I cried out in despair; “God, if you are there please do something or I will be dead.”  Suddenly I began to hear the voice of God the Father. He kept saying, “John, you're my son and I love you.” I felt peace and comfort.

A few days later I went to  church and saw the writing on the wall, a verse that said “He has put a new song in my mouth.”  I cried out to God, surrendered and invited Him into my life. The Holy Spirit came in power, the demons let go of me and fled from that holy place. I was free!

This began the incredible adventure of transformation, first in my life, then in the world all around me.

God gives us this promise;

“…anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person the old life is gone; a new life has begun.”  

- Apostle Paul (2 Cor 5:17)

 Before I began to walk with God I remember thinking and saying “maybe I'll become a Christian when I'm old.” I loved the lifestyle of adventure, excitement and wild parties. I was amazed at how real, exciting and full my life became once the devils were out of me and Jesus took over.

For my 1st year as a believer in Jesus Christ I struggled with being sober. I would do well, even have times of great victory but then temptation, fear and pain would come and I would relapse. I would return to binging, escaping and destructive habits which led to drinking alcohol to deal with pain. I worked hard but I didn't know what to do next.

One day after struggling with this I asked God, “What do I have to do to get my life together?” Jesus told me “Be my disciple, follow me.” 

“How?” I responded. The Holy Spirit said “Join Teen Challenge.”

When I was a teen I watched a movie called “The Cross and the Switchblade.” It’s about gangs in New York City encountering the love of God through the ministry work of David Wilkerson. The story tells about the beginnings of the Teen Challenge Program and it impacted me incredibly. I obeyed.  Within two weeks of entering that program I began receiving direction which led to my purpose in life. I heard the Holy Spirit tell me to become an Urban Missionary and then to get ready to go to Guadalajara, Mexico. I didn't even know where that was but I believed that I was being called into my destiny, so I began to prepare.

I completed the Teen Challenge Program and then joined a missionary training school. A few days after I completed my training I was reading the Bible, it said “Jesus began sending his disciples out, giving them authority to cast out evil spirits…” (Mark 6:7) As I read, I heard God tell me “time to go” so I packed up my car and went. I spent the next two years working with homeless teens and families in a barrio there in Guadalajara, Mexico. Many incredible miracles happened, lives were changed and the neighborhood was transformed.

Over the past 25 years God has taken me on an incredible journey. I have an amazing family and now run a mission base in the inner city called Godtown. This missions ministry prepares young people to be urban missionaries and also takes teams all around the world on incredible adventures. Take the step to follow Jesus Christ. It works, it is amazing and He will change your world.

Search for "The Cross and the Switchblade" on YouTube.

For discipleship & help with substance abuse contact Teen Challenge -



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