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John Bueno: A Life Under Lordship

John Bueno, the former executive director of AG World Missions, has died. He was 85.
Former Assemblies of God World Missions Executive Director John Bueno passed away Wednesday, January 24, 2024, at the age of 85.

John Bueno leaves behind a history of faith, perseverance, and care for the most needy, impacting the lives of all he encountered. John’s pastoral heart was at the core of his actions, stressing the importance of missionaries’ one-on-one connection with a local pastor and acting as a pastor to the 2,600 missionaries he led during his time as executive director. He also empowered women in ministerial leadership positions, inviting them into the AGWM executive committee leadership processes.

John was born in 1938 in Modesto, California. As a missionary kid in Chile, he grew up on the mission field, learning Spanish at a young age. Educated at Bethany Bible College in Scotts Valley, California, he earned a degree in exegetical theology and received an honorary doctorate at Vanguard University. He later received honorary doctorates at Evangelical University of El Salvador and Christian University of El Salvador.

John began his missionary journey with his wife, Lois, in November 1961, nine months after they were married. He served as a career missionary in El Salvador, and pastored Centro Evangelistico.

For nine years, Centro Evangelistico experienced a plateau. Prompted by the Holy Spirit, one Sunday John preached on the lordship of Christ. However, there was little response from the congregation. John began preaching this same message every Sunday. When approached by church leadership about preaching the same message Sunday after Sunday, Bueno responded, “I’m going to keep preaching this message until we get it.”

John Bueno preached on the lordship of Christ for 13 consecutive Sundays. After the 13th Sunday, the members of Centro Evangelistico asked to begin a prayer meeting and within six months the church grew from 300 worshippers to 2,000 worshippers. This rapid expansion led to four Sunday services and the commissioning of congregation members to establish more churches throughout the city of San Salvador and elsewhere in El Salvador. Eventually, the congregation had grown to more than 23,000 worshippers.

With its influx of growth, Centro Evangelistico planted more than 100 other churches, many of which multiplied.

In 1963, John’s heart for children led him to start a school of 81 students. Over the last 60 years, the Lord has multiplied the number of schools from one to 38 in El Salvador. Each school is connected to a local church.

In 2004, John and Lois were honored by the El Salvador national assembly with the “Noble Friends of El Salvador” award, which is the highest honor for a civilian, similar to the Congressional Gold Medal in the United States. It was the only time the award was given to a non-Salvadoran citizen, a non-Catholic, and Lois was the first woman to receive it.

After serving as a career missionary, John became Latin America Caribbean regional director in 1989. He served in this position for eight years before being elected AGWM executive director in 1997.

“John Bueno was regional director for Latin America Caribbean when I met him at my first world area directors meeting in 1992,” said former AGWM Executive Director Greg Mundis. “We immediately identified with each other because of our love for the national church and church planting. He was my colleague, friend, and mentor. I will miss him.”

Assemblies of God General Superintendent Doug Clay stated, “John Bueno was a visionary missionary statesman who led with bold faith and a compassionate heart, always advocating for the lost, poor, and suffering. He formed two new regions to bring greater focus to reaching Europe and China, championed women in ministry and leadership, and accelerated church planting throughout the world.”

AGWM Executive Director John Easter remarked, “Cheryl and I mourn the passing of John Bueno, former executive director of AGWM. People often acknowledge that they stand on the shoulders of giants without actually mentioning who they mean. John has been one of those giants for AGWM and for so many of us. Our hearts go out to his wife, Lois, and sons, Bob, Steve, Ron, and David, and the entire Bueno family.”

In addition to his pastoral, missionary, and leadership contributions, John also wrote a variety of books about ministry and the missionary experience including: Remember the Poor, In His Service, Sacrifice and Triumph, An Open Heart, and In Christ Alone.

John Bueno is survived by his wife of 63 years, Lois, and by his children Bob, Steve, Ron, and David, as well as nine grandchildren. Following in their father’s footsteps, each of his children are involved in acts of public service, serving the needy and underprivileged — Bob leads the school system John founded, Steve teaches public school in an underprivileged community of Los Angeles, Ron does church-based community development in four countries, and David works in sustainable water and agricultural development in El Salvador and Africa.

A visitation will be held in John Bueno’s honor at Global University, 1211 S. Glenstone, Springfield, Missouri, on Thursday, Feb. 1, from 4:30 p.m. – 7 p.m. The funeral will be held at Central Assembly of God in Springfield, Missouri, on Friday, Feb. 2, at 10:30 a.m. A live stream will be available for those interested in attending virtually at centralassembly.tv.

Flowers are received by Greenlawn South Funeral Home, 441 West Battlefield. In keeping with John Bueno’s lifelong ministry to children, the family requests donations in lieu of flowers be sent to his memorial fund benefiting El Salvador children.