The Extraordinary Story Of Juan Domingo, Who Went From Being A Successful American Businessman To A New Name And A New Life As A Missionary In Mexico.

ENSENADA, MEXICO (December 14, 1999) – Juan Domingo was once John Lilley. But then God got hold of his life and he changed his name, became a Mexican citizen, and has since dedicated his life to being a missionary in Mexico.

The usual procedure is that Mexicans want to move to the “good life” in the United States and many risk their very lives trying to get across the border. For Los-Angeles born John Lilley, he done just the opposite and in an extraordinary metamorphous, he has become a Mexican and even changed his name.

He father had a successful insurance business in Los Angeles, but sadly he died an alcoholic when John was four years old. He graduated Magna Cum Laude with a business degree and was in his MBA program when he became a Christian.

“At that time I was running a successful metal fireplace installation business while going through college,” he explained in an interview. “I traveled extensively, but always wound up empty.”

While he was in San Diego, John was invited to visit the North Park Theater by a young lady who ended standing him up. The theater was the home Horizon Christian Fellowship, a Calvary Chapel affiliate run by Mike MacIntosh, an early convert of Chuck Smith’s Jesus People Movement in Southern California.

“I enjoyed the worship and teaching of Mike Macintosh,” he said. “A year later, I started attending regularly. I met Larry Gordon, owner of G and S Surfboards and invited him to speak at the initiation ceremony of a local Honor Society, which I was President of. I had grown up hearing the Bible but always compromised and never gave my life to the Lord. I could really relate to Christians like Larry and Mike.

“One night Mike taught on Galatians 5:24, ‘And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.’  I wanted to belong to Jesus as I felt His incredible love for me!

“The first month I read the New  Testament three times,” he went on. “The next month I entered the Horizon School of Evangelism in San Diego and started helping in Sunday School. I started teaching a Bible study at U.C. San Diego that grew from four to 60 in three months and also taught a Thursday night Bible study at Mt. Soledad Presbyterian Church that grew from 20 to 80 in five months.

Juan then explained how he first became involved with missions in Mexico. “As part of the School of Evangelism, we had to take a five week missionary trip,” he explained. “The choices were: England, Alaska, Hawaii, Israel or Mexico. I figured I would go to Hawaii as I had spent a couple of winters surfing there. But as I prayed, a thought came to me.

‘Where would Jesus go?’ ‘That was easy,’ I replied in my mind, ‘Jesus would go to Mexico with the poor multitudes.’ As we visited there, I knew this was the area of greatest need and I felt a strong calling as the people were so responsive and so open and hungry to find out more about Jesus.  “The first year I lived in an old VW van, on financial support from an aunt of $20 a month!”


I then asked why he decided to change his name and immigrate into Mexico? “I got to a point as we began to start new churches that I realized the handicap it was to be an American,” he said. “I had the dark hair and dark eyes, so all I needed to do was speak Spanish with no accent! Well, seeing that I didn’t speak a work of Spanish when I moved to Mexico, my work was cut out for me. I hung out in the slums of Mexico City and learned the real lingo! My name used to be John Dickson Lilley, but since Lilley in Spanish is pronounced ‘Lee-jay’ I changed it to an easy Juan Domingo Lopez, with Domingo being the paternal or last name in Mexico. To keep the same initials, I checked a Mexican telephone book and of the four last names that end in D, I liked Domingo best. Plus God had shown me that a new day was coming for the nation and Domingo happens to be the first day of the week and ‘a new day.'”

After getting a new name, he also found a Mexican wife Tania and they have two daughters and one son, Angelica, Debbie and Jonathan. “I originally had renounced my U.S. citizenship but eventually was able to immigrate legally into Mexico through my Mexican wife and children, and become a dual citizen” he explained.


“The first three years, I worked with the local Evangelical churches and

taught around Mexico and Central America,” Juan went on. “Then I saw the need to start a fellowship that focused on teaching the Word rather that preaching at the people. We also felt it was imperative to live the Christian life, you know, ‘walk the talk.’  So we moved into a warehouse in Mexico City and lived in plywood cubicles in a community environment with the locals living with us. From there, we build our first church in Mexico City. Today eight other churches have grown out of that one church.

“Then we moved to Queretaro, where we started another fellowship and built another church. In addition, with the help of Larry Hernandez and Lane Wettengel, we started the Horizon School of Evangelism in Mexico. In 1993, the Mexican Government recognized the work of the Companerismo Cristiano Horizonte (Horizon Christian Fellowship) churches and recognized the association of churches as a registered denomination (though we are not a denomination but a loose fellowship of Calvary Chapel churches), which enables us to do crusades, sponsor U.S. missionaries and operate churches in Mexico.

“In 1998, we moved once again, this time to Ensenada (in Baja California) to start still another church. But this time we were able to start the first ever daily Bible teaching program ever in Ensenada. Since there is no Christian radio or TV stations in Mexico, we are on the number one secular AM station and our ratings are excellent in the year we have been on the air! We also oversee a drug rehab ranch, center for abused moms and their children and an orphanage. We have also started the first Chaplaincy program that we know of in Mexico, although when the city officials, we work with, wrote the job description they called the Head of the Moral and Family Support within the Police Department. I personally serve as the first ‘chaplain.’

“We are also in the process of building a large outreach center in downtown Ensenada. It will include a free medical and dental clinic, gymnasium, library, day care center and much more. “There are now 35 churches and we sponsor an annual pastor’s conference as well as Mexican missionaries who are opening up new churches around Mexico. My wife, Tania, has a thrilling testimony of the grace of God in her life and our children each have a story to tell as well. Angelica, lives back in Queretaro, with her husband and are expecting their first child, Debbie is 12 and Jonathan who is 11 are both home schooling.

I then put it to Juan Domingo that many Americans look down on Mexicans.  What would be his your message to them?

“I enjoyed what the world considers success before I was born again,” he began. “If the amount of money you have in the bank determines what quality of person you are, then some look down on those south of the border. Americans who look down on others, do it because of ignorance.  They don’t know any better. When I lived with a family of 17 in Mexico City for three years, I learned about true success and true riches. Not one person who walked in the doors of that home, left without being offered food and a place to spend the night if they were traveling. ‘Mi casa es tu casa.’

“We recently co-ventured a project with Sanford University. What a joy it was to have these students in our home in Mexico and for them to experience a whole new dimension of life!”

His life and ministry in Mexico has not been without it’s dramatic moments, he said.  “When we were preaching in downtown Tehuacan Puebla in Southern Mexico in March of 1982, God was healing so many sick people that people were running home to bring their sick relatives to the town plaza, so that we could pray for them. One of the crowd who saw these undeniable miracles, invited me to preach the same message but during the annual Passion of Christ celebration. I said, ‘Sure!’ I was later told that I would be killed if I tried to preach the Bible among the drunken throngs. So I took a big religious looking Bible and was introduced, after the man portraying Jesus had been severely beaten (although they don’t use real nails as they do in the Philippines). There were over 10,000 people packed in the town plaza.

“There were people on the roofs of their houses, hundreds in trees to get a better view and there I was preaching on the steps to the Mayor’s office at a time in Mexico when it was illegal to preach publicly.

“When the religious leaders saw that I was telling the people that the story didn’t end with Jesus dying on the cross as they had depicted, but that Jesus rose after 3 days to offer eternal life to all those who believe, well, they were upset. They came pushing through the  crowd to take the microphone away from me. But I wasn’t finished with the message so I quoted Matthew 10:32-33 where Jesus challenges people to receive and not reject Him before men. But I told the people that they had to repent or turn away from the bad things they were doing. The religious leaders had almost pushed to the front of the crowd, when I made and invitation right then and there to turn their lives over to Jesus. I figured that if six or eight people in the crowd lifted their hands to receive Christ, then the leaders would back off long enough to tell the people what to do after making this most important decision.

“Well, to my surprise, six, then eight 8 people did raise their hands. Then 20-30, then groups of 100 began to raise their hands and then thousands had their hands up! The leaders had to back off because the people were with us as we preached from the Holy Book. We instructed them to pray daily, and find a place that teaches the Bible, share their faith with others. Then we slipped out the back of the crowd, unharmed!”

For Juan Domingo, his life “South of the Border” has been a blessing not only to him, but also to the many who have found Christ through his dedicated ministry.

To contact Juan Domingo, you can e-mail him at or you can find out more about his ministry by visiting his website at