Maya Angelou once said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” At Bonvera, our leaders not only lead with their words and actions, but they also lead with their hearts. Our next couple, Johnny & Jeannie Zapara, are excellent examples of this. We’re proud to introduce this inspiring couple from Sacramento, California.
On a gorgeous morning, this couple started their day by sharing how they became involved with the Bonvera community and why it’s so important to them. They told us all about the gorgeous California weather. According to the Zaparas, they live just 90 miles away from a snow skiing resort and 90 miles away from the perfect beach destination. Bonvera’s headquarters are on the East coast, and now they’ve convinced us we’ve got to visit the West coast!
Johnny and Jeannie have a unique story to tell. Unlike most other couples who have been in this industry for over ten years, they just recently became involved a few years ago. As retired bi-vocational pastors, they spent most of their lives in other careers outside of this industry and the Bonvera ecosystem. Jeannie went to school for her nursing degree, and she served as a hospice nurse for many years. Johnny attended seminary, and he also got his license to become a general contractor. Johnny described, “As bi-vocational pastors, we were church planters, but we had to work other jobs at the same time. Jeannie was a nurse, and I was a general contractor. We built a very successful remodeling business that my son runs now.” For Johnny and Jeannie, that’s what they spent most of their lives doing. The day they returned from their honeymoon was the day they started working at their first church together.
They weren’t introduced to Bonvera until they met Chris Mattis, one of Bonvera’s key leaders and founders of the company. Johnny described, “Where I met Chris who is the one who invited us into the industry was in a CCW (carrying a concealed weapon) class in the local area. My son and I were taking the class together, and Chris drove from Napa to take the class because he knew the guy who was teaching it. Over the course of a couple of days, we talked and Chris said, ‘You guys are fun people.’ We hung out, and we became very good friends.” Today, Johnny and Jeannie have developed a strong relationship and friendship with Chris and his wife, Danae. They expressed, “Whenever they are in the Sacramento area, they stay here at our house. They even have their own key. They’re free to come and go as they please.” Johnny remarked that Chris has “been very instrumental in helping us see a new option for people our age and not doing the conventional 9 to 5 job. We still have a lot of life in us. If it were not for the new thinking, we would probably be like most retired pastors. [We’d be] twiddling our thumbs and wondering how we’re going to pay for the rest of our lives.” Jeannie explained, “When we first got started in 2011 with Chris and Danae, it was the New Way MBA that really hooked me because I was a hospice nurse. We were taking care of Johnny’s mom for 27 years. She lived with us and had her own apartment at our house. I was at a real discouraged time in my hospice journey. I loved it, but it can really wear you down. We were going through a hard time with our church too. One story I tell at Intros is that my thinking changed so much by listening to the audios and reading the books. It gave me a lot of hope, and it helped me transition into a new role as a trainer for the hospice company I worked for. It helped my nurses get the training they needed, and it helped prolong their stay with the company.” It was wonderful for Jeannie, and that’s why she encourages people to use what they are learning right now right where they are. Those principles can be applied anywhere. She said, “It made a huge difference for me. I got to sow and grow new things into them because of the changes that were happening in me.”
They got started with Chris and his team in the industry before Bonvera even started. When the Bonvera dream took root and started growing, they had developed such great relationships with so many of the leaders and entrepreneurs who were creating Bonvera that they didn’t hesitate. Johnny said, “We were committed to it before Bonvera had a name.” Jeannie agreed, “Relationships and trust are what drive what we want to do.”
One thing they always share with others is that they “don’t hesitate at all to say it could be life changing. Not just life changing by income standards, but their whole life.” Johnny said, “We have found that to be the case with us, and we offer that to others.” Johnny described that his favorite thing about Bonvera is the “opportunity to be around the quantity and quality of the leadership that we have in Bonvera. To literally rub shoulders with individuals like Bob Dickie and Tim Marks. You don’t often get to hang out with those kinds of people and get the benefit of their thinking in ordinary jobs. For us to gain the benefit of that kind of person’s thinking has just been outstanding.” As Jeannie put it, she gets to “invite people into this business.” She couldn’t ever invite someone into nursing with her. But she can with this business, and she loves that part of it. She said, “The training system is so excellent. We love our team, and that’s been our heart — to love and nurture people. So this gives us an opportunity to do that in a different way.”
We’ve asked every couple in Bonvera what their “secret sauce” is, something that makes them unique as a couple. Johnny and Jeannie said they have “a really really good marriage.” They’ve been married for 45 years, and they met through Jeannie’s brother. Her brother and Johnny were college roommates. Jeannie giggled, “We’ve got a great love story to tell, but we’ll save that for another time.” Johnny agreed, “We work at it, and we read lots of marriage books out loud together. We do work to make sure it stays that way, and it continues to improve. We have lots and lots of conversations with team members, and we’ve counseled hundreds of couples in ministry.”
Johnny and Jeannie wrapped up this interview with a few fun takeaways!
If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would you eat?
Johnny knew his answer, “Filet mignon. Yeah uh.” Jeannie responded, “I’m a vegetarian, so that’s not mine. I would say tostadas. We love Mexican food.”
What is your favorite movie?
Jeannie didn’t hesitate when saying, “You’ve Got Mail.” Johnny said, “It is her favorite, and I am the one that can quote it. I can tell you every line in the movie.” Jeannie giggled and agreed! Johnny responded, “For me, I love the Bourne series. Jason Bourne. She’s romance, and I’m action and adventure.” (They also forgot to mention that they ride a Harley motorcycle together for fun all the time.)
Johnny said, “We are so impressed with the collection of leaders we have in Bonvera. It seems like God has brought a collection of leaders who bring so much variety and expertise to the team, and the fact that they are all strong spiritual leaders too.” They love the partnerships with I Was Hungry and Thrive Farmers, and they are so “affirmed that we can be a part of an organization that is bringing the Kingdom to the world of business.” Johnny and Jeannie are not financially free though yet, unlike other Bonvera couples, but they said “we have every confidence that it will happen for us also and we’re very very thankful.” They said, “We are so grateful for our team. Without team approach, it’s almost impossible to be successful. Our team is the best!” Thank you for taking the time to get to know Johnny and Jeannie Zapara. We’re so honored to have them on board with the Bonvera family. If you’re interested in getting connected to Bonvera, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (316) 260 – 2225.