Joe and Judi Portale
37 years of service
and Judi Portale have touched thousands of lives during their 37 years
in Youth With A Mission [YWAM]. This amazing couple has pioneered many
ministries, among them: YWAM French Ministries in Europe, a School of
Evangelism [SOE] to train French-speaking young people, and YWAM in
French West Africa.
Joe and Judi launched YWAM Mercy Ministries in Thailand and worked
in Greece for two years to help the M/V ANASTASIS, YWAM’s first Mercy
Ship, get underway. Coming to Kona they helped pioneer the Pacific and
Asia Christian University, which is now the University of the Nations.
On the Kona campus Joe is International Associate Dean for
the college of Christian Ministries, serves on the Kona Council and
assists the training team which oversees all our schools.
Judi works in the Admissions Office/Student Services. She
answers the phones including the U of N 800 number, answering questions
not only concerning the Kona campus but general questions from
prospective students and parents about YWAM around the world.
Born in Bonne Terre, Missouri, Judi one of six children says,
“Our family’s stability came from my grandparents who were pioneer
pastors. They had a strict code, but because they were always so loving
and encouraging, we never felt religion was do’s and don’ts.”
When Judi was five her family moved to California and at 13 she
accepted the Lord. In high school she was very involved with Youth for
Christ and later went to Bethany Bible College in Scotts Valley,
California where she met Joe.
Joe and his three siblings were born in Cleveland, Ohio. His
earliest memory is riding a tricycle with his sister on the back,
pretending they were on their way to the unreached people in Africa.
“I had a troubled childhood,” said Joe. “I often had
nightmares. One night after awakening from a particularly scary one, I
remembered my Sunday School teacher had said, when I was afraid to call
out to Jesus. I started calling His name, ‘Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.’
Suddenly the room filled with light. I was transported through a sea of
blue until I saw Jesus. The fear left me as soon as I saw his eyes.
Jesus communicated to me that I was to be a missionary. I also
understood that times would not be easy, but to rely on Him.”
Waking up his mom, nine year old Joe said, “Jesus wants me to be a
Three months later he wrote a school paper on what he wanted
to be. He wrote, “I will be a missionary, learn French in Europe, equip
myself and travel to Africa.”
Joe’s family moved to San Jose, California when he was 13.
While in high school he heard Loren and Darlene Cunningham speak in his
church. He later applied to do a one-week YWAM domestic outreach.
After this first taste of missions Joe enrolled in Bethany Bible
College, met Judi and fell in love. They married just before his junior
Judi went to work in the Development Office and then as
personal assistant to the Dean of Students and the Chief Financial
Officer at Bethany. Joe graduated with a degree in Pastoral Theology
with a minor in Missions.
Joe’s Bible College friend Al Akimoff went to the Caribbean with
YWAM the summer of 1964. Joe loved the stories Al shared of the many
miracles he experienced there. During their last year of college Al
gave Joe a brochure about YWAM’s first School of Evangelism [SOE] in
Switzerland and the book, God’s Smuggler, by Brother Andrew.
“A deep desire came to me,” said Joe.” If this is real and
God works through people today, I want to experience it. I applied to
the SOE and everything I desired in my heart or had hoped for was
For Judi this school was more challenging. She did not know
French and often felt homesick. However, Joe says, “in five months Judi
was speaking better French then I spoke after my five years of junior
high and high school French.”
“The Lord then called us to pioneer YWAM French Ministries
out of Lausanne,” says Joe. “We recruited kids and did summer
outreaches in France.”
They started a SOE to train French-speaking young people. The
outreach fell in January. Europe was too cold for camping, so crossing
the Sahara to French West Africa became the target. As Joe ordered four
vans for the trip, he remembered the paper he had written 19 years
before in the fourth grade.
When the French outreaches exploded with 180 participants, Joe says,
“God spoke and said French Africa.”
They released French Ministries Europe to Tom Bloomer. After
the second SOE outreach in West Africa, Joe and Judi pioneered the
first base in M’Pouto on the Ivory Coast. They moved into a house that
had no running water or electricity. Their two children, Lisa and Joey
were three and eight months old. Their third child Daniel was born
later in Kona.
In 1976 on the way to Montreal for an Olympics outreach Joe got
very sick with hepatitis and doctors thought he was dying. God
intervened and Loren invited Joe to Kona to convalesce. The Lord gave
them a new direction, with a focus on the Pacific and Asia. They are
here again, after nine years in Switzerland, which included three years
as base leader in Lausanne.
Joe and Judi want to see 1000 French-speaking people trained
and in missions around the world. Joe added, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful
to see training programs offered in as many languages as possible
through the University of the Nations.”