Tillman John “Hermano Juan” Nelson was born February 1, 1932 east of Mobridge SD where he lived his early life on his parent’s homestead farm. After restlessly searching for the meaning of life during his youth and early adulthood, at the age of 21 he found the answer. He often recounted the bleakness and hopelessness he felt on that day as he knelt by a rock along the Missouri River, “Oh God… if there is a God … I started to pray. Once I started to seek God, it became easy to pour out my heart, confessing my sins and seeking God’s forgiveness. As I got up from my knees that day, it was like a burden was cut from my back and rolled away! As I walked along the river, the birds were singing praises to God! The sun was shining the glory of God! The trees were clapping their hands! Even the waves on the river were lapping their praises to God! The sand hill cranes were flying overhead, and it was a new life.”
Shortly thereafter, Tillman responded to the calling of his heart to go into the ministry. While preparing at Bible School he courted Twyla Johnson from back home, who also shared that calling. They were united in marriage on September 8, 1955. Soon after, they started serving as missionaries in Cuba, and continued their ministry that spanned over fifty-eight years of serving God in various capacities throughout North, South and Central America, Europe and beyond.
After spending a year in Israel, Tillman acquired acreage near Mitchell SD, and devoted the remainder of his life to Biblical research and writing, his ongoing ministry, and to farming. Throughout his life, Tillman always focused on things of eternal value, and thrived on the beauty of the land where he lived.
There was great rejoicing in heaven as Tillman crossed over into the glory of his eternal reward on July 6, 2014.
Tillman is survived by his devoted wife, Twyla and his children: Teresa, Tim, Tami, Joyce, Judy, John, Faith, Ted, Johanna, Joeline, and Zahava. He was preceded in death by his two daughters, Twylieta and Tamara. He is also survived by forty-two grandchildren and thirty great-grandchildren; as well as his brothers, Palmer, Alvin and Toby, and his sister, Anna.