It was a night like no other in recent memory for me. I’m talking about last Sunday’s evening service at Grace Neighborhood Church. It was Missionary Emphasis Sunday at the lively little church that serves our neighborhood and many of you who read this column have participated in more than a few of those. They are always a great time to hear about the lives of missionaries in the field. The stories that they have to tell are always inspiring and often exciting to hear. This year was no different. Well, actually, it was different in a very significant way. We have also been present when the parents of the pastor have come to visit. Very seldom do we see these two events combined.
We heard from a missionary couple that had served 30 years in Africa. The two of them were each called to serve in Africa while they were still children (and best friends). They grew up knowing that they would go there to serve as adults. They married while training in Bible College and went straight to Africa after graduation. They spent close to 30 years in the field, raised a family and brought countless hundreds to the Saviour during those many years. These two saints had the home movies, slides and stories to tell and we will hear more about those later. But, there was another aspect that made this event very special.
You see these two missionaries are the Reverend John Johnson and his wife Susie, the parents of the pastor of Grace Neighborhood Church, Tom Johnson. He was raised, in Africa, by these two marvelous folks. He grew up on the mission field in Africa; and Tom, like his father, was called to serve the Lord as a child. He also married his sweetheart in Bible College. However, instead of going to the foreign mission field, Tom and his lovely bride were called to an inner city mission field. That would be us, folks. Our fair city that once sent missionaries to the foreign fields, now receives them. Truly, Tom Johnson and his family were sent to us from Africa as missionaries.
In the home movies, slides and stories that I mentioned earlier, we were treated to glimpses of 30 years of missionary work in Africa. In the earliest pictures, we saw a very young couple, very much in love with their Lord and each other. We saw, in the following hour, first hand images and accounts that spanned a long career that brought the light of the Gospel to a dark land. This couple served the people of Africa by loving them, building churches, building schools, building clinics, translating the scripture into a dozen or more dialects and the list goes on. They also survived the onslaught of disease, draught and war. Through all of this, they stayed with the people they were there to serve and loved them into heaven. Oh yes, they were also raising the son that has become the pastor of our little church.
In later years, they focused on training young nationals to carry on the work that they had started. This work was informal at first, but eventually they established a Bible School to carry on that work. Twenty seven churches are now pastored by graduates of that school. Their work expanded to overseeing the missionary work in the entire region of the country that they served in and eventually, they retired. Well, it might be more accurate to say that they just changed missionary fields. They have been kept busy traveling around the country (and the world) speaking about their experiences on the field, raising money for missions and recruiting young people to fill their shoes overseas. People are responding to these two missionaries for missions. Young people especially are responding in large numbers. Susie and John know a bit about being called as children since they tell the story of how a missionary named Dr. Anderson spoke in their church in the northern town of Millville and called for volunteers for the mission field. They each responded and felt clearly of their own call to the field. They have shown a single-minded dedication to their calling that is rare in today’s world. People don’t seem to stick with any one thing more than a few years. I can only hope that they example that they are setting will be followed by more young people.
An example of that single-mindedness may be forming in their own family and their dedication to service of the Gospel. When John and Susie gave the invitation at the end of the service, they also invited any who felt called to serve the Lord in missions to come forward. A number of our young people did. Among them was another Susie. Young Susie Johnson, the daughter of the pastor and the granddaughter of the speakers came forward to offer herself for service. It looks like the Johnson family may be going for a 3rd generation in the ministry. What a legacy!
We’ll check in on young Susie from time to time to see how she is doing. By all accounts, she is as precocious as her grandmother is and looks just like her too.
I would like to leave you all, this week, with the thought that dedication to service and caring for others is not a dead thing. We have not lost it completely in our modern society. It can be hard to find at times, but it is still alive. This family has it coursing through their veins stronger than usual and it shows no signs of abating in them. Little Susie Johnson is proof of that.
I want to challenge all of you, my readers, to look around you and find a way to care for someone else. Lend a helping hand to those around you. Help the helpless. Feed the hungry. Clothe the naked. Read the Gospel of Matthew chapter 25. For help on how to get involved, visit Grace Neighborhood Church and talk to Pastor Tom. He can point you in the right direction.
Until next week, God Bless and Godspeed.