A letter from Charles and Melissa Johnson, serving in Zambia
Individuals: Give to E200534 for Charles and Melissa Johnson’s sending and support
Congregations: Give to D507589 for Charles and Melissa Johnson’s sending and support
Churches are asked to send donations through your congregation’s normal receiving site (this is usually your presbytery).
We arrived in Atlanta around noon on Tuesday, June 13, hit the ground running, and haven’t slowed down since. As we write this newsletter, we are currently in Atlanta — it’s halftime in our quest to share our work with as many folks as possible during our time here in the states.
In addition to sharing our work and telling about our partner church, the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian Synod of Zambia, we’ve met some wonderful people who have welcomed us and made us feel right at home. We’ve made a number of new friends and we’ve invited them to partner with us on our journey. We don’t have the space to write about all of the churches we’ve visited, or the many people we’ve met, but we would like to share about some of the highlights from our first half.
One church we visited in Billings, Montana, only has 40 members. They are small but mighty and are embodying the gospel of Matthew 9:37, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.” They have a large community garden that has provided over 4,000 pounds of fresh produce to the local food bank last year. They are constantly expanding their vision and this year they are producing honey from the bee hives in their garden. They are also providing a home for a ministry working with people with HIV/AIDS that provides food and other items needed for daily living.
Because we have no travel budget, we have been blessed to be hosted by church members in their homes wherever we have been. In the beginning, Melissa was a little worried about how it would feel to be staying with strangers, but we’ve yet to meet a stranger. Everyone has opened their homes to us with love and hospitality. We have met amazing people everywhere, people who lead incredibly interesting lives. We stayed in the home of a couple in Lafayette, Indiana; the husband had worked for NASA and helped develop the technology for digital mapping and the first digital map of the world. A pastor that hosted us in Montana was also an incredible textile artist who creates beautiful stoles and wall art using two inch squares of fabric. Another pastor in Great Falls took us fly fishing and even though we didn’t catch any fish that day, we were able to be out in the beauty of God’s creation in Montana. Fortunately, we also visited the church in Dillon, Montana, where one of the church elders allowed us to stay at his ranch and fly fish on the spring creeks located there, where we did catch fish. Charles landed the two largest brown trout he’s ever caught and he’ll be glad to share his fish stories with you if you ask, and maybe even if you don’t.
Our last day in Montana was spent floating the Upper Madison River with a guide named Eric. Throughout the day, Eric asked about our background, our work in Zambia, and our family. On the drive back from the river Eric asked how we would describe our church (PCUSA). We told him ours is a church which follows reformed theology, where all are welcome, and whose members stand up for peace, justice and reconciliation. After asking a few more questions and he said, “That sounds like a church I could be a part of.”
Of course, as you might imagine, there have been some humorous moments, like our lunch at Garibaldi’s Mexican Café in Scranton, Pennsylvania. We should have known better than to eat at a Mexican restaurant with an Italian name. We’ve also had numerous debates about the need for multiple GPS systems running concurrently as we drive across the country.
Before we left Zambia to return to the U.S., we both had mixed emotions because our work was really just starting to gather momentum. We are glad to report that we have received regular communications from our friends and co-workers telling us about the work that is continuing. Rev. Nyirongo, the Acting Chasefu Model Farm Manager, has kept Charles up to date about the first harvest of crops on the Chasefu Agricultural Income Generating Activity. We have heard frequently from Rev. Kabaghe, the CCAP General Secretary, about work the church is doing, including the status of the construction of the new synod offices. Melissa’s co-worker, Richard Willima, has let us know about successful meetings and proposals involving CCAP’s two clinics in Egichikeni and Ndaiwala. Through social media, like Facebook, we’ve been able to stay connected with our friends and church partners in Zambia. Not only are we able to keep up with their lives, but we are also able to share our travels with them. Technology is truly a blessing to help us stay connected.
We are thankful for all of you who have supported us in our journey as we have answered God’s call to Zambia. We have been working hard to share the exceptional work being done by Presbyterian World Mission in Zambia and in other countries around the world. To those of you who are supporting us in prayers — thank you! Those prayers sustain us daily, both here and in Zambia. Thank you to everyone who has sent us cards and letters telling us that you are praying for us even when we are on the other side of the world. Your cards and letters let us know we are not forgotten. We are also grateful for each of you who have felt called to support us financially. We hope as we share the stories about our partner church, the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian, Synod of Zambia’s holistic ministry and our role in that ministry, more of you will feel called to also support us financially, for each year of our term of service. The financial support of individuals, congregations and presbyteries make it possible for us to continue following God’s call in Zambia.
As we head to Texas for the second half of our time in the U.S., we know we will meet many more people and share some great experiences. Perhaps we will cross paths with some of you.
Taonga chomene (thank you very much)!
Please read this important message from Jose Luis Casal, Director, Presbyterian World Mission
Dear Friend of Presbyterian Mission,
What a joy to send this letter! As Presbyterian World Mission’s new director, I thank God for your faithful support of our mission co-workers. The enclosed newsletter celebrates the work you made possible by your prayers, engagement, and generous financial gifts. We can’t thank you enough.
After I began in April, I met with mission co-workers and global partners and was blessed to see firsthand the mighty ways God is working through them! Our global partners are asking us to help them move forward with life-changing ministries. Because of your support, we can say “yes” to these creative and exciting initiatives.
I write to invite you to make an even deeper commitment to this work. First, would you make a year-end gift for the sending and support of our mission co-workers? We need your gifts to end the year strong. With your help, we filled two new mission co-worker positions and plan to recruit for others. The needs in the world are great, and World Mission is poised to answer the call to serve.
Second, would you ask your session to add our mission co-workers to your congregation’s mission budget for 2018 and beyond? Our mission co-workers serve three-year or four-year terms. Your multi-year commitment will encourage them greatly.
Our mission co-workers are funded entirely from the special gifts of individuals and congregations like yours. Now more than ever, we need your financial support.
In faith, our mission co-workers accepted a call to mission service. In faith, World Mission sent them to work with our global partners. In faith, will you also commit to support this work with your prayers and financial gifts?
Jose Luis Casal
P.S. Your gift will help meet critical needs of our global partners. Thank you!
You may freely reuse and distribute this article in its entirety for non-commercial purposes in any medium. Please include author attribution, photography credits, and a link to the original article. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDeratives 4.0 International License.