Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Faith To Be Strong

Today is one of those days. One of those days when getting to Austria and raising support feeling long, difficult and discouraging. I know God is faithful and I know He has carried us this far. But sometimes I feel tired and emotionally drained and getting the last 27% of our support feels overwhelming.

Today I was sitting at a coffee shop and I happened to be listening to an album by Andrew Peterson, just as background music. But suddenly, his lyrics broke through my train of thought and really spoke to me. Today, his prayer is my prayer. And I hope you are encouraged by his words, as well.

By: Andrew Peterson
Give us faith to be strong
Father, we are so weak
Our bodies are fragile and weary
As we stagger and stumble to walk where you lead
Give us faith to be strong

Give us faith to be strong
Give us strength to be faithful
This life is not long, but it's hard
Give us grace to go on
Make us willing and able

Lord, give us faith to be strong

Give us peace when we're torn
Mend us up when we break
This flesh can be wounded and shaking
When there's much too much trouble for one heart to take
Give us peace when we're torn

Give us faith to be strong
Give us strength to be faithful
This life is not long, but it's hard
Give us grace to go on
Make us willing and able
Lord, give us faith to be strong

Give us hearts to find hope
Father, we cannot see
How the sorrow we feel can bring freedom
And as hard as we try, Lord, it's hard to believe
So, give us hearts to find hope

Give us faith to be strong
Give us strength to be faithful
This life is not long, but it's hard
Give us grace to go on
Make us willing and able
Lord, give us faith to be strong

Give us peace when we're torn
Give us faith, faith to be strong

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Why Do We Do This?

Yesterday (Sunday), I (Nate) traveled an hour and a half across the Throgs Neck Bridge and drove out to Long Island to visit Shelter Rock Church in Manhasset.  We got to know pastor Steve, because he used to be a pastor at our sending church, Parkview Community Church. It was a great time to meet some new friends and see a great church.

During the service, Steve introduced me to the church and mentioned about our ministry. The funniest thing about it was that in the moment, he said we were going to Australia (obviously this isn't the first or last time someone has made that mistake).  He quickly corrected it and we all had a great laugh about the whole thing. But then he asked a very important question: why?

Why do we do this whole thing? Why do we send people across town or across an ocean to plant churches? The answer went back to the mission statement of the church which is "To lead as many people as possible into a joyful and growing relationship with Jesus Christ." And as a church, they love to connect with anyone that is seeking to accomplish that mission, whether it is across town or across the globe. It isn't about just their church, but it is about the kingdom of God.

My morning with these brothers and sisters was very encouraging and I wanted to pass some of that on to you guys. We are very excited about what God is doing as He prepares us to do ministry in Austria, but we have to yield to the fact that this isn't about us. This is about the glory and worship of God. Pastor Steve quoted John Piper in Let the Nations Be Glad when he said that missions happens because worship does not. This is so true and we are very excited to be in the service of such a mighty God.

Photo credit: beglib from

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Experiencing Lent

Hey everyone! Hope that you are enjoying all this wonderful, spring-like weather we have been having across the country. I think it got into the low 60s out here in Connecticut today, which is pretty crazy to think about.

I was thinking recently about how I would practice Lent this year.  To be honest, it wasn't a big thing when I was growing up. All I remember were the catholic kids I knew and how they would feel the need to give up something valuable to them for Lent. To be honest, it sounded like a pretty dumb idea at the time, but this was before I really understood fasting. Over time God has given me an appreciation for different seasons of the church calendar, and how valuable they can be.  I learned that Lent isn't just for Catholics and that many Christians have found this season of fasting and repentance very valuable as a time of introspection and reflection.

This year I (Nate) chose a bible reading plan you  I am a pretty big fan of their bible app and this is my first encounter with their reading plans.  I am kinda excited, to be honest. I am really not good at reading plans in general. I am praying that I will stick with this plan and gain a perspective leading up to the Easter celebration.  Here is the reading plan that I am doing (and I'd love for you to join me.) I think it is less than a chapter a day and goes through the Easter story in chronological order.

Your Turn:

How are you observing Lent this year? 

Are you fasting from something or observing a similar reading schedule?

Photo credit: bosela from

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Joining Forces with the A-Team

One important way that we communicate with our friends, family and supporters is with a monthly email newsletter. We spend a lot of time thinking about and writing our monthly update, and we pray each month about how it will impact, engage and move in the hearts of its readers. If you're not already on our mailing list, I would encourage you to sign up using the form on the right!

This month's update gives a great overview of our recent visit to Colorado. I thought it would be fun to post it here. Enjoy!

Dear friends & family,

We are back in Connecticut after a productive trip to Colorado last month. It was exhausting, wonderful, encouraging, and a great time of learning and growth. We processed so much information in such a short period of time, we feel as though we are still working through some of it! We also spent time with friends, some we have known since the beginning of our missions journey and some brand new.  Click here to see a video of our time in Colorado.

Here is a brief overview of what we did and how God was working through our trip!

During our first four days in Denver, we attended a final workshop with WorldVenture staff called “Pre-departure Training”.  We explored some of the major transitional issues that we’ll face as we leave one culture and head to another, addressing issues like learning how to mourn and properly say goodbye to people, places and seasons of life. It was another stage of realization that our huge life transition is quickly approaching, and it provided some helpful tools to process.


Over the following weekend, we attended the Missions Symposium 2012 at Denver Seminary (click the link to access conference materials).  These sessions were very valuable, and though we didn’t attend some of the sessions due to illness, we plan to spend more time processing through them. We heard from Christopher J.H. Wright, author of the well-known missions text The Mission of God; we are very excited to read his book and fully digest his thoughts on missions!

The second week was spent at the WorldVenture Annual Renewal Conference, which kicked off with a two-day prayer summit. It was a valuable time of corporate prayer for the missionaries, the leadership of WorldVenture, and God’s direction in all of our lives. We also had some "family business" time, where we discussed issues our organization is facing and new opportunities ahead. More than anything, this conference reaffirmed our love and commitment to this great group of WorldVenture men and women!

At Renewal Conference, we spent time with fellow appointees, men and women who are at a similar point in their preparation process.  It is always encouraging to spend time with people who understand the challenges and joys of heading to the mission field. We are consistently blessed by their support and friendship.

Sadly, we did not see Mr. T and his infamous “A-Team” during our Colorado visit. But we got something even better...we got to spend time with our Austria team, the real A-Team!  All but two families from Vienna were in town for the week, and Bethany used her organizational skills to coordinate a dinner at a local German restaurant (which our team members were quick to point out is different from Austrian food!).  It was fun to see many of our team members in one place, as well as to meet some former Austria team members.  What a wonderful legacy of ministry we are stepping into!  

Thank you for your continued prayers, as well as your generous support that opened the door for us to attend Pre-departure Training and this conference. Have a great month!

Nate & Bethany Johnson

Monday, February 20, 2012

A Special Visit

This past weekend, we had the privilege of traveling to Ohio. Our visit was for two reasons - to share our story at a supporting church and to celebrate my grandfather's 85th birthday with family. Both reasons for the visit were special and enjoyable! We had a great time celebrating with family, who had traveled in from Texas, Georgia and Honduras. And we had a special time reconnecting with Champion Presbyterian Church, where my grandparents have attended for many years!

Here are some highlights from our weekend!

Cousins, Aunts and Uncles

Squeezing into my grandparents' living room!

Grampy blows out his "85" candles!

Opening gifts

Sharing at Champion Presbyterian Church

Visiting with cousins from the US and Honduras...which means I was practicing my Spanish!

WorldVenture Training and Conference

5 - Pizza Time4 - Playing with Dough3 - Fergusons2 - Sarah & Lisa1 - Training25 - Austria team 2
24 - Austria Team23 - Journey Corps 222 - Journey Corps21 - Austria Dinner20 - Custers & Joni 219 - Custers and Joni
17 - Doug makes a point16 - Doug18 - The WrightsDSCF158315 - The Bryans14 - Prayer Summit 2
13 - Prayer Summit12 - Breakfast with Seth11 - Missions Symposium again10 - Missions Symposium9 - Cross8 - Hearing from the IMDs

Here are some shots from our time in Colorado. God has taught us so much! Enjoy.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Live from Renewal Conference

Bethany and I were in Colorado for 2 weeks going through training and attending WorldVenture's annual conference. It was a time of spiritual renewal and re-connection for current missionaries, appointed missionaries (that's us) and those who are exploring ministry with WorldVenture.  We hope you enjoy a peek into what our life has been like for the last few weeks.  We'll continue to write posts as we process through our experiences.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Thoughts on humility

Photo credit: shelley_e from

In our closing session today at WorldVenture's renewal conference, we watched a message on humility by John Dickson, recorded at the Willow Creek Leadership Summit. The message was convicting and thought provoking. After a long 2 weeks of meetings, messages and prayer, this video successfully broke through my tiredness and touched my soul.

In some ways, preparing for the mission field has forced us to be humble. We are fully dependent on others, and on God really, to meet our everyday needs. We are depending on the financial support of others. We can no longer live the self-sufficient life that we had led for years. This is all humbling.

But on the other hand, I find myself having to fight to stay humble. There is a tendency in the American church to place missionaries on a pedestal, and sometimes I'm the worst offender. We are expected to be super spiritual people, hailed for making the ultimate sacrifice of home and family for the sake of the gospel. Boy, talk about a bunch of stuff that can go to your head and make you feel "holier than thou", right? And as God meets our financial needs in ministry, it can be so easy to congratulate ourselves on a job well done. "Look at all the money we've raised"! We can be so quick to believe these lies, even subconsciously, and forget who really deserves all the credit.

In reality, we are completely undeserving of any of this praise, and we should be humble. We are imperfect people, trying to figure out faith and life just like everyone else, completely undeserving of a pedestal. We are learners, moving to a new culture where we know nothing and will humbly start our lives over. Most of all, we are sinners, completely undeserving of God's grace.

Christ's act of coming to earth and dying on the cross makes Him the ultimate example of humility. He is the one that does deserve praise and here He was, washing the disciples' feet! He made himself nothing, born in a stable and dying a horrible death on the cross when He belonged at the right hand of God. How much more should we pursue humility and emulate Christ?

Today's message has caused me to reflect on Philippians 2:3 - 8:

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
 Who, being in very nature God,
   did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;

rather, he made himself nothing
   by taking the very nature of a servant,
   being made in human likeness.

And being found in appearance as a man,
   he humbled himself
   by becoming obedient to death—
      even death on a cross! 

May He increase our humility and His glory as we continue each day on this journey!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Christ is Risen

I am usually pretty skeptical of "christian"* music. I am either a product of my generation, or just not a very sentimental person. Also, there is a lot of cheesy "christian" music out there.  But I love music that is about God.  Songs that teach and declare who He is and what He has done.

We have spent the last week and a half here in Denver and a song has been resonating in my soul.  Here is the chorus:
Christ is risen from the dead
trampling over death by death
come awake, come awake
come and rise up from the grave
Christ is risen from the dead
we are one with Him again
come awake, come awake
come and rise up from the grave

Click the read more link to see a video of the song.