Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Let it snow!

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Eight inches of beautiful white snow, covering the ugliness of winter and spreading Christmas cheer! Thanks Jesus. Merry Christmas to all of you. We miss and love you.
Travis and Amy

Friday, November 13, 2009

Aidan Birch Johnson is here!
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Aidan Birch was born on November 4th at 11:20 pm and weighing 7lbs 14oz and is 20 and half inches long. He came into the world with a strong cry and a head full of golden hair. We are smitten with love all over again.

Aidan- Little Light or Fire
We first came across the name Aidan in Rich Mullins's song Let Mercy Lead. Rich Mullins is a song writer whose songs inspired and shepherded Amy and I as young people to follow the Lord with openness and expectation. We pray that our son will by led by mercy and saturated with grace. Aidan is also the name of man who spread Christianity to the western world, leaving the Island of Iona in Scotland and faithfully sharing Jesus in England. St Patrick was discipled by St. Augustine brought the Gospel from North Africa to Ireland. St. Patrick discipled St Columbo who then brought the Gospel to Scotland and the magical Island of Iona (Amy and I visited here on our honeymoon.) St Aidan studied in Iona and then left to England. Under St. Aidan, the Gospel spread across England and into the Netherlands.

Birch- to Shine
It is our tradition to name our children after one of God's sent ones (missionaries) who have in some way influenced our lives. During my fourth year of medical school I was deeply impacted by a man named Birch Rambo. He spent 30 years of his life in the Congo as a medical surgeon sharing the Gospel and training new doctors. He is a gentle man who I believe is characterized by faithfulness. When he talks about his time in Congo, deeper than the adventure and trials, he speaks of a commitment to follow the Caller and do what He asked him to do, despite the circumstances. Birch now works with dual diagnosed children with severe mental and physical limitations. Daily, he quietly walks the halls of the home for these children and cares for them. I am most impressed by his love for his wife. After suffering a stroke many years ago, she is unable to speak and has to live in a special care home. Birch faithfully cares for her. When he speaks of her, it is not with remorse or bitterness about the state she is in, but with a deep, tender and faithful love. In the Western North Carolina woods, among the tallest and oldest trees is the Yellow Birch, a great symbol of faithfullness that Birch Rambo has portrayed. We hope that Aidan Birch will follow Birch's example and faithfully obey the calling of God on his life and faithfully love the ones that are brought into his life.

We also desired a name that would mean light, knowing that Christ is the light of the world that brings hope to all men. The Gaelic root of Aidan means little light or fire and the German root of Birch means to shine. We do pray that this little fire will shine brightly and faithfully the mercy and hope of our Jesus and bring glory to God our Father.

Matthew 5.14-16
“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Sharing Jesus

As we go to Uganda, I cannot wait to share Jesus with you! Yes, I know we "know" Him already, but we are going to have an incredible time seeing Him together, begging for Him together, being met by Him together, and celebrating with Him together. We get to share Jesus together! This story by Helen Roseveare reminded me of why I am so thankful to be called by Him. It also reminded me why I am so thankful that He has called us together. He loves us with a never stopping, never breaking, never giving up always and forever love! (to quote our children's Jesus Storybook Bible.) The story also makes me incredibly thankful that you are going to Uganda with us. This story shows how real your "going" with us will be. We need you every step of the way- probably in ways we do not even know yet. tj

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Helen Roseveare was a missionary in the Congo for 20 years. Her story is an amazing account of God working through some one who was willing to be available. I was first introduced to Helen Roseveare my senior year in college. OK, so I have never actually met her, but I am looking forward to spending a few decades chatting with her in heaven. (I actually did hear her in person. It was at the women's meeting during a Christmas Conference. Amy's dad and I hid around the corner so we could hear her speak and not taint the crowd with testosterone.) My senior year I was given three tapes about her story and have never been the same since. She greatly influenced me and my desire to share Jesus overseas. Like her, we aimed at going to the far east to serve. Like her, we are heading to the middle of Africa. Out of all of the amazing missionaries that God could have used to develop a desire in me to go overseas, it is sweet that He chose her. Last week Amy's parents gave us a digital copy of the old tapes we had 12 years ago. (This is on our website for you to download.) Since we no longer have a cassette player, I have not listened to her story in about a decade. Adding her to the my iPod play list was like dialing up and listening to a long lost friend. What a joy it will be to talk with her one day in person.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Desires


It is birthday season for the Johnsons! Lilli turned 5 last August, Patton celebrated number 3 last week, and Aidan will be here soon! It is a great time to thank God for where He has led us and for a brief moment, when the huge cake is sitting at your place with ever increasing numbers of candles, you can dream about what you desire the future to be, make a wish and blow out the flames. Of course, you cannot tell anybody about your wish, because that will hinder it from coming true. So we keep it tucked away deep down in our hearts.

Why do we keep it a secret? Interestingly, Jesus tells us to ask the Father and He will give it to us. We do not have because we do not ask. Are we sure about this? Then in Psalms, David says that if we delight ourselves in the Lord, then He will give us the desires of our hearts. Really? I have often pondered these verses, vacillating between questioning the validity and seeking ways to cash in on the promises.

Over the past few months, I have spent a lot of time reading Psalms 37- the one that promises God will give us the desires of our heart. Going to Uganda, though it fits us, is completely out of left field. Before 8 months ago, I never thought we would be headed to Africa. China, India, Europe- maybe, but not Africa. I was careful not to tell God that we would never go to Africa- as you know that is a sure ticket on the next boat. Instead, we half jokingly pray that God will “not” send us to Hawaii. We actually just had never thought about the idea of missions in Africa. We did not even know where Uganda was on a map. Yet, we are on a fast track to Bundibugyo. How does this fit in with our desires?

In the past, when I would pray about my desires, I worked out a formula in my head. All day I would try extra hard at delighting in God and then, that night ask Him for a new bike or a certain date or whatever was next on my wish list. As I learned a little more, I began to see that everything I wanted was not always what God wanted. So I spent extra time trying to figure out what desires of mine were godly and then ask God for those. (I may have stretched the godly qualifications of some.) However, this Africa thing has thrown all my thoughts and ideas for a loop. Not to say this is even the right answer, but I am now wondering if maybe Jesus knows the desires of my heart more than I do. Maybe there are things out there that I want and do not know it. Maybe it is not about me picking out my greatest hopes and asking for them, nor is it trying to deny my wishes so I only have godly ones. Maybe God does want to give me what I want and I just do not always know what it is that I want. Lilli’s and Patton’s favorite foods and activities are often ones they initially did not want to touch. Now you cannot keep them away from it. They just didn’t know how fun bike riding is or how good olives taste. How could they if they had never tried it? The unknown often strikes more fear in our hearts than our current reality. We remain clueless about so much in this world. Wonderful things may lie on the other side of our wardrobe. Difficult-perhaps. Challenging- usually. Fun, delightful, and even desires of our heart? I don’t know. I don’t know what they are. But they may be!

I cannot honestly say that we are thrilled or even excited about going to Uganda all the time. It is a beautiful place with neat people and a job that fits our training. Still, it is so far away from those we love and so different from us. We find ourselves hesitant most of the time and fearful a lot of the time. There are no big houses or big paychecks. We will not have Sunday afternoon dinners with parents, boat rides on the lake with Papa and T-ball practice with Poppy. These are deep desires of ours. It is difficult to see how anything in Uganda could measure up. Yet, I am gaining hope that there are desires in Amy’s, Lilli’s, Patton’s, Aidan’s and my heart that will only be met there.

Thomas is one of my favorite Apostles, because he is honest. When Jesus sets out for Jerusalem the last time, the apostles think he is crazy because they know it will be certain death. Many counsel Him not to go. Seeing that He would not be persuaded, Thomas says, “ Lets all go that we may die with him.” What he sees in the future is bleak. But he would rather be with Jesus in bleakness than at home and safe. Jesus had asked him to go, and though he did not see anything hopeful in the situation, and said so, he went. And, as he predicted- Jesus died while everyone ran away. The disciples gathered back together to hide and I am sure Thomas was the one sitting in the corner waiting to hear the knock of the soldiers on the door. He questioned any hope that something other than death would occur, even when everyone was talking about a resurrection- life greater than death. God was setting up Thomas for something marvelously beautiful. Something just for him. His deepest hope, the most secret longing was met. His Lord suddenly stood in front of Him, asked him to touch Him. It was real- everything. The promise was true- all of it. What he dared to ask- happened. Thomas could not even reach out to touch Jesus. He fell face first and was the first to declare our risen Lord, God! God was his friend. God loved him. God sought him. God answered his question. God met his deepest longing. God was there, with him. He knew God and God knew him! Thomas’s greatest desire was met because he followed though he did not understand. He must have delighted in this Jesus. tj

Matthew 7:8, Psalms 37:4, John 11:16

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Three years of Steadfastness!




It is hard to believe that our little Patton Lang Johnson is now three years old! We celebrated yesterday with cupcakes in the morning, a special lunch with Travis at Hot Dog King (Patton's choice), a rowdy dinner at Moe's (kids eat free so there were lots of kids!), and a bright blue car cake at home. This morning, Patton woke us all up extra early so that he could have time to play with his new remote control train before preschool. He also enjoyed riding his new Spiderman scooter in the morning, afternoon and a mile loop tonight. Needless to say, he is a happy kid!

Patton continues to be a joy to us. Though his birth was fast and furious, (Travis almost delivered him on the side of Highway 25, but did end up catching him as soon as we arrived at the hospital as my midwife was not there yet!) Patton has continued to live up to his name's meaning...Steadfast. He has a funny little sense of humor, is a cuddler, loves to play with his sister, enjoys reading time, has a caring heart that apologizes for things that are not even his fault, and feels his emotions deeply. I am grateful for his place in our family and feel privileged to watch him grow in God's grace.

"Therefore, my beloved Patton, be steadfast, abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain." 1 Cor 15:58

Friday, September 25, 2009

Holding It Up To The Light


This is the first blog entry for Amy, though I have been credited with the others. I am grateful for the blog world, a way to connect with friends, especially when we have moved to a land oh, so far away!

This morning, I woke with the lyrics to the David Wilcox song, "Hold it up to the light" running through my head. Last night, I basically cried myself to sleep wondering how I would ever manage to move with a newborn and two small children to a remote area of Africa where I don't speak the language or know how to find and cook food with minimal electricity. How did I get to this place in life?

However, God's mercies are new every morning (and night too...that just means a good night's sleep for me!). He reminds me that it is The Loving Father's plan, The Gracious Son's will, and the Holy Spirit's empowerment that moves us. And He gives us choices. So, today, what am I going to choose? To be fearful, wallow in self-pity, and be immovable? Or will I trust, seek Him, and be willing to go?

So, today with the help of the Holy Spirit and the lyrics of David Wilcox, I choose to go. To hold all my fears and grieving and hopes and dreams up to the Light. And trust that God's timing is right.

"Hold It Up to the Light" by David Wilcox's
It's the choice of a lifetime - I'm almost sure
I will not live my life in between anymore
If I can't be certain of all that's in store
This far it feels so right
I will hold it up - hold it up to the light,
Hold it up to the light, hold it up to the light

The search for my future has brought me here
This is more than I'd hoped for, but sometimes I fear
That the choice I was made for will someday appear
And I'll be too late for that flight
So hold it up - hold it up to the light,
Hold it up to the light, hold it up to the light

It's too late - to be stopped at the crossroads
Each life here - a possible way
But wait - and they all will be lost roads
Each road's getting shorter the longer I stay

Now as soon as I'm moving - my choice is good
This way comes through right where I prayed that it would
If I keep my eyes open and look where I should
Somehow all of the signs are in sight
If I hold it up to the light

I said God, will you bless this decision?
I'm scared, Is my life at stake?
But I see if you gave me a vision
Would I never have reason to use my faith?

I was dead with deciding - afraid to choose
I was mourning the loss of the choices I'd lose
But there's no choice at all if I don't make my move
And trust that the timing is right
Yes and hold it up hold it up to the light
Hold it up to the light, hold it up to the light

..............................................

David Wilcox, all rights reserved

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Daddy, I am wonderful!



























We have loved our time in Colorado at MTI. MTI is a training institute that helps develop our understanding of ourselves, the culture we are heading to and how Christ's love for us is everything. They are teaching us how to be learners and how to see joy in each situation. We have also learned that life is like a pair of ducks (paradox). We live with great joy and great sorrow. These feelings usually come in pairs and God has designed us to live in both at once. This is truly how we feel and it is nice to be able to talk about it with each other and our kids, even if it means using a "yeah" duck and a "yuck"duck. According to Lilli, Africa has many yeah ducks, including new foods and new friends. However, she sees two main yuck ducks- lions and leaving grandparents and friends.
We have laughed a lot here and have many great stories we hope to share. My favorite is noted in the title. The children have been memorizing Psalms 139 and learning the promise that God has made us, loves us and will always be with us- even if we move far away. Patton's class learned the specific verse "I am fearfully and wonderfully made." I asked Patton one night on our sharing rock (a climbing rock on the playground), to share his verse. He looked at me, paused, then said in his sweet husky voice, "Daddy, I am wonderful!" I laughed, grabbed him up and declared, "Patton, you are wonderful!" What great news. When we see each other, we so often see how marred and scarred we are and live with fear or shame. But our Abba father sees us as wonderful!


Thursday, July 9, 2009

Curious


I am curious, or at least I am becoming curious. My whole life I have been carefully planning how I wanted to serve the Lord. Granted, the road to where I am has not always been what I planned- in fact far from it. But, each step of the way, I had some idea of how things might turn out. This has changed. Jesus has now shepherded us to a place where we would have never anticipated. We are on the road to Bundibugyo Uganda. I had no idea there was such a town a year ago. (I still often say we are headed to Africa, as if referring to a continent somehow gives an idea to people where we will be.) In the next several months we will raise more money than we have ever done in our life, we will have our third child, we will hopefully gather people to move with us, and we will board a plane to Bundibugyo. It is all so big to us that we often laugh. How will this happen? Maybe this should be labeled our Isaac period. At other times we have been overwhelmed and paralyzed. Like Jonah, we just wanted to act like no one was calling us and we could walk the other way.

Amazingly, it is happening- not by our will but by Jesus’s work- and I am becoming curious. When we talked with World Harvest Mission about where we should go and they brought up Bundibugyo, we were not sure. Jesus however confirmed this calling in clear and crazy way. Before we had made any decision, our home church in Fletcher, NC called us and told us how excited they were that we were going to Uganda and that they were already planning on developing relationship with the church in Uganda. When we talked to our pastor in Boston about possibly going to Uganda, we found out that his daughter had spent a year in Bundibugyo and they had a huge heart for the people. I then called to talk with my close friend and mentor from medical school and found out that he was planning a mission trip to Uganda and that MCO was looking at starting a long-term project in the country. Everywhere we turned it was like Jesus had gone before us and had already talked to people about what we might do. We then began meeting friends in Boston who were from Uganda, including people in government, who would be able to help us, and the Vice Chancellor of the closest medical school to Bundibugyo. Still, we remained skeptical and a little terrified. This came to a climax last April. We were in Boston preparing to move to NC in 6 weeks, and we still did not have either a house or job. I had got to the point of frustration and looked at my little family around the breakfast table and said we had to pray- not for the fifteen things we needed to happen, but just one. We needed a house, and if we couldn’t get a house in NC, I was not sure we could go to Africa. Two hours later, three people had called with a house where we could live. We ended up in a sweet house in East Flat Rock owned by a missionary in Germany. We later found out that she is a friend with one of our good friends in Boston. We had a house, and I began to feel like God was listening- a very humbling feeling. The next week we prayed for a job and two wonderful options were presented. Again Jesus proved that though He is shepherding us into unknown territory, He would be with us. Most recently, we had our first official support phone call. As our first call, we were a little nervous. We called our dear friends from medical school that we had not caught up with in quite some time. We were surprised to find that had already heard about Bundibugyo as well. They are supporting one of their friends from college who spent two years in Bundibugyo and is now returning to East Africa with WHM. With joy they were looking forward to supporting both the mission and us.

We still have a lot of needs and we still alternate between being excited about where Jesus is taking us and being overwhelmed about all that lies ahead of us. However, we are beginning to spend less time fretting about the “what if’s” and more time being curious to see how God is planning to meet the needs.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Sweet Farewells


Thank you friends and family for this past year.  It could not have been any better!  We are so thankful for our friends at the Shattuck International House who made our 500 sq foot apartment feel like home.  When we were looking at some gigantic houses on the north shore, Lilli stated, "these are not nearly as big as our home, and I bet they do not have as many friends living with them!"  We loved sharing Chateau Shattuck with you!  We are also thankful for Christ the King who has become a cherished spiritual family for us.  Thanks for your prayers and support.  We feel sent off with great love.  Thank you as well for the friends we have met at The School and in the community who have made the year fun.  Who would have thought you can make life long friends at the neighborhood tot-lot!   Thank you family for coming up and enjoying New England with us.  Thank you for loving us and  our kids so well!  Tomorrow we head to North Carolina for a short 6 month stop before we move to Uganda.  So, we are leaving Boston, with a piece of our heart staying behind. Please keep praying for us.  We promise to do the same for you.   Root on the Red Sox and share His love!