“I Was There” – A Christmas Story

When I was in Jr. High we were a part of a homeschool group that published a monthly newsletter. Students could send in poems or short story to share with the group. I was 14 when I wrote the following story to send in. It’s fun to see what I wrote all those years ago!

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The sun was setting and it was cooling down.  We all went to get our last drink for the night at a brook nearby.  Now there was nothing unusual about this because we did it every night.  We all enjoyed our drink.
Then it was time to go back to our grassy meadow.  We were all finding a comfortable spot to sleep when all of the sudden a bright light appeared!  It was an angel of the Lord!  Some of the others were afraid and ran away.  They must have gotten lost because I don’t remember ever seeing them again.  I certainly would not run away; I felt honored to be in the presence of an angel.
Then the angel said, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you; you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘”Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rest.”‘*
Then the angels left us. We were taken to find the Christ child.  Just the idea that I was there the day that Christ was born was really exciting.  When we found him it was as the angel said.  He was wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.  I stood next to him and watched him as he slept.  I thought, this is Jesus Christ, my Creator and the one that has come to save the world from their sons.  This was a special day.  It was the first Christmas.
*Luke 2:10-14

Carols by Candlelight

One thing that took awhile to figure out when I moved to Dakar was…were to go to church. I visited some Senegalese churches mostly for cultural immersion, especially since they were in French. Some Sunday’s I stayed home and listen to my pastor’s message online or watched a sermon. A handful of times I went to church a Dakar Academy (Christian school for missionary kids and international students) just a short walk from my house.

But there was one church that after being there a few times I started to feel comfortable, International Christian Fellowship. It’s a church full of people from all over the world who are in Dakar for a dozen different reasons, but are all looking for a place to worship God.

I can’t say that I feel super connected there yet, but I like the fact that everyone is very friendly and genuine. My hope is to push myself to get involved in small ways and start to get to know more people. But for now, I’m very thankful to have a church that is involved in reaching out to the people in this city!

Tonight I enjoyed an evening of singing Christmas carols with this new church family. Although it’s December in some ways it felt more like the 4th of July…everyone sitting on blankets and wearing their sandals. (Even though it was in the mid-70’s I was feeling quite cool.) It was a special evening and beautiful to be a part of an outdoor candlelight service (keeping the candles lit proved to be quite tricky). I will still miss being a part of the Christmas Eve service at home this year, but I’m thankful for new experiences!

Change is good…?

I’m not a big fan of change.  But God has brought me through many changes in my life.  Some of them normal changes that everyone faces at sometime or another…and some less common.

I don’t like change much more now, then I did as an 8-year-old.  I remember one night getting out of bed and crying to my Mom and Dad…why was I crying?  Because I didn’t want to grow up.  I experienced those same feelings many times throughout my growing up years, I can remember many nights thinking, “I wish I could go back to being a little kid again.” Finally in my mid to late teens I decided I didn’t want to go through the work of growing up again…so I had better get use to the idea of becoming an adult.

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It’s funny thinking about that now!  It seems so long ago.  I glad I can look back on my life and see how God works through the changes…how he has shaped me into the woman I am today.  But even still, I sometimes still find myself struggling to stay the same, to avoid change.

Some changes are so necessary in our lives.  Such as repenting of sin and choosing to allow God to wash us clean.  One big change for me this year has been moving to Senegal…choosing to face a big change in my life in order to follow God’s leading.  It is not easy and some days I wonder why God has asked me to make such a big change.  I’m so thankful that if I take the time to look back on my life, thus far, I can see God’s hand in it all changing me and shaping me.  I am choosing to respond with trust in God to the changes I face.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  2 Corinthians 12:9

By the way…do you like the changes I made to the blog? 😉

Gardening in Dakar

 

When I decided to start a blog I told myself I would never apologize for long periods of silence.  When I was young it seemed like every letter I wrote to family or friends far away began with…”I’m sorry it’s been so long since I wrote.”  I would feel guilty because I had intended to write and just hadn’t done it.

Sometimes it’s so easy to get busy living life, that making time to connect with people who are important to us gets lost in the shuffle.

This weekend I had a phone call with a lifelong friend and I was reminded of why I began blogging…I want to share my life with you.  I want you to know a little more about me as you read my posts.  It’s important to me.

Since moving to Africa you would think I would have lots of exciting things to share, but it doesn’t always feel that way.  My mornings are filled with my ministry and the rest of the day is spent in a variety of tasks…checking/responding to emails, doing laundry, trips to the grocery store, taking  naps – I don’t know if this really can be considered a task but it is part of some of my afternoons, studying Wolof, making dinner and taking care of my garden.

But while all of these things seem very routine to me, you may still find them interesting.  So I will try to give you a  picture of what my life in Senegal is like.

 

Gardening in Dakar

 

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This picture was taken in the beginning of June. We bought 5 bags of dirt to fill empty pots that we already had and bought 3 new pots to fill.

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Here are the cucumbers growing up their trellis and their neighbors, the basil plants. The basil is really liking the hot humid weather in Senegal!

 

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The cucumbers have put out so many blossoms…but sadly no little cucumbers.

 

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Our young carrots being protected from the birds who like our roof.

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A zucchini flower! I’m anxiously awaiting eating my first zucchini.

 

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Our volunteer tomato…we are hoping for a beefsteak. We planted cherry tomatoes from seed and they are doing well too. I love how fuzzy tomato plants look!

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We have been enjoying the beautiful purples of these plants we got from a teammate. The one with the light purple flowers are Russian Sage.

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God provided me with an unfinished courtyard that I decided would make a perfect garden…I named it “The Secret Garden”.  It’s small but things are growing!

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Green bean blossoms with white fly larva. (Any hints for getting rid of white flies? I would love to hear them.)

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Look! Our first green bean…we are going to cut it into thirds and share it!

Gardening is in my blood.

It is definitely different growing plants on a rooftop garden in pots and a small sandy courtyard, then growing a 1/2 acre garden in Minnesota with my family.  But I am so thankful God has given me a way to connect with Him through growing things!

While I was writing this I took a break to go water my plants on the roof and got to enjoy a gentle rain…such a long-awaited joy!

Thanks for taking the time to connect with me.

 

God’s Will

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Bougainvillea flowers @ World Venture Senegal’s beach camp

I’m so thankful for the way God uses His word to speak into our heart!  I wish that I could say that I always live my life rejoicing, praying and giving thanks…but I don’t.  But when I do, I always feel more at peace about God’s will for my life.

God has been so good to me as I have begun to make Senegal my new home.  He has given me such peace through all the changes of moving a world away from the familiar and has reminded me that being in the center of His will is my heart’s desire!  That’s not to say I don’t miss home (family, friends, my church, ministries, lakes, trees, my dog and all things familiar), because I do.  But even in the missing I am reminded…God called me here, to this place, at this time, for a reason!  He has plans for my life.  Plans I can only begin to grasp.  My job in life is to follow His will for me…and He will never leave me or forsake me!

As I sit here in my African home, my prayer is that you are seeking to live out God’s will for your life.  That together we are learning more and more to “rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances”!

God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called.

I’m sorry it has been so long since I have shared anything with you.  The last few months have been so filled with preparing to move to Senegal…and now I am here!  I arrived in Dakar less then a week ago and have already begun to settle in.  Hopefully, now that I have arrived I will be more consistent with posting.

Although I haven’t been writing here about all that has happened in the last few week, I have been updating family and friends through Facebook.   So I thought that for now I would share those updates with all of you!

The last few weeks in review…

Sunday, April 6th – “Today I experienced such an outpouring of love from my church family at Faithbridge Church! This morning started out with a commissioning service – to pray for me and send me out from the church body to be God’s hands and feet in Senegal. After church, some of my dear friends had planned a pot-luck to give me a chance to say goodbye to so many special people in my life. I am still in awe of all the love and encouragement I received today!!! Thank you all so much for your love and prayers…I will miss worshiping and serving with you in Park Rapids!”

 

Wednesday, April 9th – “FSM staff (Thanks for the memories Kim – Africa is not that far away, besides now that your planted in West Africa we can rotate our students over there, summer of 2015, right)” – Phil

My last night working alongside Patti and Phil (our youth pastor).

Friday, April 11th – “Today I said the last of my goodbyes in Park Rapids…now I’m on my way to the cities for some time with my family before I fly out on Sunday! A very emotional day, but I am so excited to be on my way!”

Sunday, April 13th – “Our girl enjoying a drink from Caribou Coffee!!!” – Mom

Here’s me and my Dad…waiting for my flight!

Tuesday, April 15th – “Sunday I said goodbye to Minnesota and my dear family. Thank you all for praying for us…although it was very hard to say goodbye I definitely felt God’s peace through it all! When I was checking in I asked if it was possible to get passes for my family to come to the gate with me (explaining that I was leaving to live in Africa for two years) and they said yes. What a great blessing!!! I’ve been having a great visit with family and fly out for Dakar tomorrow night. I’ll be sure to check in with all of you sometime Thursday or Friday.”

My older brother Mark and my niece Caelyn were able to come spend some time with me before I left…I’m so glad they came!

Thursday, April 17th – “Praise the Lord we just got a call from Kimberly Johnson and she is safe in Africa after a good flight!!! We will all continue to pray for you as this new phase of your journey with God begins! Love, Dad & Mom”

“God is so good! I have arrived in Dakar safe and sound! I left the airport in Washington, DC at 6pm last night and got here around 6am (the time zone here is 5 hours ahead of MN). It is a little after 2pm here now…I have had breakfast, a tour of my new home, begun to unpack, seen much of Dakar on a trip the a grocery store and taken a nap. Thank you all so much for your prayers! I had a good flight and was able to get some sleep.”

Friday, April 18th – “I’m still working on getting a short video put together…but it’s all new to me so it’s taking longer then anticipated. Today I got to meet many of my World Venture teammates at a team meeting. It was great to meet them and begin getting to know them all! It was 84F today…just a little warm for me! But tomorrow should be a little cooler.”

Saturday, April 19th – The first picture is of my new home! The rest are from the park and zoo just a short walk from home. I loved sitting by the lake with Denise today…different birds and a much warmer temperature, but it felt a little like MN! God is so good! Happy Easter! 


Sunday, April 20th – “This morning I enjoyed an outdoor Easter Sonrise service at Dakar Academy! It wasn’t quite like home…but the students did a great job with the choir and drama! In the afternoon I went with the McCarthys to another missionary couple’s home for Easter Dinner. Which included ham and lemon meringue pie! Happy Easter!!!”

 

So there you have it.  I hope that gives you a good picture of what the last few weeks have looked like for me!

“Here am I. Send me.”

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“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Matthew 6:33-34

2In January I spent 10 days at World Venture Headquarters in Littleton, Colorado.  During my first few days there I attended Pre-Departure training, which was filled with great information to help me prepare for this next chapter in my journey.  The sessions covered topics such as integrity, mourning, transitions, as well as logistical issues of moving to another country.

During my time in Colorado I also attended Renewal Conference, which is held annually for all World Venture missionaries on home assignment.  The goal of RC is to help us missionaries connect on a deeper level with God, each other and World Venture.  The first few days were spent in corporate and personal prayer, along with times of worship.  Later on in the week we heard from many of the World Venture leadership and missionaries, giving guidance and encouragement to each of us.

My time was blessed by all that I was learning and also by the friendships God placed in my life.  I was blessed by getting to know three other single ladies who are each on their own journey to locations around the world, it’s so nice to have friends who are headed down the same road you are.

I also got to meet the lovely ladies in the picture above, each of them have been serving God in Senegal for many years.  They were all so welcoming and encouraging to me and I can’t wait to join them in ministry!

 

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God has used so many different things to speak into my life and lead me to become a missionary.  For over a decade I have told God, “I will go. Send me.”  Now the time has come, God is sending me out.  If everything goes as planned the next newsletter you receive from me will be sent from Senegal!  It’s such an amazing feeling to look back on my life and see the gentle ways God has been directing my life and to see his faithfulness in getting me to this point.
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The question I have heard a lot recently is, “Do you have a departure date set?”  The exciting answer is that I do have a tentative date set.  It’s only tentative because I haven’t been given clearance to buy a ticket yet, but soon!

Another question I hear often is, “Are you getting excited?”  I have such a mixed reaction to this.  I am definitely excited for what God is doing in my life and I’m looking forward to seeing how he will use me in Senegal.  But, I also struggle with being anxious about all the changes that await me.  I know that moving to a new country won’t be easy and I don’t relish being away from my family and friends.  I’m so thankful to be able to look back at my life and see how God has provided for me and my family, it helps me remember that he will continue to provide.

Final Thoughts…

As I sit here writing to you it is 2 degrees outside, with big beautiful snowflakes gently falling and I am relishing the view.   As much as this winter has been cold and long, I know when I’m in Africa I will miss looking out my window in the winter and see the snow falling.  But I can’t wait to see what sights and sounds await me that I can share with you!

I truly covet your prayers over the coming weeks.  There are so many goodbye I must say, all with differing degrees of difficultly.  I know that God will see me through this step of following him, but I ask you to pray that those I leave behind with be reminded of the same thing!

 

One-time Expenses – 100%

Monthly Expenses – 90%

 

Thank you for your prayers,

Kim Johnson

 

 

Leaving on a jet plane…

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Today a missionary friend posted a link to an article on Facebook, it was titled “You Take Yourself With You (And Other Important Things About Living Overseas)”.  The author did a great job on being transparent about what it’s like being a missionary, it’s not as glamorous as we sometimes imagine.  Even those of us who know it’s hard and have heard the real life stories tend to view a missionary’s life through rose colored glasses.

I wanted to share this with all of you so that you might have a window into what I will be facing in the not so distant future.  I know many of you are already praying for me…thank you! I hope this gives you fresh insight into how to pray for me and for other missionaries you know.

You Take Yourself With You (And Other Important Things About Living Overseas)

The call from the American University in Cairo came on a Sunday morning, a business day in the Middle East. I had worked the night shift as a nurse and arrived home in time to eat breakfast and  hug my husband and three children, sending them on their way to church while I got much needed sleep.

As I lay on my bed in the warmth of that August morning, the phone rang. It was an administrator from the American University in Cairo. I don’t remember much about that phone call but her final words to me were these: “Tell your husband that his future at the American University in Cairo looks very promising”

Two weeks later we were in Cairo with our youth, our passion, and our three little ones. 

And that’s when it got hard. Because there are some important things that we didn’t realize when we were on one side of the pond – the side where churches applauded us and raised prayers on our behalf; the side where Christian fellowship was easy to find and when I was tired I could open up a box of macaroni and cheese for dinner.

Here are some of the things I learned as I unpacked my bags and hung my heart.

Click here to read the whole article…

New Friends

This past week I have had the chance to make many new friends and see old ones.  I have been at World Venture in Littleton, Colorado for my last missionary training and for Renewal Conference

Missionaries who are on home assignment with World Venture come to Renewal Conference to be informed and encouraged.

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This was our first day of Pre-Departure training…the staff at headquarters helped us celebrate how far God has brought us in our journey. The sparkling cider was great and the joy expressed on our behalf brought tears to my eyes!

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This is me and my new friend Hannia…she is also from MN and is headed to the Philippines to minister through Agricultural Community Development!

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During our free weekend Hannia and I went for a hike at Red Rocks. The views were amazing, the weather was beautiful and the time for growing our friendship was priceless!

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Each of these ladies has become such a blessing in my life! Spending time with other single ladies with a similar passion for God and missions has been so encouraging. (Clockwise: Soraya – Spain, Hannia – Philippines and Karen – Uganda)

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After 44 years of ministry with World Venture Marilyn Escher, missionary to Senegal, retired! I was invited by the rest of the Senegal team to join them in a celebration dinner in her honor.

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Each of these lovely ladies has been serving in Senegal for a number of years. I am so glad I got to meet them this week and I’m looking forward to learning about missions from them and serving together!!!

God’s timing

Hello friends and family!

Right now I am in Littleton, Colorado getting settled in for my last training with World Venture!  You may remember reading in my December Newsletter that I needed to reach 60% by the end of December in order to go to Pre-Departure training in January (and if I missed that training the next one wasn’t until June).  Well, as I have seen many times in the last 6 months God provided above and beyond what I needed.  As of today I have partners for 78% of my monthly expenses!!!
 
I will be in Colorado until the 24th of January and I will be home and will begin the final stretch to the finish line.  I am hoping to be ready to leave for Senegal in early March…but we shall see what God has planned! I have to have 100% of my expenses raised before I can leave, so please be in prayer.  I know that if God wants me in Senegal in March he can make that happen and if he has a different timing planed, then it will be perfect! 
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Here is a picture of World Venture’s headquarters where my training is taking place.  There will be 18 of us involved in this training, which is aimed at preparing us for the next few months ahead and transitioning to the mission field!  
 
Thank you all for your prayers…I am so thankful to have so many Godly people in my life!!!