Something happened … we went from a very comfortable-typical American-Christian-homeschool (Classical Conversations)-boating-dirt biking-mountain biking-camping type family to something different.
We went from living the blessed, good life to being basically homeless and jobless with nothing in months.
But it’s not how it sounds; we are excited about this and count it a privilege! Here is how it all came about…
If you know us, you would know that we are always looking to the Lord for his leading in our lives and we have tried to live in such a way that nothing is off the table. We have tried to live in a way that is fully committed to going and doing anything for the kingdom. But it didn’t look much different than most other normal, healthy, thriving families.
Before we were married, Sara was applying to New Tribes (now Ethnos 360). And I remember early on in the military having the revelation that I was a missionary on the government’s tab while serving. We have always had a slight bend towards missions. However, due to our love, loyalty, and respect for our local churches, we have also been very biased towards traditional church ministry. We have often served, led, and started different ministries within our local churches. As a family, we have tried to pursue a life of being intentional about our Kingdom work while maintaining a pretty normal life. But after meeting some friends at family camp years ago, we started getting involved as a family with trips to Tijuana to help with an orphanage. We had a positive experience and definitely wanted more of it.
Personally, I have been serving as a lay leader, elder, corporate treasurer, troop master, and interim preacher for our local church for the last seven years. It has been a rich, rewarding ministry. I have also been serving on several other boards in different capacities and durations. I really enjoy my board work; Sara always jokes it’s my hobby. I just view it as being a good steward of my gifts and opportunities to serve in the kingdom. My personal goal since becoming an elder at church, after revamping our church’s mission philosophy and practice, was to visit each missionary that our church supports in their respective field of ministry. I was delayed by the pandemic in fulfilling that goal.
Last year, however, I went to Africa to visit an orphanage our church is heavily invested in. I was able to do some good work with the leadership while there. I really liked that ministry and very much wanted to be more involved. I was not opposed to doing more or even moving there. But there was no calling specifically–plus Sara and the boys did not share the same calling. This trip I would say was a pivotal point. I saw that some of my deepest desires were for ministry and serving in another nation was a real option. When I returned, there was a longing to be engaged fully in a work like that, but I quickly realized that I was making current life decisions that were not setting us up for that outcome.
When Sara and I prayed and thought about things, we felt led by the Lord to get ready for a change; we had no idea what was on the horizon. Maybe God was just preparing us for a downturn or a lateral move in my career or shift in our local church ministry. We sensed the need to prepare for change. We did things like sell our boat. We were praying for direction and trying to prepare for something, just not knowing what. Nothing was off the table for us.
When I started planning a trip to Guatemala to visit missionaries our church supports, a couple of things happened. Our pastor and leadership encouraged me to take a team and to do some construction work on the property of the mission. Sara insisted that the boys and she should go too. Honestly, I did not want to go like this. I liked the idea of just a quick visit to see the missionaries and ministry. I liked the idea of just being self-funded (as in the past). I did not want to take all the time and effort for a group trip or to take more than a long weekend. Plus, there was the added cost and hassle of traveling with Sara and our three sons, leading a team of families that were unfamiliar with missions and traveling abroad. I just wanted to do it like I was used to with my military experience: fast and light. I was used to bouncing around the world in a 2-6 man team for quick missions. This quick-mission-site visit was blowing up to a much bigger deal than anticipated.
I had no idea what was coming.
I’m getting wiser for sure because I actually listened to Sara and saw the opportunity to support our church leadership by leading this team (Sara is usually more right and Holy than me, so deep down I knew it was the right thing to do). We began the fundraising, team meetings, and training.
The trip went well though not great by any means.
We had some tough sickness to deal with, team drama and tensions; even Sara and I were very impatient with each other and struggled through the first part of the trip. But the work was good and the ministry was great. I was especially impressed with the breadth of the ministry, the work ethic and the commitment of the missionaries.
I was completely broken for the deaf people of Guatemala. The need is so big and real and the opportunities are endless.
There was a hardness developing in my heart before the trip. For one, my heart’s desire was to be involved in full-time ministry in the USA. Even though we are very engaged and doing a good work in our church, it just did not satisfy this God-given desire to do more with the Lord and for His Kingdom.
The hardness was developing as a result of wanting to do more. Our family, faith, community, and life were thriving but there was a staleness, an unfulfilling feeling with it all. Something was on the horizon, but we did not know what or when that change was going to be. The waiting was leading to this unsettledness. I felt like I was being forced to sit on my hands and bite my tongue—just staying busy with good things but not really living the passion that God has given us.
I found myself frustrated when I read the words of Jesus in Matthew 9:37 “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few.”
Embarrassingly, I kind of balked at that. Even though in our church ministries we were seeing significant spiritual gains, it paled to what was on Sara’s and my heart.
When we went to Guatemala, it was like I could see color again or I could see the horizon, and it was big and wide. We saw a country that is ripe for the harvest and a work that really has few laborers. The current missionaries are trail blazers and have established a strong foundation, and their ministry is ready to shift. They have built a K – 12 school, training in woodworking, metalworking, and sewing, and a church plant, all for the deaf community.
During the trip we did not really experience our calling, no signs or warm, fuzzy feelings. Many parts of it were hard and undesirable, but overall, it was good. However, on the last day the team was sitting around talking about how much they enjoyed it and everyone hoped to come back, but they were really looking forward to getting home. They were, in a sense, over it. But something weird happened with Sara, me and our boys … we had a dread of going home. Something like a deep sadness.
Our hearts were already being planted in Guatemala. We did not want to go home.
When we got home, it was basically life as we left it, except Sara and I were praying for anything but normal. Our prayer was “God, would you allow us to go?” Something was happening. We took a week apart praying and fasting. Sara went on a planned road trip with family (her happy place) and I stayed home and hammered out my work (my happy place).
After praying and fasting we came back together and it was confirmed … God was leading us to work full-time in Guatemala.
We reached out to the missionaries in Guatemala to see if they felt the same way and if they would be open with starting this conversation and process with us. They were over the moon! They said that they had been praying nearly daily for the last three years for a younger family to come help. They know us pretty well already and we have lots of common friends; it was an easy “yes” for them.
It has been a whirlwind since. We sought counsel from our pastor, who confessed that he had been praying that God would show us our niche because he could see that we were chomping at the bit. We asked our elders to pray with us and see if this was really God’s leading. We submitted to the leadership and asked if they thought what we saw as God’s leading was a true leading from God. It all came back with green lights all around.
Sara and I committed in our hearts to move forward in faith that God was leading us to pursue this work in Guatemala full-time. We flew through the assessments, interviews, and application process.
We were formally invited to join the Guatemala Deaf Ministry on September 22, 2022 and we accepted.
If that was a whirlwind then, we are now in a hurricane! Our family is doing well. It’s hard getting rid of everything and saying goodbye. We often say, “It’s the most exciting time and the saddest time” (and now the busiest time). We have been really busy sorting and packing, training, working on partnership development, researching, preparing, taking visits with friends and family, sharing what God is doing, turning over ministries and lots of learning about what our new life and ministry will be.
Please pray with us that God will give us favor and we will be able to glorify Him in Guatemala…
Here’s another Fruitful missions story: Find Your Mission, Change Your World CLICK HERE
JON JOHNSON is a missionary serving with his wife and three sons in Guatemala. Jon is avid about discipling and developing individuals, families, businesses, and churches to engage in Kingdom work that brings glory to God. After completing 13 years of military service in the US Navy Seabees, Jon transitioned to construction management before becoming a full-time missionary with Shepherds Staff. Jon holds a Bachelor of Science in Religion from Liberty University and a Masters in Business Administration from BIOLA University. He serves as the Assistant Director for Guatemala Deaf Ministries in El Progreso, Jutiapa, Guatemala, a ministry that teaches and reaches the deaf for the Lord Jesus Christ. Jon also serves on the board for African Orphan Outreach. He is a proponent for missions to work towards sustainable business models through entrepreneur endeavors and business-as-mission models.
You can connect with JON JOHNSON through the following links…
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