A journey toward empowerment #01_8-22-17

My name is C Danny Johnson. I grew up in San Bernardino, California. I had my first experience as a Christian missionary in 1998. In hindsight, I was rather poorly prepared for the trip, but at the time it was okay. I was the only person of color on the trip. I was not made to feel out of place for that, I did that all on my own. The role I was intended to play was to be the chaplain for the group of volunteer dentist. As a pastor at the time that seemed fitting, but I was so uncomfortable, so anxious and hesitant that it took a few days before I began to appreciate the experience of Belize, Central America.

By the third day, my host for the venture Dr. Randy Huffines D.D., sensing my discomfort had an idea. He gave me his Polaroid camera, informing me that the people with whom we were engaging were not used to such technology and that it might help me bridge my sense uselessness. It did help and became the breakthrough for me to connect. I was not one of “them,” but I was identifying because as curious as the technology was, it was new to me too. They just didn’t know it. I took pictures of children, they laughed and loved it that they could immediately take the photos with them. The adults enjoyed the playfulness of it all. It was a wonderful feeling. Some of what I was told concerning “them” was not exactly true. They were poor, needed dental help, lacked resource and were open to the Gospel, but they were not as backward as I had been led to believe by the group leader.

They were like me, a different culture and language, but just people like I had known all my life.

This revelation was liberating, almost to a foolish degree. I started to venture out alone, sharing with people and just enjoying the fellowship. It could have been dangerous, but I had had a breakthrough and I was running with it. At that point, the information about there being no churches or pastors was not accurate. I met pastors and we discovered ways of interacting other than what I had been prepped for. I was just a person among people, encouraging as I went along. They were still poor, but I was too in my own context. A passion was born to be a person among people believing in Jesus as Savior. This began a journey that continues to this day. Though the focus has shifted to East Africa, I see ministry as an outgrowth of this primal experience. The Gospel was more than words about Jesus, it was something tangible and I was compelled to learn how to make that a more practical reality in all my ministry efforts.

Missions and ministry are my constant preoccupation. I think about it all time. Though I came to the subject via a traditional evangelical path; once I began to experience things for myself, my views began to change. I did and still, agree that the core objective is to share the love of God through Christ. Yet I also began to see that this could be done in ways I had not foreseen nor ready about. I could appreciate the great works that had been done that changed the lives of people in different parts of the world. I had mad respect for those who literally gave their lives for the opportunity to share the Gospel. I also saw the downsides that were the result of cultural colonialism. In some ways, I learned that if one was not very careful, you could learn to do things in very wrong ways with horrible results. Sometimes, the helping hand can become the hurting hand, the handicapping hand, the destabilizing hand.

I wanted to learn how to help and not hurt. I was not always successful. But I am still living and learning.

I will post weekly the journey that I have taken. I am starting at the beginning but current efforts are my goal. I hope and pray that those who decide to come along for the ride will become lovers of mission’s ministries. I hope and pray that some will support our efforts and join the journey toward empowerment.

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