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The Beautiful, Challenging, Deliberate, Fulfilling Call to be a Missionary

PneumaReview.com speaks with Dave Johnson about the publication of his book, Answering God’s Call: Reflections of a Veteran Missionary in Asia.

 

Pneuma Review: Please tell our readers how you came to understand that the Lord was calling you into missions.

Dave Johnson: I was in the Navy when God called me to the ministry. When I got out of the Navy, I went to Bible College to prepare for that calling, although I did not know at the beginning the kind of ministry to which God was calling me. In my senior year, God spoke to me about becoming a missionary, but he first directed me to further education.

 

Pneuma Review: What advice would you give to a person who thinks that they may be called to missions?

Dave Johnson: They should be sure of their calling, grow in their spiritual disciplines and in their walk with God, gain some ministry experience at home first and then pursue their calling without fear.

 

Pneuma Review: Once it has been determined that an individual is called what should they do in order to prepare for the field?

Dave Johnson: This depends on the person and the ministry to which they feel called. They should certainly gain some ministry experience here and formal training is usually a good idea. They should also talk with their pastor and contact the leadership of the mission they wish to join to see what their requirements and advice would be.

 

Pneuma Review: What are some of the challenges that a missionary can expect to encounter on the mission field?

Dave Johnson: Probably the greatest challenge is to die to ourselves. We must die to our desires, our dreams, as well as the prejudices and the narcissism of our age that have so greatly impacted the Church. Missions is not about me or my own fulfillment. It’s about loving God and responding to his dreams for our lives. After 29 years in missions, this remains my greatest challenge.

Being a missionary is … about loving God and responding to his dreams for our lives.

The other challenges involve cultural adjustment, language learning, and getting used to living in another country. For those living in the developing world, the challenges that come with the lack of the amenities of home can compound the adjustment.

 

Pneuma Review: Give us an example of how you dealt with one of these challenges.

Dave Johnson: I’ll tackle language and cultural adjustment here. My approach was to immerse myself in the language and culture from the very beginning. I was single at the time and took the opportunity to live with a Filipino family. They were very Filipino about their approach to life and this presented me with the opportunity to experience life through their eyes from the very beginning. While the adults normally preferred to speak to me in English, much to my dismay, the children were happy to converse in Tagalog. Since my fluency level was much lower than theirs, I had to become like a child again in learning the language and culture. It was a humbling but ultimately a very rewarding experience. On any given day, living in another culture could be very rewarding or very frustrating. It was often both on the same day!

Pneuma Review: Have you ever doubted your missionary call? If you have, how did you get past that doubt?

Dave Johnson: In the years following seminary I followed the Lord’s leading and engaged in evangelistic work, which included short term missionary trips. Since the door to full time missions wasn’t opening as I had hoped, I went through a period of doubt that I called “The valley of the death of the vision.” After a few years, however, the Lord resurrected my vision and sent me forward into missions.

 

Pneuma Review: How important is self-care for the missionary?

Dave Johnson: It is critical. Missionaries should always take the long view of their missions calling. Leading a balanced life and making time for intimacy with Christ and with time with our spouse and children, as well as time for ourselves, is important to remaining on the field long-term. We need margin in our lives because we are human. God never intended that we work all the time.

 

Pneuma Review: Missionary work is not “one size fits all.” You have served in a number of different ministries. Please tell our readers about them.

Dave Johnson: I arrived in the Philippines in 1994. After taking a year for language learning and cultural adjustment, I reengaged my calling as an evangelist and began traveling to many parts of the Philippines, along with an assistant, to conduct Good News Rallies for existing churches and new church plants. At first, I based in Manila. After Debbie and I married and she had completed language studies, we ultimately moved to the Legazpi City area, about 350 south of Manila, and continued evangelistic ministry, although we restricted ourselves to southern Luzon and engaged in working in a Bible school to honor Debbie’s calling and gifting in teaching. We remained in the area for 13 years.

“I wrote this book out of a keen, Holy Spirit-directed desire to leave a legacy.” – from the Epilogue of Answering God’s Call

There I developed and mentored an evangelistic team that normally included three assistants at any given time. As one of them matured into becoming the team leader, I was able to honor requests from the Assemblies of God World Missions (AGWM) leadership to assume other responsibilities that called for a lot of trips to Manila and elsewhere in the country. I oversaw the translation of the Full Life Study Bible (also known as the Fire Bible) into the Tagalog and Cebuano languages. I also served as the field moderator, which called for a lot of interaction with the other missionaries and the local Assemblies of God leadership. I served a total of six years in this position. While living in Legazpi, I also completed my doctorate in missiology, more commonly known today as intercultural studies and wrote my first term, Led By the Spirit: The History of the American Assemblies of God Missionaries in the Philippines[1], which was published in 2009. I later also published my doctoral dissertation under the title Theology in Context: A Case Study in the Philippines.

In 2012, I was invited to become the managing editor of the Asian Journal of Pentecostal Studies, the official publication of the Asia Pacific Theological Seminary (APTS), the Assemblies of God school for higher theological education in the Asia Pacific, which is located in Baguio City, Philippines. At first, these positions were part-time, but in 2013, the Lord lead us to terminate our ministry in Legaspi and move to APTS and become part of the full time faculty.

Asia Pacific Theological Seminary Press is filling the gap: books and journals from western authors often do not address the real and felt needs of Asians.

At APTS, I focused mainly on the publishing, but also became the coordinator of the Master of Theology Program and taught one missions course.

In addition to all of these roles over the years, I tried to support Debbie in the various roles that she undertook.

Pneuma Review: You are currently involved in publishing with Asia Pacific Theological Seminary Press. Tell us a little about the purpose, or focus, of the books that you publish.

Dave Johnson: The purpose of both the Press and the Journal is to deal with theological, missiological and ecclesiastical issues that pastors, theologians and churches deal with in Asia. Due to the different cultures and the strong presence of other global and local religions, the issues faced in Asia are substantially different than those in the West. This means that books and journals from western authors often do not address the real and felt needs of Asians. We seek to fill that lacuna.

 

Pneuma Review: Where can people purchase your book Answering God’s Call and the books published by Asia Pacific Theological Seminary Press?

Dave Johnson: All of our books and Journal editions are available at www.aptspress.org. We also license most of books to Wipf & Stock and can be accessed at www.wipfandstock.org. They can also be read for free at Open Access Digital Theological Library, www.oadtl.org. The books can also be purchased directly through www.amazon.com and www.kobo.com.

 

PR

 

Notes

[1] Editor’s note: Led By the Spirit is being published serially in Pneuma Review. Read the first chapter. Read Malcom Brubaker’s review of Led By the Spirit.

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Category: Fall 2021, Ministry

About the Author: Dave Johnson, M.Div., D.Miss. (Asia Graduate School of Theology, Philippines), is an Assemblies of God missionary to the Philippines. Dave and his wife Debbie have been involved in evangelism, church planting, and Bible school and mission leadership. Dave is the Managing Editor of Asian Journal of Pentecostal Studies, the director of APTS Press in Baguio City, Philippines and coordinator for the Asian Pentecostal Theological Seminary's Master of Theology Program. http://apts.academia.edu/DaveJohnson Facebook Twitter

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