Congregation on Call
Called to Support Missions
An Interview With Sam and Jane Johnson
For decades, Sam and Jane Johnson have supported IM, Inc. prayerfully and financially. Their depth of knowledge of the day-to-day operations of IM is impressive. Clint Morgan, IM’s general director, recently visited with the Johnsons to discuss how they stay so connected.
Clint: Seeing your level of awareness in missions, I can’t help but think something triggered your interest.
Sam: Nothing stands out. It just seems like we have been involved in missions from the very beginning. The first missionaries I got to know were Dan and Trula Cronk. I think I was around 12. The Cronks spent a week with us in VBS. I attended Grace Church in North Carolina, and the pastor was very missions-minded, so we had missionaries, I’m sure. Later, we moved to Nashville, and the pastors here have always been involved in missions and led us to be involved.
I can’t remember a time when we didn’t support missions. The first time we supported a missionary, it was for $5 a month. Of course, that was a long time ago, so it was a lot more money then than it is now. We do a little better than that now. (Laughter in the room.)
Another thing that helps is we keep up with IM. We pray through Hotline [IM’s weekly prayer update] every day. Lynette [Morgan] helps us keep up as well.
Jane: My experience was about the same. I grew up on the coast of Carolina in a very old but active church. We had missionaries come all the time. I don’t remember all the missionaries. That was too many years ago, but they came periodically. The church I attended was called St. Mary’s. It’s not with the denomination anymore, but it was very involved in missions in those days.
Clint: You talked about meeting Dan Cronk. Can you remember your impressions of him at all?
Sam: I remember more about Trula because she was more involved with the kids. Dan preached at night and Trula did the VBS. Dan wasn’t as involved with the VBS. Dan was a tall, straightforward, “lay-it-on- the-line” kind of person. He was the same even at the college. He was punctual. He had things well in mind, organized, and so forth.
Clint: Do other missionaries come to mind?
Sam: We had a few missionaries who visited Hillmont Camp [the camp the Johnsons started and led for many years]. Eddie Payne came around often. Sam Wilkerson visited the camp for about a week. Fred Hersey visited much later. We’ve just known mission people and been involved over the years.
And that’s another thing. Do you remember Heartbeat magazine the mission used to put out? We would read the Heartbeat as soon as it came out, cover to cover.
Clint: It is unbelievable how connected you still are with IM. What is happening right now, that excites you?
Sam: There is so much going on. It’s everywhere you look; every story is more exciting than the one before. The news from Bulgaria, Spain, France, and Japan is very exciting. I’m excited to see what is going to happen in Pakistan. It was mentioned that a family evacuated from Afghanistan to Pakistan and that Pakistani churches are helping them. And it was said that Bangladesh is opening.
I wondered how in the world are we going to open those areas. It will be exciting to see what happens. I was surprised by how many churches are in Pakistan.
Clint: Yes, those were planted by our Korean brothers. You said you haven’t been to a mission field. If you could visit one, where would you go?
Sam: I studied French in high school, and we know Steve and Becky Riggs well. Perhaps we would visit France.
Clint: I recently read that only about 17% of church-attending evangelical Christians have read and understand the Great Commission. Why do you think that is?
Sam: I suppose it is like many other things; they don’t read and understand the Bible. When it is taught and preached at church, it just passes over their heads. They don’t take time to understand it. Perhaps the church leaders don’t bring that to the forefront. Honestly, if it isn’t preached and taught very often, it will not stick. I heard a preacher say one time, “Why should anyone hear the gospel a second time before everyone has heard it the first time?” That stuck in my mind.
Clint: You mentioned you stay informed about missions day by day. How do you do that?
Sam: We go through the IM Hotline every day, and we have the IM directory. We pray for all the supporting staff, starting with the directors. They’re very important to the overall mission. Then we pray for the missionaries one by one. Then we go to the computer and connect. We see stories and prayer needs every day, and we include those in our prayers. And, if I get the chance to speak to mission people, I ask a lot of questions.
Clint: If you could say something to encourage our people to be more involved in missions, what would it be?
Sam: There are three things I live by concerning missions: be informed, pray, and give generously. I don’t know what else. Be informed, pray, and give generously.
Jane: If we don’t give, people around the world might not get saved. We need a burden for people around the world who need the Savior. And we need to support missionaries so they can go.
Sam: If you’re not called to go the field, your calling is to support the mission. It’s our job to make sure those who go have the resources to do what they need to do.