“God is doing something big” is a phrase I have heard many times over the last few months at Johnson University. As I walk around campus and talk to students and faculty, there is a sense of expectation and urgency—a sense of doors being flung open to share the Gospel message around the world. Yes, there are lots of closed doors in the world today, lots of tension, but God is at work opening ways for believers to go through those doors, seeking those who do not know him. Johnson is responding to that sense of expectation and urgency by encouraging and preparing students, faculty, and staff for mission.
Experience, awareness of the need, and willingness to become involved and to commit to a life-long goal are becoming the normal for our students. They are preparing to teach English as a Second Language in China, plant churches in the Middle East, become development workers among the poorest of the poor in slums and shanty towns, and translate the Bible and plant churches among the Bible-less. With the new Latin American and Latino Studies concentration in the Intercultural Studies program, they are preparing to work in Latin American countries and here in the USA in Latino communities. Johnson students are making the effort to present the Message in a way that can meet today’s challenges.
Soon after the fall semester begins each year, the University sponsors a Missions Emphasis Week. In the Fall 2011 Missions Emphasis Week, 316 students came forward to commit to “breaking down the wall” by being personally involved in mission efforts among Muslims: 33 of them committed to becoming missionaries in a Muslim majority country! Those students continue to prepare for their future ministry, and many are already involved in ministry and mission, some even having already left for the field. The Fall 2012 theme for Mission Emphasis Week was “Living Sent.” Again Johnson students responded to the call, as over 136 students committed to work in specific areas of the world, such as the 47 who committed to work with an unreached people group and the 48 who specifically said they wanted to work with the poor. It takes courage and commitment to step out in faith to work with these people, so different and in such need. We are determined to stand side-by-side with these dedicated students, giving them tools to be successful in their endeavor for Christ.
We take being a “Great Commission University” seriously. God’s mission to reach out to a dying world and draw each and every person, from every culture, back into a holy and righteous relationship with him is our mission, too. When chaos occurs, people usually run away. Missionaries run toward the chaos. In every crisis juncture in history, new people who have never heard the Gospel are brought together with believers, and new churches are founded. We are at an intersection in history where the problems that people have caused in the world are being met by God’s people so that God can reassert his reign and bring glory to his Kingdom.
We understand our obligation to prepare our students who have committed to work in Muslim countries, among unreached people groups, with the poor and underserved, and we understand the need to help those already on the field. As a result, the School of Intercultural Studies at Johnson University is expanding to meet the needs of this generation of missionaries and cross-cultural workers. Over the past four years, we have added concentrations in the on campus programs in Missions, Islamic Studies, Urban Studies, Chinese Studies, English as a Second Language, and most recently Latin American and Latino Studies. Beginning this summer, we added a fully online Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Science degree in Intercultural Studies so that students around the world can benefit from a well-rounded preparation for cross-cultural ministry. Added to that, the new Master of Arts in Intercultural Studies is fully online and has concentrations in areas such as Scripture Impact (Church Planting), Customized Study, and Community Development. Online students are in classes while they work in Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Brazil, East Asia, France, and more. These students are preparing to go where there is no church, no Bible, and no one to share the Gospel message. Instead of running away from the chaos, they run to those who need Christ.
There is a surge in missions right now. God IS doing something big. We are blessed to share a part in it.
*Watch and share this YouTube message, JohnsonU.edu/missionsvideo
About the author:
Linda (Farthing ’94) Whitmer, Ph.D., joined Johnson University as the director of online Intercultural Studies programs in 2011. Recently Dr. Whitmer was named dean of the newly established School of Intercultural Studies. Before coming to Johnson, Dr. Whitmer taught at Hope University on both the graduate and undergraduate levels through both on-ground and online delivery systems. Linda and husband Steve (’95) are veteran missionaries, having served in Zimbabwe, Africa. They have three grown children.