“Lord, you are my God, I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done wonderful things, things planned long ago.” Isaiah 25:1 (NIV)
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to raise your children in a jungle in South America? To wonder when the next earthquake tremor will hit, or if the volcano will erupt?
Jonathan Johnson is filled with true stories of his adventures. Whether you have a chance to hear his stories in person or through the pages of his books, the message he shares is always the same -- about the amazing faithfulness of God.
Jonathan and his wife Roseann are the grandparents of my son-in-law. While recently traveling in Colorado, I was invited with my two daughters and son-in-law to have dinner with Jonathan and Roseann, their son and daughter-in-law, and their children. Their son owns land on a mountain near Bellview, CO, where he is in the process of building a house. Jonathan and Roseann live in a camper high on his property overlooking the valley below.
As we sat around the mountainside eating dinner, warming ourselves by the campfire, laughing, and enjoying good food and good company, I chatted with Jonathan about the books he had written, and I told him about my blog. He agreed to let me share his story.
As a boy, Jonathan was a shy pastor’s kid. His family moved often to different locations throughout the mid-west, so he learned of God’s faithfulness from a young age. Jonathan gave his life to the Lord at the tender age of seven.
When Jonathan was in fifth grade, his parents sold their home and moved their family of seven to Briercrest Bible Institute in Saskatchewan, Canada, where his parents became students. One summer while they were there, Wycliffe Bible Translators held their Summer Institute of Linguistics training course on campus.
Jonathan was excited to hear how this group was translating the Bible into languages for people who had no Bible in their native tongue and who had never had the chance to hear the Gospel. By the time the Johnsons left Briercrest when Jonathan was in seventh grade, he decided that he wanted to become a part of the Bible translation ministry through Wycliffe.
When Jonathan was in high school, he was shocked with the rest of the world to hear the news of five missionaries who were speared to death on a beach in Ecuador by natives from the Waodani tribe. Ten years later, after graduating from Moody Bible Institute, Jonathan and his wife, Roseann, joined the team of missionaries in Ecuador who were translating the Bible into the Waodani language. They worked with Rachel Saint, the sister of Nate Saint, who was martyred that day.
Jonathan was excited to meet Kimo from the Waodani tribe who, as a fifteen-year-old, had accompanied the war party to the beach on that fateful day. Kimo, along with others from his tribe, had become Christians which was a great encouragement to the Johnsons. Jonathan described Kimo as “radiating the love of Jesus.”
Jonathan was a radio communications major at Moody, and he and Roseann were a part of JAARS (Jungle Aviation and Radio Services) arm of Wycliffe. They spent most of their first fourteen years of missionary work stationed at Limoncocha (Lemon Lake), a jungle base that was the supply center for the Bible translators who were living in remote villages along the rivers.
Jonathan was responsible for communicating with each of the missionaries daily, ordering supplies, arranging for medical help, communicating with the pilots while they were flying, and maintaining equipment. Roseann was busy raising their four children and was also involved with office work and women’s ministries.
The Johnson children enjoyed growing up on the jungle base. They attended a one-room school with as many as 12 to 15 children and participated in many activities such as track meets and hunting. “Life was full and fun,” he explained to me in a recent phone interview, “in fact, they had a harder time coming back to the States when we were on furlough because they didn’t feel like it was home.”
After leaving Limoncocha in 1981, Jonathan worked as the Operations Manager at the International Linguistics Center in Dallas, TX, which gave him hands-on training in administration.
The Johnsons then returned to Ecuador to continue with the Bible translation work, but this time lived in the capital city of Quito. Their time in Quito brought challenges and blessings. The political climate at the time was not favorable to missionaries and resulted in delays and excessive paperwork. They also lived through an earthquake and the threat of a volcanic eruption which forced them to be ready to leave at any time.
But they were encouraged by the steady progress in the Bible translation work and had some exciting adventures. Jonathan drove a team of medical professionals to a small mountain community. Jonathan assisted with dental work, and in the evening, they enjoyed fellowshipping with these Quichuan believers.
Jonathan also had the chance to accompany his daughter’s science class on a field trip to the rim of the volcanic crater, Gua Gua Pichincha. One of the vehicles in the group couldn’t make it up the steep incline leading up the mountain (over 14,000 ft. in altitude), so twelve students and three adults piled in Jonathan’s trusty Blazer. The view was breathtaking – one Jonathan will always remember.
The Johnsons left Quito in 1990 and ministered first in Colorado Springs and then in West Chicago. Jonathan and Roseann retired from Wycliffe in 1998.
After retiring from Wycliffe, Jonathan began a second career as a school bus driver, first in Chicago and then in Denver. He viewed his new career as a ministry. “Every time I turn around, I see the blessings of God in a child,” he explained to me.
Also, during this time Jonathan began writing true stories about God’s faithfulness to him and his family. Jonathan’s first book, The Amazing Faithfulness of God is about his family’s experiences as missionaries with Wycliffe. It includes prayer letters written by Roseann to their supporters.
Jonathan’s second book, The Amazing Faithfulness of God II is about the life and ministry of his parents and includes writings by his brother, David S. Johnson, Jr.
Jonathan’s third book, The Amazing Faithfulness of God III, includes stories from Jonathan’s early life and his experiences as a bus driver. He wrote this book to show how you don’t have to be a minister or missionary for God to be working in your life.
Two years ago, Jonathan and his wife moved up onto the mountain. Most of his focus now is on simply living as a mountaineer. He puts much effort into maintaining his camper and 27- year-old truck which has 325,000 miles on it, and in hauling water and propane up to their home.
It is a life that Jonathan loves, and he is counting his blessings. He lives a stone’s throw from his son, daughter-in-law, and four grandchildren, and worships with a small fellowship of believers that meets on a ranch nearby.
Jonathan has recently set up his old transmitter that he used in Ecuador. He is back on the air as an amateur radio operator, this time as a hobby. But a hobby with a purpose. “I have in mind being able to share my faith through this venue,” Jonathan said. “I have a story to tell . . . about the amazing faithfulness of God.”
*All three of Jonathan’s books are available on Amazon.
*A free signed copy of Jonathan’s book, The Amazing Faithfulness of God will be given away in a drawing. To be eligible for the drawing, sign up as an email subscriber at the bottom of any page on this blog. If you are already a subscriber, you will automatically be entered, and you will be entered a second time if you respond to this post on the contact page on this blog, on my Facebook page (InspirationalLee), or in an email to email@example.com.
*Background photo by Jonathan Johnson (view from his home on the mountain).