First Nations kids sharpened calling to Canada
Jami Becher, Baptist Press
July 11, 2011

First Nations kids sharpened calling to Canada

First Nations kids sharpened calling to Canada
Jami Becher, Baptist Press
July 11, 2011


LAKE, Saskatchewan

— After a weeklong mission trip to Duck Lake, Saskatchewan,

Karla Johnson wondered aloud what would happen to the kids who had accepted


There was no First Nations church to disciple them.

“God will raise somebody up,” her husband Jason replied.

“It’s us, isn’t it?” Karla realized.

The Johnsons had felt God leading them to the mission field for several years,

but that trip to Saskatchewan

cemented where He wanted them to serve.

“After a week of praying, we jumped in with both feet,” said Jason, who at the

time was the missions pastor at First

Baptist Church

in Odessa, Texas.

“Regardless of how it happened, we were going.”

NAMB missionary and church planter Jason Johnson, left, and an unidentified volunteer visit with Noella Sutherland at the steps of her RV where the First Nations Canadian first gave her life to Christ. See related video.

The Johnsons’ first phone call was to the North American Mission Board (NAMB)

to find out how they could serve.

“They said they would love to have us, but there was no funding for the

position,” Jason recounted.

The Johnsons investigated the opportunity to serve through NAMB’s Mission

Service Corps (MSC) as self-funded

missionaries who engage in evangelism and church planting with administrative

support provided by NAMB. Ultimately, MSC

became their path to the mission field in Duck Lake,


“It was scary to step away from a secure church staff position not knowing

exactly where our funding would come from, but it was amazing to see the way

God provided,” Johnson said.

The Johnsons started contacting family, friends and people they’d worked with

in the past. Within a few months, they’d raised their support, secured a home

and acquired work visas allowing them to live and work in Canada for three

years. They moved to Saskatchewan

last July.

“People just jumped on board to be part of our regular support,” Johnson

recounted. “It’s a tremendous relief to know that you have continual,

year-round (support) — not only financial but prayer support and friendship


Several of the Johnsons’ supporters are churches they worked with back home in Texas.

Not only are they giving but they’re also going to help the Johnsons reach

First Nations communities in Saskatchewan.

Will Withers, a volunteer from a Texas Baptist Church, took his third mission trip to Duck Lake, Saskatchewan, last winter to help church planter Jason Johnson with a basketball camp for First Nations students. See related video.

Last winter, volunteers from First

Baptist Church

in Odessa, First

Baptist Church

in Buna, Calvary Baptist

Church in Beaumont

and First Baptist

Church in Silsbee helped the

Johnsons with a sports camp teaching basketball skills to Duck

Lake’s youth.

“Jason is very passionate about what he’s doing, and we caught that vision,”

said Clay Jones, Calvary’s minister of missions and

evangelism. “We came up here and fell in love with the people and wanted to be

involved in what he’s doing. The potential here is huge. There are 144 First

Nations reserves in Saskatchewan

and only 12 evangelical churches in the entire province.”

First Nations families in Canada

are a largely unreached people group. Their traditional beliefs and experiences

with being forced into Christianity have left them wary of groups coming in to

share the Gospel. Johnson and his family are working to overcome such barriers

by loving people and becoming part of the community.

“There’s a lot of false hope and a lot of animosity between the First Nations

people and people who represent Jesus Christ,” Johnson said. But that hasn’t

stopped him from making personal visits with the people as part of his


Not long ago Johnson knocked on the door of Noella Sutherland’s RV and shared

the simple message of Christ’s love.

“He asked me if I was willing to accept Jesus,” Sutherland recounted. “I’ve had

other people come to my door asking me to do that, and it just never felt

right. And then one day these guys show up and I knew it was time. So I said


Sutherland prayed and gave her life to Jesus Christ on the steps of her RV that

day. A woman who’d avoided church is now part of the core group of a new church


“We’re here to serve,” Johnson said. “We’re bringing the gospel through

children’s ministry, sports ministries, just getting out and helping people work

in their fields and cafés — whatever we can do.”

Johnson’s goal is to start churches in communities — some of them with

populations of up to 2,000 — with no evangelical presence.

One of the ways the Johnsons are building trust and sharing the gospel is

through sports camps. Last winter, the Johnsons, along with teams from each of

their four partner churches, held basketball camps on two First Nations

reserves and in the town of Duck Lake.

“The response this year has been great,” Johnson said. “The kids loved it, and

we had around 100 people at our family night events at each location.”

Community leaders told him to expect only 20 participants.

“We’re riding the wave from last year’s sports camps,” Johnson said. “People

see us and still talk about how fun it was and how much they loved interacting

with the Texans who came up to the cold Arctic to play with them.

“It’s about interaction and building foundations that will open up new

opportunities for spreading the gospel.”

This year, community leaders were advocates, even publicizing the event in the


Johnson credited their partner churches as being a key part of the event’s


“There are instant rewards to having people on the field with you,” he said. “It

just magnifies what we live out daily. We try to represent Christ with our

lives, and to have volunteers from the United States to reinforce what we’re

doing is a huge boost in this community. The productivity we get from that is


(EDITOR’S NOTE — Becher is a freelance writer in Alpharetta, Ga.)