— 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
in Odessa, Texas.
“Regardless of how it happened, we were going.”
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
“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.
Last winter, volunteers from First
in Odessa, First
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
“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.)