We love sharing the beauty of Panama with family and friends who come to visit. It is even better when they can share in ministry with us. What a joy for Angie’s parents and brother to travel to the Embera Village to meet and share time with our ministry partners there.
And Fruit Loops never disappoint! The kids very likely ate more than they used for their necklaces, but it was a great time of sharing, snacking and just having fun!
A hectic but beautiful three days…
Jared, Landon and Anna traveled from NFCC in Shreveport, LA to serve with us. It was a packed three days, but so many beautiful things happened in those three days. We hosted three “kids days” where medical checkups, puppet shows and crafts were provided for over 140 kids… praise the Lord!
Then in the evenings, the mood shifted from puppets and fruit punch to flowers and romance. Thanks to NFCC, we hosted two banquets through our local churches to celebrate our GlobalFingerprints’ parents. Jared spoke and presented the Biblical importance of marriage and the couples enjoyed a beautiful and romantic dinner together.
There were a lot of moving parts to make all of this happen. We had a lot of fun and we were privileged to share the love of Christ with over 200 people. Wow! That is the most important and lasting thing…the Gospel was preached and people were reminded that Jesus loves them! Please pray with us that these seeds of truth will grow and draw them into a relationship with the Lord.
A look ahead…
A vital part of our ministry is setting goals and planning out our steps to accomplish those goals. We are super thankful when our ReachGlobal leadership is able to be on-site and help guide us through this process. Although planning is crucial, after a few long days of meetings, our brains are fried.
So, since our area leader Tim is an avid fisherman, we decided to have a little fun and go fishing. Let’s just say that fishing is definitely not Matt’s forte! The only thing he was able to catch was the bait in the bucket. In true Matt style, he still kept us laughing and we had a great time. We took our catch to a local restaurant where they cooked it up for us to enjoy. Fun memories!
What a great way to end the year! Over the past week, we had the huge blessing of packing 70 food bags to give to families in need. Although the bag looks small, it has over 10 pounds of food packed inside with lots of love from the whole Johnson family. Along with each bag, the hope of Christ is shared. Please join us in praying that the families will be encouraged and their hearts will be open to the Gospel!
It is crazy to think that the end of the year is already upon us! As always, December is a time of reflecting upon our last year of ministry and beginning to plan for the upcoming year.
To be completely honest, as we were returning back to Panama earlier this year we had no idea what the Lord had in store for us. We knew the Lord had called us to serve here, but with all the changes, medical issues and the loss of team members during 2020 and beyond, we did not have a surety that the Lord wanted us to remain in Panama. We were beyond elated to once again reconnect with partners, but we still needed to hear from the Lord.
Thankfully the Lord is faithful and gently reassured us that Panama is where He wants us… for now. That may give you pause, but it gives us peace. I cannot be sure of the plans the Lord has for us in 5 years and that is OK. The Lord wants us to operate in the now and in the present. Yes, we are setting our one, three and five-year goals, but we are surrendering those to the Lord as we make them.
Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:34, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” And just before that in verse 11 He instructs us to ask for daily provisions. And praise the Lord that Lamentations 3 reminds us that God’s mercies are new each morning!
So as 2022 approaches, we pray that we each can faithfully seize the moments and opportunities that the Lord lays before us, knowing that although we plan our course it is the Lord that determines our steps (Proverbs 16:9). What a freedom there is in knowing that the One who loves us most already knows those steps.
Throughout November and December we have added an additional 35 kids to the GlobalFingerprints Program. That is incredible! What a blessing that each of these children will hear of the hope of Christ this Christmas season.
Even more exciting news is that plans are already underway with a partner church in the US to open another GF site. We are seeing God use this program not only to impact the lives of vulnerable children but to impact entire families!! Please pray with us that the Lord will continue to grow and use GF throughout the next year.
After a LONG wait, the youth group at our church was finally able to meet face-to-face (they have been meeting virtually since the beginning of COVID). It was a beautiful night of worship and yes, that is Reeves 2nd from the left!
Ian is in the US prepping for college next year and just finished taking the ACT this weekend. Thankfully, he will be back in a week!
MERRY CHRISTMAS!! May you find unspeakable JOY now and throughout the season. We pray that your belly is full of food, your house is full of laughter and your heart is full of awe at the goodness of our God!
After literally years of planning due to the pandemic, we have a national partner for the GlobalFingerprints program. Oh, happy day!
The GlobalFingerprints program is the child sponsorship ministry of ReachGlobal. We work directly with the national churches here in Panama to identify children who are at risk and vulnerable. Through sponsorships, the church is able to assist and help care for these children. GF helps children AND the local church.
One important factor in GF is to have a national partner. Back in 2019, we began moving to establish Pastor Moises in this position. And then COVID! But, praise the Lord, this finally happened 2 weeks ago. Pastor Moises and his wife have incredible hearts for children. They are selfless servants for Christ, and we know that we are blessed to call them friends.
During church on Sunday, Pastor Moises welcomed back an older lady that had come to know the Lord years ago but had left the church. After many years away, this was her first Sunday to return. He made this announcement and welcomed her “home.” My eyes filled with tears as this lady smiled and wiped tears from her eyes.
After the service, Pastor Moises told us that the grandchildren of this lady had become part of the GF program. Soon after, the kids and their mother began attending the church. And now the grandmother had returned to the church! God is good!
We have been back in Panama for about a month. What a sweet joy it has been! Our schedules have been busy, but we have been so thankful to reconnect with our pastors and share the beauty of Panama with friends.
Three days after we arrived, Jim and Denise Scott came for a visit. Jim is the International Director of the GlobalFingerprints Program. The GF Program has an incredible impact on the lives of vulnerable children here and around the world. We have a strong program up and running in Panama and are now working to empower national leaders and grow the program through the addition of new sites.
We had lots of time to brainstorm and plan for the expansion of the program. We traveled to Panama and visited our current sites, as well as possible new locations. How exciting to see God working in the lives of these children and families.
This month we also had the pleasure of spending time with our friends Bob and Allyson from Moon Church near Pittsburg. We had the incredible opportunity to connect this couple with their GlobalFingerprints sponsored child! What a beautiful experience for them to meet the family and spend some time getting to know Jose better.
We were amazed as the mom shared how they have no water at this time because their home is located near the top of the hill and there is not enough pressure in the line for the water to reach their home. The amazement is that the mom did not share the story with disgust or even in a negative way – she even shared the story with a smile. This mom, Jenny, has found the secret of contentment and choosing joy. Oh, that we may learn to choose joy like Jenny!
We returned to the Emberá village to complete the roof over the water system. I am not sure that Matt has medical clearance to be walking on a tin roof, but that did not slow him down! Reeves was happy to spend time with the kiddos there, and the kids were super excited to see her after such a long time.
We were super excited to have the opportunity to travel back to Panama recently. Although we were only there for 10 days, it was such a blessing to reconnect with friends and ministry partners.
During our time here in the States, we have been investigating and praying about the possibility of providing water filters to each of our GlobalFingerprints families. Thanks to a great international program offered by Sawyer and the sweet help from our friends at Faith Church in Wisconsin, we were able to purchase and deliver the filters to Panama!
Did you know that this little filter pictured above can provide clean water for a family for up to 10 years? Isn’t that incredible! Something so small has made a huge difference to so many families in Panama. We had the pleasure of visiting over 20 of our GF families and demonstrating how to properly use the filter.
Many times we would fill a cup with the clean water for them to taste. During one of our visits, the mom made a strange face after tasting the water. Nervously, we asked her, “Is the water bad?” With tears in her eyes she replied, “No, the water is good. This is just the first time for me to taste the water clean with no dirt.” God is good!
As we were leaving one of the homes, Jesus, one of the GF kids that we have known for several years, wanted a picture with Matt. We are beyond grateful for the continued relationships. Jesus is an incredible kid with an infectious joy!
The purpose of the GF program is to transform lives. While physical things such as clean water are important, the program also focuses on transforming lives through the gospel. At the end of each visit, we spent time sharing and praying with the family. Also, thanks to our friends at The Springs Church in Missouri, each child is given a copy of The Jesus Storybook Bible. What a joy it was for the kids to receive their new Bibles and immediately want to read to us! Pray with us that the Word of God will transform the lives of these children and their families.
THANK YOU for helping give the gift of clean water. We are able to continue on with our ministry thanks to your giving and your prayers. We thank the Lord for your faithfulness in supporting our ministry.
And if you give even a cup of cold water to one of the least of my followers, you will surely be rewarded.
WHEN WILL WE RETURN TO PANAMA?
Praise the Lord Angie has recovered well from her surgery. It was a long process, but the Lord is so faithful and she is healthy and feeling good. Thank you all for your prayers.
Matt had an x-ray about 3 weeks ago due to an ongoing pain in his neck and shoulder. It showed that he has some compressed discs that are pinching a nerve. He received an injection that we were hopeful would fix the problem. Unfortunately, it did not. He will have an MRI performed this week to determine what procedure needs to be done to alleviate the pain. Please pray with us for clear answers.
Our hope is that Matt can receive the care he needs quickly and adios USA! We are thankful for good medical care and God’s timing in revealing these issues during our time here. However, we are also ready to return to Panama.
Needless to say, 2020 has been a crazy year for all of us. I have heard some say, “I just want to forget that this year ever happened.” I pray that we don’t forget. Let us remember the fun times, the extra time with family, and all the good that was done. But also, let’s remember the hard times, the ways that God grew us, and the lessons that we have learned. I pray that we can take all of this and turn it into praise. With that in mind, we thought we would do a quick wrap up of what 2020 has looked like for our family and our ministry.
FEBRUARY 1-8: A medical team from Springs Church came to serve with us in Panama. The team provided medical services and anti-parasite treatment to over 200 kids. The gospel was shared, and these kids were loved on and reminded that God has a purpose for their lives!
FEBRUARY 25: At 99 years old, Mama Tance went to be with Jesus. She was one of Angie’s heroes; she was determined, straight forward and loved the Lord. Thanks to a generous family member, we were able to fly home and celebrate the life of this sweet lady.
MARCH 13: The craziness begins. Corona hit Panama and Angie was sick for over a month. Panama enforced a strict quarantine and many families in Panama (especially in the GlobalFingerprints program) were without work, meaning they had no money for food. We put out a request for help, and praise the Lord, many of you stepped up! We were able to supply food to hundreds of families during this time. We could not have done this without your support and faithfulness. Thank you!
JUNE 18: As Panama continued the lockdown, our family, with the support of ReachGlobal leadership, made a decision to take a humanitarian flight back to the US. The next few months were full of Zoom meetings, hundreds of Whats App texts and a new form of ministry for us. We saw our partners back in Panama step up in an incredible way as they served their communities and were the hands and feet of Christ. Food deliveries continued as the pastors shared the hope of Christ with families.
OCTOBER 16: Surgery day for Angie. The doctors told her this would be a tough surgery to which she thought, “Surely it won’t be that bad.” She was wrong. After a 5 night stay, she was able to go home (pic below). Recovery was hard, but God is good. All the pathology came back clear- no cancer! We are still waiting for her to have complete medical clearance, but are so thankful for medical technology and the fact that the cyst was found so early. Did we mention… God is good!
NOVEMBER 6-13: Matt made a quick trip to Panama. Since we were not planning on staying for such an extended period when we left, there were several things that had to be taken care of back at home. Matt was able to connect with some of our team members and our pastors. It was a sweet time and we are so thankful for our friends who are checking up on our house, coordinating the gardener and sweeping up the critters that have made their way inside! We look forward to being back in Panama!
NOVEMBER 8: Norris Ferry Community Church spotlighted the GlobalFingerprints program on Orphan Sunday. With the difficult situation in Panama, 20 more children were identified as “at risk,” and praise the Lord every child received a sponsor. We now have 104 kiddos in the program. Thanks to generous sponsors, the GF kids have food on the table, medical care, and are learning about Jesus!
NOVEMBER 29: We received a call that Matt’s mom had a mild stroke. They said she was OK, but we chose to drive to Austin to check on her. When Matt arrived at the hospital on Monday morning, Nancy was unresponsive. Tests showed that she suffered a massive stroke during the night on Sunday. We are thankful that we were in the States to have some time to say goodbye to an incredible lady. Nancy went to see Jesus the morning of December 4th. She will be missed. While going through photos, we realized that Reeves looks SO much like her Nana. Below is a photo of Nancy as a child- Reeves actually thought it was a pic of herself “in weird clothes.”
So what are our major takeaways from 2020?
1) God is in control! While our lives have felt so chaotic this year, we have constantly been reminded of this. I think of Jesus sleeping during the storm. The disciples were stressed out and flat out scared (just as many have been this year). In Mark 4:39-40, Jesus got up and said “Quiet. Be still!” and there was calm. And then he said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid. Do you still have no faith?” It makes me think….How have we responded to the storms of 2020? Where is our faith?
2) Joy is a choice! Over the past months, the Lord has shown us that yes, the enemy will come to steal, kill and destroy…. but one thing about it, the enemy can’t take our joy. Now don’t get me wrong, there has been sadness and mourning and pleading with the Lord this year, but we have learned that we can still be joyful despite the circumstances. “The joy of the Lord WILL be our strength!”!
3) Our kids are awesome! We are not braggers, but we have been so thankful for our kids’ steadfastness and adaptability. We have lived in 3 different places since we arrived in the States, they really don’t have any of their “stuff”, and we have had some pretty significant life events this year. They have been leaders in their youth group, played with the band, sang at youth group, learned new instruments, and overall, had really great attitudes. Honestly, the way that the Lord has grown them can sometimes bring us to tears. As we’ve said… God is good.
4) We love hand me downs! We have been so thankful for hand me down vehicles and winter clothes during this time. Thank you to family members and friends that have loved us so well with these blessings!
I am a planner and like to have order to everything (obviously this is Angie writing and not Matt!). But despite all our planning, we don’t hold the future in our hands… and that is OK. Over the past few months, we have made a lot of plans- in fact, our plan was to return to Panama this week. However, we are learning that it is in the change of plans- the disruptions- the total loss of control- that God is growing our faith and trust in Him. Our family has a saying, “We either trust God in everything or nothing.” So we are choosing to trust God during this trying season. Over the past few weeks, we have seen God work in some amazing ways. God is faithful! Dios es fiel! So, we will continue to trust Him in the unknowns and step forward in His grace.
Matt was diagnosed with COVID-19. Praise the Lord it was a mild case. His quarantine ended this past weekend (and as he says Rapunzel was happy to be released from his tower). He has recovered well and no one else in our family tested positive. God is good.
A few months back, during a CAT scan for some abdominal pain, the doctors found a cyst on my pancreas. After several procedures, they ruled it as benign- huge praise! However, based on the size and some abnormalities within the cyst, they deemed it as precancerous. SO… on Friday around 10 am, I will be having surgery. They will remove the tail end of my pancreas where the cyst is located and will also need to remove my spleen due to the nature and location of the cyst. Am I nervous? Sure. Do I have complete confidence that God is in control? Definitely! As we have said so many times in the past months: God is not surprised by any of this! God is God and He is here even in the disruptions and unknowns.
“The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” —Zephaniah 3:17
God is quieting us with His love. He is assuring us that although we have some uncertainties in our future, He knows and holds the future. And that is enough!
LOVE FROM PANAMA….. We have been SO thankful for technology. Despite being miles apart, we are still able to be a part of the ministry in Panama that is so close to our hearts. Over the past few weeks, Panama has loosened restrictions, and our ministry partners are now able to meet with the kids and deliver food without boundary restrictions. The kids have been focusing on learning Bible verses; pray with us that these verses will penetrate their hearts and that they will grow into young men and women who fear and seek the Lord. Coronavirus has had a huge impact on our families in Panama. Please pray for many in the country as they are looking for work so they can provide food for their families. Pray that people will turn to the the Lord- the one true hope in all of this darkness.
“You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in Your word.” —Psalm 119:114
We are still in the States and are eagerly awaiting our return to Panama. To be honest, we did not think we would be away for so long, but have been blessed to see friends and family and continue ministry from afar. Panama is slowly easing restrictions and allowing movement. We are super excited for this news as it will allow many to return to work and provide for their families.
We are thankful for modern technology that has allowed us to continue our ministry while we are in the States. We are thankful for our pastors who have been faithful in delivering food and sharing the love of Christ in their communities. We are thankful to our partners here in the States who have given generously to make this hope a reality.
WHEN WILL YOU GO BACK?….. This is a question that we hear often. Panama is now allowing residents to return. Yay! Our hope was to return mid-September, but things look a little different. Since we had such an extended time here, we took advantage of that to have some medical checkups done. There are a few things that showed up that need further examination and clarification. We are thankful for good medical care and want to have all medical issues cleared up before we return. Will you please join us in praying for clear answers and good reports? Although this was a bit of a surprise to us, we serve a God that is never surprised. We can rest in knowing He is in control and He is on His throne. Despite all the craziness and uncertainties that we have all seen, we have peace in knowing God’s promises are still the same and will never change. So, let us press on with perseverance trusting in the God who never changes!
Please continue to pray. Pray that we will be able to return home soon. Pray for a clear bill of health. Pray for provision and protection for our families and partners in Panama. Pray for our pastors as they are serving their congregations and communities. Pray that people will draw near to God and find their hope in Him.