In my last post, I introduced all the Feverseason folks to Firm Foundations in Christ, which is a ministry that my cousin, Brad Johnson, and his talented wife Patti have been financing privately up until now. Several years into this Ethiopian adventure, and having gotten his feet wet, so to speak, Brad has decided to chat with me about his ministry and where he sees the Lord leading it all. ( just to keep it all in perspective,some of you may remember my post last December: Vaya Con Dios which was all about Brad’s Dad and my Uncle Reed) :
SALLY: Brad, thanks for getting together with me and filling me in on what you have been doing in Africa so that the Feverseason.com readers can learn more about it. First, would you tell me about your background and testimony–how you came to know Christ and tell us all something of the thrust of Firm Foundations in Christ ministry?
BRAD: Actually, your Aunt Tee,”Tortured me “when she subjected me to The Navigators topical memory system so that I, as a young boy would learn to memorize scriptures. Well, what I thought was torture in the moment proved to be one of the most valuable tools provided that would equip me in the years to come in my walk with Christ – hiding his word in my heart. I’ll never forget when Mother shuttled me off with a friend, to the Football stadium in 1962- to the Billy Graham Crusade. I remember walking down to the field and watching as Billy Graham prayed as we gave our lives to Jesus, demonstrably, with words before witnesses.
Right out of high school, I was involved with a Christian singing group through the Ministry of Youth for Christ and we traveled the country singing and testifying. This was the point, in the early 70s, where the Holy Spirit became real to me with power; and speaking in tongues was manifested in my life. I’ll never forget receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit at the church of the Redeemer in Denver where a brother by the name of Pete Rut was praying over me to receive the Spirit. When he prayed all I did was receive a large headache –
no tongues. However, later on I realized it was a walk by faith and so I opened my mouth and He filled it. During these times, there was great controversy surrounding the gift of the spirit and the manifestation of tongues. I still have books in my library that attest to this – like the Corinthian catastrophe, or charismatic Chaos… In the 70s, when I went to Colorado university, I was definitely caught up in the charismatic movement of that decade. I always believed that churches were often dead because they lacked the power of the Holy Spirit. I would rather be in a church that had “Corinthian disorder” that necessitated a corrective letter than a dead church that had no life at all.
SALLY: Amen to that! I have often times in this blog encouraged people not to stay in a
church…no matter what the denomination, if ,in that church, the full gospel is not honored and the Holy Spirit is not welcome or operating at full steam! One is just marking time!
So, I know that you are a small business owner and spent a few decades raising a family and building your Concrete Business….also called “Firm Foundations”, which I like, by the way!!
BRAD: Thanks Sally, Probably like you and a lot of other believers I spent those years working and growing. Now, I am at a time in my life where I can devote more time and resources to what I feel The Lord has called me to do. I will skip everything that happened in the 80s or 90s and bring you up to speed for the last few years of my life. I’ve always had a heart for missions and I’ve always had a pastor’s heart for people with a desire to download to others that which God has given me.
My desires regarding Ethiopia are relatively new. I’ve only visited this amazing country four times. My first trip to Ethiopia was with the ministry by the name of regionsbeyond.org. I traveled three times with this ministry – very small, very powerful. On my third trip, I spent some time on my own in Ethiopia – which was a time that God opened some doors for me. In another email I will attach one of the reflections I wrote about when I met a woman who was disabled, begging in the streets of Addis Ababa Ethiopia, that I would come to have a future divine appointment with.
SALLY: That sounds really interesting, let’s circle back to that story in a bit. How would you describe to Feverseason readers the main focus of Firm Foundations in Christ?
BRAD: I would say the major thrust of this new ministry is teaching -especially for former Muslims who are now Christian teachers, pastors, evangelists, and church planters. I visited twice, a ministry which has a “cross-cultural training center” where I’ve spent three days teaching on one trip, and five days teaching this last January. This five day course involved teaching students biblical foundational truths, worshiping with them, and sharing from the Scriptures things God has giving for me to impart. I’ve also been involved in purchasing and supplying/delivering Bibles in the Oromo language to those who desperately need Bibles. Some of the ministry involves providing for the homeless elderly – clothing and support – in the poorest section of downtown Addis Ababa.
SALLY: I like how you, so far, are keeping it very relational. I feel that is so important and really mimics how Jesus operated. So, yours is a relatively new ministry. I noticed that you don’t yet have a website for folks to check out.
BRAD: Yes, well, up until recently we have been relying on the support of family and friends and our own money. This last trip, January 2014, we raised $4000 from mainly family and friends, a short mailing list of about 60 people. I spent 5000 of our own money along with 4000 donated toward the work of the ministry. The reason you have not found a name for my ministry is because it was only a few weeks ago that “Firm Foundations in Christ” became an official 5013C. I have the website domain for www.firmfoundationsinchrist.com , .org. and .net but haven’t started one yet.
Also, a few weeks ago, Patti started her business, “Glory to God Artwork” with a desire to support my mission endeavors. (www.pj4charis.fineartstudioonline.com) Our focus has been on gearing up for the Art Show fundraiser at the end of August. After that, I hope to have the Website up early this fall so I’ll keep you posted on that!
SALLY: Fair enough. A while ago you mentioned a special experience you had with a woman. Tell us what you want us to know about her.
BRAD: Here, I wrote this out in January 2014, I was so deeply affected by this meeting that I didn’t want to forget the feeling or anything about it:
1-14-14: Last night I woke up – 2:30 – 4:00 – and was moved to tears about the woman paralysed from the waist down that I met in Addis. I remember her gratitude, the desperation and her eyes filling with tears, the simple heater, the flies and the story of her life which I don’t know. I thought of Lazarus and the rich man and the crumbs. ( Luke 16:19-31) Lord, don’t let me give her crumbs. I gave her an $18 covering, but I don’t know her story. It’s easy to love from a distance – with a passing smile and a distant wave. But when I held her hand I was grasped by her life, if only for a moment, her life connected with mine.
There are so many poor, hurting and despairing relying on the scraps of others. Yesterday I discovered the generous poor giving to the despairing – more poor. When I woke – I thought of this woman and cried. Why her and not me? My material blessings – her physical poverty. I thought of the Good Samaritan – “Put it on my account”. – After all – Jesus put my sin on His account. He became poor that I might become rich.
She is only one and there are so many others. Why did my life intersect hers? The poor are always with us – can’t I just pass by? That word weighted with deep meaning – compassion – welling up from deep within. Moved by compassion. God’s love rising from within my own rescued heart. In these early morning tears I asked God, “Is this compassion or pity?” – or a mixture of each? I pitied her poverty and despised the shame and filth of it, yet I thought of her as a mother, a victim of a tragic accident. A mother with four children – where were they? Was their own burden too great? Did their poverty keep them from access? I don’t know. God, what do I do? I can’t just pass by – I remember too much about her. The $18 covering isn’t enough. She needs more. Food and clean clothes, caring and dignity.
I know she is only one, but she is God’s one. Remember the sparrow and God’s care? Jesus left the 99 to look for the one.
She is God’s special sparrow that has fallen – and God knows her need and He has made me to know. What do I do now? I brought a gift to her because she couldn’t walk to come like the others. I waved goodbye – and yet I knew that I was just passing by – waving from the other side – from a distance. I think I will see her again, and learn her name and know her story.
1/21/14 As an update – I have talked to Sirgut and asked to arrange for this woman clean clothes and food for a year. Sirgut thought for $20 per month for food and $20 per month for clothes – would provide for this woman. I am arranging through Sirgut and Mebratu for this woman’s needs to be met. This may include some shelter. I trust them to do the work of providing for her. They both have good hearts and have demonstrated this kind of compassion for others. I saw the woman in their home–feeding and looking after her. This $480 will be well spent for this woman…this one!
SALLY: Oh, Brad. That really sums up your heart in a few paragraphs. It really expresses the Biblical model in action, too. Thanks for sharing that story with us. Tell us more about where you feel the Lord is leading Firm Foundations in Christ at home and in Ethiopia.
BRAD: So many folks today see the Islamic world as an evil threat. As enemies- and dangerous ones at that. While that can be the case, I see how The Lord is moving in
amazing ways with so many Muslims. Another of my desires is to continue to support some of those who have been persecuted and are on the front lines of evangelism in their own Muslim community. Here is a great example: I met a woman, Sirgut, two years ago, who was living at the cross-cultural training center – this was a place of sanctuary for her. She had converted to Christ from Islam. Christ appeared to her in a vision. After her conversion she was beaten by her husband and her local village and cast out. She found refuge, with her disabled daughter Dessie, at the cross-cultural training center. The village, however, kept her son Nasser. I was brought to tears by her testimony when I met her. I gave some money to Safia through the head of the training center and she was very moved. Sirgut, only six months old in the Lord, looked to me and said, “I knew my heavenly father would provide for me”. This was coming from a former Muslim who’s previous theology allowed no room to know God as a father. The concept of God as father to the Muslims is heretical – yet here, God reveals himself to Sirgut has her providing father.
This last February I thought I would see Sirgut still living at the cross-cultural training center. Come to find out, Teklu, the head of this school Center, organized a covert operation to rescue her son Nasser from her former Muslim Village. I also found that Sirgut was now living as an evangelist in another city. I arranged to meet her in a safe place in that city. When she saw me, I think this was the highlight to my last trip, she ran to me, with Nasser her son in tow, and fell on my neck and kissed me over and over and over on my neck. I had recently given Teklu $1000 to provide for Sirgut in her ministry as an evangelist and she was so grateful. She shared with me through an interpreter, that she had been sharing about Jesus with some women in the mosque and that they had became converted and she also shared with an Iman’s son and he became a convert – so she is doing the work of an evangelist.
One thing Firm Foundations in Christ is doing is supporting her and others like her. Patti recently painted her picture holding her Bible close to her heart. Incredibly, Sirgut had a dream months before I came (she didn’t even know I was coming) in which she saw me flying over many waters with multicolored wings bringing a message to her country.
Patti and I have connected with and joined the Regency Christian Center – whose pastor and his wife started a ministry, some years ago. touchingafricaministies.org They go three times a year and have just recently come back from an Ethiopian mission trip. Mike, the pastor had asked me to preach while he was away for the previous two weeks. Regency Christian Center is a very small church with an elderly congregation, yet their Love for the Lord their Holy Spirit-filled work in Africa is amazing.
So, just last week, Mike Elliott, the Pastor, as he was teaching about healing, was sharing a story from 2006 when he was in Ethiopia at a missionary training conference for the local Church leaders. He had a vision of a cloud coming into the service, and the cloud seemed to be living and had hands coming out of it. He felt very moved to pray for this young man who was in the front of the congregation – about 12 years old. He was sharing that he
thought God wanted him to lay hands on him and pray for this boy’s future ministry. So when he called him up he actually found out that this boy had been blind from birth. It was at this point Mike said, that he was so scared because, here he was preaching to others about the power of God and the miracles he would perform and here he was faced with praying for this boy who needed a miracle! God is was testing him to see if he was going to practice what he preached. He said all eyes were on him and at the same time, he, under his breath, was saying “God help me, I don’t feel any power or any faith at this point, help, I need your help!” Well, in spite of Mike’s shaky faith, God performed a miracle and opened this boy’s eyes! He can see! I love hearing the stories. We all want to be a part of these powerful stories.
SALLY: People don’t realize how powerful and faith-building Testimony’s are– No matter where we are! And, that is certainly a fantastic one! So you plan on continuing to partner in tandem with some of these other outreaches in Africa?
BRAD: Going forward, I will probably go back to Ethiopia early next spring, with Mike to continue to teach the workers. Touching Africa ministers on the Sudanese side of Ethiopia. Me, as Firm Foundations in Christ, was more on the Somalia side of Ethiopia. I want to introduce Mike to the ministries I’ve been involved with, and he is going to introduce me to his ministry so I’m sure there’s going to be a partnership going forward as the work is expanded.
Next year, I definitely will want to visit Sirgut, as well as the cross-cultural training center to teach as well as be introduced to Touching Africa’s ministry. In downtown Addis Ababa, The capital city of Ethiopia, I’ve also made connections with an Ethiopian Orthodox family whose father is a priest and whose son is an Arch Deacon in their church – Saint George’s. The Ethiopian Orthodox are a lot like the Catholic Church. There is a lot of strangeness and religious formality there But God has opened the door for me into this family – and it is a relationship of love. Two years ago I brought this family a framed copy of the picture “I’m not ashamed of the cross” which is a picture that Patti painted of their father sitting on the couch holding a cross. They were blown away and it meant so much to them – it’s hanging in their home today. It is also through this family that I met Yeshi:
Closer to home, I have also connected with another ministry through someone who lives here in Aurora, Colorado. Mamey Worku has a ministry blrinc.org – Building Loving, Restoring. She has a home for the elderly homeless in Ethiopia. I have been able to get Yeshi into a place of her own to live with her daughter and grandson through the help of Mamey’s ministry. Yeshi now not only has a place to live but daily food and medical care and she is no longer living on the streets begging. I can hardly wait to visit her next spring in her own place and talk about the love of Christ that compelled us to help her.
SALLY: Wow, Brad, that is really exactly what we are called to do as Christians. That boils our calling down to a Matthew 25:40 Paradigm: “… And the King will answer and say to them: Verily I say to you, In as much as you have done it unto one of the very least of my brethren, you have done it unto to me ” Makes you think, doesn’t it? Not all of us can go and do but we can certainly work it out here at home–and certainly help you to do it over there!
BRAD: I have a real heart for the Ethiopian people. It’s not a “greater” calling to go overseas than to minister to folks in your hometown – or write a blog like you do for those who need help or need to know about Jesus. We all are called to do something.
SALLY: It may not be a greater or different calling but it IS a more expensive one, isn’t it?
BRAD: Well, sure it is! That’s the whole idea behind Patti’s fundraiser – we are at a transition point in our lives. I want to be more involved in ministry and missions. Patti loves to paint and wants to bring glory to Jesus. Hopefully, as we learn how to promote her artwork we will be provided money for missions. I’m also looking forward to the synergy that will be created between Firm Foundations in Christ, Touching Africa and BLRinc you can check out that website at http://blrinc.org. We are in uncharted territory and are excited to walk by faith as we look for further instructions from God via his Holy Spirit. I truly desire that verbs, action verbs, that relate to the fruit of the Spirit define my life and my ministry. Faith: working (the present progressive tense of the verb) through love.
SALLY: We have both found ourselves, here later in life in uncharted territory here- just in different ways. I am hoping that, in some little way, the Feverseason Faithful will see how you have truly fallen in love with these Ethiopian believers and take up Firm Foundations in Christ as a fresh, spirit-filled baby that they can help raise with you. I hope that Feverseason readers will join me, to bless you with funds going forward and also pray for amazing opportunities and anointed favor for Firm Foundations in Christ.
BRAD: God bless you Sally. I am so glad that God has giving you a zeal for his Son and a fire in your heart to be a watchmen on the wall.
Author’s Note: For those of you in the Denver area I want to repost the info for the upcoming fundraiser for Firm Foundations in Christ hosted by Patti Johnson’s Glory to God Artwork. In addition to the fine original oil paintings, Patti will have prints available for purchase as well. There will be food, Ethiopian coffee and raffles for cool artsy stuff!
Please Join me there:
August 29th from 3:00 to 8:00 pm at the Knight’s of Columbus 1555 Grant St. Denver CO 80203
If you would like to contribute a tax deductible donation make your check payable to: Firm Foundations in Christ and mail to 1344 McIntosh Ave. Broomfield, CO 80020 c/o Brad Johnson