THE CALL of GOD
Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: Whom shall I send,And who will go for Us?”Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.”
Though Larry was 48 years old and Jean 46, the call of God in our hearts to do full-time mission work was only growing stronger. We had worked on several short term mission trips with Feed The Children from Oklahoma City, OK. The team opened medical clinics each day in remote areas of Central America and Thailand. While hundreds of people waited to see the doctors & nurses, Larry walked the lines talking to individuals about Jesus. We were never ready to go home and when we got home, we were ready to go back again.
At this time, we were living in Fort Dodge, IA and serving as elders at New Covenant Christian Church. The home we had purchased had two apartments upstairs. One was rented by a wonderful couple, Chuck and Marge Wyatt. We will never forget the evening that they invited us out to eat at a very nice restaurant. The waitress had just brought the food, when Marge began to cry and Chuck looked like he couldn't eat a thing! Finally, they told us that they had always regretted not stepping into the call that God placed on their lives. They felt they were to have served at a mission called Red Bird through the Methodist Church, but they let "life" dictate and refused to go. They kept repeating, "Don't miss the call!; you will regret it the rest of your life!" We felt God was just reconfirming that it was time to GO! And they gave us our first offering!
A short time later, we met with our Pastor Mike Carmody, and asked his counsel on how to proceed as missionaries. He reached into his desk and gave us a pamphlet he had recently received, saying he believed it was for us. It was from Victory World Missions Training Center in Tulsa, OK. We made a visit in August and the director, Todd Powers, felt we were to come. Since the new training began in September, he told us that "there was not enough time for the paperwork." He said, "Just get here!" Our walk of faith had begun. We would be (and continue to be) amazed at the provision and support that God provided through His people. Every penny needed was supplied.
Before "just taking off", we talked to all our kids. Our daughter, Angie, had recently married Clay Sandburg, her boyfriend of almost 8 years. They agreed to our faces, but several years later, confided that they thought we must have been nuts to start something so radical. However, despite their true feelings, in those early years, Clay and Angie were critical to our ministry. Because we had sold our home & apartment house to go on the mission field, we literally had no place to call our own! It was the two of them who opened their door every time! Usually, it is the child who comes home to the parents, but in this case, it was the parents coming home to the children! Their door is still open and we are grateful.
Our greatest "cheerleader" however, was our youngest son, Jared. Actually, God worked through him, so that we could and would go. Jared was still in High School and in fact in his senior year! You have to ask yourself, what parent would leave their son to go to school at such a time? But Jared assured us that he could handle the apartment rentals and that we could trust him to do everything he was to do. He was president of the Senior High Band which consisted of more than 200 kids and was super busy! But "the call" was so strong-so we packed our bags and left for Tulsa. Only later, did we hear that Jared was Master of Ceremonies at a major school program! During our absence, he also had the unpleasant job of evicting a renter, cleaning the place, and re-renting it! Today, Jared & his wife Heather, have also given us keys to their home. God has placed them "right on the path" to most churches where we are asked to speak!
And our oldest son, Larry Jr. married Alisha in 1993. They had a beautiful baby girl whom they named Hayley Ann Johnson (Ann after Grandma J). When you see and hold such a precious one, it is really hard to leave! But, Larry Jr. too told us they were all on their own, so just do what you think you have to do. His also has given us keys to his house in Fort Dodge. We are really blessed!
There was only one thing we asked of all of them, and that was to stay together as a family, to love and forgive each other. It would be so heartbreaking to "come home" and find we were not really a family anymore. Angie stepped up to the plate! She and Clay hosted almost every Thanksgiving and Christmas family gathering for more than 15 years! Later, Jared and Heather, (even with our little grandchildren, Jaden & Hannah) hosted holidays. And for the last 3 years, Larry Jr has taken his turn, cooking turkey himself and hosting us all in his Fort Dodge home. We are so grateful for each one and cherish the times we are allowed to be together.