NORTH AFRICA – At 20 years old, Noah Johnson is already a veteran of the Missouri Baptist Convention’s (MBC) summer missions program.
Johnson has given up his summer to work as a missionary with the MBC for the past three years, and the program has been instrumental in his life.
“The biggest thing that God has instilled in me,” Johnson said, “was just a mission mindset and a calling to live my life for Jesus and on mission for Him.”
Johnson began to develop that mission mindset in his first summer of the program, where he worked with refugees in the St. Louis area. His home church, The Crossing at Cornerstone, is on the Illinois side of St. Louis, and the church is heavily invested in the lives of refugees.
Johnson and other members of his church ministered to refugees through English lessons, moving and delivering furniture, home visits, and more. That first summer had a huge impact on Johnson.
God used the opportunity “to really just grab ahold of me,” Johnson said. “I gave my life to Christ that summer while I was in the program.”
Two years later, Johnson is still on fire for Christ, and still spending his summers as a missionary.
This past summer, however, was special. With the help of the MBC and IMB, Johnson had the opportunity to minister to the lost in one of the most populated cities of a North African country.
Johnson was part of a team of missionaries that were focused on relational ministry, and they reached out to make connections in a number of different ways.
A few times, they handed out sandwiches and waters to the poor and refugees. They held a four-day surf camp for local orphans. They worked on a housing project for new believers. And they spent quite a lot of time walking around community areas just talking with people.
The vast majority of this North African nation’s citizens are Muslim, and for Johnson it was an opportunity to witness to a group of people who don’t know the truth of the gospel.
“They think of it as a scale, where the good has to outweigh the bad in their life,” Johnson said. But Johnson and his team shared the truth with them. “You can’t work for God’s love – that’s a gift that he gives.”
After sharing that message so many times with Muslims in North Africa, Johnson said that it really seemed to click in his own head.
“God really revealed to me my motives behind being over in North Africa,” Johnson said. “And that I was doing missions just to get on God’s ‘good list’.”
Johnson’s mission work in North Africa tested more than just his motivations. While he was striving to reach hearts for Christ halfway across the world, Johnson’s grandmother passed away.
“I couldn’t be there for my mom and dad,” Johnson said. “Watching my family struggle with it and grieve while I was over there was really difficult.”
He didn’t have access to a reliable internet connection, so keeping in touch was hard, but Johnson had to rely on God to get him and his family through it.
Yet even through the pain and heartache, Johnson’s time in North Africa only affirmed his desire to be a missionary.
At the moment, Johnson is in school, attending Southwestern Illinois College. He plans to transfer to Liberty University next semester and major in communications. But Johnson’s missionary mindset is not limited to summer or North Africa.
“I’m a missionary no matter where I am, whether it be on this campus, whether it be over in North Africa, whether it be inner-city St. Louis,” Johnson said. “No matter where I go in my life, I am the light and the salt to the world, and I have an opportunity to share the gospel.”