Monday, April 15, 2013

A New Vision in a New Location

Dave and Debbie Johnson
AGWM Missionaries to the Philippines

Spring-Summer 2013 Newsletter

Saying Goodbye to Bicol and Hello to APTS

After 13 wonderful years in Bicol region of southern Luzon, the main island, God has clearly spoken to us to move to Baguio City, in the mountains of northern Luzon about 5-6 hours drive north of Manila, and serve at the Asia Pacific Theological Seminary (APTS). This school is the Assemblies of God theological institution for all the nations of the Pacific Rim, including China, and the Pacific Oceana regions of the world. At any given time we have students from about 15-20 nations, including one or two from the U.S.A.! ! The administration and faculty are also international. The president, for example, is Malaysian, the academic dean is from New Zealand, the assistant dean of students is Korean, the business administrator is an American, and so on. For more on the school, please visit

Here’s Dave’s side of the story of the process we’ve gone through.

The decision to make this move was neither quick nor pain-free as we love the Bicolanos dearly and they seem to feel the same about us. Over the last nine months, however, God has made his will clear, specific and undeniable. Not only will we be moving, but the Lord has led me to lay aside the mantle of the evangelist after 28 years and pick up the mantle of a writer, publisher and, to a lesser extent, teacher. Actually, I have been writing for some time, but the publishing aspect was somewhat of a pleasant surprise.

The APTS leadership has actually been talking to our area director, Bill Snider, about us for about two years now, requesting our services. Soon after we arrived back from our sabbatical/itineration in late September, 2011, Bill told us about APTS' request that we come onboard at least part-time, if not fulltime. We demurred making an immediate decision because we had been gone for over two years. We had committed to returning to Bicol before leaving and didn't even have a place to live upon our return! Then, in February, 2012, he talked to us again and we soon agreed to teach one trimester a year and I agreed to become the editor of the Asian Journal of Pentecostal Studies, the school’s academic Journal, with Debbie serving on the editing team.  I then asked if the APTS Press, the school’s publishing arm, could publish my doctoral dissertation. The dean immediately agreed without letting on that the Press had no current director. When we visited the campus in June, 2012, to get oriented to our new part-time responsibilities, I was invited to direct the Press as well. About a month later, after much prayer and discussion, recognizing my deepening burden for publishing and writing, I accepted the position. By sheer default, my own dissertation, under the title of Theology in Context, A Case Study in the Philippines became the first book I published as director of the Press. It came out in January. At the moment, it is only on sale in the Philippines, but I hope to have an international marketing plan in place in the next few months and will keep you posted.

We had originally thought that most of these responsibilities could be done from Bicol, thanks to the Internet, with an occasional trip to Baguio at least once a year. However, throughout 2012, we watched our ministry opportunities in Bicol slowly dry up! It wasn't quite as sudden and dramatic as the parting of the Red Sea, but it ultimately became just as clear and we began to actively discuss and pray about what God was saying to us. On January 30 of this year, we came to Baguio for Debbie to teach a block course in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages—a discipline in which she has a master’s degree and for me to give focused attention to his publishing responsibilities.  About a week after we arrived, God clearly lifted my burden for Bicol and pointed us to APTS.

Actually, Debbie had sensed this new direction about 5-6 months earlier than I did, but that's her story to tell. Once the decision was made, I felt divinely compelled to act quickly. Within 48 hours we had Bill's approval (he and his wife, Kim, had been expecting this for months). We then met with the APTS leadership to make sure they still wanted us fulltime and to line out our basic job descriptions. The following week I made a special trip back home to meet with some of our closest friends and co-workers in the Bicol region to give them advance notice before we made the decision public. That was a hard trip and I cried buckets of tears when telling my assistant, Alan, who has worked with me for nearly 17 years! APTS has asked me to dedicate 75% of my time to publishing, including my own writing. I will also coordinate one academic program and do some teaching. Debbie will head up the English department. 

At the moment, packed boxes are beginning to accumulate in preparation for our move on April 30th. Since the house into which we are moving in much smaller, we are downsizing and giving away some of our household goods—reminding us to hold worldly goods lightly so we won’t miss them when they are gone. Sixteen moves in nearly 16 years of marriage reminds us that we are pilgrims and vagrants on this earth anyway (Hebrews 11:13). Thank God, our future home is out-of-this-world!

And now for Debbie’s point of view.

When I think of our lives as Christians and as missionaries, I have often thought of the cloud of the Lord that stayed with the children of Israel while they were on the way to the Promised Land.  When it stayed, they stayed.  But on the day it started moving, they packed up their bags and headed in the direction the Lord was going.  There is no more exciting life on earth than to live under the cloud of the Lord’s presence and to go with Him wherever He wants to go.

But, of course, it isn’t always easy.  As Dave has said, we have dear friends here and our ministry was headed in a wonderful direction, until the Lord slowed us down and began whispering to our hearts that He had something new for us to do.

My thoughts today are about what we are leaving behind because you, our family in Christ, our friends, our prayer and financial supporters, will most certainly share in the joy of our inheritance here and the reward that God will give to all of us.

Dave and Alan have been visiting various ministers’ meetings in Bicol where we have ministered over the years to say goodbye.  We have received many heartfelt “thank yous.” Since you have ministered at our side through you prayers and financial support and share in the fruit of these labors, we would like to share an amalgamation of the pastors’ comments with you:

  • “Many churches have been planted because of your support of our evangelistic team throughout these years.  We thank you from all of our hearts because of this.  We could have never seen this fruit alone.”
  • “Many churches have also been planted through the house church planting training that you enabled us to do here with our many friends in this region.  Again, we thank you for your prayers.”
  • A number of former students have approached us with words of thanks and examples of how they are using the training we gave them to mentor and train workers and to strengthen the discipleship program of their churches.  Through the Bible school and the Church Planting Program, it is possible that as many as 400 workers have been trained. Thank you so much for your prayers.  Without your prayers and financial support we would never have the wisdom, strength or financial resources to mentor these future leaders.

Dave and I both had the same life verse before we were married:  “Ask of me and I will give you the nations as your inheritance and the uttermost parts of the earth as your possession” (Psalm 2:8).  I believe this is one of the reasons God is now moving us on to ministry to international leaders who are in training at APTS.  Please remember us in prayer and giving in this transition, that we will grasp the fullness of God’s vision for us in our new place in His harvest field.

Moving Forward in God’s Plan,

Dave and Debbie

PS A Quick Note. Our support has dropped off again over the last few months. If you have pledged to support us, we thank you for your efforts to give consistently every month. Also, this move was not anticipated, with the projected expenses amounting to about $2,000.00. If you don’t support us and could at least send an offering this month, we would be most grateful. In twenty-five to thirty years of ministry, God has always met our needs. Praise his holy name!