News from Tom and Leslie Johnson
We would like your help with an unusual need. Last year, before the virus interrupted international travel, I (Tom) visited a refugee center in another country to interview a family who had converted to Christianity from Islam. They were fleeing for their lives because of a realistic possibility they would be forced to return to their country of origin to be executed for apostacy. Since then, I have been looking for a place for them to go. It looks like a door has just opened for them in another country, where they could move legally and start back into the normal things Christian families like to do: jobs, home, church, school, friends, hobbies, etc.
We just started a budget for their transition. The current estimate is about $23,000 (USD). This is budget is not appropriate for Global Scholars, but the deacons of our church in North Carolina have offered to oversee donations.
Please pray for this family, and please consider making a donation to support their transition. We hope to send you info on how to make donations within several days.
Several nights ago, I was exhausted after a Zoom went late into the evening, but I was tremendously grateful to have heard in person, from a top Indonesian Muslim thinker, the painful process their team went through when they assessed the atrocities committed by ISIS against Christians in 2014. A technician had assembled 90 minutes of video filmed by ISIS while they were proudly committing crimes against humanity. All the Indonesian Muslims watching the film understood Arabic; and they were sickened by what had become of their religion. Some screamed aloud in anguish during the showing. It is these people about whom I wrote my recent book, Humanitarian Islam, Evangelical Christianity, and the Clash of Civilizations. (Click for a free download.)
As soon as this book was released online, I sent a PDF of the book, which includes long explanations of important themes in Protestant theology and ethics, to our Muslim counterparts. Some of them read it almost immediately; within a few days after publication, they thanked me for describing them and their views accurately. They are accustomed to inaccurate or even slanderous descriptions of Islam coming from Christians.
With my permission they placed my book on their website, along with a very nice communique. They wrote, “The world’s largest Protestant organization has endorsed the Humanitarian Islam movement as an essential vehicle for peacefully and definitively resolving ‘the Muslim-Christian clash of civilizations, which started almost 1,500 years ago. ‘On the day that Pope Francis commenced an historic papal visit to Iraq — which included a meeting with the world’s preeminent Shi‘ite spiritual leader and a tour of Mosul, until recently a stronghold of the defeated ISIS caliphate — the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) Theological Commission published Humanitarian Islam, Evangelical Christianity, and the Clash of Civilizations.” Until very recently I could not have imagined that the world’s largest Muslim organization would promote a book by a Protestant theologian. PTL!
In February 1994, Leslie and I, with our three children, moved to the former Soviet Union, where I was beginning work as a visiting professor of philosophy at a dissident university. Soon I was lecturing on human rights in my classes, as well as for conferences of professors. This forced me to dive more deeply into our theological and philosophical foundations. This deep dive led to a number of books, and recently my third book on the topic of human rights theory was published. For the cover, Leslie suggested a picture of the people standing on the Berlin Wall at the end of communism. I was very pleased that a Muslim scholar wrote a foreword, and a Czech Protestant theologian wrote an appendix about my theory of human rights. The Theological Commission of the WEA has made this book available as a free download on our websites, available here.
My work representing the WEA in religious freedom efforts of the US State Department is continuing. I do not know if the change at the White House will have a large influence. This means that I am participating in Zoom meetings with religious leaders and diplomats from several countries. Sometimes I can give a speech. Two such speeches are available online: Understanding Religious Persecution and Religious Communities as Good Neighbors.
February and March have been busy months and the rest of the Spring looks to be full.
In early March, I was a part of the ACSI Europe team that helped put on a virtual conference in partnership with ECCEN (European Conference for Christian Education in the Netherlands). The bi-annual conference is called the International Educational Leadership Conference and seeks to support and strengthen Christian school leaders. There were 272 people from 46 different countries who joined us in the conference. The Lord be praised!
Now our ACSI Europe colleagues will start looking forward to the Student Leadership Conference held in September each year. We are praying it can be face-to-face this year. Last year’s was online. Europe is currently quite locked down, so we just do not know at this point.
In April, I will be leading an accreditation team for a “virtual” accreditation “visit” of a Christian international school. It is a lot of work for the school and the team, but it strengthens the school and the visiting team members learn a lot. Pray I have wisdom as I help the team and school navigate through a virtual visit.
After that accreditation, I will return to my series of workshops on “Teaching with Cultural Intelligence.” I have been asked to develop an online version of it for ACSI’s Pre-Field Orientation (PFO) that is entirely online now. Pray for me to have wisdom to make this helpful for teachers so that children grow in their cultural sensitivity.
I am still learning and growing through a cohort connected with the Institute of Cross-Cultural Mission (ICCM). Even as I write this, I am involved in a “virtual” retreat. It has been a great experience studying and growing in three pillar areas: theology of unity and diversity, intercultural competence, and leadership competence. Pray for me to manage time well so I can continue to delve into books and webinars about these topics.
We thank the Lord for:
- Tom’s opportunity to coordinate a team of Evangelicals and Indonesian Muslims.
- Opportunities for Tom to advise the State Department.
- Leslie’s opportunity to continue working with her ACSI EU and Global colleagues to strengthen Christian teachers, administrators, and schools.
- Leslie’s opportunity to study theology and intercultural competence to contextualize her training and experience to the US setting.
- Students being taught and discipled in Christian schools around the world, even when school has been online.
- Tom and Leslie have both received both Pfizer COVID-19 vaccinations, as have Aimee and her husband (with whom we live).
Please join us in praying for:
- For the Lord’s purposes for COVID-19 to be accomplished around the world and that he would end it. Soon. Lord willing, by the end of 2021.
- Creative ideas to help persecuted Christians around the world and safe places for them to go.
- Our work from home to be encouraging and helpful locally and from afar.
- Continued wisdom for Tom as he (on behalf of the WEA) engages the world’s largest Muslim group about religious freedom. They are working on a jointly authored book.
- Wise next steps for WEA-Vatican relations.
- Tom as he considers which books to write next.
- Wisdom for Leslie as she develops her series of workshops on “Teaching with Cultural Intelligence.”
- ACSI Europe and ACSI Global to have an impact through conferences for administrators, teachers, and students around the world whose education has suffered because of COVID-19 and virtual learning.
- For Christians around the world to be strengthened to serve God and others in their communities, whether those “others” are different in beliefs, color of skin, nationalities, etc.
- Specifically, for Spring 2021: The refugee family in our lives will need tremendous courage to face huge challenges. They report feeling overwhelmed with discouragement.
Thank you for your faithful prayer for us as well as your financial gifts that allow us to do the work He has called us to.