News from the Johnson’s – January 2021

2020 in Review, Tom

My year began, effectively on Jan 13, with a trip to Rome for meetings organized by the US State Department at the Vatican about religious persecution. There were six Muslim, six Jewish, and six Christian representatives, along with diplomats and State Dept staff. Among the Christians there were two Catholics, two Orthodox, and two Protestants (including me for the World Evangelical Alliance). One of the evenings we met with the Pope for informal discussion.

While in Rome, I also met with my official counterpart at the Vatican and had long discussions with two of the Muslim leaders who strongly support religious freedom for all. This led to many online meetings throughout 2020 with religious and governmental leaders, while spending the rest of my time researching and writing on themes surrounding religious freedom and human rights. Prior to this past year I had friendly contact with the State Department office of religious freedom, but by midyear they were calling me a couple times per week with questions, since they do not have their own religious scholars.

The group that met in Rome

In mid-2020 I published a research article on an important type of Islam, what is now called “Humanitarian Islam,” in the Evangelical Review of Theology. This included a

comparison and contrast with normal Protestant views on many topics, which led to a substantial change in my relationship with the leaders of this Muslim movement. They wrote to thank me for the article and then, with our permission, they republished my article three or four times in Muslim publications. Imagine that! Muslims republishing what I wrote about Christianity! It felt like they began to trust me; I think I had earned their trust by investing a lot of study into honestly understanding their views. There is now a book length version of this study in press, and I am leading the WEA team of a religious freedom joint working group we have formed with this group of Muslims. We have held numerous meetings and have plans developing.

Just a couple days ago I received the proof of my next book on human rights, and a Muslim scholar from this group wrote a nice foreword to the book. Until recently I would not have imagined that a Muslim theologian would participate in publishing a Christian book on human rights.

My aid to the US State Dept has developed into distinct programs, leading to different online conferences about religious freedom in which they have asked me to speak. In December I gave a speech for about 20 diplomats (mostly American) and 50 religious leaders from all sorts of religions from around the world. In January 2021, a year after the Rome meetings, I was one of four speakers (with a Muslim, a Jew, and a Buddhist) for a conference of diplomats from about 25 countries. In every speech I must earn the right to be heard by means of telling them something relevant they have not heard before, so that I can weave part of the biblical message into the speech as an organic part. While consulting on religious freedom, I cannot stop being a minister of God’s Word.

The group in Rome with Pope Francis

2020 in Review, Leslie

Because of COVID-19, I had assumed the year would go more slowly, that I would be bored, that maybe, just maybe, I would get caught up on some things. Did that happen? Nope. 2020 went by in a blur in spite of COVID-19.  How did that happen? Well, the Lord brought my way a lot of good things to do:

January and February, pre-COVID, I was preparing workshops for schools and two conferences for which I was speaking in March/early April.

Though I was able to talk to the students at a Christian school in Rotterdam as planned, all of my other engagements and school visits were cancelled by the end of the second week of March. By that time, countries all over Europe were closing their borders and we were concerned we would get stuck in Europe. So we prayed and worked and managed to get out of the Czech Republic just in time before their borders closed.

Once we were back on US soil, we chose to self-isolate for two weeks before going home to our daughter, who was expecting, and our grandson. Our son-in-law was deployed at the time. Those two weeks were a bit of a respite and rest, for which I am thankful.

In April, we were looking forward to the birth of the newest grandchild and trying to settle back into routine. For me, the question now hung over my head – now what?

May and June were busy with a newborn in the house. How can one have routine then?!? And of course, for Americans, the end of May showed us the dark side of our US culture with the death of George Floyd and the protests and violence that followed. As things heated up about that, I started praying more earnestly: Lord, show me how I can contextualize all my work in cultural intelligence to the US cultural tensions. How can I help?

By praying and reading and watching webinars about race and education and others, I sensed the Lord leading me to apply for a three-year cohort program that focuses on unity and diversity, intercultural competence, and leadership competence. In August, I was accepted into that program and have been full-on busy ever since. I am reading, watching webinars, and working on developing a practicum.

And all that on top of my ACSI Europe meetings with colleagues there that continue once or twice a week, being involved in planning and participating in ACSI EU Student Leadership Conference in September, and ACSI Accreditation. Oh, and babysitting two days a week for my daughter. So nope, not bored.

However, I am humbled and thankful for the Lord’s gift of health and energy, as well as the opportunity to serve in Christian education and learn through the cohort.

 

     

ZOOM Calls and More ZOOM Calls

Would you like to ZOOM with us?

Until travel can happen again, we are available to meet with missions committees and/or Sunday school classes or even church services using Zoom or other platforms. We are also each available for speaking engagements via webinars. Do you need a speaker for an event, church retreat, or mission conference Feel free to invite Tom and/or Leslie to come to your organization. Contact Leslie at prgjohnson@gmail.com to organize engagement for either of us.

2020 Publications and Websites

Tom’s website

https://thomaskjohnson.academia.edu/

Leslie’s website

www.lesliepjohnson.com

After 43 years as a print journal, the Evangelical Review of Theology is online. It is one of the major publications of the WEA for which Tom has been both writing and helping with planning for many years. We now have a subscription form for the online publications of the World Evangelical Alliance. This includes both Theological News and the Evangelical Review of Theology for which Tom is on the editorial team.

Praises as we look back at 2020:

We thank the Lord for:

  • Overall, continued good health for both of us.
  • We are particularly thankful that the Lord moved us to the US to be with family before COVID-19 hit. There is something special and worth thanking the Lord for, to be with family.
  • Tom’s opportunity to participate in high level discussions about religious freedom at the Vatican in January.
  • Leslie’s opportunity to speak to students in Rotterdam, Netherlands, in March.
  • Safe return from Europe back in March, as well as no contact with the COVID-19 virus in our travels.
  • The project Komenksy 2020, celebrating the Christian life and teaching of Jan Amos Komenksy (Comenius), was launched in public schools, libraries, and churches across the Czech Republic in 2020, 350 years after his death.
  • Tom’s opportunity to write about Muslims who support freedom of religion.
  • Tom’s opportunity to coordinate a team of Evangelicals and Indonesian Muslims.
  • Opportunities for Tom to advise the State Department.
  • 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.

Prayers for 2021:  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. What are the next steps? He is reading constantly.
  • 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.

Tom and Leslie Johnson – Global Scholars – April/May 2020

News from Tom and Leslie Johnson

April Update – Leslie

First, THANK YOU!! We would not be where we are without your prayers. We are full of gratitude to the Lord and to you!

Financial Update
Donations are down a couple percent this year from last fiscal year, but we do not have the large costs of an international move this year. With your continued generosity, we are optimistic about finishing our fiscal year in the black at the end of June.

Ministry during the stay-at-home orders…
As you have heard from our March adventures, all but one speaking engagement for me and one meeting (on Zoom) for Tom, were cancelled. I spoke to four classes of middle school students (about 100 total) in the Netherlands. After getting to Prague, we were there only 8 days before we had the mad dash to get back to the US so we would not get stuck in Europe. (If you did not have opportunity to read about our crazy race to get home before borders closed, you can read about that adventure here.)

After two weeks of self-isolating in an RV in a campground, we moved home to be with Aimee and her son. Then our son-in-law got an exception and was able to return from a military deployment early. After his two weeks of quarantine, he, too, returned home. Since early April, we have been together in the house, keeping the physical distance from other people while trying to continue our work and ministry. In other words, we do not want to have “social distance” from people but just “physical distance.”

Besides continuing our work from home, our son-in-law and I have done a lot of gardening. The yard, both front and back, had been neglected. The front had not been weeded since last summer. The back yard had turned into a jungle due to about four years of neglect.

Ministry during the stay-at-home orders…
During the time at home, we have still been working. For Tom, his life has not changed much since a lot of his work is from his computer at his desk. Praying, thinking, writing – all have continued without much change. You can see his update below.

My work has changed some. Before the trip to Europe in March, I was working on my speaking preparations; now there is nothing in sight. However, our ACSI Europe staff have been working on a big project. So, I have spent time reading and editing that project, as well as having online meetings with my ACSI Europe colleagues one or two times a week.

After a lot of that work is done, I want to develop lesson plans for teachers to use to help children and students discuss and develop cultural intelligence. My blog on cultural intelligence has been sorely neglected and I would like to pick that up again, too. I need to be reading more, though, and that is proving a bit more challenging these days. In Prague, a lot of my reading was while I was going from one place to another on public transportation. Now, I don’t have that carved out time to read. And as I live with a busy young family, I find myself doing other things than sit and read. 🙂

Thank you for your continued support in prayer and with finances! We cannot do what the Lord has called us to do without your help.

Major Report on Evangelical/Muslim Relations – Tom

During the last year I have invested thousands of pages of reading, some 40,000 miles of travel to meetings, dozens of emails, and many hours of phone and video calls in response to a request I received about a week after last year’s Easter bombings in Sri Lanka. The world’s largest Muslim organization wanted Christians to know that they were appalled by violence committed by Muslims against Christians. Now the World Evangelical Alliance and the Humanitarian Islam movement have announced a long-term joint working group to respond to both religious extremism and secular extremism. I was asked to lead the Christian team in this joint effort. Below is the summary of a press release from the WEA, followed by links to reports in the Muslim and Christian press.

Global Evangelical and Muslim organizations
launch major joint religious freedom project

(Bonn, 21.04.2020) Leaders from the world’s largest independent Muslim organization and the world’s largest Evangelical Christian organization are beginning a joint effort to respond globally to threats to religious freedom coming from religious extremism and secular extremism. They have appointed top-level theologians, human rights theorists, and religious freedom activists from both religions to a Humanitarian Islam/World Evangelical Alliance joint working group to reshape the global discussions and interactions of religions in academia, public life, education, conflict resolution, and humanitarian needs. This comes in direct response to terrible levels of religious persecution and religiously motivated violence seen in the twenty-first century.

This is a press release on a Muslim website.

This is the press release on the WEA website.

Click HERE for the link to get to Tom’s academic website.
Click HERE for the link to get to Leslie’s website and blog.

Thank you so much!

We appreciate you all and are thankful for the Lord’s work through you!

Praises:
Join us in thanking the Lord for:

  • Overall, continued good health for both of us.
  • Leslie’s opportunity to speak to students in Rotterdam, Netherlands.
  • Safe return from Europe back in March, as well as no contact with the COVID-19 virus in our travels.
  • Tom’s opportunity to write a report on Jakarta.

Prayers:

Please join us in praying for:

  • Our work from home to be encouraging and helpful from afar.
  • Leslie to make time to read the books which are important for her work.
  • For her work to develop the lesson plans for cultural intelligence that would be helpful examples for teachers.
  • The Lord to bless the ACSI Europe project Leslie is helping with.
  • Continued wisdom for Tom as he (on behalf of the WEA) engages the world’s largest Muslim group about religious freedom. What are the next steps? He is reading constantly about these questions.
  • Wise next steps for WEA-Vatican relations.
  • The project Komensky 2020, celebrating the Christian life and teaching of Jan Amos Komensky (Comenius), has launched in public schools, libraries, and churches across the Czech Republic. This has been challenging to keep going with the closing of schools in the Czech Republic. Pray for wisdom and opportunity for teachers to access and use this project in their classrooms.
  • Creative ideas to help persecuted Christians around the world.

Global Scholars:
PO Box 12147
Overland Park KS 66282-2147

Tom & Leslie Johnson – February/March 2020

*****Here’s our February/March newsletter. By the time this went out today, we learned the week ahead will be a bit more chaotic for Leslie than planned. She is flying to Amsterdam tonight and the conference she was to attend has been cancelled due to Covid-19 concerns. Pray for wisdom for her and her colleagues on how to use that time well.*****

Thank you!!

 First of all, THANK YOU!! Because of your generous donations in December, we ended the calendar year in the black. We are humbled by and grateful for your kindness, love, and support. We are facing some costs for our March and April travel.

After having the family come for Christmas, we have had a quiet schedule, giving us time to write and prepare for our upcoming trip.

We head to Europe next week. Leslie will go first, landing in the Netherlands to speak to some 12-14 year-olds at a Christian school. After an educational conference, she will head to Prague and meet Tom there. We both have plenty of ministry and work ahead.

Leslie will visit several Czech national Christian schools and speak later in the month at a Christian teachers conference about school improvement. Then she will fly to Rwanda to lead a pre-conference workshop on teaching with cultural intelligence.

Tom will have meetings in Prague with people connected to the Comenius Institute and in Bonn with the board and faculty of Martin Bucer Seminary. Right now, it is on his agenda to go to Ukraine. However, something came up just at this writing which might send him a different direction.

It feels a bit precarious to travel to Europe and Africa during this time of fear about COVID-19. Leslie is a little worried that we would get stuck in Europe. That wouldn’t be so bad except that Aimee is expecting in early May. We would hate not to be in North Carolina to be helpful. So we would like your prayers. Through out all of our travels, we’d appreciate prayers for:

  • Safety and health (especially with the COVID-19 stuff going on);
  • Encouragement to those we are working with;
  • And wisdom in our speaking engagements, that we speak the Lord’s words, not ours.

Thank you for the prayer and financial support that make our work possible.

My Unexpected Trip in January – Tom

I represented the World Evangelical Alliance at meetings of 25 Jewish, Muslim, and Christian leaders January 14 to 16, 2020, addressing the issues of religiously motivated conflict and persecution. The meetings were called by the U. S. State Department and the Vatican.

Sam Brownback, U. S. Ambassador for International Religious Freedom (in an interview with Religious News Service, Jan. 16) said, “I think the world is crying for this movement,” adding that even though the world might not want to talk about religion, the matter cannot be ignored. “If we’d involved the religious actors 30 years ago in the Middle East peace negotiations and discussions, saying ‘OK, this is what we are thinking about, what do you think? Help us build the peace,’ we might be somewhere today,” he said. “We still don’t have peace in the Middle East and the prospects don’t look particularly good.”

The meeting and following efforts envision multi-faith interventions wherever religions are contributing to hostility and violence, rather than contributing to the well-being of peoples and communities. In particular, the religions represented committed themselves in a brief statement:

  • “To focus such efforts towards those wracked by conflicts and carnage, where possible, by sending teams to one or two areas not yet served by multi-faith efforts to help spur and guide towards peace.
  • “To advocate before our political and civic leaders to use these values of religious freedom, civic equality, and societal change of differences as a foundation of laws, policies, and civic norms.”

I participated in two roles. As the WEA Envoy to the Vatican I attend some meetings in Rome; as WEA representative to engage Humanitarian Islam I am to see if there are ways that Christians and this large group of Muslims can cooperate on religious freedom. While talking on the phone with a senior figure from these Muslims a few days before going to Rome, we discovered that we agreed that “religious freedom” is often undefined. We worked together to use the excellent United Nations definition of religious freedom in these meetings.
There are not many Protestants who attend meetings such as this. I was very happy I could tell senior Muslim leaders, some from countries where Christians are persecuted, that our hundreds of millions of Evangelicals are in communication and have international representatives. This may lead to more respect for some less-visible churches.

While in Rome I also met with the Vatican bureau chief for Evangelical relations. Once again, we discussed, given our limited manpower, what we can do together that will truly be beneficial for Christians on both sides. We raised some options that are now being discussed.

Thank you for your continued support in prayer and with finances! We cannot do what the Lord has called us to do without your help.
The four people closest to Pope Francis are Muslim theologians. The man immediately to the Pope’s right is a senior, prominent Arab Sunni thinker; the man ahead of me, to my left is a prominent Indonesian Sunni thinker. Ambassador Brownback is farther to the right of the Pope, as is former US Ambassador for Religious Freedom, Rabbi David Saperstein. Some of the people are State Dept staff. The photo was taken in the building in the Vatican where the Pope makes his home.
The delegates to the meetings in Rome in January
Materials To Download
The Department for Theological Concerns of the World Evangelical Alliance has released the 10th edition of our resource CD online. It contains both major WEA book series (Global Issues and World of Theology), our International Journal for Religious Freedom, back issues of the Evangelical Review of Theology, our Journal of Islam and Christianity, along with hundreds of other books in English, French, Spanish and several languages, all of which we recommend, all as free downloads. I have participated in this project for about 15 years. For our library click here (overview) or here.
My book Christian Ethics in Secular Cultures was just published in Albanian, available for free here.
Two recent books I revised and edited in English for German friends, as free downloads:

Click HERE for the link to get to Tom’s academic website.

Thank you so much!

We appreciate you all and are thankful for the Lord’s work through you!

Praises:

Join us in thanking the Lord for:

  • Tom’s health continuing to improve. All his blood work recently shows good progress. And his hip is not in such pain.
  • A good trip for meetings in Rome in January.
  • A good time with our children and grandchildren over Christmas.
  • Tom’s opportunity to write a report on Jakarta.

Prayers:

Please join us in praying for:

  • Our upcoming travels:
    • Tom – to Europe, including Czechia, Germany, and Ukraine.
    • Leslie – to Europe and Africa, including Netherlands, Czechia, and Rwanda.
  • Good health while traveling, including no exposure to COVID-19.
  • No cancelled flights due to COVID-19.
  • Our different meetings and talks to be an encouragement to those we are working with.
  • Continued wisdom for Tom as he (on behalf of the WEA) engages the world’s largest Muslim group about religious freedom. What are the next steps?
  • Wise next steps for WEA=Vatican relations.
  • The project Komensky 2020, celebrating the Christian life and teaching of Jan Amos Komensky (Comenius), has launched in public schools, libraries, and churches across the Czech Republic. Our project leader, Doc Dr. Jan Habl, received a presidential medal from his university for this effort. Here is a Czech website with pictures of teachers participating: http://www.najdilektora.cz/vyhledavani/#/search
  • Creative ideas to help persecuted Christians around the world.

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.

             

Global Scholars:
PO Box 12147
Overland Park KS 66282-2147
Phone: 913-962-4422

New from Tom & Leslie Johnson – Nov/Dec 2019

Tom’s Report on the Indonesia Trip
I spent November 6 to 14 in Indonesia for the General Assembly of the World Evangelical Alliance as one of 800 delegates representing 650 million Christians whose churches belong to the WEA.  A few thousand people from the local churches joined us for the opening ceremony. In addition to speaking at a workshop, I had numerous meetings with individuals and time with the staff of our department whom I do not see very often. My academic assistant, Kyle Wisdom, was a tremendous help.

What to do in response to persecution and opposition was a theme in many meetings; next steps are being planned.  I am especially grateful for the time I had with the Vatican bureau chief for evangelical relations who attended as an official observer. He and I began to identify topics to discuss when I next visit their offices in Rome. My speech should be published soon by the WEA Theological Commission in the Evangelical Review of Theology. A preliminary version is available here

While in Indonesia I also coordinated a team of Christian scholars who met with a team from the Humanitarian Islam movement, which has its offices in Jakarta. This is the world’s largest Muslim organization, representing some 90 million people. We had a very friendly meeting, lasting a good part of a day. An Indonesian cabinet minister who is a Christian joined us for dinner. There should be more to report on this relationship. I am preparing a study on the distinctives of this type of Islam.

I was exhausted when I got home, but I am thankful to you and to God for these opportunities. Such work would not be possible without a faithful group of people praying, encouraging, and giving. Now I am considering how to follow up on these meetings. Pray for God’s wisdom.
Thank you for the prayer and financial support that make our work possible.

  Tom prior to speaking…

Delegates to the WEA Assembly

Leslie’s December Notes

Financial Update
Thank you for the encouraging donations in the last few weeks! We are optimistic about getting caught up by the end of the year. It is on our hearts to continue our efforts for several years. To do that we continue to need a loyal and generous team behind us.

Tom’s health
Tom survived Indonesia and the change of food. However, he did need to start taking meds while there to calm his system. We are thanking the Lord for the effectiveness of the meds and his relatively good journey.

Next….
I am working on developing a fourth workshop for my “Teaching with Cultural Intelligence” series. Please join me in praying for wisdom in the content. I would like to help teachers work with different cultures in their classrooms well.

Thank you for your continued support in prayer and with finances! We cannot do what the Lord has called us to do without your help.

Materials To Download

The Department for Theological Concerns of the World Evangelical Alliance has released the 10th edition of our resource CD online. It contains both major WEA book series (Global Issues and World of Theology), our International Journal for Religious Freedom, back issues of the Evangelical Review of Theology, our Journal of Islam and Christianity, along with hundreds of other books in English, French, Spanish and several languages, all of which we recommend, all as free downloads. I have participated in this project for about 15 years. For our library click here (overview) or here.

My book Christian Ethics in Secular Cultures was just published in Albanian, available for free here.

Two recent books I revised and edited in English for German friends, as free downloads:

  1. Modern Fathers: Neither Wimps nor Tyrants.
  2. Corruption: When Self-Interest Comes before the Common Good.

Click HERE for the link to get to Tom’s academic website.

Click HERE for the link to get to Leslie’s website and blog.

The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.
Psalm 23:1-3

Praises:
Join us in thanking the Lord for:

  • Tom’s safe trip to and from Indonesia.
  • Leslie’s safe trip to and from Panama.
  • Tom’s opportunity to meet with different people while in Jakarta.
  • Tom’s good meetings with the Humanitarian Muslims.
  • Good health for Tom throughout this important trip, especially that his food allergies were managed in all the different times of meals.

Prayers:

Please join us in praying for:

  • Continued wisdom for Tom as he (on behalf of the WEA) engages the world’s largest Muslim group about religious freedom. What are the next steps?
  • Wise next steps for WEA-Vatican relations.
  • The project Komensky 2020, celebrating the Christian life and teaching of Jan Amos Komensky (Comenius), has launched in public schools, libraries, and churches across the Czech Republic. Our project leader, Doc Dr. Jan Habl, received a presidential medal from his university for this effort. Here is a Czech website with pictures of teachers participating: http://www.najdilektora.cz/vyhledavani/#/search
  • Creative ideas to help persecuted Christians around the world.
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