Sunday, March 29, 2009

Gold Party

Thanks to everyone for their help with the Gold Party.  I think we did VERY well considering the turnout.  I also enjoyed the conversation and just hanging out with the group.  Remember to keep praying every Tuesday morning at 10am for Old Naledi as that is the same time they are having their Tuesday night prayer meeting.  I look forward to meeting with you again soon.  I am working on getting the HIV/AIDS education videoes together and hope to have some info on Travel Insurance as promised.  Thank you again to everyone for the help at the Gold Party.


Monday, March 16, 2009

First Meeting

Starbucks is always a great place to meet! At least those of us coffee drinkers think so! Mark J. answered lots of questions for Nancy, Michelle/Jason and myself.
Gold party is tenatively going to be set for March 29th. Confirmation and a flyer coming on that. I really think it is a great fundraiser because everyone leaves with $$$ and they each have an opportunity to match the % we get! How awesome! It also gives everyone the opportunity to get their friends, family, and coworkers involved in the mission trip and to outreach/witness some.
We are planning on some construction while we are in Botswana and also VBS activities. It will be awesome to be involved in VBS at our church and a few weeks later VBS at Old Naledi. Because several of the orphans are HIV positive, we are scheduling an HIV awareness/screening class to educate ourselves before we leave.
Also, the feedback that we are already getting from so many people about the blog is just awesome! I have already had people tell me how inspired they are by what we are doing! Never thought I could inspire anyone by my actions. God does have a purpose for each one of us as Donnie has mentioned the past 3 weeks. EACH ONE OF US!
As soon as Mr. Dorsey confirms a time/date for our first fundraiser I will post info and email out the pdf flyer to everyone. I encourage everyone to email it out to your friends and family!
I'm looking forward to our next meeting! See you then!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Fun(d) Raisers

Several opportunities were discussed this weekend and I only got a chance to talk with Nanci about the Krispy Kreme donuts (I'm always for that!) opportunity. Robin from Freedom also mentioned a Gold fund raiser. Basically, you have a party and everyone brings old gold to sell and their gold is bought and they get cash. We get a certain percentage of every ounce sold and have an opportunity to get more from the buyer, etc. Lance Owens also mentioned the Pizza Inn gang wants to have a missions night for us and the Owens family (they are going to Costa Rica for a church building mission). I love me some pizza, so that would be great too. I will call the Krispy Kreme folks this week and discuss and hopefully bring a pre-order sheet to church next week so we can start working on that and I plan to follow up with Lance and Robin. If you hear of any more opportunities, let the group know.

I hope you have already started your passport work. If not, don't wait much longer. We need your passport numbers as soon as possible. Thanks!

See you soon!


Thursday, March 5, 2009


Well, up to Passport Health again this morning. I got the 2nd round of shots for the Hep A/Hep B combo. It didn't hurt going in, but having a shot in the same arm as the DTP and first HepA/Hep B dose last week...wasn't smart. My arm is killing me! Nancy had a rough time with sickness/fever after her first dose. She had the yellow fever immunization and her entire arm is swollen and blotchy. I get that one in a few weeks. After looking at her arm, I am not looking forward to it but I am ready to get these over with and move onto our next item on the list...FUNDRAISERS!.........Julie

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Personal Calling for Botswana

As part of the application for the South Carolina Baptist missions scholarship, we had to write out our personal testimony and calling for this mission. Here's mine, I invite the others to do the same!

************************************************************************************Personal Testimony

Mark H. Johnson

I was raised in a church-going family and made a public profession of faith and was baptized as a believer at the age of 9. This was 1979 and at Alice Drive Baptist Church in Sumter, South Carolina. I strongly believe this was a sincere and honest declaration of faith in Christ; but, it was also what was expected of me in my family. I would remain involved with Youth ministry in church throughout high school and would even go on summer mission trips (domestic) and made some statements to friends and family about feeling a call to ministry. However, I did not choose this path and in fact ran as far as I possibly could from ministry and religion while attending college at Clemson University. I basically turned off my faith and sought a purpose and calling in all things worldly. However, because he is faithful, God was still working in my life and seeking reconciliation with me as his child.

After Clemson, I joined the Army. This was another attempt to find a purpose for my life other than ministry. It was while in the Army and stationed on the west coast that I meet my wife, Tricia. Tricia was also in the Army and grew up a non-practicing Catholic in Ohio. It seemed I could continue my path without church and God in my life. Little did I know, but God brought Tricia into my life to begin the restoration and reconciliation with him and his salvation. Not long after Tricia and I married, she was sent to Honduras for a 6 month unaccompanied tour. Tricia found a group of missionaries from Michigan while in Honduras and formed a relationship with Jesus while in Honduras. Didn’t I just say God is faithful? Although I had no plans of reestablishing my relationship with Jesus when my wife returned from Honduras, it was through conversations with her and seeing the change in her that God began to speak to me and reach out to me, his lost son.

When we moved back to South Carolina in 2000, Tricia and I sought a church home for our growing family, now including our first son, Miles. I started working night shift at the hospital and we visited a few local churches when I was not working or sleeping. Then Tricia started going to services at Alice Drive, my childhood church home. Being the stubborn man I am, I initially refused to join her at Alice Drive. I took pride in quoting all the things wrong with that church that I could remember. Of course every church is not perfect because we are all human and we have all sinned. But, I was using this as a wall to prevent me from totally sacrificing my old self that I was hanging on to. Tricia was determined and really started to enjoy the fellowship she found at Alice Drive. She was later baptized as a believer at Alice Drive. Soon I found another excuse to not go to church: graduate school while working night shift full-time. But, I begrudgingly started going to Wednesday night services with Tricia and our two sons.

It was during these Wednesday night services that I joined a men’s class studying John Eldredge’s Wild at Heart. By the end of that class, a great wall had fallen between me and God and between me and my family, including my Alice Drive church family. God used that class as the tool to finally break down the remaining obstacles. I reached out to God and found my heavenly father there faithful and forgiving. In addition, I found myself enjoying the fellowship of my church family and reconnecting with my mentors and fellow brothers and sisters, many who professed to having been praying for me for so many years. I was broken and overwhelmed by all of the emotions I was feeling. How could have been so stubborn and selfish? Reconciliation with God was so easy, yet so hard. My wife’s journey to Honduras was the seed that God planted in my life to bring me back to his fellowship. Amazingly, my relationship with Tricia began to improve and we became closer than ever before. The closer my walk with God, the closer I grow to Tricia. The forgiveness and mercy that God shows me began to flow from me towards my friends and family.

Not long afterwards, I finished graduate school and I found I could now work a normal weekday shift and had the weekends free. While I totally immersed myself back into the church and the service ministries, including choir. It no longer felt silly or fake to stand in front of hundreds of people and shout to the top of my voice how Jesus had saved me, again and again. I was even blessed with the honor and privilege to be called as a Deacon to serve the church body. My ordination with old Sunday school teachers and youth mentors laying hands on me and whispering prayers and affirmations of spirit was a powerful and emotional homecoming for me. After so many years of fighting and fleeing, I had returned to God and his family.

God made another connection to satisfy my search for purpose and a calling, you might even call it a ministry. I had studied about the HIV/AIDS crisis in sub-Sahara Africa in a health policy class at MUSC. Shortly afterwards, God put a musician in my path (if you know me, that’s an easy way for God to get my attention). This musician is a South African folk singer. He and I had a long conversation about the HIV/AIDS crisis and how devastating that was to his country and homeland. Well, God never stops until his work in us is complete. We were just beginning to see the plan. A pastor friend showed up at Alice Drive a few weeks later to speak to us about his new mission focus on sub-Sahara Africa. It was like sky writing saying “Hey Mark, do you get the message now?” At the end of the service, I found myself standing in front of the pastor saying “I don’t know when or where; but, I am going with you to Africa to be the hands and feet of Jesus.” I felt such an amazingly clear vision had been presented to me and I was no longer going to stubborn and try to ignore the message and calling.

My first trip to Africa was in 2007 to the township of Mamelodi, South Africa. We worked with the children and orphanage there. We made amazing friendships and lifelong connections. Nonetheless, this church already had a huge sponsorship from a church in Ohio that was sending hundreds of workers each year. We felt overwhelmed and somewhat diminished in spirit. But, God showed us as believers and seekers he was not going to let us turn from our focus, the children of Africa. We found God was just beginning to use us. Through our first trip, we made connections with a church in Botswana that had a more critical need for help. Old Naledi Baptist Fellowship in Gaborone, Botswana is working to show the love of God and spread the Good News of his salvation to a people beaten and battered by the cycle of HIV/AIDS and poverty. Our trip in 2008 to Gaborone was the affirmation that God really has a purpose and role for those willing to put their self aside for his kingdom.

Because I had moved from Sumter to Greer between the times of joining the trip planning for the 2008 trip, I went as the out of town member. Before going, I spoke to Freedom Fellowship, our new church home, about the mission work in Botswana. I noticed after that service that God was moving in the hearts of many at Freedom Fellowship and brothers and sisters told me that God was pushing them towards Africa and the ministry there. While in Botswana, I boldly proclaimed that Freedom Fellowship would be joining in the fight with Old Naledi and we would be joining in service with Alice Drive Baptist. Moruti James of Old Naledi was more than delighted to hear that good news and I was proud to bring the report back to Freedom Fellowship. Our church is now sponsoring Old Naledi through a monthly donation for the feeding station and ministries there.

While in Botswana, I also promised Moruti James that I would be returning in 2009 to bring a group from Freedom Fellowship to serve and witness the work they are doing with the vulnerable children and orphans of the community. You know it’s easy to say those words while on the spiritual mountaintop of mission work; but, actually carry out the plans? I feel God was commanding me to take that stand and be that conduit for his Love and work in Botswana. As I look back on how God lead me to that church yard in Old Naledi, I can see his work and calling and I am amazed at his work and determination of spirit. It’s with great honor and privilege that I stood in front of Freedom Fellowship again to tell them of plans to return to Botswana to continue serving the children as the hands and feet of Jesus. For as Jesus told us in John 13:34, we are to love one another and that is how others will know us, by our LOVE for one another. That is also the verse I wrote on the church foundation and wall supports for the new church building we erected last year for Old Naledi. That is my purpose and calling that I have sought for so long. Just like the reconciliation with God that took me so long to find, it’s so easy and yet so hard. I continue to pray for God’s guidance and wisdom as we plan our return trip for 2009. I also thank you for reading this testimony of how God has brought me back to his family and given me clarity of purpose and mission for his kingdom.

In His Steps,

Mark H. Johnson

(aka Mareko morwa Johane)

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Joining Alice Drive on the mission

I spoke with Scott Shipes from Alice Drive tonight and he and I have been in close contact about this year's mission in August back to Old Naledi. Scott was the mission leader for last year's trip to Old Naledi. We have been communicating so that we can join our group with another small group from Alice Drive in Sumter. Alice Drive has been partnering with Old Naledi Fellowship and several groups (including the one I went with to Old Naledi) have travelled to serve in Botswana. A large youth group will be going to work and serve in Old Naledi in early June this year. Alice Drive raised over 30,000 to provide the funds used to build the church building for Old Naledi. I tell you all of this to let you know that we are working to have our 2 groups travel and serve together on this mission. Clay Smith, senior pastor from Alice Drive, will also be joining us on this trip, his first trip to Africa too!!! I think total we will have a group of 8 or 9 in country. A small, powerful group of believers willing to step out and be used, many miles from home.

I am really excited about what we are going to accomplish on this trip. I can feel the mission momentum starting to build. That also means I need to start growing more dedicated in my prayers to God about helping me to keep Jesus as the focus of this mission and letting me be used for his kingdom at all times. He is faithful and I need to make sure I am too. Prayer is the only way to keep the focus on Him. I also invite you to join me every Tuesday morning at 10am EST as we join in prayer with the church in Old Naledi for their weekly prayer service. Put it on your calendar and let's lift them in our prayers. It's a small thing; but, God does miraculous things with such things too!

In His Steps, Mareko

The Hands and Feet of Jesus

Thank you Julie for getting this blog online. This is the best way for us to communicate en masse while we are in Botswana. This is also an amazing way for us to communicate and grow as a team. We can share our vision and mission and most importantly, encourage one another as we step out in faith to be used by God to help the vulnerable children and families in Old Naledi. Thank you to Nancy and Jason for joining us on this mission, the first group from Freedom. It's the honor of a lifetime to be enabled as the hands and feet of Jesus on the behalf of other believers. Thank you for joining us on this amazing journey!!!

Keep the words of Christ in mind in all we do in preparation for this mission:

John 13:34-35 (New International Version)

34"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

Monday, March 2, 2009

Julie exposed......shots and such

Welcome to our ADVENTURE! Follow our trip from the infamous and painful DTP shots to our wonderful stories when we return. I hope to have some "team" photos soon. We all feel chosen for this trip for many reasons and I want to share those with you.
First, I'm Julie McCombs. My first experience with Freedom Fellowship was of outreach. We were invited to a picnic at a park and we have all been in love with what Freedom stands for ever since. My husband Keith and I loved it when our sons, Hunter and Logan, asked if they could please come back to visit! We also have another son Jonah. Keith and I have grown so much these past few years....learning, repenting, trusting God, and learning his word. My challenge has been to get out of my safety zone and trust God to lead me where he wants me to be. He has taken me from a crazy and stressful work environment and given me the strength to start my own business. DONE. God had enough faith in me to make this change..who am I to not have faith in his decision? I now have more time with our sons. It has been a blessing to all of them. I have had to learn to utilize this time to teach them about God, witness while I do work, and learn his word. God has been nudging me to not be content. Like Cliff has said before...we are not going to get comfortable as a church! I thought...hmmm? Am I done? New business, more time with kids, more time to learn your word. But for what reason? Then Mark J. mentioned this trip. There it was. Lying so heavy on my soul. The opportunity to outreach, love, teach, pray with, laugh with, and share. He has worked on me so hard this past year. Starting April of '08. God help and lead me. So, here begins my personal Botswana.
Well my first entry in my own personal experience......THE DTP SHOT HURTS! I went for my first set of shots on Tuesday. Hep A, Hep B combo (1st one) DTP, and Typhoid (orally) 1 every other day for 7 days. My shoulder is still sore :)
Off to post office next for my passport.