Mustard Seeds

Mustard Seeds

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Obedient Rocks

I would LOVE to write an end of the year update that sounds something like this: 

"20 people came to know the Lord, 2 communities were taken out of abject poverty, and 200 children were saved from disease through God working in my ministry this year."

I would love to say I had a hand in things like that. That I shared the Gospel with people who have never heard the good news, planted churches, relieved people's felt needs, empowered the poor...

Unfortunately, my update might sound much more self-centered. Because the fruit of my ministry (YOUR ministry as you partner with me) seems distant to me... at times invisible. My end of the year report is not about living in a foreign country or working directly with the lost. It is about something that seems entirely different. But yet, as God is showing me more of His purposes, actually is the same thing...

Last week my pastor told us the story of a king who was tired of his castles, wars, power. He asked the local monastery if he could instead live with them, forsaking everything he had. One of the monks told the king that their life was one of obedience to God, to which the king promptly responded, "yes, that is the life I want!" The monk replied, "Then go. God has asked you to be a king, return and be obedient to that calling."

I was instantly struck by the desire of this king to be obedient... somewhere other than where he was called to be. Sound familiar? It did to me. All year I have asked God, "Why am I here? Why the States? Why a job where I am on my computer all the time? Where are the interactions with people?"

To which He often replies, "Be obedient. Not to the calling you want me to give you. To the place where you are now. To the people you are finding it hard to love now. To the tasks I have asked you to complete here."

And that is what makes this update the same as my updates from Mexico, or any update I could give from another ministry. Obedience. It doesn't really matter where I am, or what I am doing. It doesn't matter if I can see the fruit of my labor or if only God can. Because when I am obedient to God's calling, then I am fulfilling my place in His grand plan, and that is the best kind of success.

So, what have I seen in this process of obedience? That God is REALLY working on me, I mean really. I feel that this year has consisted of Him chunking off parts of me that were unsightly or unChristlike and smoothing out my rough edges. I feel like I may have started out the year looking like this:

All the while thinking I looked like a nice, smooth little ocean pebble. And now, I realize I have SO many places where God needs to come in with a chisel. I now look a little less bristly, like this rock below, but, I am still rough. Notice the little crosses on the top of this rock? They give me hope that I might be reflecting God a little bit better as I go through this process. (click the picture for a better look)

Basically, I have seen myself under a magnifying glass this year: my flaws, my inability to love well, my judgmental nature, my pride, my... the list goes on and on. And I have come out feeling raw and frustrated yet refined and challenged. I have felt like a failure, all the while getting to see God succeed. Though the frustration and tears are more common than the parties and confetti, I sense that this is a year I will remember for the rest of my life. The hardest year. The one where God made me look more like Him.

Maybe He is refining me for something harder down the road. Helping me see how to love people now so the people that need His love even more will be easier to share it with. I sense I wouldn't succeed in the harder places of missionary life without this refining first.

So, as I sit behind my computer once again, I don't have much to show you. Maybe I could show you some website content that impacted people, and few videos that spoke to someone, new designs around the office that brightened someone's day, pages of edited workbooks that will be used in churches around the country. Electronic based ministry is hard to pinpoint. But I COULD show you my journal, my prayers, my God moments. There is a lot to be seen there. Maybe something you can learn from. That would be nice!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

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One Year in Florida

Today marks a year since my dad and I drove across the Alabama-Florida line and arrived at my new home. A year since we unpacked my car and placed all of my boxes in an empty room. A year since I had a meltdown as I sat on my unmade bed and couldn't believe my dad was leaving the next day on a 5 hour flight away from me. A year since I started a completely new chapter.

I can hardly believe it.
What do you write to sum up a year of emotions, challenges, blessings, and Jesus? It's impossible, unless you wanted to ride the roller coaster with me all over again. So instead, I am going to use this time to focus on what is happening now and what is to come.

I have been abundantly blessed this year with ministry. Not only has my idea of "ministry" changed and grown but also my opportunity to take part in it. Since finding my new church family in April, I have been able to jump right in to serving. So much so that I have run out of time in the week to feel like I am doing ministry well. So after much prayer and talking with my Media boss at I-TEC, I have decided to take Fridays as church ministry days. It is my time to work on media projects for church, plan my lessons for children's Super Church (I have taken over the first service for 1st through 5th graders), practice the worship music for Sunday, and really study my lessons for facilitating a women's bible study group. It is a very full day indeed. But such a blessing.

Another way that ministry has expanded is in the evenings, after I get home from work at I-TEC. I recently started attending classes at a gym and I can see God really bonding me to the other people at this small Karate Dojo where the people are like a family. It has been incredible to be a part of this group where I have an opportunity to shine like Jesus. It's about time I had some non-Christian community! Especially since my church is across the street... that's pretty much my Jerusalem (Acts 1:8).

A third and really huge way that my definition of ministry has expanded is in relationships. Before, when I was interrupted by a conversation or an unexpected interaction with a person, I would feel unproductive. Now, I welcome those moments when I can focus on a person instead of a task. Building relationships at work, at the store, anywhere... that is truly ministry. Time to truly pour out on and receive love from people. This is a part of my journey with the Lord that I have been loving recently.

In this month of reflecting on this one year mark, I have thought many times about the massive amount of gratitude I have for you all. Without your support none of this would be possible. It would not be possible for me to work in missions with the freedom to take Fridays off, to spend time building friendships during the day, to serve wherever God is calling me. You are the team that makes my ministry able to grow and expand and become something new every day. Thank you for being faithful to encourage and uplift me. Thank you for being well... amazing.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Let's Be Real...

Let's be (slightly sarcastically) real... there are a lot of things we as single people get to do that others cannot. To make you more grateful for your singleness let's take a look at some of those things... with some selfies thrown in (because that just makes sense for a post about being single)...

1. Netflix binges. The other Friday night I was sitting on my couch thinking, "I should probably go to bed, that would be the responsible thing to do." Then, I realized I had no reason to be that responsible! So I watched another three episodes of "Top Gear UK." And I was content.
This is Mexico in the World Cup but still a TV binge.

2. Sleeping in. I love going to bed one day a week without setting an alarm. For some reason my body is like a teenager's and I can sleep for days. If I had another person in my room I wouldn't be able to sleep off my "Arrow" binges till 11 in the morning.
How I feel when I don't sleep enough...

3. Eating cereal for dinner. How many married men want their wives to say, "I don't want to cook and I am not that hungry. So I am going to eat cereal, and maybe some chocolate, for dinner"? Not many. So I happily eat whatever I want for dinner while I am still only responsible for my own food. 
Maybe onions are more your style... still not a complete meal.

4. Running around like a headless chicken. While I can, I overbook my life with ministry, friends, church, and the gym. Because I can! I don't have a single relationship (other than God, mind you) that I have to focus on daily. I see my roommates and friends a lot but our friendships are not affected if I sometimes only see them for ten minutes a week. I am basically free to fill up all my hours with things I love to do.
Selfies work with other people too. Out to dinner for Emma's Birthday.

5. Traveling. I love it. And sometimes at the last minute I find myself planning trips to places because my schedule is mine. We really need to realize how cool that is. To do what we want, when we want (within reason) on a whim. 
 Amazon Jungle!? Yes.

I totally understand that things like spontaneous trips to the beach, marathons of TV shows, and eating only a pile of veggies for dinner can be done (or even improved upon) when you are dating/married. I am just grateful that I get to do this all the time now.

Monday, August 25, 2014


When we were giving praise reports last night in Bible Study I had to praise God for this most recent transition back to Florida. Thinking of leaving my friends and family AGAIN made me cry a little bit everyday when I was in Mexico and Temecula, CA. (Not that everyone knew that I was on the verge of a meltdown for about a week there.) I teared up seeing my older sister's belly containing the newest Kenneth Ernest Fietz (IV), I spilled some tears saying goodbye to Mexico once again, I even cried just looking at my mom. She wisely told me to go to bed. That helped, I was exhausted. The worst, however, were the tears in the airport on the phone with my grandma (the San Diego airport is tiny, everyone saw), and the tears as I left the Orlando Airport and stepped into the extreme mugginess of Florida. I was a mess.

The praise is that only a few days later I was ok with Florida once again. We reconciled (most) of our differences and I feel more at home again. I still hate the bugs, humidity, and distance from home. But I also love my church, my friends here, the work I get to do at I-TEC, flying, and my roommates. So I think the giant spiders will have to die one by one as I get my courage up to squash them and  the humidity will just continue being destroyed with air conditioning. All is well. Praise God for contentment in His plans. When you know He has you someplace on purpose, sometimes it doesn't even matter what the purpose is (the jury is still out on that one).

As for the trip itself... too many good things to list them all! I spent 4.5 days in Ejido El Porvenir, Mexico and 4.5 days in Temecula, California. It was not enough time in either place but unless I can clone myself to live permanently in both places, it never will be. Both places are home to me. Which is probably why I maximized my time with people. I think my longest night of sleep might have reached 6 hours. Most were closer to 5. For me, that's insane. I was a zombie by the end. A happy zombie. Once again, I regale you with a tale via pictures:

 After two trips it took me FOREVER to be motivated to pack again.
Such a welcome sight! I drove down with three close friends: Jason (on staff with me my first year), Jessica (one of my students last year), and Rachel (worked at the orphanage in Porvenir my first year).
The first day in Porvenir meant a nice lunch in the valley with the Vomsteegs and gang. Oh how I love these people!
 We went to the beach of course and discovered you could tour ships, for free, from the Mexican Armada... pretty sweet!
 Our old houses were gone. No more Ventana as we know it. Lots of changes happening!
 Rachel and I attended our friends' wedding and it was beautiful. Then I found out last week that we made it in the newspaper (middle right). We are now Ensenada Socialites.

I don't know why I don't have any pictures with my Mexican friends. I spent more time with them than anything. I think others have pictures on their phones.

To Temecula!
 Temecula was a whirl of coffee/dinner/hang out dates with people who mean the world to me like Kristin and Chelsea here. Chels was showing Kristin how to do makeup and I just know it was a lost cause for me. ;)
 I got a great afternoon of Del Mar, Ikea, and Panera with Stacey. She makes everything great. =)
Spent an evening at the beach with Matt (who now lives in Chicago) and Chelsea (who lives in Ukraine)... such a random but good combination.
 Then the best part of California! Celebrating Amanda and Kenny, and itty bitty Kenny, aka Cuatro. The shower was beautiful (go mom!) and it was so great to spend time with this baby bump and the family.
 I am truly blessed with such amazing sisters. =)

Monday, August 4, 2014

Still Learning... The D.R.

I am still learning...
How to listen.
How to ask the right questions.
How to support.
How to love well.
How to complain less.
How to be missional.
How to make changes.
How to be humble.

I love College Road Baptist Church. They are my family here in Florida and I get overwhelmed thinking of how much I love these people and how supported and cared for I am by them. When I do anything with this family, I see Jesus. It's incredible.

So to be with them in the Dominican Republic this past week (the DR) was such a fun experience. We laughed (loudly), ate (a TON), snacked (even more), talked (about everything), and did life together (also loudly). I will never forget the nights on the hotel balcony sharing together, the times of seeing God's church body at work, the sweet worship times in Spanish, and the many hours of traveling and exploring with this amazing group.

On top of crazy family bonding, this trip also allowed me to listen more. To the local pastor, missionaries, my pastor, my church, the local Dominicans, VBS kids, etc. They all have voices. They all have ideas and passions. I was privileged to ask questions that would get them talking about their hearts for the DR. I got to see how we can support those on the front lines better, how we can love this country more effectively, and how to be humble when my ideas don't line up with what I see or hear. God showed me when I needed to practice humility... and when I needed to practice A LOT more humility (not my strong suit).

Now as we are back in Florida, I am excited to take this trip, and work with all the hearts involved to become truly useful to the Dominican people, to Pastor Jose, to the worldwide church. How can we be missional so that it makes disciples? So that local people are empowered? So that we take a back seat to the Dominican people loving on their own? So that we can help without hurting? I have some ideas, but what really matters are the Dominican's ideas. I can't wait to be part of the missions conversation at College Road. As a family we move forward!

Thursday, July 24, 2014


It started with a hashtag. Ok, not really. But we made it into a hashtag. The "Epic Johnson Adventure Of The Year" deserved a title... especially since it was to the Amazon Jungle of Ecuador.

When my dad wanted to go I told him to "wait for me!!" So he did. Then he called me asking what I thought about Kimberly going. Little sister in the Jungle with us??? Heck yes! So it became:

And it rocked. A simple equation to explain why:

Three Johnsons + Amazon Jungle + Waodani Tribe + Piranha for Dinner + Caiman for Breakfast + Jungle Mites + Poisonous Spiders + the Gooey-wah (baƱo) + daily river swims + sleeping in hammocks + rain + jungle hikes + living off the land + great relationships + parrot and monkey pets + making string from plants + meeting Mincaye and Ompodae + shooting blow guns + throwing spears + carving balsa trees + staring fires old school + leaf baskets + mud + planting Yucca + bonding with Wao women + getting married + dugout canoe + piloting the plane over the jungle Superman Zip Line + Jumping off a Bridge + good dad hugs + alpaca blankets + family bonding = the trip of a lifetime

I took over 1,000 pictures. So you can imagine how hard it was to widdle them down to less. Here is my attempt too sum up the trip. I am leaving SO MUCH out but I wanted to show you some of what we did:

 With Mincaye and Ompodae.
 Coming into camp.
 The most annoying Marmoset of all time. Never stopped squawking.
 Our longhouses... home sweet home!
 Selfie with Mincaye. I couldn't resist.
 Making string from palm trees. Hardest thing ever!
These get turned into hammocks and bracelets... after HOURS of labor.

 Ompodae and Kimberly making jungle pottery.
 Washing dishes in a tributary of the Amazon.
 Fixing our leaky banana-leaf roof with more leaves.
 The only time I let him sit on me. He promptly got tangled in my hair.
 Learning how to pack a blow gun.
 Cotton from a cotton tree on a dart and you're off!
 Epic miss.
 The gooey-wah... what a lovely throne.
 Especially at night.
 So dark. So many poisonous spiders. So gooey.
They caught three Caiman when night fishing.
 Still alive!
 Going for a crocodile stroll. That's normal!
Caiman for breakfast! That's a first!
 Piranha. Only thing the white people caught. Didn't taste bad at all.
 Kimberly was named after this flower... Kemee.
 Snake near my hammock. I was sad they killed him since he wasn't poisonous.
 They also killed Kimbo's favorite, birds. Tasty!
 Trying to start a fire. Hilarious.
 My dad started an epidemic of balsa wood carving. Just by asking what the Balsa tree looked like.
 Then a Wao man, Anipal, made my dad a plane. Out of a tree. Amazing!
 On a hike we swing over gorges...
 got really muddy (this is the best I looked)...
 got really hot...
 made baskets...
 and got covered in Jungle Mites (just me). Infectious tiny bugs that were ALL over me!!! =/
 Onepa scrambled up this tree before I could blink. These people are incredible.
 The men in the meantime at some grubs. 
 With our baskets.
 Dad carving some darts.
 Poison brewing for the darts... gotta kill some monkeys! (we never did)
 Beautiful butterflies were everywhere!
 After we threw spears, Mincaye tried it. He missed...
 but then again, so did I.
 And so did Kimberly.
 And so did my dad. haha
 Making a necklace.
 Playing football.
 Our lovely longhouse.
 The kitchen.
 Our beds.
 Our friends. Not.
 The last night we had a traditional wedding ceremony.
 I got married. Oops.
Micanye and Ompodae heading home!
 Dad heading out with his plane.
 Bye first canoe!
 I was there until the end. Last canoe and last plane.
"Gangee y Kemee, siempre feliz." means "Stephanie and Kimberly always happy." We were! We loved it!!!
 On the way to the airstrip.
 I love these ladies!
 I got to fly out of the jungle. BEST ENDING EVER!!!
 After coming out of the jungle we became tourists. At the Nate Saint house where the story began.
Such an amazing group.

Let the non-Jungle festivities begin!
 Like jumping off of bridges (I did this last time too... was still scary). Hi dad!

 We ended up with only her legs. Poor Kimberly. Just kidding... but the whole family did jump!

  We also all did the Superman Zipline over beautiful waterfalls that cascade into a canyon.
 We then explored the old city of Quito and some cathedrals. It was a relaxing day.
 Goodbye Ecuador... for now!!!

Sorry for the jumpy subtitles and all over the place pictures. I just want you to experience it! My other solution is you just going for yourself. You should. I know you thought about it. 

Do it.