Missionaries-at-Large: The Johnsons

November 16, 2020

“And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also. Thou therefore endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.”

II Timothy 2: 2-3

Before they begin, few missionaries know much about mission life on their own. Many books have been written on the subject, and part of our ministry has always been to encourage new missionaries to read books written by veteran missionaries. Certainly, biographies of former servants of the Lord are wonderful, and we have learned much from them ourselves. However, we also have found that there is nothing better than meeting with veteran missionaries face-to-face and learning from them. We would like to reflect on a few of those encounters, and how these individuals have guided and aided us over the past 55 years.

It All Begins

By 1965 I, Gary, was very familiar with The Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions. That April I took my first flight to Philadelphia, where the headquarters was located. I was called to meet with Board members and was accepted as a missionary. A senior couple, Dr. and Mrs. J. Gordon Holdcroft, invited me into their home on the mission compound. They talked much of missions, and I recall them encouraging me to concentrate on building up Sunday Schools. The reason was, as they explained, that the parents would come in time to see what the children were learning and eventually a church could be built. Dr. Holdcroft said that where they had served in Korea and China, this was so true. In a later meeting with the Holdcrofts, I was told to keep my eye on the mark, as Paul wrote to the Philippian church, “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:14

On to Kenya

Then in September 1965, Gary left for the medical ministry in Mwingi, Kenya. There were quite a few missionaries at that station, serving faithfully. Two of the senior ladies, who started serving there in the early 50’s, were Miss Dorothy Roberts and Miss Marion McNeil. Miss Roberts was the builder of many of the buildings, as well as a teacher in the Mwingi Bible School. Miss McNeil was a nurse with a lot of experience in tropical medicine.

Though we did not always see things eye-to-eye, the ladies knew African culture, the language (Kikamba), and the laws of the land. These ladies went on medical and church safaris, and could fill-in anywhere with whatever they were asked to do. We also recall that Miss McNeil could have the best Christmas party in their house and Miss Roberts was an expert in carving the turkey. Pat and I have often said how well they taught us how to minister in Kenya, both medically and spiritually.

An Opening Window to the Holy Land

On our way to Kenya in 1969, we visited the Holy Land, where we met another hero of the faith, a veteran missionary lady, Mrs. Irma (Schneck) Lambie. Miss Irma Schneck served at an outstation in

Ethiopia for a number of years where she had worked with Dr. and Mrs. Thomas Lambie, who headed the mission medical work there. Both Dr. and Mrs. Lambie were in failing health and it was recommended that they stay in the States. After much prayer and consideration, the couple felt led to return to the mission field, in Palestine. However, on that voyage Mrs. Lambie (Charlotte) became very ill, and passed away when they arrived at Port Said, Egypt. Although broken hearted, Dr. Lambie traveled by train to Jerusalem, where he was met by friends, eventually starting the Baraka TB Hospital. Very lonely, in poor health, and with the increase in patient load, Dr. Lambie decided to ask Miss Irma Schneck to join him to be his helper in the work in Palestine, and also to be his helpmeet. She became his wife and nurse for seven years, before he went home to be with the Lord, while visiting the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem.

As I, Gary, was making preparations for the mission field, I heard of another couple also making plans for the field. Dr. and Mrs. Thomas Proctor and their family were preparing for work at the Baraka Hospital in the Holy Land. Dr. Proctor was a Radiologist, but also very adept in other medical works. Studying at Bob Jones University, Dr. Proctor was called on several times to care for Dr. Bob Jones Jr., when he was in the hospital. In 1970, Pat and I were invited to stay with the Proctors in Nashville for two months, as we studied Radiation Oncology at Vanderbilt University Hospital, so that we could help in the oncology program Dr. Proctor was preparing in Baraka. In God’s providence, we went to Kenya and the Proctors went on to Palestine a bit later. They also came to work in Mwingi Hospital for a while, as the hospital doctor. Yes, he was a radiologist, but Dr. Tom was called on for many procedures, including a C-section performed as he read the book! He did the procedure, and the mother and baby were fine!

Later when the Clinics of Care opened in 1995 in Isovya, we were privileged to have the Proctors and also Jane Shrewsbury (who had been a missionary nurse in Mwingi) to be there for the opening. They were there with us to oversee the opening of the clinic and to meet with the government officials who came to visit the new work. Mrs. Catherine Proctor was anxious to teach in the local high school, making friends, and witnessing for the Lord. Dr. Tom also preached in several of the churches. We have been blessed to have known and learned from so many of His servants!

Update

News has just come from the Kitui District that the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture wants to help Kenyan pastors and farmers in this area. They will be providing classes at the mission property in Isovya on raising chickens and later selling them for profit. This would be a tremendous help for the region, creating jobs so families can send their children to school, have better food, and also increase their giving to the Lord. We have prayed for something like this for a long time! Would you please pray with us that this indeed will be a profitable learning experience that will help so many of our Christian people in this district?

Finally, this being our last letter for the year 2020, we both want to say Thank You for your prayers, monthly support, and special gifts! Also we want to wish each one a very Blessed Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas, and a Happy and Blessed New Year. You are likewise in our thoughts and prayers.

Yours in His love and service,

The Johnsons

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