Friday, September 03, 2010

BREAKING BARRIERS, BUILDING BRIDGES


Jannie & Howard Johnson
We received permission to relate this inspiring story, which we read about in our friends' Mark & Beth Ward's newsletter recently. The Wards have served as NAIM (North America Indigenous Ministries) missionaries in Canada for many years. Mark is now a Field Director. They reside in British Columbia.

Jannie Johnson is Dutch-born, tall, attractive, quite musical, and carries herself like a queen.  She and her husband, Howard Johnson, dived into their roles as missionaries by learning the Shuswap culture and language. 

Last summer Jannie was diagnosed with breast cancer.  Jannie believes that her health is being restored after chemo and radiation treatments.

Jannie stayed, during the weekdays, at a cancer clinic in a town several hours away from their home in Salmon Arm, British Columbia, to do daily radiation treatments.  She brought her laptop, iPod, knitting projects, and her trust that God was in control.

Her husband, Howard, wrote this on April 4, 2010.

Jannie teaches a "Kye7e" (Grandma) to shoot
Jannie met a Native lady from Adams Lake Indian Band at the cancer clinic in Kelowana.  Jannie recognized her and said, “Weyt-k”.  The elder looked up with a surprised face as she greeted a tall white woman speaking her language.  Jannie introduced herself and over several weeks had many opportunities to visit and get to know her.

The elder told Jannie that she was going back to ALIB (Adams Lake Indian Band) in Chase to have a birthday party on Saturday.  She said there would be a lot of drumming and singing. She invited Jannie to come to the family party.  Jannie mentioned that she had a drum song she would like to sing for her.

So, yesterday, we found ourselves in the ALIB band hall, which was packed with family and friends of the elder. After hours of drumming and singing, the master of ceremonies passed out gifts to honor those who helped sing, and to honor family members.  The gift given to each was a single side of dried salmon.  Cultural protocol was being followed.

The last fish was taken out and the master of ceremonies called for Jannie, the friend of the elder, to come forward. Jannie and I were quite surprised. As she strode to the front, she addressed the group in Secwepemtsin, the Shuswap language, gave her name, and told who her language teacher was.  You could have heard a pin drop.  There was a tall blond woman speaking their language and holding a Shuswap hand drum in the Band Hall, surrounded by fluent speakers and professional singers.

I prayed quietly.  Jannie began to speak in English. “I want to share a song that was written by a Mohawk man.  It tells us that Creator loves us and cares for us.  He cares for us when we are young and into our old age.  He cares for us when we deal with cancer, too. This is for Auntie.”  She then began to drum and sing.

What happened next brought tears to my eyes!  As she sang the drum song, the whole room of people rose to their feet in respect!  It was so beautiful and powerful. I was all choked up with emotion.  When Jannie finished, she was greeted with applause and received her gift of the fish. Last night at the birthday party, we saw God empower us – especially Jannie – to serve.  He gave her the courage to seize the moment for God, and sing for Him.


When has a debilitating experience in your life provided a bridge to someone whom you may never have interacted with otherwise?

To learn more about NAIM, go to www.naim.ca 

4 comments:

Stephanie Grace Whitson said...

What a powerful reminder of how God takes what appears wrong and broken and transforms it into something fine and true. Jannie's experience left me with tears in my eyes and hands raised to praise our Holy God. My husband graduated to heaven in 2001 after a cancer battle. Two weeks before he died, he taught Sunday School, wanting to share the reasons he felt God had allowed cancer into his life. Every single reason (33 of them) could be summarized by the phrase "for eternal good." What a mighty God we serve.

Connie Sue said...

Tears came to my eyes as I read Jannine's story. What a powerful reminder that no matter the circumstances, God uses us when we allow Him to. As I see all the people who have this disease, I am totally amazed at how God does not waste any experience. To be an example for Him in "times such as these" would be awe-inspiring. As humans it is too easy to ask "Why God"? As His children is it more "how can I use this for Your glory"? THanks so much.

Miralee Ferrell said...

I was so touched by this post. Thank you for sharing.

Stephen & Janet Bly said...

Steph, Connie Sue, Miralee: Thank you so much for your notes. We thought this story deserved attention to more folks...as you mentioned, for God and His glory.