MADRID, Spain (BP)–Hearing Jan Johnsonius’ story, some people might wonder why she went back.
She already had given everything to missions, it seemed — even her husband.
“But once it’s in your spirit to serve the Lord overseas,” Johnsonius said, “it doesn’t leave.”
She and her husband Jim hadn’t been in Argentina for long as International Mission Board missionaries when they had a serious car crash. Jim was killed and Jan was badly injured. That was Aug. 1, 1993.
And exactly nine years later — on Aug. 1, 2002 — she was commissioned again, this time for service in Spain. “It was too coincidental not to be the Lord redeeming that difficult date into something new,” Johnsonius said.
It was another chance to follow the calling she and her husband shared and use the language they had studied together.
“The people who knew me best knew it wasn’t a question of ‘if’ I was going back but instead a question of ‘when,'” she said, recounting that she had sealed her missions calling with the Lord individually before she and her husband ever ventured to the field. “I didn’t want to be just following my husband,” she said. “I wanted it to be a personal call.”
And it was.
Now Johnsonius works among urban professionals in Madrid, serving as a life coach to help people reach their goals. “The unemployment rate is 22 percent in Spain,” she noted, “so there are so many opportunities to serve people and build relationships through life coaching.”
And as often as she’s given the opportunity, Johsonius points her clients to the wisdom and peace that can flow from the Word of God. One woman she had been coaching continues to meet with her to study the Bible even though their life coaching time has ended.
“Doors open through this — it’s all about being sensitive to the work the Holy Spirit is already doing,” Johnsonius said.
And seeing open doors is a cause for rejoicing, she said. In the bustling city of 6 million, people don’t just talk to anyone. They are open to relationships but rarely make the first move in starting a friendship.
But Johnsonius doesn’t accept the idea of “tilling hard ground” as an excuse to hold back in sharing the Gospel.
“I used to be more hesitant,” she said, “but before I came back to Spain I decided I wanted to be more open to going there in conversation and just seeing what He did with it.”
One way that’s happened is through movie discussion groups with urban professionals. Believers invite nonbelieving friends to watch a movie with good conversation topics, and then the group talks about them.
“It’s a way to help empower local believers to share their faith,” she said.
In conjunction with her outreach, Johnsonius asks for prayer:
— that the hearts of the people of Spain would be open to the Gospel.
— that Spanish believers would be passionate about reaching out to their friends who don’t know Christ.
— that urban professionals in Madrid would come to know the peace and salvation that Jesus offers.
Ava Thomas is an International Mission Board writer based in Europe.