Kyle Johnson, a Douglas-area farmer, was aglow as he discussed plans for First Assembly of God's truck/trailer mission called About the Father's Business.
Their current agenda is a whirlwind trip into inner-city Minneapolis. The three-day, speedy affair of gift-giving and love-spreading relies completely upon a massive, 53-foot trailer and truck that Johnson fortuitously acquired. While one might be tempted to say he purchased it, he described the experience as something a little deeper.
"Basically, yes, it's mine, but I don't consider it that. It's all for God's use, wherever he sees fit."
Donations are being accepted to help fill the About the Father’s Business trailer, which is parked at First Assembly of God, 1805-2nd St. SE, Minot.
Jesse D. Watson/MDN
Kyle Johnson stands in the About the Father’s Business trailer at First Assembly of God, Minot, on Nov. 5. The items in the trailer will be taken to inner-city Minneapolis next week.
Jesse D. Watson/MDN
Johnson went to an auction, planning to buy for his farm, but things happened a little differently. Everything he'd thought he wanted went above his price range, but something else occurred instead.
"The Lord said, 'Buy that. OK, now buy that.' "
So, Johnson ended up with this gigantic truck and trailer, which would become exclusively for mission use. "I just don't really think of it as mine," he explained, almost bashfully.
Any monetary donations will go 100 percent toward the purchase of the following items, which are also suggested donations:
Warm winter clothing (new or slightly used)
Beds, bedding, blankets, quilts and sleeping bags
To donate, call First Assembly of God at 838-1111.
It's seen plenty of use so far, too. Last summer, it made a trip to Mexico, full of donations for the needy across the border. Actually, it didn't make it across the border, but the items did. "After being held up for two days, we said, 'Let's just unload it. You guys take it (across),' " he recalled.
After Mexico, the truck/trailer started work in Minot in the wake of the flood. "We saw such a need in town," Johnson remembered. "I loved the ministry. It's such an awesome way to reach out." He said they worked with, and learned much from, Samaritan's Purse, an international Christian relief organization, and they've been eager to put the lessons into practice.
Near Christmas last year, 70 people helped distribute popcorn and Bibles when the truck-trailer unit went up and down every row of every FEMA trailer park over a three-day period. "This lady and son called it their 'Bible popcorn' or something like that," Johnson added with a smile. "She said it was a Christmas blessing at just the right time."
In March the truck/trailer was used to bring in a kitchen from Nebraska to feed volunteers, one of Hope Village's very first endeavors. The truck/trailer was also used to bring playground equipment to a youth camp in Devils Lake, saving them a fortune on shipping.
During the summer, the truck/trailer represented First Assembly of God in the State Fair parade, distributing bottles of water in the heat. "Basically, every person on the parade route got one (a bottle of water)."
There have been talks about an oil patch mission, an offer to assist burned Bucyrus and even a desire to somehow help hurricane-ravaged New York, which produced an aim to learn to be proactive and able to respond to disasters instantaneously. "We're not there yet," Johnson said. "This is kind of a birthing thing."
But right now, action is in motion, full, fast and furious, for inner-city Minneapolis. The idea was presented to the congregation on Oct. 28 and on Nov. 5, the 53-foot trailer was already half full. "Ninety-five percent of it came from the congregation," said Johnson.
"(They're) very open and willing to give when they see a need. The first day after we announced it, we got 15 twin beds, less than a year old," Johnson said. The beds came from a program that used them only temporarily, needed new ones and wanted to do something worthwhile with the perfectly good, hardly used ones. The catch was that they had to be removed immediately to make room for the new ones. "It was a real rush to get the beds, but we did it."
Simultaneously, another individual, unbeknownst, bought 10 sets of twin bedding, hoping they'd go to good use. He said they also just happened to receive one king bed as well, and subsequently just happened to have an offer of one set of king bedding from a parishioner.
"It gets to be like this is definitely more than a coincidence, after you see it (happen) over and over and over."
A sense of faith in the plan, and an open attitude, is a cornerstone of the operation for Johnson.
"It's all in God's hands, what gets on the trailer, but (however much it is) will probably be exactly the right amount for this ministry," Johnson said, with a pervading sense of calm.
In addition to the beds and bedding, warm winter clothing, sleeping bags and quilts are in the trailer.
Johnson said they'll be teaming up with Life Center Minneapolis, an inner-city Assembly of God church that reaches out to the homeless, finding them at least part-time work, which then opens the door for them to get low-income housing. "We want to bless these peoples' new homes with a bed, couch, microwave, table and chairs, that kind of thing, sort of a package deal."
Johnson said they want to throw in some turkeys too, if possible, and at the moment, they have 350 to bring to Minneapolis. They'll be feeding people as well, planning for about 600.
"Someone bought 300 turkeys for this, and others would each give one or two," he said. "We also have about 1,000 Bibles."
The trip will take place Nov. 16-18, with 25 people from First Assembly signed up and 10 more from Trinity Bible College in Ellendale making the trip.
Minneapolis is closer than Mexico, said Johnson, who has been on yearly missions all over, including to Zimbabwe. It's easier and faster to get a U.S. mission trip like this one going, he added.
"There are 4,000 or so homeless people in Hennepin County," Johnson explained, as opposed to North Dakota. "There are 1,250 or so in all of North Dakota, although that's growing now, of course." He said the group hopes to return from Minneapolis with a better understanding of homelessness and homeless people themselves. They also might attempt some kind of joint operation with the Minot Homeless Coalition.
Johnson said their basic mission is to present the Gospel by showing love. "The T (shaped like a cross in the word 'the') is everything. That's what the Father's business is."
The name of the ministry, About the Father's Business, kept getting repeated during committee meetings. "We just kept saying, 'It's got to be about the Father's business,'" and that's what stuck.
"Everybody goes through stages. If we can help in their darkest moment, that's what we're about." Johnson quoted the Gospel of Matthew: "For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in." (NIV, Matthew 25:35)
"The thing that jumps out at me most," Johnson continued, "is doing it for the people."
Johnson said he hopes it's a domino effect. "If one or two people, or 10 percent, or 100 percent, come back changed..." Or, if the people targeted change, and if the dominos don't stop falling, the whole of society and the world could be affected by different organizations operating out of love and a desire to serve others.
Johnson said the effort would have been impossible without his wife, Vangie, and the Rev. John Brady, pastor of First Assembly of God. His wife is making 273 baskets for Operation Christmas Child, one of Samaritan's Purse's programs. And, he added, "Pastor Brady is the most encouraging leader possible."
Johnson said eventually a website for About the Father's Business is planned.
"We won't take money for what we do," he confirmed, "Not one penny." He expressed a special fondness for multi-denominational endeavors, "Coming together, helping where we see a need."