in just a few days – Romania!

bb map pic

Hi everyone,

Just a very brief note to let you know that next week Yvonne and I leave on another Missions/ministry trip to Romania. This is trip #7 for me and trip #4 for Yvonne. This trip we will visit some churches that will be new to us, for encouragement and teaching – we have way more invitations than we can fit in! We will also spend a number of days in Tg Mures, in the Gypsy village of Cold Valley. This is a very needy and difficult community. Our good friends, Pastor Horvath and his extended family always offer incredible hospitality. What an experience to preach and worship at Maranatha, the Gypsy Pentecostal Church!

I am excited that our congregation, St. Andrew’s here in Kimberley, is partnering with this church to begin a Kindergarten for 15 children – due to open September 16, while we are there. St. Andrew’s is looking to raise $300.00 per month for 10 months, which will cover the salary of the full time teacher.

If you know of anyone who has this type of global kindness on their heart, generous assistance large & small is welcomed. Donations for official charitable tax receipts (Canada only) can be sent to ST. Andrew’s c/o D&Y Johns 117 Norton Ave. Kimberley BC V1A 1X8, or you can always donate using Paypal at

We just need to know whether you want to assist with the Maranatha Kindergarten project or give to support our costs to do ministry in Romania. They are two separate funds. We have a few faithul supporters for Romania, some who donate every month and some every year – wow, you are blessing indeed! Thanks.

We will certainly take photos, make a detailed report, and hopefully post updates on both or

Most importantly we appreciate your encouragement and prayers for safety and energy.

We leave Calgary the morning of Thursday September 5 and arrive in Budapest the next day. We return Thursday September 19. I have registered for my 5th official half marathon, this one in Budapest a day after we arrive (jet-lag anyone!?) but I have been receiving care for a 5 week leg injury, so this will be a last minute decision!


The primary motive in writing is not to ask for money, really. The real desire we have is just to keep you informed about our great adventures! We are thankful to our new church, St. Andrew’s for showing how much they believe in Missions and how much they recognize our passion – the provision of two paid Mission weeks a year is generous and awesome!!!!

We have enjoyed an awesome summer: grandchildren have come to visit: we held an extended family reunion in July in S. California and Disneyland; I officiated the fun wedding of nephew Jordan Willis to Chelsea, also in California; Yvonne had a great ‘travel writing & blogging’ seminar in Boston last week; and last May we attended an incredible European Leadership Forum for ‘study leave’ – Wisla, Poland. And I will end a 16 part sermon series on Thanksgiving in October – something always happens when you ENCOUNTER GOD.

Life is good, God is good.

We love you all – Doug & Yvonne

3 survival techniques when someone hurts you

Richard Wurmbrand, leader of the “Underground Church” in 20th Century Communist Europe, is well known, and not just to his own Romanian people. His life of Christian faith is an encouragement to all who are persecuted, to all who go through trials and tribulations of every kind. We can learn from his book, Tortured For Christ, 1967, Hayfield Publishing company.

Part #4 Three survival techniques when someone really hurts you.

Rev. D. Johns           Jan. 30//12

Thankfully I have not had to face persecution or physical pain like so many less fortunate than me. Current struggles around the world, and similar stories from history, reveal so much brutality – some of it beyond comprehension. Inhumanity numbs me, scares me. I am afraid of pain. Sure I have had people betray me, undercut my leadership, spread lies about me (yes, this is a reality even in churches) – but I have not faced war or torture.  Richard Wurmbrand spent 14 years in a communist prison. During that time he says the guards often wondered how the Christians could be happy in such terrible circumstances. Hunger and torture were daily realities. And the prisoners, likely emulating the Philippian prison posture of Paul and Silas (Acts 16), would often sing – only to be beaten even more fiercely. Here are three of Wurmbrand’s personal survival solutions.

  1. He meditated on Job. He says “I knew the end of the story!” God would restore, replenish, rebuild and reward. More than what was lost would eventually be replaced. In the middle of the trial I know it is difficult to believe this, but that is where faith comes into play. We will be stronger when it is all over.
  2. He envisioned the final destination of a Christian believer. A picture of a splendidly crowned saint in the holy and glorious presence of a raised and glorified Jesus was his motivation to never lose hope.
  3.  In the jailers who whipped us we saw the possibilities of the jailer of Philippi, who though first whipping Paul, eventually became a Christian convert. We dreamed that our brutal guards would ask the same question posed to Paul and Silas: what shall I do to be saved? It was in being tortured by them that we learned to love them”

to be like an olive tree

My dear wife Yvonne is doing a guest post for me. She is a great speaker and deeply spiritual. On October 16, 2011 Yvonne met in Bacau, Romania, with women from various churches in the region. It was such an inspiring time of fellowship! Her notes are printed below.

Why I Want to be Like an Olive Tree

Yvonne Johns  Oct 2011

I was reading Psalm 52 when something jumped out at me.  The first 4 verses describe the wicked who ‘love evil more than good, and lying more than speaking truth.’  Verses 5-7 tell what happens to the wicked ones and then verses 8 & 9 talk about the Godly person.  It was verse 8 that caught my attention.  ‘I am like a green olive tree in the house of God.’  What is so good about an olive tree that the psalmist compared himself to one?  I needed to do a little research and here is what I came up with.

Olive trees were grown in Biblical times and the olives used as food.  They are very nutritious and good for you.  The oil was used in their lamps to give light, not only in their homes but in the temple as well and to anoint their kings and priests.  The leaves of the olive tree were a symbol of abundance, wisdom, purity and peace.  When Noah sent the dove out from the ark, she brought back an olive leaf and Noah knew there was enough dry land for them to leave the ark.

The tree itself is still considered sacred in Greece.  Each one is owned by someone and rarely are they cut down.  An olive tree provides income to the owner and, as they are precious they are well taken care of to ensure that they keep producing well.   Each tree can live to be 1000 years old, (they get gnarled and bent as they get older) up to 6 m around but not usually very tall.  (Those are some ways I really don’t want to be like an olive tree!)  The leaves stay green all year so give welcome shade and the tree continues to be productive and useful all its life if it is properly pruned and cared for.  They like hot weather, like to live near the water, are hardy and drought and fire resistant because of their very hard wood.

Doug and I were in Greece recently and were fortunate enough to visit Olympia where the Olympic games originated.  There were olive groves all around with their beautiful, silvery green leaves.  Each tree grows differently and has its own unique character.  They still use olive oil to light the original Olympic flame which is then taken to Athens to start the modern games.  The Olympic flame is the symbol of the nations coming together peacefully to enjoy healthy competition.  (Well, that is the intent.)  We saw the stadium where 40,000 people would gather to watch the games, where the olive oil was used to anoint the athletes and the leaves from nearby trees made the victory crowns.  It was such a thrill to be right there where it all started.   It has been tradition in our family since our children were little that we would watch the games together.  They are still carrying on that tradition with their own children.

Back in Katakolon, I found a little shop that held everything you could possibly think of made of olive wood.  There were beautiful plates, salad bowls, candle holders, picture frames, decorative boxes and jewellery and so much more.  I learned that the darker the grain is, the older the tree is, that the pattern of the grain tells where on the tree the wood was found, that they only use pruned branches to make these items and since the wood is so hard it is perfect for kitchen items such as cutting boards.  To keep the wooden items looking new, just wipe it with olive oil.  That got me thinking and I did some more research.

Here are 10 Things to Do With Olive Oil
1.     Wash your face
2.    Revitalize wood furniture with 2 parts olive oil to 1 lemon juice on a soft cloth.  Keeps wood from  drying out and hides nicks and scratches
3.    Massage a small amount into scalp to fight flakes and dry skin
4.    Soothe sunburn after the first couple of days to prevent peeling
5.    Remove makeup
6.    Unstick a zipper – only 1 drop needed
7.    Prevent hairballs by giving your cat ¼ – ½ teaspoon  Keeps coat shiny too
8.    Shine your hair by massaging in a few drops.  Leave for 1 hour, then shampoo
9.    Moisturize dry feet after bath or shower and put on socks to help absorb
10.  Moisturize and exfoliate skin with a scrub made up of sugar, enough oil to make a paste and 1 drop of essential oil for soothing scent.  Massage into dry skin in shower or bath.

Who knew you benefit so much from the little olive tree?  I can see how the psalmist  thought it was good to be an olive tree in God’s house.  We belong to Him and He takes care of us to make sure we are being productive.  Each of us has a unique purpose.  Sometimes He prunes us but it is for our good and His.  He watches over us because we are precious to Him and He loves us so much.  I want to serve Him all my life and I want my life to be a brightly shining lamp showing the way to His kingdom.  The last part of verse 8 says, ‘I will trust in God’s unfailing love forever and ever.  I will praise you forever, O God, for what you have done.  I will wait for your mercies in the presence of your people.’

Doug bought me an olive wood bracelet to remind me of all that I’ve learned about the olive tree.  Each piece is different from the others just as we are but the bracelet is a circle and each piece is joined to the others.  One piece or even two by themselves would be pretty but would not be a bracelet.  When we are working together with other believers, then He can make us into something beautiful and useful for Him.  We are all part of one body, His world-wide family of Christians through the ages.  I’m so glad to be part of this family with you! 

 Yvonne Johns  Oct 2011

inspiration from icons?

Every trip to Romania I make sure I step into some Orthodox churches. I’m not sure what I’m looking for – if anything. Icons have never been part of my Protestant North American experience. I have always resisted any exposure to complex liturgy and ‘high church’ ‘smells and bells’ spirituality. It is not that I have been crusading against orthodoxy or that I jump on a soapbox and join my voice with some colleagues who are quick to categorize it all as ‘empty ritual’ – frankly, I’m just not moved by it. But I am interested from a historical point of view, and as an ‘explorer’ I am curious. 

No inch of wall or ceiling space seems exempt. I know we have congregational ‘discussions’ on what colours to paint the walls. Imagine the debates that would occur as we try to agree on what icon or artifact gets positioned where! 

I am sensitive to the reality that many of those we work with in the Barnabas Bridge ministry have come to faith, to the reality of life in Jesus, by leaving (in some cases escaping) the influence of the Romanian Orthodox Church. That notwithstanding, the icons, like any tradition, were quite likely initially intended to inspire, to be a reminder of the very real and personal spiritual transformation that the Holy Spirit desired to accomplish in the followers of Christ. It is true that in any religious setting, worship aides can become stale, routine – or they can be elevated and protected to a level almost equal to God. 

I direct you to a great book by Gerald Sitser: Water from a Deep Well; Christian Spirituality from Early Martyrs to Modern Missionaries, Inter Varsity Press, 2007. Chapter 5 is titled: Holy Heroes; The Spirituality of Icons & Saints. Some of his insights follow:

  • Icons are paintings that might look peculiar to us – but that is necessary  so that spiritual realities can transcend what our eyes naturally see, symbolically indicating a transformed life which in turn is meant to inspire us to the same
  • So we do not view icons in the same way we view other portraits. The icons are windows to glory, to the inner beauty of the saint. So the apparent unreality is intentional and necessary, not the result of inferior artistry. Distortions are not meant to deceive but to enlarge our inner devotional perceptions. Thus it moves from an object of admiration to an aide for worship.
  • Symbols: High forehead = wisdom; large eyes = luminosity; gaunt face = discipline and self sacrifice; halo = holiness; gold = timelessness; light that seems to come from inside = divine radiance from the indwelling Holy Spirit 

To be honest, I’m not there. But it is also true that I do not regularly visit art galleries. I am learning (married to a professional photographer, I had better learn well) that much can be conveyed in a photograph. As I witness an emerging post-modern church embrace the arts in refreshing new way, I wonder if there was a time when icons had the same radical impact. Watching the great crowd of Orthodox priests gather at a Bucharest Museum on September 29, 2011, one could sense the excitement as new icons were unveiled before the TV cameras. The display was impressive – and deeply inspiring to some. 

And yes, I still plan to enter Orthodox churches on the next visit.

post script: got a great email from Mary in Orillia after this post – wanted to share it with you along with my response:

I hear you Doug. Several years ago I tried to do some reading on the Orthodox Church and why it was that a good number of “Evangelicals” were turning to that form of worship, especially in the USA.  I thought I caught a little peek into  what the felt  need was in the more austere forms of worship. In what I read the Orthodox form certainly seemed to require much more personal commitment and  much more time required to meet the schedule and expectations of each worshiper.

Perhaps our form of Faith and worship is too easy?   

 I think I never was able to really work out why icons are different than the “no graven image” or idols.  And yet  my “gut feeling” is that  icons are different somehow and are an aide to worship for those who have them in their sanctuaries.  Have you been able to resolve that question yet?   Maybe that question is what will take you back again and again, to stand in awe of all that  earthly glory  and ponder……  At the very least it does cause one to  stand still …………….”Be still and know….”

Mary, exceptionally well spoken!!! Wow!  I can’t resolve the question about idols – because I am still so quick to jump to judgmental conclusions. As I watched the people enter the church (with apparent great respect for sacred space I must admit) and seemingly revere the golden images and the priestly rings I wondered how this form of worship could bring life to one’s soul, I wondered how this behavior could change thinking patterns, promote evangelism or foster commitment. I sensed a superstitious element to it all – but was that my own bias speaking? No question that people are wired differently and therefore worship differently. No question that Protestants are often guilty of severe, austere, creatively barren worship/devotion. For me, it is still too close to the golden calf kind of thing, but I can differ with respect knowing that idols come in all shapes & sizes – yes, even for Protestants. – dj