Category: Missions/Culture

Intercultural Studies hub, School outreach, International outlook/giving


Ignite Prayer Night to be held Feb. 2

Knoxville — The Harvesters group at Johnson University is hosting a night of prayer from 9 p.m. to midnight, Saturday in the PW gym.

Brielle Smith, the President of Harvesters, said that the theme of the night is based on Psalm 46:10 – “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

Students will participate in different styles of creative prayer to understand this scripture.

“We all get stressed out and like overwhelmed with school and so sometimes it’s good to just like take time to be still and be with God,” Smith said.

Smith said that the night is meant to be a night of refreshing for students to come together and connect with God through a long period of prayer.

There is no need to sign up for the event and there will be snacks and coffee for those who choose to attend.

StellieMay Whitesides is the prayer coordinator and will be helping to lead the event.

Many different styles of creative prayer will take place throughout the night. There will be corporate prayer, individual prayer and prayer stations.


JUFL Cycling Event Raises over $30,000 for Missions

Over Spring Break (March 17-21) faculty and students from JUFL participated in the Key West Bike Ride 2018 (#KWBR2018), a cycling tour created by Ends of the Earth Cycling (a division of New Mission Systems International).

In 2016 Ends Cycling hosted the Tennessee Bike Ride in conjunction with JU—a 300-mile trek from JUTN to VA and back. After experiencing near-freezing temperatures in the Cherokee National Forest in March 2016, Ends made a decision to host this year’s JU-partnered tour in Florida.  

The KWBR2018 took more than 30 cyclists, and support staff from NMSI headquarters in Ft. Myers to the southernmost point of the U.S. in Key West. Cyclists included students Christian Arnold, Jessica Hammock, Rodrigo Monteroso, Leah Hardin, and Dr. Les Hardin (Professor of NT). Seth McManus (student, SGA President) and Elisabeth Arnold (alumnus) provided support staff for the tour.

Ends Cycling hosts tours specifically to raise money and awareness of worldwide mission work. This year’s KWBR2018 sought to raise money for Africa Hope’s School of Youth Ministry Training. The median age on the continent of Africa is currently 18 years old, making youth ministry key for the growth of the Kingdom there.

Justin Hanneken, Executive Director of Ends Cycling, had the following to say about Ends Cycling’s partnership with JU:

“Following a successful Tennessee Bike Ride in March 2016, we at Ends Cycling were so excited to partner with Johnson University again. We knew the only way this would work for the Key West Bike Ride 2017 was to have the tour over JU’s Spring Break. We also knew that God would have to provide a staff member on campus to help us out. He did exactly that through our ‘bro’ and friend, Dr. Les Hardin. Les organized an incredible group of students and JU alumni who were an absolute blessing to the team! Over the course of 5 days, we became family and God was glorified as we had the opportunity to #PrayPedalRepeat for the youth of Africa.”  

Each Ends Cycling participant is asked to commit to raise funds for the designated mission. The KWBR2018 group raised an excess of $30,000 to promote and facilitate youth work in Africa.

Participants in Key West Bike Ride had the following to say about their experiences:

“The KWBR was an awesome way to spend my spring break. Even though I’m not a cyclist, I found a way to plug-in and help serve the riders by moving equipment, helping with worship, and preaching at one of the stops.” —Seth McManus, SGA President

“Intentional discipleship occurs at every part in the team: praising one another for daily accomplishments, pushing one another to work harder, and supporting one another when trouble arises.” —Christian Arnold, JUFL Alumnus and M.A. Student

“KWBR was an awesome opportunity that trained my body and exercised my faith. Carving out specific time to train 6 days a week helped me prioritize my day and even helped me do better in my classes because I was forced to stick to a strict schedule. On the ride I was constantly praying for YouthHOPE in Africa because being on the bike for 8 or so hours a day provides a great opportunity for focusing on prayer.” —Jessica Hammock, JUFL student

“The past two years (2017 & 2018), I have served as a support staff member caring for the needs of cyclists. It is such a rewarding experience as I grow close to people from different faith backgrounds all coming together to use their love of cycling for the cause of global youth outreach.” —Elisabeth Arnold, JUFL Alumnus

JUFL students will once again have the opportunity to participate in the KWBR this upcoming Spring Break (Mar. 16-21, 2019). KWBR19 will raise funds for youth work in Thailand. Anyone interested in cycling or helping as a support staff member is encouraged to speak with Dr. Les Hardin for more information.

For more on the work of Ends of the Earth Cycling, visit and follow them at #PrayPedalRepeat.


From inner city life to inner city work

KNOXVILLE — Beginning in the fall, Thomas Davis Jr., a senior at Johnson University, majoring in Journalism and Digital Mass Media, will begin working with the Knoxville Fellows.

“We are very excited for Thomas to be coming into our program,” Rick Khulman, Director of Knoxville Fellows, said.

Davis will remain with Knoxville Fellows for one year.

Knoxville Fellows is a Christian organization located in downtown Knoxville.

There are multiple components to the program, living on site: Which includes partaking in community service, touring and visiting other Fellows from neighboring cities.

The Fellows work Monday through Thursday at the site while they are pursuing their graduate degrees.

Davis currently works with a radio station and hopes to stay with them throughout his Fellows experience, but he said he has also considered working with Emerald Youth in their communications program.

The last component is the master’s program. Davis will continue to take classes in pursuing a higher education.

“We are looking for servant leaders, and I think Thomas really brings that,” Khulman said. “He also brings a different life experience. In fact, we look at that in all our Fellows. We want very different types of people with different life experiences. He also has a willingness to be all in.”

Khulman said when they go through the interview process to choose the Fellows, they look for somebody that is going to be devoted to the program. Khulman said the reason for this is because there is a lot to do.

“There are a lot of things to attend, and studying, and service, and work,” he said. “It’s easy to start out with great motives, but then to stay the whole time. We think Thomas has that desire and passion to stay with us and to really add a lot to the program.”

The Knoxville Fellows’ main mission is to help the inner city.

Davis moved to inner city Knoxville after his seventh grade year in school. His father is African-American and his mother is Caucasian. Davis’s mother raised him after his parents separated.

Davis said he felt like he “became a statistic” of African-American fathers not being in their sons’ lives.

Davis said his mom was always there though.

“She was my angel,” Davis said.

Davis mother, Sandy Knight, is a registered nurse. They developed a very close relationship through the years.

“I’m a momma’s boy,” he said.

When Davis was accepted into the Fellows program, Knight said she was “so excited and proud of him, because it’s a big accomplishment for him to be able to graduate from school and then go on to better his education.”

Having grown up in the inner city, Davis  said he feels his experiences will help him better understand the needs of those in similar circumstances. The Fellows program should give him this chance.

“What we hope will happen, is that Thomas will go back and he will be known by the people that he grew up with and that he can go and tell them the experience that he has gone through in our program and hopefully create an excitement in that community for more people to get involved,” Khulman said.

Davis said he believes the move into inner city Knoxville helped mold who he is today.

“I am able to see what life is made for now,” he said.

Knight said she has seen the growth Davis has experienced while at Johnson.

“When he initially began school he was on the younger side,” Knight said. “As school went on, and him being at Johnson, he learned more about Christ and how to let himself go and believe and have faith that pushed him along through all these years.”

Fourteen students participate in the Knoxville Fellows each year.

Caylee Carter, a 2016 graduate of JUTN, is currently in the program.

“We are looking for someone with a proven track record of success,” Khulman said. “We look for someone that has the academic capability to take our classes. We look for someone who will be an important part of the community.”

The program also offers mentors, prayer groups and other facilities that help the Fellows reach their full spiritual abilities.

“This will be a chance to learn about myself and be around other Christian people, like here at Johnson, but more interactive,” Davis Jr. said.

This is accomplished through a series of retreats, classes, and a whole bunch of different activities and opportunities.

“While Thomas is here we hope he will develop a love for our city, we hope he will learn more about who God created him to be, and we hope that he will know more of what God’s plan for his life is,” Khulman said. “The key is Thomas’ attitude. Thomas has a very positive attitude, he’s got a willingness.”

Davis said he feels blessed to have risen above his situation by meeting difficulties with endurance.

“My biggest passion that I have, my biggest gift that I’ve been blessed with by God, is resiliency,” Davis said. “I have been able to fight through a lot of things that I have been through, throughout my life.

“God blessed me, in choosing me to be able to get out of that situation [inner city life]. To go out and get my college degree and on to a masters’ program,” he added.

Knight said she is most excited to see her son succeed and be happy in life. She believes this program will help him in that.


Internationals find community in Knoxville

It’s warm out, the sun is shining and there is a nice breeze. The sidewalks and roads are busy and people are happily going about their days. Everything is full of life and color.

But as you look around you realize that you don’t understand what anyone is saying. You can’t read the street signs and you don’t know how to ask for help. You’re an outsider, without a community. You’re alone on a city street full of people.

This is what Carol Waldo experienced when she lived in Singapore, and what many refugees and immigrants experience every day here in Knoxville.

For Waldo it was especially difficult.

“I’m an extrovert and I was isolated, even in a city-country of  four and a half million people I felt alone,” she said, “We were expats, so our company provided our housing and our work and so forth, and we had all of our needs met, except for the socialization.”


Carol Waldo welcoming students to Culture Class at West Park Baptist Church.

Living in Singapore for her was difficult, she didn’t speak the language, she didn’t know the culture and she could not socialize. But eventually she was connected with a local church that was able to teach her these things.

Singapore was not going to be her forever home and Waldo said eventually God called her family back to Knoxville.

Waldo said, “When we came back to Knoxville I really wrestled with God and asked ‘Why did you take me and show me all of this and bring me back to Knoxville?'” she said. “That made no sense to me and I had reverse culture shock.”

Waldo said her time in Singapore changed her.

“When you go overseas you expect things to be different, but when you come back you expect things to be the same,” she said. “But you’re different.”

Waldo went on to say that she had this emptiness in her heart, this need for something more.

“Then I got involved with being an encourager in an ESL class,” she said. “And God burdened my heart that He’s bringing the nations here.”

Waldo said she realized she could help refugees who are coming to Knoxville.

“How he (God) provided for me when I was adapting to the culture in Singapore, now I had the opportunity to welcome the nations to Knoxville who don’t know how to navigate the employment, who are refugees that come here with just the clothes on their back and their passport.” Waldo said, “Knowing that they don’t know how to navigate the housing system, the health care system, the language, God gave me a burden for them.”

In 2011 Waldo began to work for Knoxville International Network. KIN works to rally the body of Christ in Knoxville to welcome internationals to Knoxville. Their ultimate goal is to see the nations become one city; many nations and one family.

Waldo works with many organizations through KIN, helping to teach international people and refugees the English language, and helping them with the new culture that they’re experiencing.

“The official language of Singapore was English, but the majority spoke Chinese, and I struggled adapting.” Waldo said, “I wouldn’t answer my cellphone because I couldn’t understand the accent, and it took me several months to be able to adapt to that.”

Waldo says that because her experience, she is now able to train others to help refugees.

“I’m able to train our volunteers when they complain saying, ‘Well, I called them and they wouldn’t answer my calls.'” she said. “[I tell them] text them, because then they have a translator, or email them because it’s very challenging, especially with an East Tennessee accent.”

Waldo said she fields a variety of complaints from people who are trying to serve the refugee community.

She went on to say that she often had to explain that many refugees do not understand some sayings such as ‘a quarter till four’, therefore one must use more common terminology when talking with refugees.

Waldo said that she enjoys welcoming these foreigners into our land, but also teaching others how to welcome and interact with these people as well.

Waldo said she enjoys watching internationals come in who are afraid or won’t speak very much, change to be more sociable and comfortable enough in their environment to ask for help outside of the classroom setting.

Waldo said that this is what they are really working toward in KIN; getting internationals to interact with the community and become confident in themselves.

Waldo said that much of working with the internationals isn’t necessarily evangelizing, but just helping them survive.

“We seek to come along side as friends, that they would not only survive in this new homeland but they would thrive, and they would find hope, dignity and purpose, and really their purpose in Christ and why he brought them here,” she said. “You have to truly love your neighbor.”

“Whether or not they come to love and accept Jesus Christ as their savior, will you love them? I think that’s the mandate that God gives us. That we will love them no matter what,” she said.


Culture Class at West Park Baptist Church, with students from Germany, Jordan, Arabia, and Mali.

You walk into a church building, you still can’t speak the language fluently, and you worry constantly about how others will perceive you. But you walk into this church and are met with smiling faces, many of them not your own nationality, but it’s OK, because they are your community.

You are no longer alone in a city of one hundred eighty thousand.


JUTN student travels to Guatemala

Abigail Barron

Abigail Barron builds relationship with Minor. (Photo/Alexis Curtis)

The sun beating down at a perfect temperature, people all around playing fútbol and a country with indescribable beauty, seems like the perfect place to just visit and relax.

But for Abigail Barron, freshman at Johnson University Tennessee, going to Guatemala for a week was not a typical spring break trip.

While many of her fellow classmates were at beaches, spending time with family or finishing upcoming assignments, Barron was going to another one of her homes for the second time.

“This is my second trip to Guatemala and I was able to visit some of the same places [villages],” Barron said. “Guatemala is definitely one of my homes and I would move there tomorrow.”

After graduating high school, Barron was certain she was going to live in Guatemala as an intern, but instead decided to come to JUTN.

She said she feels like every time she goes to Guatemala she leaves a piece of her heart there with the people.

Barron spent quite a bit of time building relationships with the people she met.

She said she wants to create a bridge of friendship to share the gospel through that relationship.

Playing fútbol with people of all ages, meals and lots of shared laughter, were all a part of building those friendships.

She said language was a little bit of a barrier but not as much as people might think.

“I pick it [Spanish] up every time I go to another country, but I forget it when I come here [the United States],” she said with a little laughter, “in the inner cities of Guatemala they knew a good bit of English.”

Barron learned something new about the connection between relationships and missions through the organization she went with, For the Love of Missions.

“You don’t have to be building an orphanage, or teaching people about how to use clean water to be able to do missions,” Barron said. “You can just do life with them.”

She said she recognizes the importance of equipping local leaders in Guatemala on how to share the gospel with others instead of people from the United States going there with the expectation of converting and then leaving.

Barron has been back at JUTN for less than a month and said she is ready to go back to Guatemala already.

“It is my favorite place in the world,” Barron said.


Myanmar Hope Christian Mission founder shares purpose, vision at JUTN 

myhope_logoKNOXVILLE — This week Myanmar Hope Christian Mission founder, Dr. Palal Khongsai visited Johnson University Tennessee.

The story behind MyHope is what connects Palal and his wife Kikim Khongsai to the mission and purpose of the organization.

Palal and Kikim lived under an oppressive military dictatorship in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma.

Khongsai said he was accustomed to his people being oppressed by poverty, hunger, fear and brutal leaders. He knew that he needed to attain more education to help his people and bring hope to Myanmar.

Palal Khongsai’s distant relative, Dr. T Lunkim, founder and president of Trulock Theological Seminary in Imphal, India, saw Palal’s potential and helped start the process to get Khongsai to America to obtain a doctoral degree.

In December 2006, Dr. Lunkim was speaking to a group of believers at West Side
Church in Springfield, Illinois. While there he moved the hearts of members Chuck and MaryAnn to sponsor Khongsai.

At the time he had a pending scholarship offer from Cincinnati Christian University, but he did not have a sponsor.

Chuck and MaryAnn agreed to help sponsor Khongsai if they could manage to set up the same scholarship at Lincoln Christian University.

“I came here [the U.S.] in 2007 for my studies at Lincoln Christian University and I went back in 2009,” Khongsai said. “I now oversee 20 churches in Myanmar and I also lead educational school for children.”

After several weeks of discussions about the needs of the Myanmar people and Khongsai’s Christian life, it was decided that a new organization was needed. This developed into the beginning stages of Myanmar Hope Christian Mission.

Khongsai said MyHope is committed to bringing the eternal hope of Jesus Christ to the people of Myanmar by addressing their spiritual, physical, educational and emotional needs.

“In Yangon we have 50 children we help by providing food, clothes and we send them to school,” Khongsai said. “Everyday we lead them in prayer and Bible study and teach them life skills.”

In addition to meeting educational needs, MyHope helps to develop the church leaders in Myanmar and also has assisted in building churches.

“For the churches, I teach the pastors and elders how to lead the church, study the Bible and prepare sermons,” he said.”We have built seven churches in Northwest Myanmar and now we are going to build two more churches.”

In 2015 Myanmar experienced a massive flood that resulted in several casualties and placed the people of Myanmar in a tough predicament. During this time MyHope provided food and water to the people.

“The flood destroyed 101 houses in my wife’s village so we provided rice, curry and we also gave them clean water,” Khongsai said.

More recently, Khongsai mentioned the financial relief from International Disaster Emergency Service.

“Recently, on March 17 a fire burned seven houses in Myanmar so we requested funds from IDES to rebuild the houses for the fire victims,” he said. “This summer we will dig 8 wells and those funds will come from IDES as well.”

To learn more about MyHope Christian Mission visit their website here.


Civil rights leader imparts wisdom on JUTN students

KNOXVILLE — Dr. John M. Perkins visited Johnson University Tennessee as the guest chapel speaker on Tuesday. Perkins later visited with 10 students in Private Dining Room three to answer questions regarding faith, mission work and racial reconciliation.


The lunch with Dr. John Perkins, pictured center, was organized by Director of Urban Alliance, Kenny Woodhull

Perkins is a Christian minister, civil rights activist and recipient of 13 Honorary Doctorate degrees.

Perkins has authored 10 books, the latest of which focuses on love conquering racial issues and conflicts.

The students gathered asked Perkins how missionaries in the inner city can minister to their environment.

Perkins said relocation to the environment is one of the first, and most critical steps.

“I think you have to do something when you relocate,” he said. “I think it opens you up for learning.”

Perkins said that humility is also important to keep in mind before beginning a ministry or mission trip.

“Lower your expectations of what you’re going to give, because you’re actually going there to learn,” he said. “I think this proverb is so powerful: go to the people, live among them, learn from them, plan with them, start from what they know.”

Perkins said that he believes interacting with children is one of the most impactful ways to influence entire families.

Perkins said simple things like taking a child to McDonald’s changes the way they might think about you because it illustrates that you are willing to do what they want to do.

Perkins said that he is encouraged by the youngest generation’s willingness to serve in different cultures and difficult environments.

“That’s what thrills me, that I’m not begging you to come with me,” he said. “I don’t have to, you want to go.

“What you don’t know doesn’t discourage me because I think you’ve got the capacity to have passion. And we’ve got the capacity to enter into other people’s pain,” he added.

When asked which Bible character he most identified with Perkins mentioned Ruth, David and Esther.

“I think friendship is the highest virtue that humans can have with each other,” he said. “I found something in David these days and I think I found it since I’ve been going through a tough time.

“David’s life was a question mark and his deep love for God was based on the fact that he did not deserve it. I really think that we need to know that we’re serving a God that deeply loves us,” he added.

JUTN student Chloe Martin asked Perkins how individuals from different cultures can best enter into an environment they are not familiar with.


Students, faculty and staff gathered around Perkins to pray for him and his ministry. 

“I think that you just have to plunge,” he said. “I don’t think you can get rid of the fear without plunging. That’s what I like about swimming, you really have to get in the water whatever chill goes with it.”

Perkins said that he feels that music is also an effective way to communicate a language of love.

“After you preach they take what you said and rearrange it right then and preach it,” he said. “This generation, they understand the power of music but they understand the power of love.

“They understand the power of embrace, and that’s the word in a world where I judge you first. We’re not judging first, we’re trying to receive each other,” he added.

To learn more about Dr. Perkins or to buy his latest book visit the website of The John and Vera Mae Perkins Foundation.

View Dr. Perkins’ JUTN chapel sermon here.


JUTN student hosts Missions Madness: Hoops for Peace

KNOXVILLE — JUTN student Jonah German will be holding a three on three basketball tournament, this Friday. The tournament will be held to raise donations for Jonah and Ericah German’s three month trip to the Middle East.

The tournament is a double elimination and teams can have as many as four players.

Teams must donate $30 to play and must have their donation in by noon on Friday. Teams can also pay online on German’s GoFundMe page.

Teams who want to sign up or have questions can email Jonah German at

The games will be held in the Phillips-Welsheimer Building Gym from 6:30-10:30 p.m.

All students, faculty, and staff are encouraged to come out and see everyone play.


Students can earn salt hours with Yoke, transform lives

KNOXVILLE — Yoke is a local Knoxville nonprofit organization that connects college students with middle school students as part of an after school mentorship program.

Yoke has programs meeting after school in 27 schools across the greater Knoxville area.

The club meets for an hour and consists of games, help with homework or studying for students and a short devotional.

“We seek to transform their lives to transform the community,” a current volunteer at Yoke and JUTN student, Jake Brown said.

Brown said that most of the students in the Yoke program come from broken or troubled families and need guidance.

Brown said that by being a role model for these students their lives are made better, which can improve their walk with God, as most of the students in Yoke have no other good role models in their life.

“We hope to be role models in their lives that they can look up to,” Brown said. “I know my life and Christian walk would not be where it is if it was not for a mentor in my earlier life who spent time with me that I looked up to.”

Brown said he started volunteering at Yoke as a way to earn SALT hours to fill his requirement, but he said he soon saw the importance of the ministry work he was doing, and took it even more seriously.

Brown said Yoke gives him a chance to minister to children on a weekly basis, which gives him experience pouring into the lives of others. Brown said he finds that being a part of Yoke is enriching to his life.

For students interested in getting involved with Yoke more information can be found at