Category: Missions/Culture

Intercultural Studies hub, School outreach, International outlook/giving


JU students reach out to homeless community

KNOXVILLE — Every Friday night a small group of Johnson University students heads to downtown Knoxville. While most college students who travel downtown on the weekend are looking for fun at the local restaurants and bars, these students have a very different mission in mind.

Members of Houseless Ministry, a group started by JUTN students, go to downtown Knoxville every Friday night to build relationships with the homeless community.

Nathan Thompson, a JUTN junior, views what Houseless Ministries does as being in the trenches.

“The trenches are what I call being in the dirty and dangerous streets and doing the actual ministry,” Thompson said.

Former JUTN student Evan Giannakas, a 2016 graduate, helped found Houseless Ministries. The work is now being carried on by JUTN students Shae Frazier, Chase Rigdon and Thompson.

Frazier said that Houseless Ministries’ mission is to be like Jesus to the homeless community of Knoxville. He says being Jesus is more than just sharing scripture with people.

“The goal is to not Bible-bash or save souls,” Frazier said. “The goal is to be Jesus by building relationships and love on those people.”

Thompson and Frazier both said their experiences with Houseless Ministries have been unforgettable.

Thompson recalled that a group from Houseless was ministering in downtown Knoxville one night when a man named TJ began weeping. TJ told them about his struggles and said he was thinking about killing himself that night.

“He [TJ] took off his wedding ring, because he lost his wife about a week ago, and handed it to Evan,” Thompson said. “He said, ‘You hold on to this, I am done.’ And Evan began to minister to him and to talk him out of [committing suicide].”

A few months later Frazier, Giannakas and Thompson ran into TJ, who was doing much better.

The group said they do little things to engage the homeless community, such as playing games, handing out food and clothes and giving people someone to talk with.

Frazier said he believes that even the smallest action can have a great impact on the homeless community.

“The crazy thing is how much remembering somebody’s name will do for them and that is something that we just take for granted,” Frazier said.

Houseless Ministries’ members hope the organization will continue to grow and they encourage other students to pray for the organization’s needs.


Global Learning Center hosts interviews to increase understanding of religious diversity

KNOXVILLE — Editors Note: Some last names have been removed from this story to protect individuals returning to foreign countries.

International students at Johnson University Tennessee are being offered the chance to share their personal experience with religion in a series of interviews hosted by director of international relations, Duan Hua and the Global Learning Center.

On Tuesday night students and faculty gathered to hear students Zoya Kamil, Jimmy and Sarah speak with senior Emma Riley in the series of interviews titled “Religious Practices and Christianity in my Home Country.”

Hua said the interviews were started out of an effort to increase understanding of different cultural backgrounds in the campus community.

“To reach the goal of bringing the Kingdom of God among all nations, that’s our primary goal for this specific series,” she said. “I think the students enjoyed this opportunity to share with the whole campus community about their religious experiences in their home country and bring a better understanding between our international students and the whole campus.”

Riley, who works as Hua’s assistant, said she wanted to be a part of facilitating the interviews because of a long standing interest in intercultural studies.

“One of the reasons I really appreciate Johnson is that it values intercultural studies and its internationals students so much,” she said. “Being a part of that seemed like a very worthwhile thing.”

Zoya Kamil is an undergraduate student at JUTN studying public health. She is originally from Pakistan but moved to England with her family when she was a teenager.

Kamil said she was excited to go to school with her friends in England but realized she couldn’t because she didn’t have her citizenship and would not receive any loans.

“My family and I prayed a lot over that,” she said.

Kamil said that by chance JU President Weedman came to her father’s resource center and, from their encounter, she decided to attend JUTN.

Kamil explained how different the Presbyterian church her family attended in Pakistan was from the church she attends now.

“It’s much more strict,” she said. “Head covering is a big deal, if you don’t have your head covered an elder will tell you to cover your head.”

She said that perceived disrespectful treatment of the Quran by some people in the United States makes many angry in Pakistan.

“They have a shelf above their heads that they put the Quran on, they don’t even turn their back to it,” she said.

Jimmy and Sarah are both international students from China.

Jimmy is pursuing his Master of Arts in Educational Technology at JUTN and Sarah is a part of the MAP program.

Sarah said that she hopes to become a full-time Chinese language teacher in America. She said she found out about Johnson from a graduate at JU that she was working with in China.

“It would be great to know teaching from a Christian perspective,” she said.

Sarah said her mother was a Christian but she didn’t know until she was much older.

“I thought that my family were atheists,” she said. “Many people [in China] think there is some god but don’t really believe it, they just think there might be.”

Jimmy said that his grandmother is a Christian.

“Every Sunday no matter the bad weather she [goes] to work in the church,” he said.

Jimmy said he is an atheist. He said he has been asked since coming to Johnson why he is not a Christian.

“Because I cannot see him and cannot feel him,” he said. “This does not mean I reject god but I just cannot feel him. Maybe I will feel him sometime in the future.

“Some people will say religion is a trick, they don’t believe in any god they just believe in themselves,” he added.

Sarah explained that even though communism is taught in Chinese schools there, religion is still a part of every day life in China.

“If they are in trouble they will go to the temples and ask for help, we also have the church so the lifestyle and the school life is very different,” she said. “We remember our ancestors and the things we practice are tradition even if we do not believe it is still religious.”

Sarah said that a high school classmate led her to Christ after a health scare.

“In the beginning I avoided talking to her but I was also amazed by what she’s doing,” she said. “I sit beside her and she always tried to have conversation with me so I think she cares about me. Everybody is focused on learning but she cares about me. We got closer and she shared with me the gospel.

“Two months later I got very sick, I was so surprised but the doctor told me it was possible I had blood cancer. So at that moment I started to think about life and what is the meaning of my life. I thought about my friend sharing about Jesus and how he died for us and also wants to give eternal life,” she added.

Sarah said that her friend’s mother came to visit her in the hospital and asked her if she wanted to accept Christ.

“I thought if there is a God he can save me,” she said. “It really touched my heart and I accepted Jesus as my savior and even the next day I felt like I had peace in my life.”

Sarah said she recovered from her illness in the hospital two weeks later.

Jimmy said that even though he does not call himself a Christian his time at JUTN has led him to respect Christianity.

“Although I am not a Christian I really appreciate the principles that the Bible brings to you,” he said.

Students, faculty and staff are encouraged to attend the next two interview sessions in the Global Learning Center on April 4 and April 18.

International students interested in participating can contact Duan Hua at or Emma Riley at

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Missions team to visit chapel offering recipients

A team form JUTN left Thursday to spend the week with this year’s chapel offering recipients.

Each year Harvesters, a student missions organization on campus, chooses a mission to give all chapel offerings to. The 2016-2017 school year’s recipients is the Mirembe Cottage for Street Girls.

Mirembe’s mission is to “provide a safe home and nurturing Christ-centered environment for young girls who have been neglected, abused and forced to live their lives begging on the streets of Uganda.”

“I am so excited to go back to Uganda and see the girls of Mirembe,” Hannah Baker, student organizer for the trip, said. Baker has been to Mirembe Cottage before and has seen the impact of the school first hand.

“The school helps to provide a safe loving environment for girls who desperately need a home,” Baker said.

The school is helping change the lives of many girls of Uganda such as 10-year-old Nankuke Valentina.

Valentina’s parents are infected with HIV and mentally ill. She and her younger brother were taken in by their uncl,e but he had no money to care for them.

Many girls such as Valentina are being support by Sonrise Ministres and Mirembe Cottage of Uganda.

Harvesters has had many fundraisers throughout the year including selling Chick-fil-A chicken biscuits to raise money to support the school.

“Please pray for our team. Pray for safe travel and that we can help the girls of Mirembe Cottage,” Baker said.


JU sophomore leads group of students to Guatemala for Week of E

KNOXVILLE— JUTN sophomore, Lindsey Tenholder is leading a group of people on her second trip to Guatemala. She gives an insight on her faith and struggles in the podcast below.



Wolf clears up confusion over chapel requirements

KNOXVILLE — Chapel is required for all Johnson students, both traditional and non-traditional.

Chapel requirements are broken down based on full-time or part-time status.

If you are a full time student you are required to go to three chapels a week, whether you are a traditional or non-traditional student. You can either attend or attain credit for these three chapels, through chapel make-ups.

Online students that are still in an on-ground program have the same chapel requirements as traditional students. They make up every chapel online since they can not attend on-ground.

You can miss up to three chapels and still have an A. You can miss up to six and still have a B. Any more than six misses and you fail. That is the same for both students that are attending chapel and making up chapel.

“Where there is some distinction, is what sorts of absences are allowed to be made up,” Dean of the Chapel, Bill Wolf, said.

There are five options for missing a chapel that are excused, a work schedule conflict and illness are two.

For commuting students, if they do not have a reason to be on campus directly before or after chapel, can make up the chapel without an ordinary excuse or conflict. Therefore they are not required to come to campus early or stay late just for chapel.

Chapel make-ups are posted on Sakai in the Chapel tab. Chapel makeups are only available online for seven days after the original chapel occurred.

“The reality is, no chapel absence is excused,” Wolf said.

Every absence is an absence, whether that be a personal absence or an administrative absence, which means the University/administration caused the absence.

Administrative absences include; basketball trip, tour choir trips, baseball trips, conferences for classes, etc.

These kinds of absences do not have to be made up.

“The reality is, the only kind of absence that will be excused or doesn’t count against you is one the school has caused,” Wolf said.

An example of an administrative absence that does not need to be made up is if the student misses due to work study.

If a student works during chapel for one or all three of the required meeting days, no make-up is required.

However, the administration that caused the absence must notify Wolf before the absence will be excused.

Presently the JU Tennessee campus and the JU Florida campus have different chapel requirements.

When JUFL was first adopted by Johnson, their chapel met once a week at 11 a.m. on Tuesday’s. They also had D-Groups that were not connected to chapel.

To bring the JUFL and JUTN campuses into alignment, JUFL’s chapel was moved to 9 a.m. and the D-Groups were attached to chapel requirements to resemble JUTN Wednesday chapel groups.

For the Thursday chapel requirement, JUFL meets five or six times each semester. This is a step towards them having chapel every week on Thursday, to match the JUTN campus.

As of right now, JUFL and JUTN chapel requirements are not the same.

“We are moving toward the requirements being aligned perfectly,” Wolf said.

Wolf said that the reason Johnson has such a focus on chapel is embedded in the mission statement of the University which ends in “To extend the Kingdom to all nations.”

“Chapel is a time in which we come together as individuals who are hopefully living our lives as living sacrifices through pleasing acts of worship,” Wolf said.

Wolf compared chapel to breathing in the air of the Kingdom.

“This Kingdom we want to extend is not just a theory, it is not just an idea, it is a living breathing reality that we experience in Christ,” Wolf said. “In order to extend that Kingdom we need to breath in the air of that Kingdom, and chapel is the time that we put away our books, put away our laptops, put away our homework, put away disagreements we might have with our roommate, we put that stuff aside and just focus on Jesus.”

Wolf said another important aspect to having chapel is in the identity of JU as a whole.

“It is important to our identity. We are Christians, and as Christians we worship God. That is our identity and it is our identity as a University,” Wolf said.

Wolf said that this is most clearly seen in Johnson’s Homecoming celebrations.

Wolf said that where other schools have special sporting events, Johnson worships. Gathering together for sessions of study, teachings, and praying.

“When we contemplate Christ, the Spirit transforms us into the likeness of Christ, so we come together to contemplate, focus on Jesus and believe in his Spirit to transform us into the likeness of Jesus,” Wolf said. “That is part of how we extend our mission, we gather together to worship.”


Zimbabwe to Johnson:Mission professor brings on field experience to classroom

KNOXVILLE—Brent Brewer has diverse experiences apart from teaching and his love of global missions.Brewer earned a Bachelor of Science in preaching and youth ministry from Johnson University Tennessee in 1982.

He then earned a Bachelor of Science and Master of Arts in Secondary Science Education from East Carolina University and a Master of Arts in Intercultural Studies from Columbia International University in South Carolina.

Brewer attributes the influence of his father, who was a pastor, for leading him to the mission field.Brewer said he always knew he wanted to be a part of evangelism both in and outside the church.

Growing up near Kentucky Christian University, Brewer knew he wanted to go to Bible college but did not want to attend KCU.

“I came to Johnson without ever going on a college visit,” Brewer said.

Brewer graduated in 1982 and while at Johnson, met his wife Jondra. With no background in missions he “didn’t think that missions was the path” his life would take.

After gaining a degree in secondary education the Brewer family moved to Zimbabwe where he taught Bible and science which he calls an “interesting combination.” Brewer taught in Zimbabwe for 12 years.

Six months after returning to the states, Brewer began to teach at JUTN.

One of the most difficult things to adjust to was “practical aspects of living and working cross-culturally,” Brewer said. “My first five years I made a lot of mistakes, but I used this to help my fellow missionaries who had not realized mistakes, to then learn from them.”

In Zimbabwe, Brewer had a very different teaching style than here in the U.S. In Zimbabwe the students do not speak English as a first language, therefore Brewer had to teach “using simple words and speaking slowly.”

Outside of his field experience, Brewer is known for his love of the outdoors. He enjoys running, hiking and backpacking in the mountains. He also started the cross-country team at JUTN.


Future of Hope Institute soon to implement vision projects

KNOXVILLE — The Future of Hope Institute had their 5th plenary meeting Jan. 21 at First Baptist Church. During this meeting, six different teams presented their vision projects that they have been planning since September.

Each team had the opportunity to present their vision projects to a panel of Knoxville community leaders. The six vision projects presented included the following concepts:

  • Soccer outreach program for refugee and immigrant families
  • Re-entry program for juvenile offenders
  • Youth summit for East Knoxville students focused on economic development
  • Mental health awareness campaign and peer training in high schools
  • Mentorship through the arts and music
  • Single parent resource fair

The refugee and immigrant sports outreach team has a vision plan to build connections between young immigrants and refugees and youth from Knoxville. This team plans to implement soccer as a way to bridge the gap and develop relationships in their community.


Pictured is a member of the refugee and immigrant sports outreach team presenting their vision project.

The juvenile justice advocacy team is seeking to provide a community and resources for youths that have gone through the Bean Juvenile Detention Center.

The east Knoxville community development team has a vision to address issues in the community such as gang violence, dying businesses, lack of job opportunities, lack of public citizenship and the lack of unity in the community.

The mental health care and awareness team desire to address mental health among Knoxville’s youth. This team hopes to address mental issues related to suicide, depression, and self-esteem.

The arts mentorship team has a vision to combine their passions for music and community. This team seeks to use the power of music to influence culture in a positive way.

The single parenthood support team has a vision to provide resources for single parents and their households. Some resources include helping single parents through job opportunities, mental health services and after school programs.


The panel and audience listen to the vision project presentations.

The Future of Hope Institute will have their recognition banquet April 6.

At the banquet, the selected groups will present their finished projects to an assembly of peers and community leaders.

Upon completion of the program, students will be awarded with a $2,000 scholarship to any college of their choice. Participants that choose to attend Johnson University will receive an additional $1,000.

For more information on the Future of Hope Institute, email or visit the Urban Alliance website here.


Student returns to Guatemala for Week of Evangelism

KNOXVILLE — JUTN Freshman, Abby Barron, spent two weeks serving in Guatemala in 2015. She speaks on her return to Guatemala with For the Love of Missions below.


Photo: Barron, pictured right, smiles with Lidia on the rooftop of a hotel in Guatemala City in 2015 (Photo/Madison Hughes).

Produced by Regan McSherry



Missions Services merges with ICOM to further the Kingdom

KNOXVILLE — After 70 years in operation, Missions Services has decided that it is in the best interest of the organization to merge with International Conference On Missions.

Missions Services was started when Harrold McFarland, who had been serving in World War II as a chaplain, came home to find out he had been replaced as the minister of his church.

Reggie Hundley has served as the executive director of Missions Services for the past 20 years, being their longest served executive director.

“Harrold and Adele, his wife were really visionaries,” Hundley said. “Prior to that time the Christian churches and the restoration movement had some emphasis in missions but we were not the force that this group of churches is now in world missions.”

Harrold created a magazine called Horizons to encourage the missionaries who were serving around the world. The magazine recently stopped publication.

Hundley said that Missions Services had a slightly difficult beginning.

“The goal in the beginning was a little bit undefined,” Hundley said. “But, over the next five years it became evident the role that we needed to fill was to help missionaries communicate with supporters back home.”

Hundley said that Missions Services has worked to stay up to date technology.


Harrold McFarland, founder of the missions network

“About five years ago, we created a website, a podcast, and an app called The Missions Network,” Hundley said. “About 90% of what we do now has to do with electronic communication.”

Hundley said that there is some difficulty in communicating all of the work that Missions Services has done.

He quoted one missionary to Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, Zilden Nutt, to explain.

“’Unless someone is deeply involved and interested in world missions, it is impossible for someone to understand the impact that Missions Services had both from the recruiting end to the encouraging end,’” Hundley said.

In August 2016, Hundley announced that he accepted a request from the Christian Churches Pension Plan to become the new CEO starting in July 2017.

“The board took that opportunity to say ‘what is the best way for the work of Mission Services to be done,’” Hundley said. “’What is the best way for it to fit into the Kingdom?’”.

Hundley said the board questioned whether they should find a new executive director or join their efforts with another ministry.

“The director of ICOM and many of their board members said they would love to have the opportunity to continue the work of Missions Network and what we do,” Hundley said.

Hundley said that Harrold McFarland was very involved in helping with the first missionary convention that ICOM held and now their organization will be helping Missions Services.

“As of July 1, [ICOM] will not only be doing the electronic part of Missions Network, the podcasts and the app, but they will also be doing the printing of the newsletters,” Hundley said.

Missions Services is also selling their building that sits on E. Magnolia street.

“The work that we do is not going to stop,” Hundley said. “So, while the name Missions Services won’t exist, the work will continue through the ICOM.”