Living for Jesus . . . in a Wheat Field?
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. . . a what?
Camden, now an 18-year-old who’s headed to Trinity Bible College and Graduate School in Ellendale, North Dakota, this fall, has two passions in his life: farming and serving God through his life and ministry.
The son of Kyle and Vangie Johnson, Camden and his three younger sisters, have grown up on the family farm, which has been in the family for four generations, near Douglas, North Dakota. His closest neighbors live about two miles away and it’s a 30-mile drive, mostly through wheat fields, to their church, Minot First Church Assembly of God.
For Camden to fulfill his long-time dream, the farming part doesn’t take a lot of imagination to figure out. But missionary is a bit of a challenge. Farming is notorious for its long hours, hard work, and relative isolation — it’s not like the Johnsons run into villages hidden in their wheat and canola fields that they can evangelize while combining.
Yet, as Seth Taylor, youth pastor at Minot AG, observes: “Camden is an incredibly outstanding kid — one of the most hardworking kids you’ll ever meet in your life . . . and he’s dedicated to continuing to serve others for God’s glory.”
And as Vangie observes, aside from family, the mentors and role models that have impacted Camden’s life the most have all served as youth pastors and lead pastors at their church.
ABOUT THE FATHER’S BUSINESS
It was 2011 and the city of Minot had experienced devastating flooding, when Kyle felt led to begin a ministry in their church that a team runs called About the Father’s Business. The ministry isn’t specific, but more on the order of “see a need, fill a need” that comes with a semi-truck and trailer.
“Right after the flood fight in Minot, we began giving to wherever there was a need,” Kyle says. “We were loading stuff out of people’s houses that were flooded, feeding people, providing clothing — whatever was donated to the ministry to use, we gave it out. We even went around caroling with the truck lit up with lights, passing out popcorn tins and Bibles.”
That was the beginning of their new ministry — with a young Camden taking it all in and participating in each effort.
In total, Camden has gone on eight missions trips to Mexico to do things such as assist orphanages and help build and supply churches — including trucking pews down to a church — and five trips to Minneapolis to minister to the homeless. The ministry has also partnered with Teen Challenge, Rural Compassion, and its community to impact countless lives for Christ.
All this, while also maintaining their farm.
“Winter time is a little less on the busy side, which gives us time to do some missions work,” Camden explains. “We also have some open doors in summer to do missions trips.”
THE FARMING/MISSIONARY CONNECTION
For Camden, farming and ministry have many parallels, and are linked to many of Jesus’ parables.
“The Bible talks a lot about the farmer sowing seed and what he harvests,” he says. “One of the things I love about farming is the whole process — all the field preparation, seeding, adding fertilizer, spraying, watching the plants grow, and my favorite part, harvesting. It is amazing how everything thing works. God created it so that the seed has to die before it can bring life.”
And for Camden, that will preach!
“I remember we were in Minneapolis when Camden was younger,” Kyle recalls, “and he was standing on the back of the dock as people were gathering and he pulled something out of his Bible and began sharing the Word of God with them. Someone took a picture of him and posted it on Facebook with the caption ‘future preacher.’ That has stuck in my mind ever since.”
Vangie says that Camden is a normal child, with challenges and imperfections like any other child. “But he’s a good kid,” she says. “He has a servant’s heart and he’s always wanted to help other people . . . he loves Jesus, and it shows.”
Taylor says he’s proud to see a student pursuing God’s calling. “Camden is not just looking ahead with farming, but he’s looking at how he’s going to use farming as ministry.”
PREPARING FOR THE FUTURE
During the winter months, Camden helps his father rebuild transmissions, grind and weld cracked metal on machinery, following the mantra of repairing instead of replacing, and do whatever else it takes to have a diverse array of farm implements ready to go when it comes time to start preparing the ground for planting.
He also has headed up his high school’s See You at the Pole event the last two years and serves at church events, including helping with the Tim Tebow “Night to Shine” program that offers individuals with disabilities a prom-like night that’s totally focused on them.
“I got to be a personal buddy this year,” Camden says. “I just followed along and whatever he wanted to do, we did — eat, karaoke, shoe shining, riding in a limo — we just got to spend some quality time together where I could share the love of Jesus with him . . . anything that furthers the kingdom of God, that is what this life is all about.”
Although at first Camden wanted to go straight from high school into farming, his parents convinced him of the wisdom of going to college first in order to help him clearly hear God’s call away from the influences of home. Camden also saw the wisdom in getting a degree in biblical studies to further his ability to minister.
FAITH AND FARMING
Faith is an important part of the Johnsons’ life. Faith in God’s provision is something most Christians will claim. However, few understand the magnitude of faith that farmers must possess. Farmers are self-employed and their entire year’s work and families’ financial survival is dependent upon something as fickle as the weather.
Camden understands how the roles of farming, faith, and weather intertwine.
“The last couple of years, we’ve had near-drought conditions,” he says. “This year, we had drought all the way to September, then the rain unloaded and we weren’t able to get all the crops off — it is a financial challenge. But with our family, we have complete faith and trust in the Lord . . . we are going to come out of it refined and stronger and closer to the Lord.”
In his 18 shorts years, Camden has already accumulated a vast amount of skills, experiences, and knowledge. With Bible college on the horizon, it seems to point to God preparing Camden for something specific.
“Being a farmer, you’re reliant upon the Lord for pretty much everything,” Camden reflects. Interestingly enough, that observation describes a missionary’s life as well . . . perhaps “farmer missionary” isn’t such an odd pairing after all.