Looking Back, Looking Ahead

Happy New Year!

We pray your new year is off to a wonderful start and you are already seeing God work in your life to grow, bless and sanctify you.

Here at The River Church, we had a blessed holiday season that included blessing our community. We had the joy and privilege of giving each person on staff at our local elementary school a Christmas card and giftcard to a local coffee shop. It was so fun delivering those to the school! A special thank you to our financial partners whose generosity helped to make this event possible. Please be praying for us as we seek new ways to bless our schools and build bridges with the local school district. We really need spiritual breakthrough in this area and we believe, to the core of our being, that prayer is the answer. Please pray specifically that we will experience favor by our school district and they will be open to us in the future.

One of our Missional Communities was able to give a Thanksgiving meal to a family in need and then help them buy Christmas gifts for their children. We love seeing our Missional Communities being missional and sharing the love of Christ through loving acts of generosity. We are so thankful to see the principle of living on mission taking root in people’s hearts here at The River. Please pray that God will lead us and we will faithfully and diligently follow Him in 2015 to even more opportunities for generosity in the name of Christ. We are praying He will make us aware of more people and situations that we can intercede for by being the hands and feet of Christ.

The Christmas season also brought another opportunity to partner with Helping Hands 4 Christ (http://helpinghands4christ.org/) and deliver a Christmas meal to a family here in Moxee. We thank God for HH4C and would encourage you to follow them on Facebook and be encouraged by the wonderful work they are doing in Jesus’ name. I know they would appreciate your prayers as well!

We are happy to announce a new addition to The River Church! A new trailer!!!! Again, thanks to the generosity of our giving partners, we were able to purchase a new trailer to store our Sunday gathering equipment (chairs, sound equipment, bibles and other materials, etc. . .) and transfer it every Sunday morning to our meeting place. A special thank you to Bill Spring for loading and unloading his van with the above mentioned items every Sunday since last March. Bill’s steadfast and faithful service in this area has been exceptional and we thank God for you!

On January 18th, we will be holding a church-wide “Vision 2015” to discuss and prepare for what God would have us do this year. This will be a very important meeting as we seek guidance from the Lord in what He would have us accomplish this year. Our goal is to discern from Him what our calendar of events and opportunities for service will look like so we can prepare for what He has planned. Would you, our praying partners, please be praying for us in the days leading up to this meeting and then take a few minutes to pray for us as we meet at Noon that day? It would bless our hearts to know that we are being uplifted in prayer as we corporately seek God and His will for The River Church in 2015.

Thank you, again, for your faithfulness in prayer! Please continue to pray for the needs mentioned in this letter and in whatever way the Holy Spirit would lead.

Love and blessings in 2015,
Michael and Cheryl
The River Church

Your partnership is invaluable to us in this second year of our church plant. Please go to Contact and let us know how you will partner with us. You can make a tax-free contribution by going to Give.

God Is Faithful

Greetings and Merry Christmas to all our wonderful partners of The River Church!

We pray that this season of Advent is turning your heart to Christ, remembering what He has already done for us and looking forward to His second coming to establish His rule and reign once and for all. We truly have something wonderful and amazing to celebrate this season!

We are so grateful for all that the Lord has done this year. Last year at this time, we weren’t sure if we were going to have a house to live in once we got here. This year we will celebrate our second Christmas in Moxee. It’s hard to believe! What is amazing is how God has sustained us this whole year when honestly, we didn’t know if we’d still be here six months after the move. You see, it’s not the first time we’ve stepped out in faith to move to Yakima. The first time God had as much purpose as He has this time. Only his plan and purpose were radically different from what we ever imagined, and instead of leading to the beginning of full-time ministry, it led to the beginning of a 10-year career in the military. During that time, God grew and matured us in ways we never saw coming. And then, he sent us back. But that first move to Yakima had left a very bad taste in our mouths and we NEVER imagined doing it again. There is a quote in an autobiography of Bear Grylls, the star of “Man vs. Wild,” and it seems to fit here, “So often, God’s callings have a birth, a death, and then a resurrection.” How true this is in our life. God has never abandoned or forsaken us and He and He alone has resurrected a calling and sustained us through the fulfillment of that calling this year. All praise and glory to Him and Him alone!!

As we consider God’s faithfulness over the last year, we look forward to His faithfulness over the next year, “for He is good, and His steadfast love endures forever.”

In the coming year, we expect to officially launch as a local church body. Will you please pray with us as we approach that milestone? There is still some work to do and a lot of details that have yet to be ironed out but we are getting there and really need your prayers to see us through.

Please pray that over the coming year our Missional Communities will grow and be strengthened. MCs are one of the primary ways we envision reaching our community with the gospel. It has proven to be more difficult to sustain growth and momentum than we first imagined and we imagined that it was going to be pretty difficult in the first place! We are from the NW and the hard soil is what we were born and bred in, but that doesn’t make working the soil any easier. We just went in with our eyes open. Please pray that God would show us the most effective ways to reach out to our neighbors. Please pray for opportunities to reach out to and engage the people in our neighborhoods in meaningful ways. Pray that the Holy Spirit would go before us and break up that hard soil and make it fertile. But pray also that we would have our eyes open to people who are ready to hear the gospel and receive Christ for salvation. Holy Spirit, please do your thing!

Please pray for us and the rest of our core team that we would remain faithful throughout the next year. As the reality of the marathon-like nature of church planting fully settles in, we’ll need your prayers to stay obedient, faithful and enthusiastic. Pray that we remain steadfast and keep our eyes on Him and not our circumstances. God continues to grow and shape us and that means sometimes things don’t go the way we think they should. I know that happens in your life as well. But in those times, we’ll need God to come alongside us and reassure us of his steadfast love and grace. Please pray for Jesus to be our comforter.

The final thing we are praying for in the coming year is more partners in the ministry. We are praying for more partners that pray, give, go and advocate. We are asking that each person pray how God would use you in the next year in the mission field of Moxee. Would God have you find one other person who would be willing to receive our updates and pray for us? Would God have you step up to give financially? Would God have you come join us in the work here on a temporary basis? Would God have you share our story with others who would be blessed to hear and interested in helping? These are things we would like to see each of you pray about in a serious way. Know that we are already praying that God will work in each of your hearts and speak to you clearly about what He would have you do.

Thank you, so much, for your faithfulness this year. We truly appreciate your prayers, giving and attentiveness to our letters. We pray that God would bless each of you in amazing ways this Christmas and throughout the coming year.

THANK YOU and God bless!

Michael and Cheryl Johnson
The River Church

Video Update for November

Our friends and partners at Hillcrest Baptist Church (Enterprise, AL) received a short update for their Missions service on Wednesday. Hope you enjoy it!

(Filmed by one of the Johnson girls — comment with your best guess!)


Where We’ve Been, Where God Is Taking Us

A lot can happen in a year. This time last year we were dreaming and praying with our church family at Hillcrest Baptist Church in Enterprise, Alabama, preparing for probably the most frightening move of our lives. Cheryl and I spent a lot of time praying for God to give us faith to step out on this journey of church planting in Yakima. One of our “hyper-spiritual” prayers went something like this: “God give us a house, health insurance, and an income.” It seemed like a reasonable and practical request, but at the time, knowing that our move was immanent, we didn’t know how He would answer it. Wow. By the end of the month we had a forwarding address. Shortly after the first of the year we began to see the first pledges of support come in from our faithful partners and realized that for the time being God was meeting our financial needs. As the dust cleared following our move, we had found a solution for health insurance. Through the entire transition to Yakima, God proved himself faithful to supply every need when we needed it. At the same time, we rejoice that he has done so through you, our partners in the Gospel.

This year we have learned firsthand what so many church planting books and experts have warned—that church planting is an emotional and spiritual roller-coaster. One week, you experience a high attendance in worship and feel a surge of momentum. The next week, you wonder if you and the sound guy will be the only ones to start the gathering. One moment, you are exhilarated by a spiritual encounter with a neighbor you’ve been praying for. An hour later you read a blog about the top ten mistakes you’re making in your church plant. Church planting is for the resilient—we’ve already had families gather with us for a few months and then move on to another church. The potential for discouragement has been great, yet through it all we have seen the hand of God at work.

It’s not all doom and gloom in Washington. God is taking The River Church to some amazing places. Our discipleship process can be summed up by four words: grow, connect, worship, and bless. We help others grow as followers of Jesus, connect to others in real community, worship God authentically, and bless our city and our world. When we got to Yakima I wondered how we would actually be able to bless our world in a personal way through our upstart church plant. God’s ways are not our ways, however, and by his grace we will be sending out our first short-term missionary to Kenya in February! We are overjoyed at the way God has allowed us to be a sending church in such a short time.

In addition to Kenya, we are praying about several other opportunities to bless our world in 2015. The first is a partnership with an Unreached, Unengaged People Group in East Asia. God has moved the churches of the Northwest Baptist Convention to formalize a partnership with our International Mission Board missionaries in East Asia. Through this partnership our church has learned about ways we can adopt a UUPG and begin sending individuals and teams to share Jesus where he has never been heard before!

Of course, there are many people who need Jesus here in the cities of the United States. The pastor of our partner church in Yakima is moving in January to plant a church in Tucson, Arizona. The River Church is praying about how we can turn the generosity of others into generosity for others. How fantastic would it be to provide support to a new church plant within the first years of our own new work!

Beyond these sending and partnering actions, God is working on several fronts in Yakima. We are seeing new families connect with The River Church through our Worship Gatherings, Missional Communities, and Discipleship Groups. I know of at least four (or is it five?) individuals who do not have a personal relationship with Jesus but are regularly hearing the Gospel in a MC or DG. It’s only a matter of time before we celebrate another transformed life! We’re also seeing God work through a new Spanish-language church in Yakima. We’ve met with the new bilingual church planter and are excited about the possibilities of working directly with him to reach people in our city that we could not.

Thank you for praying faithfully for us. Thank you for giving generously. It is no exaggeration to say that this coming year is crucial for us as a church plant. Church planting in the Northwest is a marathon, not a sprint. As we look forward to 2015 we will need the support of our partners in even greater ways. Please consider how you will support us through prayer, giving, going, and advocating. However you choose to partner with us, be sure to let us know by sending us a letter, email, or contact through our web page. We are praying and thanking God for you constantly. May God richly bless you with more of his grace and provision.

Grace and peace,

Michael and Cheryl

First Baptism, New Missional Community

Greetings from The River, Moxee!

“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every payer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:3-6.

Another month has flown by! The leaves are changing but summer is hanging on for all its worth as we’re still experiencing warm, sunny days. The high today was 84 degrees! Praise God for some extra love from the weather.

It has been such a delight to watch God work in the month of September. We have continued to enjoy gathering every Sunday at the local community center. We are so grateful God has provided that space for us but are constantly on the lookout for a bigger space. On Sundays when all of our “regular attenders” are there, it’s obvious there isn’t much room to grow. Please be praying for a bigger space or that we would be able to expand into the rest of the room that is currently divided by a wall divider. We are seeking what God would have us do and appreciate your prayers.

A very special highlight of September was the celebration of The River Church’s first baptisms. Our daughter, Maddie, and another young man were baptized in a watering trough in Moxee Park. (The excellent weather came in real handy on that day!) Each of the children shared a short testimony and then were baptized by their dads. Afterward, we celebrated by sharing a meal and fellowshipping in the park. Once again, we had to thank God we live in a place and a country where we are allowed to live out our beliefs in such an open way. Praise God!

We continue to actively seek out ways to reach and bless our community. This month we hope to help at a special event held by the elementary school. Will you please pray that as we participate in these types of events in the community we will continue to meet people that are seeking God and fellowship through the church, even if they don’t know it! We are constantly seeking to invite people into community and are praying for open hearts and doors to the gospel.

As part of the plan to multiply disciples in Moxee, one of our families will be starting a missional community in their home next week. Please be praying for the Melones as they seek to invite their friends and neighbors to missional community. Please also pray for the Springs as they have committed themselves to that missional community and will also be seeking to invite friends and neighbors into that community.

It has been my privilege, as well as other ladies in our church, to continue reaching out to the girls at Sunrise House, an alternative foster care home. God is still growing those relationships with girls who desperately need the love of Jesus. Please pray for opportunities to share Christ with these young ladies and that their hearts would be open to the gospel of Christ.

All of this requires empowerment from the Holy Spirit. None of us will have the opportunities, boldness and obedience we need without the Holy Spirit. But with Him, we have an abundance of strength both to fulfill His call on each of us and to persevere for however long it takes to see God’s light prevail in Moxee and the greater Yakima Valley region. Please pray every time you think of us that we would walk only where the Holy Spirit has empowered us to go and that our faith would grow as He leads us.

Blessings on you all!

Michael and Cheryl Johnson

The River Church

Summer Children’s Program and Block Party Report

From Cheryl:

Greetings from The River, Moxee!

It has been yet another amazing month at The River Church, Moxee! God has been blessing our family and church over and over again with his presence, provision and power. He has certainly done more than we could ask or imagine in the month of August!

We began the month by hosting a booth at our local Hops Festival here in Moxee. A big shout out to our friends at Helping Hands 4 Christ for providing the booth, tables and making the arrangements with the city for us to be there. You guys blessed us tremendously! We were asked to make balloon animals for the kids so that’s exactly what we did. But first, we had to figure out how to make balloon animals! (Again, thanks HH4C for the instructional video!) After a very short tutorial, we were set to make balloon animal history at Hops Fest 2014! I don’t think we actually made history, but I’m pretty sure we made hundreds and hundreds of balloon animals. None of us were prepared for how sore our fingers would become from tying off all those balloons. Ouch! But the good news was, we got about two dozen kids registered for the upcoming Summer Children’s Program! Yay, God! It was also just a wonderful opportunity to get out in the community and get to know them and let them get to know us. We even met one family there that has since joined us at The River. Praise God!!

After Hops Fest, our attention fully turned to the arrival of the Georgia mission team and the start of the Summer Children’s Program. I have to admit, I was feeling a bit overwhelmed with all there was to do. But again, through God’s power and grace, it all got done. The GA mission team arrived on August 16th and were ready to get right to work. Lucky for them, there was plenty to do! We prepared crafts, went prayer walking, handed out information about the SCP, handed out water bottles and did many, many other activities. Of course, the highlight was the SCP, which began on the evening of August 18th.

The Summer Children’s Program was amazing!! First, we had two teams join us: Chestnut Street Baptist Church in Ellensburg, WA, and Terrace Heights Baptist Church in Yakima, WA. (Thanks everyone!) The hours that led up to that first evening were insane as we raced to complete a million last minute tasks but again, God was faithful and helped us through. Everything got done and we began the week with 36 kids in attendance. The next night, we had 50 kids come out!! Wednesday night, Michael presented the gospel to the kids and several raised their hands to pray and respond to the gospel!! We were overwhelmed by what God was doing and are still trying to follow up with the kids and their families.

The week culminated with the Block Party. It was another busy day with lots and lots of loose ends to pull together but God had it all in his capable hands. After a week of near perfect weather, on the day of the block party, rain and storms were predicted. Sure enough, as we finished setting up, the storms arrived. We prayed that God would still bring people out and he certainly did! We had approximately 300 in attendance!! I like to say God sent the rain because if it had been bright and sunny we would’ve been completely overwhelmed! Hot dogs, snow cones, popcorn and face painting were all a part of the fun to the glory of God. Another big shout out to CSBC, THBC, Parkway Baptist Church (GA) and Richland Baptist Church for providing the volunteers and resources to help make this happen. Several churches were used mightily by the Lord to make His name famous and give him glory!

The day after the block party it was time to say farewell to our beloved GA mission team. It had been an exhausting but fun time serving the Lord with them. Before they left, we of course had to show off our beautiful state and took a trip to Mt. Rainier. That was a special treat!

The Lord has certainly been working here in Moxee in the month of August. So much so, we can hardly keep up. Please be praying for us as we strategically plan for the last few months of the year. We would like to start up at least two additional Missional Communities and several new Discipling Groups. Please pray for us as we disciple new friends and neighbors that God has brought into our lives. We are praying for lives to be transformed! Please also pray for favor in the community and that God would bring more people into community at The River Church, Moxee.

God bless you all!

To help The River Church transform lives, families, and communities with the Good News of Jesus click here. Thank you for your generous support!

How God blessed our city during Hop Fest.

Moxee Hop Fest has been happening in our city for years and years. It’s a celebration of the hop harvest and the city of Moxee. This was our first year here and our first opportunity to be involved in the premier event in our community. What an awesome experience! God worked out a way for us to have a booth and to participate in the parade. We were able to share the vision God has given us for The River Church and to sign up kids for our Summer Children’s Program. It was an awesome experience.

Back in the early spring we asked the East Valley Community Enhancement Association about having a booth at the Festival. At the time we were unsure if we’d be able to set one up. But about a month ago, through the persistence of our friends at Helping Hands 4 Christ, we were able to secure a booth and get set up. We volunteered to make balloon animals for the kids as part of our contribution to the Festival. What a blast! After spending one evening learning a few basic balloon skills, we were ready to go! We probably made over 500 balloon animals and other objects. (I got pretty good at making swords and hats!) The kids visited our booth in droves and had a lot of fun.

We also registered around two dozen kids for our Summer Children’s Program, “The Story in the Park,” which we will hold at the Moxee Park August 18-21, culminating with a Block Party on August 22. In addition to the kids who registered, we passed out dozens more registration forms and invitations to join us at our Worship Gathering and Missional Communities. What a blessing it was to meet a family during the weekend who worshiped with us on Sunday and met with our MC Sunday evening! God has really encouraged us to keep on sowing seeds and expecting him to grow his church in his way!

Thank you for your prayers! We are convinced that prayer is the strategy for making disciples and planting churches. We cannot do it without your support. We love our partners and are amazed at how God is blessing The River Church and our community through you all. Thank you and may the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all (2 Cor. 13:14, ESV)!

We’re really excited about the upcoming Summer Children’s Program. It will be our greatest opportunity yet to love our community and share the Good News of Jesus. Our theme for the week is “The Story in the Park.” Pray for us as we share The Story of Creation, the Fall, Redemption, and New Creation with our community. Pray also that we will receive the financial resources needed for food, supplies, and Bibles.