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Dennis and Twana Johnson

Retired Missionaries to Mexico
"Fulfilling the Desires of Our Hearts"
By Tracy Dubois, Web Writer, November 2015

“I am now seeking missionary appointment so as to fulfill my calling and also the desire of my heart, telling others of another land of the love of Christ.”

These are the words Dennis Johnson shared in 1970 when he applied for missionary service with World Gospel Mission. After 42 years of service in Bolivia, Mexico, and the United States, he and his wife, Twana, agree that their hearts’ desires have been fulfilled to the glory of God.

Dennis was born in Morris, Minnesota. He was raised in a Christian home and in a home church that was very missions minded. After graduating with a BA degree in Bible and missions from Vennard College (Iowa), Dennis earned six master’s level credits in communications at the University of Minnesota and took cross-cultural communications courses at Columbia Bible College (South Carolina).

In addition to the excellent education he received at Vennard, Dennis was sanctified there during his sophomore year. The strong missions emphasis at Vennard also played a role in his missionary calling, as did a one-month visit to Honduras and his relationship with Twana Hawk.

Twana was born and raised in Honduras as a WGM missionary kid. Her parents were Donald and Twana Hawk, founders of Escuela El Sembrador. She graduated with an AA in Bible from Vennard before earning her RN degree from St. Luke’s School of Nursing (Minnesota). Twana accepted Christ at the age of 9 while attending boarding school in Honduras. At the age of 12, during a camp meeting in Ohio, she felt God’s call to be a missionary. Twana then experienced entire sanctification during college while she was preparing to be a missionary.

Dennis and Twana were married on August 22, 1971. When it came time to apply for missionary service, WGM was an obvious choice. Not only had Twana grown up as an MK under the Mission, but she and Dennis had both grown to love the people and the ministry.

In April 1973, Dennis and Twana were appointed as WGM missionaries to Bolivia, where they ministered for 25 years. During their first term in Bolivia, the Johnsons were involved in rural church planting and evangelism. In their second term, they moved to Santa Cruz, where they served as teachers in the Bible institute and at Santa Cruz Christian Learning Center, dorm parents, school nurse (Twana), and field leader (Dennis). Dennis also served in field leadership and on the boards of SCCLC and Bolivian Evangelical University. Twana was active in medical work, MK outreach, women’s and children’s ministries, and Bible study groups. She was also a member of the SCCLC board.

Although Dennis was initially interested in radio work and serving in Argentina, he and Twana remained open to the Lord’s leading. In August 1998, that leading took them to WGM headquarters in Indiana. During their 12 years at headquarters, Dennis was the regional coordinator for Latin America for two years and then became the vice president of International Ministries. Twana was the director of WGM’s Student Involvement ministries at Indiana Wesleyan University for two years before starting an outreach to WGM MKs and ultimately WGM’s Member Health Department.

“Dennis is responsible for implementing our current regional director structure of field administration, and Twana was instrumental in establishing a robust and effective Member Health Department and seeing a fledgling MK ministry become one of WGM’s most valued ministries to our missionaries,” noted Tim Rickel, WGM’s vice president of International Ministries who has known the Johnsons for 25 years.

The Johnsons worked at headquarters until 2010, when they felt the Lord leading them back to the field. They were reassigned to WGM Mexico in January 2011 and served there until their retirement in 2015. When they arrived in Mexico, their main responsibility was to pastor a one-year-old church plant. Well, that small plant is now a growing tree. In addition to outgrowing two locations, the Pan de Vida (Bread of Life) congregation has taken over leadership of the church and has added outreach ministries to men, women, youth, and children.

“They would say, ‘To God be the glory,’” shared Bill and Lydia Allshouse, who worked with Dennis and Twana at headquarters and in Mexico. “For WGM Mexico, their great accomplishment was their perseverance and dedication to their church plant in León. They based this church plant on biblical teaching through discipleship and marriage restoration.”

Dennis and Twana are the proud parents of Jason, Aaron, Nathan, Twana, and Denise and the even prouder grandparents of 14 grandchildren. They also deeply love their three daughters-in-law and one son-in-law. Although the family is spread among Canada, China, and Indiana, they are all walking with the Lord, raising their children to do the same, and enjoy getting together as much as possible.

“The Lord has shown His faithfulness to us over the years, through nurse’s training, getting married, being appointed to WGM, doing deputation, and serving in Bolivia and Mexico,” Twana shared. “There have been some rough times and many good times. (Lamentations 3:22-24). Now we are entering a new ministry in retirement, and we will depend on God’s mercies being new every morning to help us through each new situation.”

Dennis added: “The Lord was very faithful through the good and hard times. Although I had really never had training in administration or leadership, the Lord led me in that ministry. I have always felt the call of God upon my life was not a temporary thing, so I continue to be committed to serve Him in whatever capacity He leads.”

In their retirement, Dennis and Twana look forward to spending more time with their family, eating together, playing games, and just having fun. They will also carry on the tradition of taking each grandchild on a missions trip.

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