Every year, the Colson Center presents the William Wilberforce Award to a Christian leader who has made a lasting difference in their sphere of influence, demonstrating the same principled courage as British abolitionist William Wilberforce. This year, at the 2023 Colson Center National Conference, we look forward to honoring Shodankeh Johnson with the award. His work as a pastor, church planter, and reformer has brought transformation in his home country of Sierra Leone.
As a young man in church, Shodankeh embraced a call to take the Gospel to unreached Muslim communities to the north. At that service, he was the only one to respond.
And I went there, but I fell in love with the people. I just fell in love with the people. I love them. And eventually I was just stuck with them, and I stayed for more than five years in the mission field. And that’s how my journey really started.
His decades of ministry in Sierra Leone include 10 years of civil war. In addition to the normal risks of ministry in such a difficult place, Shodankeh has been captured by government and rebel forces a few times.
One of the times that I was arrested, I came to the point of almost death because my hands were tied behind my back, and this commander was going to kill me, and he was furious. He said, “I’m going to kill you, and when I kill you, go and tell your God what you have been talking about. Your God cannot save you. You are already a dead man anyway.”
So, in that pain, I just bowed down my head, and I said, “God, please, if this is my time to die, I’m ready to go. But please God, give me courage so that I can talk to this commander. … At least if I go down, let me convert one more person for you, and let it be this commander.
And so, I lifted my head, and I said, “Commander, please, I know you are going to shoot me, but please give me five minutes so that I can talk to you.”
He said, “Go ahead and talk any nonsense. You’re already a dead man anyway.”
And I said, “Commander, please … I want you to accept Jesus as your Lord and personal Savior. Because, you know, if you shoot me right now, there are angels all around waiting to take me to heaven. But if you die, commander, in this state, you will not make it to Heaven.” I said, “Right now, if you accept Jesus as your Lord and personal Savior, and then you turn around and shoot me, you know, Jesus will still forgive you.”
And he looked at me, looked at me, and he told his boys, “Untie this man. Let him go. Something is wrong with his head. He’s not a normal man.” So, I was untied, and they let me go.
But a few weeks down the road, the commander came looking for me. And when he came, he said, “Do you know that the way you spoke to me that day, nobody has ever spoken to me like that? I go to bed, and I can’t sleep. Can we be friends?”
… and through that friendship, the commander got saved and baptized, and two of his guys also were baptized. And today the commander is still alive. He’s a follower of Jesus, and two of his boys are also serving the Lord.
Shodankeh’s ministry, New Harvest Global Ministries, endured a decade of civil war, and Christian leaders trained by him have planted over 3,000 churches across the country. In addition to proclaiming the Gospel, these leaders plant schools and seminaries, send out dentists and doctors, work to develop sustainable agriculture programs, care for those wounded in war and conflict, and train former combatants through trade schools. When plagues such as AIDS and Ebola hit the country, their volunteers were on the front lines of care.
Shodankeh believes that the goal of His service to Christ is to be “high impact, low visibility” so that the glory goes to God alone.
Please join us as we honor Shodankeh Johnson at the Colson Center National Conference, May 19-21 in Indianapolis. Tomorrow, February 28, is the last day to receive the discounted rate.
This Breakpoint was co-authored by Kasey Leander. For more resources to live like a Christian in this cultural moment, go to colsoncenter.org.
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