Six years ago, as Johnita Dickerson sat on her bed spending time with the Lord, God clearly impressed upon her a calling to be a missionary to the nations. Then a senior in college, she had never been on a mission trip, yet the Lord would confirm that call more than once.
A native of Salisbury, Maryland, Johnita grew up on the Eastern Shore going to church and believing in Jesus. She came to faith in Him as a child, recognizing His leading in life as she matured through middle and high school.
Attending Salisbury University brought with it the typical freedoms and temptations of college life. “Things came into my life that I should have said no to, and I didn’t,” Johnita admitted. “There was a time when I deliberately disobeyed God, and I realized I personally needed Jesus. Before, I thought, ‘Jesus died for the sins of the world and that includes me.’ I was humbled in that moment realizing I was a sinner.”
With a new understanding of God’s grace and the reality that salvation is truly a gift, Johnita really began to seek the Lord’s direction in her life as the months ticked down toward graduation day. A few weeks before He impressed upon her a calling to missions, she asked, “What is my purpose in life?”
As a psychology major, she expected the response to be something more along the lines of counseling, but Johnita began seeking opportunities to go on a mission trip. She confessed she tried to make it happen in her own strength, applying to various missions opportunities that interested her. “It was apparent to me that God was trying to tell me, ‘I’m going to make this happen. I started this, and I’ll be the one to finish it,’” Johnita recalled.
A month later, a friend invited her to go on a trip to Ghana. Immediately, she said yes, and went on her first mission trip in 2013.
“I loved it and didn’t want to come back,” she said. While in West Africa, she learned a lot about unreached people groups – particularly those living in the 10-40 window, a region that lies between 40 degrees north of the equator and 10 degrees south of it, where most of the world’s unreached population lives.
“It was then that my heart began to grow for that part of the world,” Johnita said, reflecting on her initial trip and a missions group she joined. She returned to Ghana for a second trip, serving in the heavily Muslim northern region.
After moving to Annapolis to take a job as a Spanish teacher, she joined Bay Area and served on a short term trip to Brazil and led two trips to El Salvador.
“Having gone on several trips, I’ve learned that people are more the same than we are different – that God is God wherever we are,” Johnita shared of her experiences overseas. “One thing that has forever changed me is not wanting to waste, knowing I can live with less because other people live with less.”
In El Salvador, she and her team saw 30 students decide to follow Jesus; she was also impacted by the opportunity to explain God’s holiness and grace to a woman who struggled with condemnation.
“That last short term missions trip confirmed that I’m called to more … that my heart longs to be planted in one place longer term. And I truly believe God put that there,” Johnita said, days before leaving the United States to serve as Bay Area’s newest global missions partner.
Early in 2017, global missions pastor Casely Essamuah told Johnita about an opportunity to serve for two years with Bay Area’s partners in Southeast Asia. She had never been to that part of the world, but earnestly sought the Lord’s direction. After a month of prayer, God simply responded, “You’re going.”
The reality of what God had promised her years ago coming to pass hit her, and Johnita began to feel unworthy. As that thought entered her mind, she pulled up biblegateway.com and the verse of the day was 2 Timothy 1:9:
“…who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity.”
Johnita’s feelings of unworthiness dissipated as she was reminded that her call to missions was never about her in the first place, but about God’s purpose and plan. “We see in Scripture that God uses the least likely to accomplish His purpose,” she added. “I know this is where I’m supposed to be.”
Days after celebrating Christmas with her family, Johnita boarded a plane on December 28, 2017, headed for Southeast Asia. There, over the next two years, she will put her experience as an educator to use teaching English to local children on weekends and refugee children during the week.
Her focus while working there will be to share the gospel and be a light in a Muslim-majority country as she builds relationships with students, their families, coworkers and locals. As she adjusts to cultural differences, high humidity, driving on the opposite side of the road, and being “significantly taller and bigger than other people,” Johnita’s greatest desires are to have a lasting impact for the Kingdom while in Southeast Asia and to develop strong community.
“I’m praying that God just uses me,” she stated succinctly. “Pray for people of peace with whom I can connect and share the gospel.”