Jola Johnson will tell you it started with an inner prompting to “do something.”
But I suspect it began with a compassionate heart, already open to a remarkable God.
Jola’s friends, family, and neighbors can all tell you that she loves to help. And for needs beyond her physical reach, she prays. Hard. She stations reminders to pray everywhere. There’s the portrait of a beautiful little Cameroonian girl on her dining room wall. There’s the bracelet she wears from Voice of the Martyrs. And there are the endless social media and news report streams she pores over to keep her prayers current.
But one day, she couldn’t stop at praying. She “just knew” there was something more to be done that day. But what? How? And for whom, in particular? It was a puzzle, and she was only holding one piece.
The “What” Piece
Jola’s go-to method of raising a little extra money for her family is her baking. For over three years, she’s been turning out small batches of bread for local friends in a delicious variety of flavors. It has provided her budget-conscious family a bit of “fun money” and more to donate to charity. All it takes is a post on her Facebook group page that she’s starting a batch of something like Banana Raisin Nut Bread or Swedish Limpa Rye, and orders come trickling in.
So—no surprise—she decided that what she should do was bake. Nothing new. Quite ordinary.
She and her husband Kelley figured maybe she’d bring in $50; they could match that, and $100 would go to— somebody… somewhere.
Who? Where? Jola knew of dozens of excellent organizations adept at turning financial gifts into practical help for persecuted Christians. Which of them needed this little gift today?
Proceeding though puzzled, Jola says, “I put some lame post on Bread From Jola, my Facebook page: ‘Any profits from this batch of Daily Bread will go to the persecuted church.’ It didn’t even get a response.”
That was October 31.
The “Where” Piece – and the Pace Quickens
The next day, November 1, Jola’s best customer handed her another piece of the puzzle.
Leta Jacobs had seen the post and wanted to order more bread than Jola could bake at once. But she wanted to donate for it all now, she said, so that the money could go out right away. Leta knew that Jola’s friend Efi Tembon was set to return to Cameroon shortly, and she wanted him to be able to take the gift now.
“The last piece fell into place!” Jola says. “I knew instantly where the money was to go. Efi makes trips to areas in Cameroon that are under threat from Boko Haram. Yet the church there continues to help the refugees, meet together and even support their own Bible translation work.” Efi would be in the U.S. only two more days before heading home. She had to bake fast.
Jola made one quick post to her personal Facebook page: “I plan to send a cash gift back with a friend for those persecuted in a land that I love. If you would like to join me, call or private message me. Today only.”
Within minutes, she had a pledge of $500.
With the fragrance of rising bread filling her kitchen, she flung another post onto Bread from Jola: “I’m taking orders for Wild Cranberry Pecan Bread. Any orders for any kind of bread placed today or tomorrow will also be helping the persecuted since I’ll donate any profits from those orders.” Orders came streaming in. In addition to the first 10 loaves Letta had ordered, Jola suddenly had orders for 15 more. “And,” she says, “the donations were most generous!”
On November 2, Jola delivered to Efi a loaf of bread along with $810. She attached a note for their persecuted Christian family in the North Region of Cameroon: “You are not alone. We have not forgotten your suffering. We are praying for you to be strong and very courageous.”
The “Where” Piece — and the Gift Grows
Efi carried Jola’s gift back home to Cameroon, where he works as General Director of CABTAL, Cameroon Association for Bible Translation and Literacy. Due to his group’s effectiveness in building literacy throughout his country, he has worked with everyone from the Prime Minister to tribal elders and child-toting mothers in remote villages. He sees needs “up close and personal.”
In Mokolo, for instance, the people are beset by dramatic problems. Their arable land is giving way to desert. Refugees fleeing terrorism are pouring in from Nigeria and other northern Cameroon areas. And the violent Boko Haram has seized control of territory so close that traders refuse to travel there. The people of Mokolo are cut off.
But not from Efi.
He often makes the risky trip north with a truck stuffed with all the food he can get his hands on. And he gives it to the local Christians who are doing all they can to care for the incoming refugees, whether Nigerians or displaced Cameroonians. These Christians still meet to worship, and they still support work on the translation of the Bible into their own language. All this in spite of their own danger.
So Efi knew exactly where to take Jola’s gift. First he took it before the CABTAL board of directors and staff. By the time he left for the North a few weeks later, the gift had more than tripled in size. With that, he was able to get a truck and load it with 4,400 pounds of millet, 2200 pounds of rice, and 440 pounds of salt and deliver it to the grateful people of Mokolo. They distributed it as Christmas gifts for the displaced families among them.
Efi wrote back to Jola, in part, “Thanks so much for putting a smile on the faces of these families that have gone through a lot of terrible challenges and horror from Boko Haram.” Jola read his letter and cried.
A Heart Prepared
It was only later that Jola re-discovered this note she’d jotted down in her journal–an impression of what God wanted her to remember:
“Hold fast to Me! …. All you do and say that flows out of our union will strengthen the body and bring real growth… I know what the body truly needs in every individual circumstance. You don’t have to know how it fits into the big picture because you are not the head. You do have to do the small part I give you, that I prepared for you, that I’ll empower you to do, for the building up of the whole body.”
The note was dated October 26. . . only one week before food for the people of Mokolo, Cameroon, would be sent from a little kitchen in Hector, Minnesota.
It’s not often that we get a glimpse into the far-reaching effects of
our simple acts of obedience, the way Jola did.
I share her story because it encourages me to say “yes” to God,
even when I can’t imagine I’ll have much impact.
How has this story helped you?