In my more than half century of living in and travel to exotic places, entrepreneurship, and educational adventures I have been many things, but today:
Farmland-less wild and feral food farmer returning to the one another and Frugal Prosumer ways of our forebears.
I am using my background in:
- Business— To build the Business-of-no-business and investing in one another and the family business.
- Education— To have the school of no school. To help one another succeed through Never Never Adventures, where the students teach and the teachers learn and where there are no graduates and no degrees because the learning never stops.
- Using as main text a 2000 year old collection of 66 books written over a period of 1500 years, that has as its main theme— one another. A very well-known but unknown collection because most peoples knowledge of it comes through what other people told them it says.
- Creativity—To create the Art-of-no-art by painting on the canvas of the land, people, and recycled things to make this world a beautiful place to live.
The Adventure Education of John Johnston
My Adventure Education in Life
Adventure Education is an exciting way to learn while actually doing. I believe Adventure Education can be a powerful adjunct to regular schooling or it can even be a complete curriculum in itself.
My Adventure Education has its roots in an adventuring father and mother and continued as I lived Adventure Education, with others. I use/used it as the primary method of schooling my son and others.
As far as I can trace back my family history, my son is the fourth generation of adventurers. My grandfather set out on a great adventure in his sixties when he moved from Ireland to a new land of promise and hope-- New Zealand. My father was born in Ireland, grew up in New Zealand, went as a missionary to China where he encountered all sorts of adventures: bandits, four years as prisoner of war, hijackings, robbers, exploring, world wide travel and much more. He met my American mom, who was also a missionary in China, they were married in Hong Kong my father became an American citizen, but he adapted the Chinese lifestyle for most of his life. He knew three Chinese dialects, was a Greek and Hebrew scholar, and taught Old Testament history in Chinese in a seminary in Taiwan.
Was I born an adventurer or did I learn it? I don’t know, but recently I realized Adventure Education is my preferred way of learning and teaching.
My adventuring started young. When I was one year old, I left America the land of my birth, and spent most of the next 30 years living and working in the Orient. In the mean time I was becoming bicultural and bilingual. Growing up among the Chinese and traveling a great deal I had many adventure opportunities that I took advantage of. I explored beaches, mountains, cites, forest, and saw many different and strange events and people. As a child I collected exotic butterflies and bugs, had rather unusual pets such as a monkey, goat, quails, raccoon, turkey, cobra and others. I learned how to hunt and eat snakes, and I attended clandestine meetings of revolutionaries plotting to overthrow the government. I participated in wild boar hunts with only knives in New Zealand and climbed mountains in Australia.
Adventures have not been an uncommon thing in my life:
- becoming friends with the secret service men assigned to spy on our family
- friendships with prostitutes, beggars, world famous evangelists, high ranking police and military men,
- learning how to make explosives and had my own lab before I “blew it up” accidentally
- watching fire walking, people die, and a robber being beaten nearly to death by a mob
- swimming wild mountain streams, riding over waterfalls and cliff jumping
- driving my motorcycle on adventure trips starting at age twelve
- escaping from mobs who were angry at me
- being tried in court for illegal use of firearms in a country with martial law
- sliding down dams
- biking in Himalayan mountains to Kashmir
- surviving a close call with death on a tubing trip
- trekking the Himalayas
- declining a clandestine visit to Afghanistan with freedom fighter friends who wanted me to report back to the US government on the Russians use of poisonous gases
- leading youth OutWard bound type expeditions in the Japanese mountains
- backpacking, car, and motorcycle camping trips
- rafting, rock climbing, and bike trips
- traveling and hitchhiking around the country
- going out with a fishing fleet
- learning martial Arts
- caught thieves
- skin diving and involved with treasure hunters
- lived on the beach and forged food from the ocean
- traveled most of the fifty states
- backpacking, kayaking, canoeing, bicycling trips
- kite skated, skied
- motorcycled road trips and trails
- learned and teaching wild edible plants, herbal medicine, and wilderness survival
- nearly killed and spent time in intensive care as result of an attack from a drug addict
- surviving, fires, lighting strikes, floods and tornadoes
My adventures may seem exotic and not obtainable by the ‘ordinary’ person. But adventures are everywhere and they are often considered exotic because they are ‘somewhere else’. What someone does here in America that seems ordinary would be considered exotic to someone from a different land. Many of my adventures were just doing things that were everyday life to those around me. Sometimes they were just a matter of finding something unusual to do in an ‘ordinary environment’.
If one is used to looking, you can discover adventures wherever you look- in your backyard, neighborhood, city or surrounding area. Too often we see adventures as happening only someplace besides our own familiar ‘backyard’.
Explore and learn from adventures everywhere, even your own “back yard”. We do!
My Adventure Education In School & In Teaching
Besides the many adventures in my life that I learned from, I also had what I consider an adventure in education and schooling. This education included many methods of schooling, which probably contributed to my interest in running an alternative school and teaching.
I have always loved to learn and enjoyed school. As a child I was known as the ‘why boy’. This also comes from my temperament type (ENTP), which is often called the ‘little scientist’. Here are my adventures in education.
My formal schooling experience began in a Chinese kindergarten, where I was the only English speaking person. Not long into the school year, because of my independent spirit and cultural clashes the teacher told my parents that I would be ‘better off somewhere else’.
I was homeschooled in first, third, and fourth grades along with my four siblings, using the Calvert curriculum. This schooling had ‘varying success’ because, like most boys, I was more interested in ‘adventure’ than sitting at my desk. My mom told me she often would come back to the classroom only to find me missing and out climbing a tree somewhere. In second grade my parents were on furlough in Minnesota and I attended a public school there.
I missed much of fifth grade because I traveled with my dad to Hong Kong, Philippines, Australia, and New Zealand where I attended school briefly with my cousins in New Zealand. During my sixth grade year I studied at a parochial school were my mom taught and we commuted two hours each way by motorcycle, bus, train, taxi and rickshaw.
For my seventh grade year our family was in the USA again on furlough. I attended two different public middle schools in the Denver area. During eighth through twelfth grade I attended a missionary school in Taiwan. Within weeks of my arrival at a school where I knew no one and had no previous leadership experience, I developed my leadership skills in sports and a five year reign as class president. During this time I started my ‘teaching career’ as an Sunday school teacher.
At eighteen I moved back to the United States to attend North Park College in Chicago for a year. Here freshmen were allowed to take only general education courses, but I “found” ways to take upper level accounting classes my first year. Thus it only took one year instead of three to find out I didn’t want to be an accountant. I left school because four of us bought motorcycles and planned a trip through Central and South America.
After working at factory and constructions jobs I determined I needed more schooling to help me get started in my own business. I completed an Associates Degree in Marketing at Lakeshore Technical College in Wisconsin. Here, contrary to getting poor grades my first year of college I got straight A’s, because I was not interested in grades as much as starting my own business. I used every class I took as an opportunity to designed and set up my own business. Instead of paying consultants, I used my ‘free teachers’. At the same time working full time at a company where they paid 100% of your education if you got A’s. I used the financial aid given to me by the school to finance and start a business.
Being very close to having a bachelor’s degree I decided to go to Lakeland College in Sheboygan to get the ‘piece of paper’ called a degree. Here I received my BA in Business Administration with a minor in Economics. Having also done a major independent study in solar energy which became the bases for an article in Popular Science magazine. Doing this independent study, was my ‘alternative’ way of fulfilling my 2nd physics requirement (as I could barely pass the 1st one). Not only did I get an A instead of a D, I learned so much in an area I had a great interest in.
After working with youth as a dorm parent in Japan for five years, I realized that my Biblical knowledge was not nearly as good as I had thought. So I decided to pursue seminary at Columbia Bible & Graduate School in South Carolina where I received my MA in Christian Education with an emphasis in Missions and Counseling. At that time they didn’t have a Christian counseling department so they advised me to go to the University of South Carolina for further training. I fulfilled all the requirements for a MA in Guidance and Counseling but was aiming toward a more advanced degree as an Educational Specialist in Guidance and Counseling. I finished my formal education with just two courses shy of the degree, after learning what I felt I needed. Degrees were never important to me. This would have also certified me as a Marriage and Family Therapist as I had fulfilled the 200 hours internship requirements.
Always an avid seeker of information and knowledge, I tried to never let school, teachers or grades get in the way of my education or be a factor in deciding what I had to do. Even in my formal schooling I was always looking for alternative ways to expand my education. My degrees were a byproduct of pursuing my goals. I often found alternative projects that I believed would help me accomplish them better than the assignments made by the teacher. Most of the time the teachers were impressed and valued the extra work and creativity. Occasionally I was penalized for it. Tests were for my personal evaluation to reflect what I knew, not what I could ‘cram for’. As a general policy I would not study or cram for a test but strived to learn it all as I went along. The night before finals one would often find me in the library relaxing, reading magazines and learning for my own pleasure.
Because learning, information and facts are such a driving force in my life, formal schooling has only been part of my education. My drive to learn leads me to be a voracious reader, reading over a 100 non-fiction books every year on a wide range of subjects.
I believe a major factor in my education was not something I did but something I didn’t do. Throughout my life I seldom had a TV in my home and when it was there I watched very little. My experience of working with youth is that TV and video games are a very powerful drugs, in spite of there educational value. TV tends to retard your learning and is virtually impossible to compete against. I believe TV deceives one into thinking they are getting an ‘adventure education’ and one is handicapped because they miss out on the real thing.
A few major areas that I have studied extensively and have used often are:
- Personalities types- I have used the Myers Briggs Temperament Indicator (MBTI) or David Keirsey‘s temperament sorter for around thirty years with 100’s of youth and adults of many different nationalities. I find it to be universally useful no matter what your culture or background is. I use it everyday to help me in my marriage, work, relationships and counseling.
- Wilderness survival skills such as camping, emergency medicine and preparedness.
- Wild edible and medicinal plants- as a practice we use wild plants and herbs not just when camping but for our regular meals and everyday medical needs.
- Boating- canoeing, kayaking, rafting, tubing and sailing.
- Health and the Bible- keeping our bodies in good shape so we can fulfill our destiny and enjoy life.
- Martial arts, its history and practice and martial arts in the Bible.
- Asian studies- Learned Chinese as a child without formal instruction. Spent much time studying and interacting with the Chinese and Japanese culture, and businesses.
- Homesteading or self-sufficiency skills- Producing our own food, construction, auto and bike repair, alternate forms of energy, simple living, food preserving and etc.
- Personal finance and small business- understanding consumer skills, being a prosumer, how to become and stay debt free, budgeting, running a small business, as well financially counseling over 1,000 individuals and over 100 business.
I have taught Sunday school on a wide range of topics to ages three to ninety for most of my life. In my early 20’s I was assigned to teach a class of veteran pastors and missionaries. For this class I developed a style I have used since. Realizing there was no way I could even come close to their level of knowledge and spiritual insights, I decided instead of teaching them (I didn’t have seminar training at that time) I would use them as a resource to teach me. They were my research books. I would then go to class with a list of questions and concepts I wondered about or didn’t understand and asked the ‘experts’. They loved it because so often these were questions they had as mature missionaries had but didn’t dare ask. They shared their knowledge and it stimulated good discussion between them. We all shared, interacted and learned from the panel of experts.
Other teaching experiences
- taught computer classes to junior and senior high school students as well as adults on the college level
- junior and senior high school teaching- life issues, Bible, and supervising student interns
- training businesses in computer usage and accounting systems
- homeschooled son from K through college
- started and ran alternative school
- adjunct college professor
- coached soccer
My Adventure Education In Work
There are a few philosophies and attitudes about work I have always held on to. Somehow as a result of my parents, culture and personality type I have always had a strong work ethic but not at the expense of enjoying life.
A few principles I have tried to follow much of my work life are:
- use jobs and situations on the job as educational opportunities
- never let work become more important than my wife and family
- make my job, avocations, interests, ministry and passions one and the same thing
- look beyond retirement benefits, insurance, or higher pay to a job I enjoy
- be able to get up each morning and say, “I love my job” Yes sometimes we have to work at a disagreeable job for a time but I don’t believe that should be the norm-- We are designed for a task here on earth and it should be a joyous experience
- only work in jobs that contribute to my education and society
- always strive to find a more efficient way to do the job
- do what I’m told to do and apply myself total to the job as this makes you stand out as one of the better workers even if you are new to the task.
- when finished a task don’t wait to be told what to do next but look around for something that needs to be done and do it—this will make you a coveted worker and often lead to a management position
- my personality type has always driven me towards being an entrepreneur
Elementary and high school years work experience:
- my first dabbling in ‘international business’ was in elementary school where I sold colorful American marbles to my Chinese friends who could only get plain ones
- ran a snack bar at a swimming pool
College years work experience:
- construction (for others and my own business),
- hospital maintenance
- solar heating company
- grocery store
- vacuum cleaner sales.
- dorm parent to Missionary kids in Japan and Pakistan for five years
- high school guidance counselor in Tokyo for two years
- led yearly ‘outward bound’ style expeditions for nine years
- junior high and senior high school teacher
- summer camp director
- wilderness expedition to the Blue Mountains for youth who had never camped before
- Rocky Mountains wilderness expedition with juvenile delinquents where I ‘got to practice’ my martial arts a couple of times on the boys
- juvenile boys home where I was nearly killed, with a blow to the head
- youth pastor in South Carolina in the rough and ‘evil’ neighborhood I had to deal with witchcraft, bestiality, sexuality, suicide, as well as incidents with parents involving guns and knives and where a number of the students I worked with didn’t lived past their teen years
- owner of John Johnston and Associates consulting business 20 years, which has set up accounting systems for over 200 business and organizations and trained the employees to use them
- computer coordinator in charge of computer education and ‘computerizing’ an international school
- writing an accounting program to handle both American and Japanese currency and taxes
- computer sales and purchasing
- consumer credit counselor-- counseled over 1,000 individuals (200 of these being bankruptcy)
- starting and running a family bakery specializing in wedding cakes
- in charge of camp food services
- planning and cooking meals for boarding students for five years
My Spiritual Adventure Education
Of all the adventures this is one of the hardest to talk about. That is because my spiritual walk and life is more important to me than anything else in my life and directly affects and impacts everything I do. I do not take it lightly and am hesitant to even talk about it less I corrupt or soil it by glorifying or making something out of it that it’s not. Never the less I will try to give an account as I see it today.
As we see in many stories in life and in the Bible, the story of a God fearing person often starts with their parents and the heritage the parents gave them. I too will start my story there.
Both my parents were call to the mission field where they met and were married. They were God-fearing parents who were highly dedicated to following God and desiring this for their children as well. My mom served with the Swedish Covenant Mission and my dad with the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and later the Presbyterian Church of America. My mom and dad were both people of prayer. One of my most vivid recurring memories of my dad is seeing him early in the morning on his knees praying for his family. Our family and it’s work was always centered around the Bible and sharing the message of Christ. I’m sure this heritage and example have greatly impacted my life. I feel one of the great losses of my parents passing away is that of not having them daily interceding for us kids. Yes they had lots of problems and issues in their lives too but they put feet to their faith.
I can never recall a time in my life when I didn’t believe there was a God and that he was the designer. Yes at times in my life I was living a life that was violated the designers design but I still believed in God and the rules he implemented where were for my benefit. I believe the Bible is the owners manual to tell how to use the product correctly. The desire I was born with and always been there is to be a people helper. That has always motivated my studies and type of jobs I took.
As a young child I remember giving my heart to Jesus. I was around 8. I was at a bible camp and they asked if anyone wanted to give their heart to the Lord and other kids were raising their hand so I did to. I’m not so sure this was my “conversion” experience because I remember thinking what are they taking about. Anyway I can remember in junior high asking Jesus into my heart numerous times so I would have a date I could remember to tell people. Trouble was I always forgot the date and had to do it again.
In High School I taught Sunday school, participated in church youth activities, daily Bible class and weekly chapels. My first year of college and the shock of living in the USA for the first time got me off track in some of my activities. Meeting Mary and marrying her did a lot a helping me get back on track.
We have been heavily involved in the different churches we have attended--especially in youth ministry. Being a youth pastor in a Southern Baptist Church, youth director in a North American Baptist Church as well as teaching adult Sunday school and being on the mission board at these and other churches. We served as Evangelical Free Church missionaries.
Our goal was to be on the mission field within three years after getting married. In just over a year we were heading out to Japan. Just before this I had been laid off from work and had decided to take a few months of intense Bible study on our own. This was where Mary and I got our first big start at becoming people of the Book.
After working with missionary kids for five years and dealing with their questions I realized that I needed to have a more in depth understanding of the Bible and know how to pass this knowledge on. So we decided to get more Bible training. We chose to go to Columbia Bible College and Graduate school because they had a strong Bible and mission emphasis. These two years of seminary was just a delight and privilege. We grew spiritually and became intimately acquainted with the Book.
Again because of my strong desire to help youth grow spiritually we headed off to Pakistan to work with missionary kids at Murree Christian Academy. After this we again returned to Christian Academy in Japan for five years where we were actively involved in academic and spiritual discipleship of youth.
Our pattern ever since we were married was to earn and save enough money so we could fund our mission trips. We also set up our living conditions and were active Frugal Prosumer so that we could easily leave and return from mission trips as needed. Every time, even before we had a fraction of the money we needed, a mission opportunity came up along with the funds.
Unfortunately this part will most likely offend many. Both those who are Christians and unChristians. All I can say is this is my story and it is just my view.
We are all products of our culture. I believe culture is necessary for survival and very beneficial. But the problems comes when one mistakes culture for “The Word Of God” and trying to make the Bible say things it doesn't and in the process messing up peoples minds.
For those familiar with Paul from the Bible, I like him was a Pharisees of Pharisees. The Pharisees were both a political party, a social movement, and a school of thought of really highly trained religious leaders that tended to twist scriptures to their own gain.
My 60 years in the Evangelical cult-ure, of being born into it, gaining credentials, involvement in it, familiarity with a wide range of their top organizations, schools, and churches, and inside views of of leadership and their families gives me a perspective rivaled by very few. Growing up with the children, later teaching them, taking care of their children and personally know hundreds of leaders and their families from the inside.
For those who read this please understand that this experience does not apply to the majority of people. But to those like me who were born, raised, and lived much of their life among the leaders of this cult-ure. For those of us I believe this creates an even greater difficulty in discerning truth. My 50 years involvement give me an exceptional inside view of hundreds of the leaders because:
- My parents were leaders and missionaries
- As a child most of my friends were children of these religious leaders. (Giving me an inside real life view of these leaders as I was in their homes and saw what really was.) I saw great good and tremendous sacrifice from many and evil among others.
- I attended and taught in many of their different educational institutions in grade school, high school, college, and seminar. Though I was always someone of a radical in the group because of my questioning.
- I was a leader and teacher among them devoted my life to it. My constant studies enabled me to argue any of their points equally well from either side.
Fortunately and unfortunately my life's drive to study to find truth showed me some of the great fallacies in my up bringing. Now I have the difficult task of starting over and evaluating every speck of information I know and trying to determine if it is a truth or distorted truth. Being a seeker of truth I can not be like many I know who have left this cult-ure and throw everything away. Even the most evil, I believe, have more good and truth in them then bad. As hard as it is to throw it all off it’s even harder to decide what the good parts are that need to be kept.
I am driven to test out my beliefs and theology not just talk about it. As a result I ran into many flaws in religious leaders manipulations of what the Bible says.
In the end though my pursuit of truth led me to see that though there was much good and truth in their thinking I finally had to part ways after multiple “inquisitions”. This was very hard as this was my complete cult-ure. I know it, I lived it, I ate it, and they were my friends/family. I still miss it but their cult-ure won't accept me.
As a result infusing spirituality in to every part of life has become even more important to me. Also from all the study I have done and the thousand of conversations and books I have read I have come to the conclusion that there is no other collection of books which comes even close to the vetting, test of time, and universal application as the Bible. Just because it is so misused by others does not make it a bad collection of books. I have found that few including those that say they follow it have spent very much time studying it. And those that have often use that knowledge to support why their ways and religion is the only true one.
These are some conclusions I have come to:
- Love is the theme of the bible and what most people believe is the most important thing in life. Love can only take place within the context of relationships. Therefore relationships are the meaning of life and most important thing. I include relationships with nature and God in this equation.
- Relationships only thrive in the context of caring and helping the other person succeed. Think parents, who can not help but do all they can to help their child succeed. Regardless weather they are doing it correctly or not. We are only alive because of relationships- being born, cared for as a baby, things we have, earth providing us air, etc. With out relationships we are dead. Period!
- We work to help others! The only reason we get paid is because we are helping or meeting a need of someone we have a relationship with. Pay is just a “script” or debt owed us for helping others succeed. We then take this "pay" and use it with another relationship to help them succeed. The mistake many make is thinking that we work for pay and start to love money and things more then others. Therefore helping others is the most important thing in life. The love of money leads to all evil because it replace the love for helping others.
- The Bible is a guide book who’s primary theme is “One Another” and is a handbook on how to do this. Without it we are left with just a cruel joke. We do not have enough time and knowledge to discover every truth on our own. We have to depend on others "research" and experiences and just take the word of someone else until we get to discovering the truth experientially ourselves. We all make this choice to believe someone else's experience or research when it is impossible to do it ourselves. I just have chosen to use the bible as my first go to source as it has been thoroughly vetted by others and myself. This avoids me having to spend hours and years vetting every new source of information. Unfortunately so many deceptions have been built up around the Bible that most people miss out.
My goal is to work with others in building a community (tribe) where we make a better world for ourselves by helping those around succeed. Doing this by building relationships with one another where we help each other implement The 7 Pillars of The Frugal Prosumer. Creating an elegant lifestyle by combing art, business, creativity, sustainability, and our individual passions. Were spiritual, mental, and physical are treated as one. A place where “The students teach and the teachers learn.” Where the theme of all life is- One Another.