Category Archives: Gratitude

A Day in Croix-des Bouquet and Canaan areas northeast of Port-au-Princ

February 10, 2012

Today has been about watching and praying as to how Louisiana Baptist might work in Croix-des-Bouquets and Canaan. The morning was spent at the Nouvelle Eglise Evangelique Baptiste with Pastor Odvald, Pastor Odvaldseveral other pastors and friends along with our team. Here we spent time hearing about the priorities of the church, seeking clarification on those priorities and praying for God’s direction and provision.

We then departed for Canaan to get a first hand look at this area that could simply overwhelm anyone because of the massive number of people and the living conditions along this mountain side. We went to the Church which is also under the leadership of Pastor Odvald. We spent time here learning more about the area, the church and the school that has begun and is sponsored by the church. The Lord is using Pastor Odvald to continually reach people and grow them in their person faith with Jesus Christ. We had the opportunity throughout the time in Canaan to meet many men, women and children who have become members of the Nouvelle Eglise Evangelique Baptiste.

We then drove through a little portion of the area. A drive through this area is extremely limited because there are no roads and the terrain is rough and the few vehicles that do move around in the area create such deep trenches that it becomes impossible to drive.

Upon moving back to the main road we drove along Route 1 which is a coastal highway. We drove for about seven miles to see the continual sprawl of people establishing homes along the mountainside. A drive in Haiti can also provide you with unique sites like this one. This entire area continues to grow because the government is asking the squatters in Port-au-Prince to move from the parks and public land in the city.

As we began heading back towards Port-au-Prince I continued speaking with Pastor Odvald about his foundation and the possibility of securing land for orphanage, medical clinic and school under his leadership. As we talked I encouraged him to take on urgency for this project and he replied now and I said yes now. It was within seconds he turned off the main road and drove about fifty yards looking at some empty fields. He said Pastor Jay I have been watching this land and praying for God to open the door for this land. He has good reason because it is very near the Canaan Church and on a major highway. As we talked he drove a little further and asked some men working in a field opposite from the land he was looking at moments ago and asked who could he speak with about purchasing some land. One of the men said he would need to speak with the man in a vehicle that was coming toward us and so we drove a few feet and he begin speaking with him. This man then said you need to speak with the owners and that man made a call and within about 10 minutes the minority owner of the property was on the same road speaking with Pastor Odvald.  They had a good conversation and the man is going to call back after speaking with the majority owner. Pastor Odvald and I agreed to pray because the initial figures would not be acceptable but I reminded him that God owns everything. I do not know if this is the land that God has for this project but I ask you to continue praying for the opportunity to secure land so the orphanage can begin being built along with a medical clinic.

I am praying for the people of the US as I continue to serve here in Haiti through next Wednesday. I pray your weekend is restful and that the opportunities to worship will be glorious and produce fruit for the Kingdom of God.

With a Grateful Heart,


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A Tribute to Jody Johnston on his 21st birthday!

On this day 21 years ago Jerilyn and I had our second son Jody Johnston. The birth of Jody came 6 years and 8 days after the birth of our first-born son.

The birth of Jody was not without issues as Jerilyn went into early labor at twenty-four weeks before the due date. At thirteen weeks Jerilyn was put on total bed rest. During this time we were blessed by the love and support of our family, friends and co-workers. Our parents went the extra mile during this time as Jerilyn’s mom stayed with us until Jody was born except on several weekends when she went home and my parents came to Nashville for long weekends that allowed Mrs. Jeannie a time to go home and rest. During this time we received hundreds of card and letters from people throughout North America telling us they were praying for us. I can tell you the prayer support, cards, phone calls were used by God to keep our eyes on Him through this season of life we were living.

On the afternoon of October 21, 1990 I received a call from Jerilyn that the contractions had increased and that we were to go straight to the emergency room at Baptist Hospital in Nashville, TN. I came home and picked up Jerilyn and we went to the hospital. The hospital staff thought because of the contractions Jerilyn has been experiencing that they would give her something to slow the contractions and we would be sent home. The afternoon turned to evening and the contractions did not slow down. We were moved from one area of the hospital to another section where we were placed in a room that looked like a closet and the only thing hooked up to Jerilyn was an IV. It was about 9:15 pm when Jerilyn said to me I think the baby is coming. I went and retrieved a person who was in residency at the hospital and told him the baby was coming. He looked at me with unbelief and came quickly with me. He did a quick examination and a look came upon his face that was of something from a sitcom. He ran out of the room and within a minute returned with a nurse and together they started rolling the bed out of the room and down the hallway to what I guess was some type of birthing room. I was directed to stand in one part of the room while people came running from everywhere taking their place near Jerilyn and within a few minutes Jody was born. They took Jody over to a corner of the room and worked on him and then a doctor and a nurse started making their way out of the room with Jody in the arms of the nurse and told me to follow them. We went halfway down the hallway into an area labeled NICU. I was told to stand in one spot while the doctor and nurse placed Jody on a small table where they worked on him. It was about thirty minutes later when they told me that the lungs were not developed and were not producing surfactant and that Jody would need to stay in NICU. He was placed in a one of those clear boxes for ten days where he was hooked up to all kinds of tubes and lines. I stayed in the NICU until they assured me he was going to be okay and then I made my way out of NICU to locate Jerilyn. I was brought to a room where she had been moved to and told her what was taking place with our baby. We cried and prayed believing Jody and Jerilyn would both be okay.

A few days later Jerilyn was discharged from the hospital while Jody was to remain at the hospital. The drive home was strange because we were going home without our baby. When we arrived home our son John Grady was standing outside with Jerilyn’s mom holding a sign he made to welcome his mom home. During the days Jody was in the hospital we made multiple visits to the hospital each day at the time we were allowed to see Jody. I went every morning at four so I could see Jody before work and before the shift change in NICU. On the seventh day of Jody being in NICU I walked in and the nurse asked if I would like to give Jody a bottle. I started crying and she took Jody out of the box with all the tubes and wires and placed him in my arms.  I wept as I gave him a bottle. Upon finishing the bottle the nurse took him from and I called Jerilyn to tell her what took place. The nurse told me to have Jerilyn at the hospital by seven so she could give him the next bottle. Needless to say Jerilyn was at the hospital ready and waiting to hold Jody in her arms for the very first time.

Over the next three days we continued this routine until he was moved to the regular nursery for another two days before being released from the hospital.

We quickly begin learning about Jody’s personality. He brought smiles to all who came in touch with him. His nursery workers at church told us how joyful he was and that he brought smiles to all of them. In fact one of his teachers wrote an article about him that was published in a church magazine.

Over these twenty-one years we have enjoyed every day with Jody. He begin showing an interest in the violin at age two and begin taking lesson in the first grade. It seems like only yesterday that we went to bed every night listening to music cd because of the violin method he was learning. If he were not playing his violin he would always be singing. As he grew older he continue playing the violin along with learning to play the mandolin and guitar. We love hearing Jody play and sing along with many of his friends coming to the house playing music with Jody and his brother Grady. During the first of this month Jody was home for two days and oh how we enjoyed his singing. Jody mom and I encourage you to keep playing and singing because you remind us when you sing how much Jesus loves you and us. The Lord has used you in my life to be free to Worship Jesus and I encourage you to continue leading and teaching people to Worship the King.

When Jody was five and a half he was going with me on a weekend trip where I would be preaching and teaching for the weekend. For several months Jody had been asking us about what did it take to become a Christian? Jerilyn, Grady and I along with others would answer and nurture these conversations. As Jody and I were driving down I-65 heading toward the Alabama line Jody continue to ask me questions about becoming a Christian. He then became very quiet and at mile marker forty-three he looked up at me with tears coming down his face and said dad I want Jesus in my heart. I pulled over and share with him what the Bible says and ask him is that what he believes. He said yes and he invited Jesus into his heart. I prayed over him a blessing and we hugged each other. I got back on the road and at the next exit we went to a service station and called Jerilyn for him to share what took place. (This was before cell phones in our life.) After he called Jerilyn he then called our friend Sharon and shared the news. We then got back in the car and proceeded to our destination. We were staying at Jerilyn’s parents so when we arrived he jumped out of the car and ran into to tell them. He then called my parents to share the news. The Lord gave Jody a heart for to tell people about him. The first person Jody led to the Lord was at the age of six and it took place in the back seat of my parents car when he shared Christ with my cousins son Randy and he invited Jesus into his heart. I thank the Lord that Jody’s heart has not grown cold as he continues to share Jesus with the lost.

Jody has brought many laughs to our home from his days of potty training until now. On one occasion we were playing charades while waiting in ER for Grady to get a cast on his leg when Jody it was his turn in the game we could not figure out what he was doing. He then demonstrated that it was mom spraying a Lysol can.

We enjoyed his days at Hendersonville High as a member of select chorus, participated in plays and a leader of the FCA.

One of the most priceless moments was when my position at LifeWay was deleted and I told Jody what was happening to us. He dropped his head and then looked back up and said  “Dad, are you okay?” I said Jody I am okay and his response was then I would be okay. You see this took place at the beginning of his senior year in high school so his response was beyond his years.

I am proud of Jody Johnston and grateful for the way he lives his life. He loves God, his family and friends. He has a relationship with his brother and sister-in-law that blesses Jerilyn and I. The Lord Jesus has called him into a vocational ministry and he continues to prepare for that journey.

Jody I can tell you that mom and I are proud of you. My thanks to Ricky, Sharon, Luke, Molly, our family members, neighbors, your Sunday School Teachers, School Teachers and Music Teachers for pouring into you. We continue to thank God for you and look forward to seeing how God will continue to work in your life.

May you finish strong at Liberty University and know we are praying and cheering for you. Thanks for allowing God to continue to work in your life. On this your 21st birthday may God continue to keep His hand on you and extend your platform of writing, speaking and singing so many will come to Jesus.

With a Grateful Heart,


A Tribute to our son Grady Johnston on his 27th birthday!

On October 10, 1984 our first born son Grady Johnston was born at Memorial Hospital in Jacksonville, Florida. The next few days and months Jerilyn and I begin learning firsthand about parenting. We also had my work family at the Florida Baptist Convention and our church family eager to encourage and support as we begin parenting our first born son. My position required me to travel throughout the entire state of Florida and as a result we found support, encouragement and received a lot of advice from the Florida Keys to the Florida Pan-Handle. We were all so blessed to be loved and encouraged by so many. At work the love and support of the Stringers, Bennett’s, Cooks, Nichols, Carmichaels, Billingsley and Woods family blessed us as they encouraged us in the work and encouraging us as we care for our new born. Grady adapted too many different beds as we traveled and spent nights in the homes of numerous people or on the grounds at Lake or Blue Springs Assembly. We were also blessed in the early months of his birth to have the help and support of mine and Jerilyn’s parents along with some life-long friends like Ann Alexandria Smith and the Besson’s who came and stayed for a few days in our Jacksonville home.

Grady begin eating fresh seafood early in his life and enjoyed his first raw oyster just a few weeks after his first birthday at a little seafood hut in Marianna, Florida courtesy of Dr. Robert S. Cook. Dr. Cook and Grady became big buddies while we were in Florida and always enjoyed the opportunities of seeing each other after we moved to Tennessee when Dr. Cook came to Nashville for meetings at LifeWay or we would see him at Ridgecrest Conference Center.

Grady became no stranger to people and made friends quickly. One such friend was one of the employees that worked in the kitchen at Germantown Baptist Church where I served on staff for two years prior to going to LifeWay. He somehow won the heart of one of the cooks and on the days he went to Mother’s Day Out he received upon dismissal fresh baked Chocolate Chip Cookies. He also became close to many families but one that comes to mind today is the Landrum family. Mrs. Landrum had Grady in Mother’s Day Out and her daughter was often our first choice baby-sitter. He also had many other influences from the Hardaway family, Fry family, DeGutis family and White family. He was also the adopted son of many of those in the Single Adult Ministry at GBC. He had sayings that stuck and even today we can talk about some of them that bring back memories of some wonderful people who loved us.

Grady was no stranger to the people I was going to work with at LifeWay in the Family Ministry Department. We enjoyed many great times on the 9th floor of Sullivan towers and at Chautauqua’s and other ministry related events I gave leadership to through LifeWay. As a young pre-schooler and elementary student he sat under some of the greatest preachers and music leaders in America.

The travels slowed down as his new born brother was born six years and eight days after him. It was here we saw his pastors heart because Jerilyn went into early labor with our second born and Grady was always quick to love on his mom and show care and encouragement to her. He had a great appreciation for his school teachers and friends. He was like one friend said he is an old man in a little boys body the way he lived out his life. He was always full of life and shared in the encouragement of many who came into our home. We had a blast at bedtime as we read stories, memorized scripture and prayed together. My work required me to leave often before the rest of the family needed to awake so every morning before Grady and then eventually his little brother went to school Jerilyn shared Scripture and prayed with them every day that they went to school. During this time Grady auditioned and was accepted into the Nashville Children’s Choir and took Piano at Belmont School of Music. We shared in great times while living in the Antioch area of Nashville with the Cryar’s and McCoy’s who were also from Louisiana and by God’s design had us all living within blocks of each other.

After a few years in that area we moved north of town to Hendersonville where God blessed us many new friends and were able to live closer to some friends that God brought into our life many years earlier. We had a Red Beans and Rice meal every Monday night in keeping with the New Orleans tradition of having Red Beans and Rice on Monday. During the first year of our living in Nashville the Lord brought into our family a couple who had two children at home that had many of the same interest as our sons. As a result the Skaggs family became our friends, prayer partners, encouragers and life-long friends that even distance cannot separate. We were also blessed to be part of a great church with a God fearing Pastor.

After living in this area for several years my parents moved in with us and that became a blessing to our family. My dad was a fan of our sons and loved to be Jerilyn’s number one dishwasher. My mom was consumed with her bookkeeping and though never too busy to attend a ballgame or school function. She also provided odd jobs for Grady and Jody. Grady was involved in many activities at church and always had a special relationship with our Children’s Pastor Jeff Lake who took time to encourage and invest in Grady.

Grady answered a call into ministry while attending a Summer Conference with me at Ridgecrest. It was the last evening of the meeting and during the invitation he looked at me and said it is time I make this decision public. I walked with him down the aisle in Spillman Auditorium where he took the hand of one of the counsleors and shared his decision. This did not come as a surprise because we had been talking about this for several years. Grady was in the 6th grade at the time and upon returning home he followed up that decision by making it public at FBC Hendersonville. Many people came by to encourage him. Jerilyn and I recognized the call was not just for when he finished all his formal training but it was then as much as it is for today.

Grady has been faithful to follow God’s call and upon graduating from high school he went to Liberty University where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree, married and serves as pastor of the Bethlehem Baptist Church in Dillwyn, Virginia and will soon finish his Seminary degree.

It is a joy to pay tribute to a Mighty Man of God who is our first born and today is the husband to Ann. It is a joy to see the two of them together and the way God is using them in and outside of the church to share the love of Jesus.

Grady on this your 27th birthday I want you to know that I continue to thank God for you. I am proud to be your dad and just simply proud of you. I continue to pray for you and Ann daily and I am thankful for the way God is using you in my life and the life of others. You and Ann are a blessing to many and I pray the Lord continues to bless you as you honor your wife along with preaching and shepherding the people of Bethlehem.

I hope that your birthday be filled with many blessings.  

I love you,


My Remembrance 9/11 Part 2

Upon arriving home I was greeting by hugs and kisses from Jerilyn, Grady and Jody. I then went into a room where mom and dad were sitting and reflecting on the news of the day. I sat with them as they talked about their feelings and concerns. We had received calls and emails earlier in the day that our church would have a prayer meeting that evening.

Our family came together as we did every night to eat dinner and then we left for the prayer service. I remember Bro. Glynn Weekly our pastor reading scripture and assuring all in attendance that while we do not understand all that has happen we could continue to trust God. We gathered back together the next night and then on Sunday all of our services were packed out. I regret that ten years later we have fallen off of crisis attendance and normalicy. We need a great revival in our land.

We spent time praying for our President, first responders and the families that lost loved ones that day. As the service came to a conclusion I remember people lingering and finding comfort being around each other.

Upon returning home we sat down with Grady and Jody as they shared with us the response of their teachers and classmates. We closed the evening by praying together.

All the while I was here in Nashville the Executive Management of LifeWay were all in New Mexico for a LifeWay trustee meeting. That team returned to Nashville on a bus because of air traffic being halted on Tuesday and therefore created delays all around the country.

I travelled a lot as a LifeWay employee and I can remember the months and years following 9/11 that airports and planes started filling up with military personnel. I can tell you every Solider I saw hugging family members good bye and eventually seeing them come home and being greeted by applause of the travelers and the hugs and kisses of family members brought tears to my eyes.

During this time I was also serving as an Interim at FBC Dickson, TN and on one Sunday in the spring of 2003 while driving out to the church I received a call that a friend’s son was missing in Iraq and they expect that he had been killed. I went to the home soon after receiving the call to be with the family and it was confirmed when a Military team came to the house of that young man had been killed in Iraq. I recall the front yard being covered with flowers, posters and ribbons over the next several days. On one of the nights shortly after the news came of his death the people of the community gathered around the county courthouse to pray and remember a hero. It was one of those events where unity was evident as the people gathered to remember a fallen son.

In closing with today being the tenth anniversary of 9/11 I want to challenge those who have invited Jesus into their heart to take serious the Great Commandment found in Matthew 22:36-40 and the Great Commission found in Matthew 28: 16-20. I believe this command and commission from Jesus Christ is for every Christian. Let’s step up as Soldiers of the Cross-to demonstrated our love for Jesus and others while fulfilling the Great Commission through our personal obedience.

I am committed! What about you? Let me hear from you.

With a Grateful Heart,



My Remembrance of 9/11

Old Glory Dropped over Ground Zero

At 8:46 EST on September 11, 2001 I was just wrapping up a devotional and prayer time with Managers in Church Ministry Leadership of the Church Resources Division with LifeWay Christian Resources. As I left the conference room one of the members of our team walked me to my office to tell me that a plane crashed into the Twin Towers. As I came to my office my office one of my managers came to me and said have you heard what happened to the Twin Towers? We went into my office and turned on a TV to watch and learn what we could and as we watched we saw the second plane crash into Tower 2. We knew then that this was not an accident and gathered many employees together to pray. As we finished the prayer time we learned about the other flights that were hijacked. I asked our managers to check on any employees that were travelling and while that was taking place I called my wife to check on her and my family. After speaking with Jerilyn I made some calls to Pastor friends in New York and assured them that we were praying for them. I was already emotional because on Friday September 7 my family learned that my dad who was living with us was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and now America has been attacked at the Twin Towers, Pentagon and the crash of Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

I recall employees throughout the day were found huddle together with disbelief over what has occurred on this day. As the workday ended we found ourselves hugging each other and expressing gratitude for each other.

The Statue of Liberty

We had just come through a major reorganization in our division and now facing the challenge of how do we help churches as they minister to people following September 11, 2001. One of the departments under my leadership was the Pastoral Ministry Department and that team began preparing sermon points and graphics to provide as a resource for Pastors as they prepare for the weekend after September 11. This project along with the ongoing work brought our teams together quickly as we all worked to support and encourage pastors and churches.

I have been to New York City many times and either walked or drove by the twin towers on numerous occasions.  I absolutely love the city, the people and have friends that Pastor churches in New York City and surrounding areas so my heart went out to them along with the families who lost family members that day.

Several years later we had a family move next door to us from Long Island New York.

Long Island, New York

The husband worked for the Bank of New York and his worked brought him to Nashville because of new ways of conducting business following September 11. He shared with me that he and his sister were working in a building across from the Twin Towers on September 11. He lost many friends that day and it took him hours to get home because of all that was taking place with rescue effort in the city. He told he that he often asked himself why them and not him. I am sure he was not to only one asking such a question. I do recall that as a family they struggled with each anniversary of 9/11. While I did  not know anyone that died that day I came to know many who did and seeing their faces in New York during subsequent anniversaries left me with to listen and pray as they shared their stories.

I spent several different 9/11 anniversaries in New York with the last one being in 2008 where I was speaking at a gathering of pastors and ministry leaders adjacent to Ground Zero. I recall walking around Ground Zero and attending several ceremonies to remember and to express gratitude for first responders and military personnel. I think listening as family called out the names of each victim near Ground Zero was the most chilling experience. The other experience was as I walked around and listen and prayed with several people on the street who were just standing at fences looking into hole of Ground Zero and praying with some men who work at the NY Stock Exchange who lost many friends on 9/11 was another picture that remains fresh in my mind. I shared with them the hope of Jesus and they listen to His story as if this was the first time they had every heard of what Jesus had done for all of us.

As we remember those who died that day and as we remember our fallen military personnel let us also take time to pray for first responders and US Military who continue in the fight against terrorism. May each one of us take time today to tell our family we love them. May we also say a word of encouragement to a neighbor, express love to co-workers and through it all may we realize the urgency to tell as many as we can about the love of Jesus Christ.

The photos I share below speak for themselves. I took these photos while ministering to people on the streets of New York in September 2008.

9/11 Victims Flag taken by Jay Johnston
Fire Station Across from Ground Zero
Oklahoma Remembers 9/11

The Cross at Ground Zero

Opened in 1766, St. Paul’s Chapel is Manhattan’s oldest public building in continuous use – a place where George Washington worshiped and 9/11 recovery workers received round-the-clock care. Part of the Episcopal Parish of Trinity Church, St. Paul’s is a center for worship and the arts, a community of reconciliation, and a place of pilgrimage for all people.

Twin Lights to Remember
Preparing to Remember at Ground Zero
Rebuilding at Ground Zero
A new Era at Ground Zero