by Norm Miller
CLEVELAND, Ga. (TMNews)—Rachel Johnson enrolled at Truett-McConnell College as an education major. Today she is a Christian studies and nursing major.
Johnson explained how God has worked in her life through the college to refocus her life for the sake of unbelievers in the world as she addressed TM trustees in their semi-annual meeting in December.
President Caner introduced Johnson to trustees as one of many students who actively tells students and others about Jesus, whether she is on campus or elsewhere.
Expressing apprehension initially at the invitation from Dr. Caner to address the trustees, Johnson said she realized the topic was “Jesus Christ, and I can talk about him all day long.”
“Truett-McConnell College definitely has changed my life. I am not the person I was when I first came here,” she said. “I have fallen in love with the Lord so much more, and part of that is due to dorm life. And that’s not normal for a college.”
“It’s not normal for me to walk into a dorm room, sit on the floor, and pour my heart out to a bunch of girls who will pray over me, whether in the middle of the day or in the middle of the night,” she added. “It’s not normal that I get so excited about the Lord in the classroom that I have to run out and tell someone.”
“But that’s Truett-McConnell. And all that is due to the work that goes on in this room and what goes on in the hearts of the leaders, here.”
Spring-boarding from Dr. Caner’s vision for the students to love the Lord, love his word, love his church, and love the lost, Johnson said, “Not many theology courses at different schools will make you want to worship in class.”
Saying the truths learned about Jesus sometimes make her cry, Johnson evoked laughter when she observed: “I appreciate the guys in theology class who say, ‘This is why girls shouldn’t be Christian studies majors.'”
“I worship in Greek class – thinking about the humility of Christ as we translate Philippians,” she said, noting her love for the Bible.
With regard to loving the Lord’s church, Johnson said, “I’ve always been in a Baptist church, but I didn’t know why. That’s just where we always went.”
But away from home, and faced with choosing a new church to attend, Johnson credited her Baptist History class, saying, “I now know why I am a Baptist. And I know why I believe what the Baptist Faith and Message says. And I know why I am proud to say Truett-McConnell College is a Baptist school.”
Her most important lesson, Johnson said, was that she “learned to love the lost.” Reflecting on a mission trip to Russia she took as a high school senior, Johnson said, “That shook my world. I didn’t know how to handle that. What was normal for the previous 17 years was not normal any more. I couldn’t get back to normal. And then I came to college, and I am still dealing with this.”
Johnson said she had a plan for her life, “but here is this thing called a mission trip, and now I can’t see myself doing what I thought I would.”
Enrolling as an education major, Johnson said, “Through some awesome professors and godly leadership, the Lord just tugged on my heart to pursue a Christian studies degree. And then I took classes in church planting, world missions and world religions.”
The world religions class trekked to Clarkston, Ga., where, from 1996 to 2001, more than 19,000 refugees from around the world settled.
Johnson and other students knocked on doors and asked a variety of questions about the occupants’ worldview. “Then we asked one question that changed my life,” she recalled: ‘What can we do for you that would show you Christ in a real way?'”
“And they said, ‘English. Teach us how to speak English.'”
Johnson and a handful of other students took the request to heart, and to this day travel almost every weekend to Clarkston for ministry.
Teaching English to a Muslim family from Iraq endeared Johnson to the family so much that, when one of the children was sick and had to be hospitalized, Johnson got a call from the family asking her to come be with them.
“I was studying for a final,” she said. “And the Lord really had to deal with me on this because I can be a selfish person. Looking back, I am ashamed that the final exam was my first thought,” she said.
Johnson recounted that she and another student drove to Clarkston and spent five hours in the emergency room with the family “just loving on them, and sharing the gospel with [the mom and a daughter], which was the first time I had gotten to share the gospel verbally with them.”
Her on-going experiences in Clarkston has spawned a ministry Johnson is calling “Adopt-a-Family,” which will challenge more students to do as she did “because this ministry changed my life,” she said.
Reflecting on her academic sojourn thus far, Johnson said, “I never would have thought all of this in a college experience. And no partying. That’s what the world expects of college students, but that’s not what God expects. He wants to do so much with this time.”
As a junior, Johnson was preparing to graduate soon, but a self-sponsored mission trip to Peru impacted her future.
Having been hospitalized in Peru, and also considering having a family as a missionary, Johnson realized how valuable medical training would be. “This is so ironic to me because I hate hospitals. But, I am now a Christian studies and nursing major,” she announced.
“The Lord is going to have to do some miracles because I do not like hospitals. But that’s okay,” she said. “Our God is a God of miracles.”
Expressing her gratitude to trustees and school leadership, Johnson said she is “learning at Truett-McConnell what it means to love the Lord, love his word, love his church, and love the lost.”
“I will be so, so very proud, and humbled, to one day hang a diploma on the wall that says Truett-McConnell College.”