MONTEGO BAY, St James
THE saying, "Just because a man lacks the use of his eyes doesn't mean he lacks vision", is synonymous with the life of 60-year-old Ricky Johnson, who, though blind for the past 17 years, is playing his part in winning souls for the Lord.
As a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Orange Bay, Hanover, for the past 28 years, Johnson wears several hats, as, in addition to being a church elder, he is also a Bible instructor and evangelist, which is what has made the last 17 years of his life the most challenging, yet rewarding.
Johnson was among more than 400 lay persons of the West Jamaica Conference of Seventh-day Adventists (WJC) who were recognised for their work in evangelism, church growth and development at a Festival of the Laity ceremony held at the Holiday Inn SunSpree Resort in Montego Bay, recently.
Born in 1953, Johnson grew up in Town Head, Westmoreland, and later attended the Town Head Primary and then Frome Junior Secondary schools.
The father of three children, Johnson grew up in the Baptist Church and was an active member from his youthful days. He became a Seventh-day Adventist in March 1985 after attending an evangelistic campaign near his then home in Orange Bay. He was introduced to evangelism by Pastor Egnal Grant, now Secretary of WJC, under whose tutorship he learnt the art of Bible study and preaching.
In 1996 Johnson's life took a dramatic turn during a game of cricket, when what should have been a simple catch, went through
He then realised that something was wrong with his sight.
"I checked with a doctor who told me I had glaucoma and he started treating it," said Johnson. "It got worse and I went to a second doctor in Kingston who advised me that I had got the wrong treatment and at the current stage I would lose my sight permanently because there was nothing that can be done the correct it."
This would have been real devastation for many persons, but according to Johnson, "I took this as a blessing because my ministry became more effective because persons who would normally not want to hear about the Bible would now listen to me whether in a Bible study or preaching."
Since then Evangelist Johnson has preached and done Bible studies all over Jamaica and has accounted for more than 1,000 being baptised over the years, as a direct result of his ministry.
"All the scriptures are from my memory, not Braille," said an elated Johnson. "I used to read the Bible a lot and the book Treasures of Life which I got from an old elder when I just joined the Seventh-day Adventist Church. It has all the prophecies and more. I read it with the Bible and Ellen G White books, so it is all settled in my brain," said Johnson, adding that "people always believe I am telling a lie that I am blind based on how I preach the word from memory."
So far for this year, Johnson has done two evangelistic series and several short church revival series.
"It is remarkable to see him in action preaching and quoting scriptures from memory," said Pastor Jonathan Myrie, Communication Director of WJC, whom Johnson had done two evangelistic series with. "He even corrects individuals if they read the text incorrectly and that goes to show how firm and grounded he is in the Word of God. One of his main techniques is to use real-life situations and stories and apply them to scripture, which makes his message more effective."
Pastor Glen Samuels, Ministerial Secretary of the Jamaica Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists has high praises for the work of Johnson, describing him as "a committed, valiant soldier of the cross".
"A more committed person to the Adventist faith, who is passionate about its mission, would be hard-pressed to find, said Samuels. "Add to that, his blindness, and yet leading so many to Christ is itself a storybook adventure. Many homes have been made happier, broken marriages mended, burdens lifted as this valiant soldier of the cross march forcefully into the devil's stronghold, bringing freedom to captives and fight to those who have eyes yet could not see."
Despite his blindness, Johnson still enjoys cooking and is able to wash his clothes and clean his house.