Category: Missions/Culture

Intercultural Studies hub, School outreach, International outlook/giving


K-15: Volunteers impact Riverwood Community

Students work to clean out the garbage cans at Riverwood.

Students work to clean out the garbage cans at Riverwood.

On September 30th, Johnson had the largest K-15 Day in history. On K-15 Day, a group of about 20 Johnson students showed the light of Christ in the community by helping out at the Riverwood Christian Community in Louisville, TN.

At 9:30 a.m. the group of volunteers met in the Phillips-Welshimer Building to discuss rides and what was to be expected for the day. Ky Schreiber then led all the fellow volunteers at Johnson to Riverwood.

Riverwood is a residential home for adults with disabilities in the Knoxville area. Riverwood is operated by the CCDM.

The residents were all very nice and appreciative of all the volunteers from Johnson.

“You guys did a great job cleaning my room,” Kenny, a resident at Riverwood, said.

students washing the Riverview van.

students washing the resident van.

SGA member cleans out closet at Riverwood.

SGA member cleans out closet at Riverwood.

Johnson students provided much needed work to Riverwood like killing weeds, cleaning bathrooms and bedrooms, washing cars, cleaning out garbage cans, and doing anything necessary.

The staff at Riverwood were also very grateful for all the work Johnson students put forward.

“I’m so thankful that you guys are here because this place can use all the help it can get,” staff member Hannah said. “We have all the cleaning supplies you could possibly need and if you need any help let me know.”

Johnson students all worked together to accomplish every task that needed to be completed at Riverwood and had such joy serving the resident’s needs.

“I like the dedication that most people in the group showed while serving,” volunteer Jean Faton said.

There were also some friendly residents that were eager to talk to Johnson students and show them around their community. One resident named Christy expressed with Johnson students her love for Elvis Presley.”I love Elvis,” she said. “Do you know where Elvis lives?”

Volunteer spraying weed killer.

Volunteer spraying weed killer.

Riverwood started over thirty years ago when a man by the name of Sam Stone had a conversation with Marjorie Broxon, a woman with cerebral palsy and a resident at Mount Healthy Home. Marjorie made a good point to Sam Stone.

“You know I like it here.  There are good folks operating the home. But all of the other residents here are a lot older than me and I don’t have a chance to do many things I’m able to do and want to do.  I wish our churches provided a home to help handicapped people,” she said.

Sam agreed with Marjorie but also said it would cost a lot of money.

“It took a lot of money to build Mount Healthy Home, too,” Marjorie said.

So in 1981, at the North American Christian Convention, Sam Stone discussed with others ways to help people with disabilities.

Students taking care of garbage at Riverwood

Students taking care of garbage at Riverwood

After a process of planning and discussing, property was purchased in Louisville, TN which is now known as Riverwood.

This summer a new home for the disabled will be opening in Versailles, Missouri through partnership with New Hope Christian Community in Missouri. For more information on their ministry and ways to get involved visit



Living out a Johnson legacy

Saturday morning many gathered to honor the name of Joshua Thomas Teegarden by participating in a 5K race. Joshua Teegarden was killed July 27, 2004 while serving on a mission trip to Christ Camp for the Blind in Rockcastle County, Kentucky.

Teegarden was a 23 year old senior at Johnson University, formally Johnson Bible College at the time, and would have graduated in May of 2005 with a major in preaching and missions.

By the creation of J.T. Ministries, created in honor of Teegarden by family members, many students are awarded scholarships in remembrance of Teegarden.  Scholarship recipients in the past have included Johnson’s Lauren VanNoy. In a letter written to the Teegarden family, VanNoy writes, “Your generous support is helping me to fulfill a lifelong dream of attaining a higher education and extending the Kingdom of God among all nations.”

So far in 2015, J.T. Ministries has set aside $1,375 dollars to award more scholarships in future years.  They are hoping to award three scholarships in 2016.

Johnson student volunteers, including Tate Abernathy heading the crew.

Tate Abernathy heads the crew of 5K volunteers.

The Teagarden family showing their support for years to come. Pictured(left to right) Sarah, Bill, and Pam Teagarden

The Teegarden family showing their support for years to come. Pictured (left to right) Sarah, Bill, and Pam Teegarden

Teegarden’s mother, Pam, was asked what the race meant to her personally, and she responded with, “Josh was so compassionate about missions.  This race is a way that we can keep his memory alive and help people hopefully follow in his footsteps.”  Pam Teegarden also says, “Sarah, Josh’s sister, also wants to pursue a life of missions.”

Through the work of amazing Johnson volunteers, and J.T. Ministries, the legacy of a beloved Johnson student can live on.


JUFL breaks bread at international food festival

Professor Greg Hartley tries some food from the Egyptian/Isreal table manned by Mr. Sias, and Dr. and Mrs. Ziese.

Professor Greg Hartley tries some food from the Egyptian/Isreal table manned by Mr. Sias, and Dr. and Mrs. Ziese.

KISSIMMEE — More than 125 Johnson University Florida faculty, students and staff wrapped up another successful Missions Emphasis week Thursday with their third annual International Food Sampling Festival.

The festival is the culmination of MEW, which featured C.Y. Kim, a field director with Christ Reaching Asia Missions as the guest speaker.

Ruth Reyes, one of the event organizers, and assistant dean of JU’s School of Communication and Creative Arts, said the event began when the JUFL chapel committee and chapel production team asked a few faculty and staff volunteers to serve the Thursday night dinner during MEW.

Alex Benites, Connor Wood, Madison Grigsby, Jackson Rodeffer, Christian Arnold and Amber McKinley enjoy food at the International Food Sampling Festival.

Alex Benites, Connor Wood, Madison Grigsby, Jackson Rodeffer, Christian Arnold and Amber McKinley enjoy food at the International Food Sampling Festival.

“When chapel leadership began thinking of activities for MEW — in addition to guest missionary speakers and activities for the students during the week — the idea came to do a small version of the world-famous Disney-Epcot food and wine festival — with a twist,” Reyes said. “Of course, sans the wine and expensive entrance ticket.”

Reyes said the festival featured samples of dishes that represented the different heritages and cultural backgrounds of the JUFL faculty and staff.

“We also included countries where we have gone on missions trips,” she said.

Reyes said the meal was a good way to honor alumni serving in a foreign country.

Seth McManus helps set up the Mexico table.

Seth McManus helps set up the Mexico table.

Organizers collected recipes from alumni serving in the mission fields and cooked the recipes from those alumni in honor of them.

“We also included regional cuisines, such as Southern dishes or Appalachian cuisine,” she said.

Reyes said the event is an important part of the culture at JUFL.

“[It is] one big event when faculty, staff and their families serve the students,” she said, “emphasizing the importance of missions and remembering the missionaries.”

She said the event has become an annual tradition at JUFL, and mission students and faculty are already planning next year’s dinner.

Rachael Nawrocki serves pierogies, a recipe from her husband’s motherland Poland.

Rachael Nawrocki serves pierogies, a recipe from her husband’s motherland Poland.

“This year and forward, the missions major students with the help of Dr. Kendi Howells Douglas will sponsor the event,” Reyes said. “

The dinner included cuisine from Scotland, Poland, France, Spain, Ireland, Greece, Hungary, Israel, Laos, Korea, Philippines, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Jamaica, Florida and Georgia. Native American cuisine was also featured.



Franklin Christian Church lead minister speaks at Johnson University chapel

Johnson University students were reminded Thursday of the importance of not thinking like a Pharisee.

Guest speaker Zack Stewart, lead minister at Franklin Christian Church, located just outside Nashville, delivered a gripping message. It was based on Luke 5 and the story of the paralytic man lowered through the roof to the feet of Jesus.

He particularly focused on the Pharisees that were present in the narrative and their role in the events that played out.

The main idea of the message was that each Christian can often act like a Pharisee. Stewart then outlined the characteristics of a Pharisee compared to the characteristics we as Christians should embody.

“I enjoyed it,” Matthew Snyder, a JU freshman, said. “He made a good point that in a way we can all have a little bit of Pharisee in us.”

While many preachers speak on Luke 5 and the paralytic, Stewart approached it from a distinctively different viewpoint than most.

“He had a really different perspective about a scripture than what I have heard a lot of times before,” said Josiah Roberts, a JU student.

According to the Franklin Christian Churches website, Stewart has been at the church since June 2011, where he ministers to a congregation of approximately 1,000 members.

Jon Spears and an accompanying band of students kicked the service off by setting the tone of the service through worship.

“I felt like it was actually leading worship and not a show,” said Zac Hulsey, a JU student.

Following the opening song was a recitation of a set of scriptures that led into message, spoken by Evan Duriga and Arjay Donaldson.

The chapel ended with more worship and a time of prayer for the spread of the gospel in southern Africa and for the missionaries already working there.


Patton reflects on events that lead her to Johnson

Rachael Patton, director of undergraduate education and elementary education in the Johnson University Templar School of Education, shares her love for education with students across the world, which, eventually led her to teach at Johnson University.

Growing up as the child of missionaries in Seoul, South Korea Patton learned to appreciate other cultures.

She developed the ability and desire to travel, and the desire to try new exotic foods. All the while understanding what its like to be in a culture she was not part of.

This desire lead her from her hometown of Seoul, South Korea to Johnson University in East Tennessee to work on her undergraduate degree in Education.

Once completing her bachelor’s degree, she began to teach in her parents home state of Oregon while working on completing her master’s in Education.

Finally, returning to Johnson after completing her Ph.D at the University of Tennessee, she became part of the faculty in 1997.

“I feel called to be at Johnson because of the experiences I had teaching in an international school children’s home, and being in a Christian school in Oregon gave me the background I needed to work with people who were going to be teaching in public school, private school, and international school.  So I had experience in all of those locations,” said Patton.

On returning to her hometown of Seoul, South Korea Patton said,“I went back and taught at the international school. I graduated from as a first grade through high school, and I went back and taught there for four years. So I had teaching experience as well as a completely different experience living there as an adult than as a child.”

Even though she considered it home and was not expecting to experience the culture shock, she found that due to the rapid growth of the city of Seoul–everything had changed.

According to Patton, this made it hard to fit in because it felt like going back to her home town without any of the people there. This was ”an odd sensation” for her by feeling at home but also feeling like an outsider.

Working with English as second language students during her time in South Korea helped her with understanding what its like to be in a culture she was not part of.

This experience has helped her when working with students experiencing culture shock, who are immigrating to this country or even students moving from another state to Johnson University.


Director of alumni shares his roots and passion to maintain realtionships

Kevin O’Brien, Director of Alumni and Public Relations, confessed his love for singing.  

“I loved every minute of it, worked so hard it was unbelievable, never thought about the traveling or the work, just loved every minute of it!” O’Brien said. 
O’Brien traveled often with his quartet in 1968 when he first became a student at Johnson University.  
Singing, however, was not the only love he found in his quartet. Later on, Wilbur Reid Jr. asked the quartet and an all female trio to join together and form what would become known as The New Encounters.  
In the trio O’Brien met Donna Harper, a young lady, who he said was beaming with joy and peace. 
“We would be on the road all the time,” O’Brien said. “This time really stood out to me because this was the time I found my wife Donna and the time I found my lifelong friends.” 
When O’Brien was not traveling, he spent his time in the White House as a bellboy for Mrs. R.M. Bell, who had recently lost her husband. 
“I was a four hour work student and it was not uncommon for me to put in 20-30 hours,”  he said. “Just because Mrs. Bell was so eccentric. I served her dinner, set her table and washed her dishes.” 
One could say that it was Bell who inspired Kevin’s young heart for mission work. 
“I had always intended to be in ministry,” O’Brien said. “Being a student was not as important as the mission work.” 
O’Brien spent many years in various ministries before returning to Johnson University in 2003. 
O’Brien said his motivation and inspiration came from the students and the mission he shares with Johnson University.  
“I really do love the students, which I had to wonder if this was going to be a good fit because I’m the father of three, and when they were teenagers they didn’t really care much for me,” said O’Brien. “So I was thinking, ‘I’m going to Johnson and working with teenagers. What am I going to think about them?’ But I’ve just fallen in love with them.”  
O’Brien used to lead a small group on Friday mornings for the students, which included dinners, plays, and singing praise songs. Now with the new times for chapel he says getting involved has become more of a challenge. 
O’Brien says that the younger alumni also have a hard time getting involved with the school. “I would like to see the younger alumni recognized. Almost all of our involved alumni are over 50, but over 50% of our alumni came to the institution after the year 2000, so I’d like to see our younger folks get more connected,” he said. 
O’Brien has many hidden talents.  He not only has musical talents, but a servant’s heart. He is ready and willing to make the changes necessary to keep his beloved campus moving forward.

Students carry chains to raise awareness

To raise awareness about the rising issue of human trafficking, the International Justice Mission Chapter at Johnson University plans to host an event called Day of Chains.

Through Day of Chains, they hopes to show students who attend the university that something as simple as a prayer can help someone else stuck in the horrors of modern day slavery.

During the event students are encouraged to sign up for a time to walk around a designated path dotted with signs of things to pray for.

Students carry chains and are accompanied by a member of the small group while they walk. Their companions serve as prayer partners and are instructed to help carry the chain if the weight is too much.

The chains they carry represent the people who are in bondage, the injustice they are facing and oppressive governments who turn a blind eye.

Crystal Rossman, 21, a Johnson student and member of the IJM chapter at JU attended Day of Chains last year.

“Day of Chains to me is bringing awareness of those who are trapped in domestic abuse, sex trafficking, pornography and don’t really have a way to escape it,” she said. “It gives them a voice.”

Christina Newbold, 20, a public relations major at the university, also attended the event last year.

“It’s to help people remember that there are people out there still that are still hurting, that they are still affected by slavery,” she said. “It’s not a past thing, it’s still very real.”

According to The World Bank, there are currently seven billion people in the world. An estimate given by The Global Slavery Index of 2013 says that out of that seven billion people, 30 million are enslaved with 76 percent located in 10 specific countries.

These countries include India, China, Pakistan, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Russia, Thailand, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Myanmar and Bangladesh.

The United States of America is ranked at 134 with an estimated 59,644 people enslaved according to The Global Slavery Index.

The International Justice Mission works to bring justice to those who support slavery and they are a voice for the voiceless. They work in numerous countries across the globe, including the United States.

While the IJM chapter on Johnson’s campus is small in number they have taken the steps into shining a light on injustice around the world and in their own back yard.

Day of Chains will be Nov. 20.

For more information concerning modern day slavery visit and



Bottle of water opens door to salvation

Sitting in the room in which he once detoxed, Samuel smiles and said, “Its only because of God that I am here today.”

Stephanie Mitchem, the director of Water Angels, said the first time she met Samuel he told her, “I tried that Jesus character once. He did nothing for me.”

Samuel Burgin is a current student at Johnson University who struggled with homelessness and drug addiction.

“Water Angels has the power to change lives,” he said. It changed mine and without it I don’t want to think where I would be.”

Mitchem is the founder and current director of Water Angels ministry and has witnessed the change Christ has made in Samuel’s life first hand.

“The best thing about this ministry is getting to see God work, to see life change right there in front of you and even if this ministry was only for Samuel, it would be worth it,” She said.

Stephanie met Samuel one day under the bridge , the usual homeless hangout in downtown Knoxville. When Stephanie first met Samuel and asked if she could pray for him he said no. Samuel at that time, was only under the bridge to buy drugs in between buses from Atlanta to North Carolina, where he is from.

“Its amazing to see how God works, His timing is flawless,” Stephanie said.

“We exchanged emails and I continued to pray for him. In one of those emails I had told him about the rehabilitation house we have here at Water Angels,” she said. “I wanted to let him know that if he ever wanted to find out who Christ is that he always has a place here.”

Sure enough, Samuel responded and wanted to give up drugs to find Christ.

“This room we’re in was once my home,” Samuel said. “It had four of us packed into this little area.”

“The first thing I did when I got clean was tell Stephanie that a change is needed here,” He said.

Samuel professed Christ as his personal Lord and savior shortly after his move into the house and was baptized in the mountains not to long after.

“Samuel immediately dove into scripture. I mean really, unlike I have ever seen,” Stephanie said. “He loves to study and the change in his life was noticeable immediately.”

While at Water angels, Samuel worked well with the kids in the 180 Gang, a gang for troubled youth who are either homeless or at risk in the Knoxville area.

Stephanie noticed this and recommended to Samuel that he think about becoming a youth minister.

After Samuel applied to Johnson University, Stephanie had her doubts.

“I thought to myself, there is just no way, I mean he got his GED in prison, there is just no way he will get in,” she said.

But Samuel was soon accepted to the school.

“After four nerve racking months, I got an email with the subject line ‘Congratulations!’, and I just could not believe it.” Samuel said.

“I was surprised that he got in, but then the issue became how is he going to pay for this?” Stephanie said.

Samuel never lost faith.

“I had to encourage Stephanie, I told her that if this truly is God’s will, He will provide a way for me to finance this tuition,” Samuel said.

Before starting the Fall semester, Samuel had obtained more than $14,000 in scholarships.

“Sure enough, he’s there,” Stephanie said. “ He is hoping to get into student ministry and he still comes to Water Angels on Sundays to volunteer here for our kids.”


Johnson University unleashes day of service across Knoxville

Students show selflessness in community outreach.

Every year the Johnson University student body participates in a campus wide event known as K-day. This year hundreds of the students fanned out across the Knoxville area to help various organizations. The students and faculty involved performed various tasks and worked to make the university a presence in the Knoxville community.

The Johnson University student body participated in a service event to aid many organizations in a community outreach Sept. 17.

K-14 carries on a tradition started by the students in the Student Government Association (SGA),  in response to the National Service Day created after the terrorist attacks of 9/11. The event was designed to reach people in the local community and to give a helping hand to ministries in the area.

According to Carrie Overdorf, the Service Learning Coordinator at Johnson University, the initial reaction to the event was a positive one with a growing number of organizations wishing to participate with the University.

“We really do want to impact the community”, Overdorf said. “The university wishes to be a presence in the community to share the love of Christ where we have the chance, but mostly to help those organizations that need extra help.”

The students traveled all across the greater Knoxville area to aid more than thirty organizations that had wished to participate in the event. “This year hopefully we’ll get more faculty involved,” Overdorf said.

In previous years no faculty had been present on sight to work with the students. Overdorf said that there was a difficulty this year with accommodating all the students, as the university itself has experienced an influx of students.

“There was a possibility of moving the service day to another time of year, to help free up time for those involved because the fall can be a busy time for both students and faculty,” Overdorf said.

“We provide quality work,” she said. “We are dependable and we are doing it because we love what they (organizations) are doing and are invested in it as well.”

Students often continue to volunteer with the organizations they serve on K-day throughout the year. The event opens gateways for students to become involved with the community and learn testimonies of the people they serve.

Chrissi Newbold, a student who participated in K-14, served at Live It, a non-profit working to bring the Bible to people everywhere.

“It’s actually a really cool organization,” she said. “It started out as a group of people who went and did huge service projects kind of like things we are doing for K-14, but they would do it for widows and orphans and the public.”

“It’s really nice to be able give back to them”.

This day of helping others will continue in the coming year with K-15 being the new title of the event with hopes of even more students and faculty helping the community of Knoxville.