Category: News

News about activities of importance to Johnson University.


K-15: Lonsdale gets help from energetic students

Lonsdale Community Church

Lonsdale Community Church

In a part of Knoxville that most people may drive by exists the small community of Lonsdale. Full of rich history and diverse cultures, Lonsdale is a golden area for ministry to take place. Deep within Lonsdale is an organization that goes by the name of Thrive. Thrive is a collection of volunteers who gather together for one purpose: to equip others with the Word of God and help people grow spiritually. Thrive focuses on kids from ages of 7 to around 17 and helps them keep up on their grades and learn about who Jesus is.

Clayton Woods discusses to the K-15 group what Thrive is all about.

Clayton Wood tells the K-15 group what Thrive is all about.

Thrive has existed for 25 years, but only recently changed its name from Soar Youth Ministries to Thrive.

Clayton Wood, the executive director at Thrive, has been working for Thrive for 4 years now. He first heard about Thrive from a church leader. He was encouraged to volunteer for a while, and this is where the spark came in. After long periods of prayer, Wood finally signed on full-time at Thrive. God made the path clear, and Wood had an entirely new vision for what Thrive could be. Wood believed that kids could come to get to know Jesus in a safe environment with people who had a passion to help.

Since Wood has taken over, the program has doubled.

Sophomore Ryan Franklin takes his time applying new carpet to the upstairs building of Thrive.

Sophomore Ryan Franklin takes his time applying new carpet to the upstairs building of Thrive.

Thrive has over a hundred repetitive volunteers cycle through the program. The volunteer skills range from being a mentor to simply tutoring a group of middle schooler’s. Thrive goes through daily routines with the kids, such as leading devotionals, having a worship time, and praying. Thrive also has a dinner set-up for the kids during the evening times, to which the kids learn the real value of community and connection.

There are over 2,000 homes in Lonsdale, and the outreach need is beyond measure. Moreover, the need is not only financially, but spiritually as well.

Sarah Foster is a full-time worker at Thrive who started out as a high school volunteer. She started out doing summer interns through Lee University, and the Lord eventually opened up the doors for her to be able to work there.

Sarah Foster (right) discusses with a Johnson student (left) what she does at Thrive.

Sarah Foster (right) discusses with a Johnson student (left) what she does at Thrive.

“I felt like I already connected with Thrive when I started working,” Foster remarks. “It was natural for me.”

Foster says it is a joy for her to share the Word of God, and that she wants to build a friendship with the kids. For Foster, the discipleship is what brings her back every time.

For the K-15 event, there were over 15 Johnson students that drove out to Lonsdale to serve. Tasks ranged from putting down to carpet, mopping, painting, sweeping, attending the church grounds, and wiping down the walls.

Lexi Overcash happily helps Thrive prepare for their program later on in the evening.

Lexi Overcash happily helps Thrive prepare for their program later on in the evening.

No assignment was gone unnoticed when it came to helping at Thrive. The volunteers at Thrive wanted to give off a positive energy to the kids who came at night by providing a safe and clean environment for them to work in.

The K-15 helpers went from 11 in the morning till around 2 in the afternoon. They conversed with the workers there and made it clear that some of them were going to help at Thrive more regularly.

Lexi Overcash, Johnson student and SGA leader for the day, comments on how she got connected to Thrive by saying, “I heard about Thrive through one of my classes. I thought the ministry was awesome, and I wanted to

Eager Johnson students ready to help in any way possible.

Eager Johnson students ready to help in any way possible.

experience it first-hand.” When asked if she would return, Overcash answered by saying, “Absolutely.”

Dale Hathaway was also a volunteer for the day at Thrive. Hathaway was extremely interested in the program from the beginning. “I plan on getting involved full time here. I actually know a guy who runs the middle school program.” Hathaway was inspired to do more through Thrive, and he has a genuine interest in helping kids.

For more information on how to get involved in Thrive, go online to their website at You can also contact them by reaching this number: (865) 544-5881


K-15: Students help IJAMS create something new

Students who signed up for “Keep Knoxville Beautiful” spent their day cutting, cleaning, and stacking an

Front entrance to Ijams.

Front entrance to Ijams.

invasive plant that the staff at Ijams will use to create small hut-like structures for kids to play in during future visits to Ijams.

Mekinna Morris taking a break during lunch.

Mekinna Morris taking a break during lunch.

Throughout the day students had the chance to try their hand at different types of tools such as pulling the plant out completely by its roots. Others would then haul it up the hill, and then students would use cutters to trim the brush of and then stack them into a pile.

After lunch students had some extra time to explore some of the trails Ijams had to offer before getting back to work.

Madison, the leader of the group for SGA was very happy with the results of the day, “The day was a lot of fun, and I have enjoyed having the chance to interact with different organizations here in Knoxville.”


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



K15: Volunteers bring some soul to Salvation Army

It's all about sole

Volunteers help sort clothes and shoes at Salvation Army

A group from Johnson University arrived at the Salvation Army Wednesday morning to volunteer in the warehouse. Duties included hanging clothes and matching up an array of shoes into pairs.

All of the work done will help run the local thrift shop, which is the main source of revenue for the Salvation Army in the downtown area. The Salvation Army provides meals to the local homeless, along with a free rehabilitation program. They also offer employment to many in the area.

Participants in the event were largely satisfied with the fact that they had made a difference in these people’s lives. One volunteer estimated that the group had done about three days worth of work for the staff there.


K-15: Volunteers flood to Water Angels ministry

Students work to beautify the area around the building.

Students work to beautify the area around the building.

As a part of K-15 Day, more than 40 Johnson students strove to saturate Knoxville with the love of Christ as they joined forces with the Water Angels.

Junior Liz Carson noted the large group of volunteers for the location.

“It gives Johnson a good name in the community,” she said.

The Water Angels represented one of over 36 sites that students could volunteer with in the historically largest Johnson K-15 Day.

What began as a Girl Scout mission project to provide water bottles to the homeless has developed into what is now the Water Angels.

Ministry Director Stephanie Mitchum explained, “We are a nonprofit Christian ministry for the homeless and poor in Knoxville. We have a ministry center and two recovery houses, one for men and one for women.”

IMG_0395Freshman Collin Dahlquist said, “There’s not really another place like this that is a hope house, a church, and a shelter.”

“It’s a really cool ministry. I love what they’re doing here,” said Bekah Ochs, freshman.

Students went out at 10:30am to begin painting, doing yard work, organizing, cleaning, and sorting donations. They kept in mind that their labor carried meaning to the organization, the people who will be benefited by their contributions, and to the furthering of God’s Kingdom.

Junior Audrey Jaeger said, “Most people are drawn to clean-cut places. Pulling weeds makes it homier and a more inviting atmosphere. It lets the people who run [the Water Angels] focus on people rather than keeping it clean.”

Many Johnson students have prior experience serving with the Water Angels.

“I did this a couple years ago with my church,” said freshman Caleb Bryant as he worked to clear weeds around the playground’s perimeter.

Tubs of clothing wait to be sorted by volunteers.

Tubs of clothing wait to be sorted by volunteers.

“My youth group always worked here. I’ve come multiple times and played basketball with the kids, [and] I’ve pulled weeds in this same spot before,” said Dahlquist.

Inside the building, more volunteer efforts were thriving as students painted and sorted clothing and kids’ items.

“I worked here several years ago and painted these cabinets,” said sophomore Josh Schoberg, who was busy painting walls in the same room. “I know it’s a nice ministry; good people, kind leadership.”

“I think it’s awesome what they’re doing here,” said junior Abby Markins.

Students empty a storage shed as they begin the sorting process.

Students empty a storage shed as they begin the sorting process.

The Water Angels strive to create a welcoming environment to the homeless and poor in Knoxville.

“I just really enjoy the place and the people we help. You can see the difference you’re making here,” said Carson Latham, junior.

“I think it’s a fantastic place people in the community feel welcome to walk in [to],” said junior Liz Carson.

Some may struggle with apprehensions with working for a homeless ministry.IMG_0409

“Don’t be scared of the homeless,” Latham said. “They’re some of the nicest people I’ve met and they’re thankful for everything they have.”

The Water Angels are always looking for volunteers throughout the year.

The ministry offers a variety of opportunities for students to obtain SALT hours. Activities range from worship services to Bible studies for kids clubs to meals.

“We have something going on every day of the week,” said Mitchum.

To find out more on how 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.



Juniors, seniors encouraged to compete in annual ethics essay contest

tEWFfH Logo.001

The Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity has officially announced the beginning of the 27th annual Prize in Ethics Essay Contest.

The contest challenges any full-time junior or senior, in any major, to write a personal essay on ethics.

Students are to select an urgent ethical issue and develop a rational argument for action regarding it.

The deadline for the contest is Dec. 14.

All the entries will be evaluated by a panel of readers and the winners will then be decided by a jury, headed by Wiesel himself.

The winner will be announced in the spring of 2016.

According to the Wiesel Foundation, the first-place easy writer will receive a $5,000 scholarship award.

  • Second place — $2,500 scholarship
  • Third place — $1,500 scholarship
  • Two honorable mention awards — $500 scholarships

“These contests give students a chance to apply their academic skill beyond the classroom setting,” Johnson University English Professor Ron Wheeler said. “Too often classroom exercises seem like just that: Exercises that don’t go anywhere.”

He said that this contest allows students a real opportunity to take what they’re learning and make a difference.

Read More


Biggest Winner participants fight to finish

Students work for a common goal In the weight room.

Students work for a common goal in the weight room.

Johnson University’s Biggest Winner Program officially started its fourth year this September. IMG_1710

Participants can choose between two tracks, either  the weight loss track or the fitness track, depending on their own personal goals.

There are a variety of classes to choose from in the program, such as beginning weight lifting, personal training, Royal Fit, ( A version of Cross Fit) Yoga, and Zumba.

A majority of these classes take place during the evenings.

“My friends got me into it the first time I did it, and I continue to do it now for myself,” said Grace Ann Williams, who is returning to take on Royal Fit for another year.

Participants are also encouraged to keep track of their body fat percentage, weight and Body Mass Index throughout the semester. If a student shows significant transformation after completing the program, they may have a chance at receiving the Barnabas Scholarship.

Trainer Monica McKnight monitors Grace Ann Williams and Jonathan while they lift weights.

Trainer Monica McKnight monitors Grace Ann Williams while she lifts weights.

All participants in the Biggest Winners program should  come out of the program with better energy, self-confidence and improved health.


Being salty — Students provide service hours for school year

Carrie Overdorf is the SALT hour coordinator.

Carrie Overdorf is the SALT hour coordinator.

Johnson University students have a long tradition of service around the Knoxville community. The traditional Christian Service Hours have ben replaced with SALT hours, and students are still figuring out all of the details.

SALT hours represent Service Learning Hours.

Many classes here have  both optional and required SALT assignments, especially in academic areas such as Intercultural Studies, and Non-profit Management.

No matter what major students are studying, they must complete 60 SALT hours for an associate’s degree, or 120 for a bachelor’s degree. Teacher Education students complete their SALT hour through field experience.

“The main goal for Service Learning is to make a difference in the community,” said SALT Coordinator  Carrie Overdorf.

Given some confusion about the switch from Christian Service to SALT hours, Overdorf clarified the requirements for SALT hours.

“It must be with an non-profit organization, (doesn’t have to be faith-based) meet a community need and it has to be volunteer work,” Overdorf said.

SALT hours can be done during the academic year and during the summer. However,  for mission trips, where there is an abundance of volunteer work being done at one time, there is a 20 hour cap However, students are encouraged to log all the hours they’ve served.

Students are responsible for keeping track of their SALT hours on Sakai. On Sakai, they will fill a form describing what they did, provide supervisor information, then write a single reflection of their work at the end of each semester.

Some students who come to Johnson from different towns or states may not know about many non-profit organizations nearby. Some places students have volunteered at in the past include YOKE, Emerald Youth Foundation, KARM, and Operation Backyard. A full list of places to volunteer is on the Sakai page for Service Learning under resources.

A way to start service hours is to sign-up for the K-15 Day of Service. Classes will be canceled for the day and students have the chance to sign up to volunteer at various locations in Knoxville.

Sign-up sheets are available in the Galley, but students keep track of where they serve and how many hours were served. The Sakai site for Service Learning is not fully up and running yet, but will be soon.