Johnson honored by MLK Community Service Award

Jan. 14, 2014 @ 09:39 AM

Bishop Van Johnson became a licensed minister when he was only 13 years old.
Over the next three decades, Johnson, a pastor at Union Baptist Church, focused his attention on at-risk youths, the homeless and helping people educate themselves in an effort to improve their lives.
His ability to make a positive impact on those around him earned Johnson a 2014 MLK Community Service Award from Martin Luther King Social Action Committee.
“I'm still a little numb I guess,” Johnson said. “Of course I'm happy about it. The name of it all is very meaningful. As much as I try to do in the community, whether it be just the community in general or the church community, there is no comparison. I'm honored and, not to be modest, but unworthy.”
Johnson, 50, and his wife, Terri, moved to the Chair City 20 years ago  to get their children out of Chicago. The couple initially scheduled a move to Florida, but Johnson said he felt spiritually led to Thomasville.
“I feel like it was a divine appointment,” said Johnson. “We have not regretted it for one day.”
Florida's loss has been Thomasville's gain.
In 1998, Johnson founded Home Boys Inc., a mentoring program focused on at-risk youths. The program had more than 30 members at one time with the full support of Thomasville City Schools. A job change caused him to step away from the program in 2004, but Johnson said a new group wants to bring a similar initiative back to the area.
“They want to start something back up to reach young people and give them a better outlet, letting them know there are better choices out there,” Johnson said. “I'm excited to work with them in an advisory capacity. Looking at Thomasville in general an obstacle we have is definitely doing something with our young people.”
As pastor of Union Baptist Church, Johnson stresses education among his congregation. Union Baptist Church last May focused the entire month on financial literacy. The church offers a senior ministry and youth program that meets Tuesday night.
“Van Johnson has served the Thomasville community for almost 20 years during which time he has mentored many troubled youth and turned their lives around,” said Dr. George Jackson, chairman of the Martin Luther King Social Action Committee. “Under his roof many young men have found shelter and direction for their lives, several going on to four year schools in North Carolina. He and his wife Terri are accessible and genuinely concerned about the lives of the people they serve and behind the scenes they empower people to strive for excellence.”
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said “the function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.”
Johnson, currently a student at Carolina Christian College, echoes those sentiments.
“Our focus is definitely on education, not only just Christian education, which we have a major emphasis on, but other education as well,” said Johnson. “It's really all about edification, whether it be spiritual or just things we need to know to not only survive but thrive.”
Johnson and fellow MLK Community Service Award recipient Terri Fisher on Jan. 18 will receive their honor at the 13th annual MLK Awards Dinner & Oratorical contest at Rich Fork Baptist Creek Church.

Staff Writer Eliot Duke can be reached at 888-3578, or

SUNDAY, Jan.12
13th MLK Liturgical Dance Concert & Arts Festival
Citadel of Faith Christian Fellowship,  5 p.m.

MONDAY, Jan. 13,
Health Awareness Seminar 
Diabetes: Its Signs and Symptoms
Citadel of Faith Christian Fellowship, 6 p.m. 

MLK Holiday Revival
Citadel of Faith Christian Fellowship, 7:30 p.m.
Bishop Van Johnson, Union Baptist Church

TUESDAY, Jan. 14
Health Awareness Seminar
Sarcoidosis: Fighting to Breath
Citadel of Faith Christian Fellowship, 6 p.m.

MLK Holiday Revival
Citadel of Faith Christian Fellowship, 7:30 p.m.
Elder Donna Canty of Friendship Baptist Church

Health Awareness Seminar
Hypertension: The Silent Killer
Citadel of Faith Christian Fellowship, 6 p.m. 

MLK Holiday Revival
Citadel of Faith Christian Fellowship, 7:30 p.m.
Pastor Travis Judkins of 1st Missionary Baptist Church, Thomasville

Health Awareness Seminar
Prostate and Lung Cancer: Prevention and Treatment
Citadel of Faith Christian Fellowship, 6 p.m. 

MLK Holiday Revival
Citadel of Faith Christian Fellowship , 7:30 p.m.
Apostle James H. Carter of Cornerstone Church

FRIDAY, Jan. 17
Health Awareness Seminar
Affordable Health Care Act: What's in it for me?
Citadel of Faith Christian Fellowship, 6 p.m. 

MLK Holiday Revival
Citadel of Faith Christian Fellowship, 7:30 p.m.
Rev. Victoria Venable
Cathedral of Christ Baptist Church & FLAMES, Washington, DC

5th Annual MLK Peace March
Martin Luther King Drive to PACE Park Amphitheater

13th  Annual MLK Awards Dinner & Oratorical Contest
Rich Fork Baptist Church, 6 p.m.
Tickets: $30 for adults, $15 for children under 12

SUNDAY, Jan. 19
MLK Gospel Marathon
T. Austin Finch Auditorium ,  4 p.m.

MONDAY, Jan. 20
3rd Annual MLK Holiday Basketball Classic
Thomasville High vs. Carver High
Girls 2 p.m. | Boys  4 p.m.
Tickets are $5.

28th MLK National Holiday Observance
Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, 7 p.m.
Keynote Speaker: Rev. Dr. Nelson N. Johnson
Rev. Johnson serves as pastor at Faith Community Church and executive director of The Beloved Community Center in Greensboro.