Practical Missions Knows No Boundaries
Mary Hale and Benjamin (Ben) Talley chose to spend Saturday with Ronnie Johnson, pastor of Miracle Redemption Church, as part of their Practical Missions assignment.
It’s a sunny day in Memphis, and Pastor Ronnie, as he’s affectionately known, is excited to hit Memphis’ streets to share Christ. “I love going to the dangerous, dirty, and despised places,” he says. “Because those are the places God saved me out of.”
Johnson, born in 1965, lost his father at age 2, leaving him and his two siblings to grow up fatherless in Memphis’ LeMoyne Gardens community. Johnson fell victim to the lure of street life and joined the infamous Black Gangster Disciples (GD) gang.
JOHNSON SHOULD BE DEAD, having been shot four times and also stabbed. But in 1995, Johnson was fed up with gang life. He encountered a white man, Ronnie Tullos, walking the dangerous streets of LeMoyne, telling people about Jesus.
“If you get Jesus in your life, you won’t be the same,” Tullos told Johnson. “I didn’t know much about the Bible,” Johnson remembers. “But I came to Christ that day, June 1, 1995.” Over the next 18 years, Johnson worked with the Ronnie Tullos Evangelistic Association, got married, and had children. In 2013, God spoke to him and his wife, Rhonda. That same year, Johnson began taking classes at Mid-America.
“LET’S GO GET ‘EM,” Johnson says. It’s time to head out.
As he’s driving, Johnson looks over at Mary, a short, humble, Caucasian student who’s participated with Pastor Ronnie for nearly five years. “She was one of the few students willing to go to the hood. She just kept sharing her faith and saw that people in the hood are like everyone else,” he says proudly.
Thirty seconds later they enter an apartment complex. Mary prays for the team before Carleton, Johnson’s protégé, opens the doors. Everyone grabs a pack of Bibles and Gospel tracts before exiting.
The team follows a winding street leading to the belly of the apartment complex. A middle-aged man exits his apartment. Johnson and Carleton approach him. “I’m just out here trying to tell people about Jesus. Let me ask you a question. If you died today, would you be with the Lord in Heaven?” Johnson begins. The man is not interested, but requests that Ben pray for him.
A teenager exits his apartment three doors down. Johnson calls to him, opening the conversation similarly, but this time, realizing his age shares more. “Look, man, I’ve been shot four times.” Johnson lifts his pant leg revealing a bullet wound. “I used to be with the [Black] Gangster Disciples. You know who they are! But Jesus saved me. He put the O in the middle of the GD. Now I’m a disciple for God.” A friend has come out to join the conversation. The young men listen intently as Ronnie shares the Gospel.
“DO YOU WANT TO BE SAVED? Do you want to give your life to Jesus?” The young men want to be saved. They grip hands with Johnson and the team and pray to invite Christ into their lives. Johnson shares encouraging words with them, hands each a Bible, and exchanges contact information to follow up. The team goes farther into the complex. A young woman exits a secondfloor apartment. Johnson calls out to her. She looked at them askance.
The team is not deterred. As Johnson and Carleton speak with her, another young woman comes out to listen. The first woman returns inside leaving her friend who is interested alone to hear the Gospel. Ten minutes later, Carleton and Johnson are praying with her to receive Christ as her Savior.
More than an hour has passed. As the team approaches the entrance to wrap up, they spot Mary and Reggie speaking with a young woman nicknamed K.K. They’ve been speaking with her since the team arrived. Suddenly, they form a circle, bow their heads, and Mary and Reggie pray with K.K. to receive Christ.
“THERE ARE DIVINE APPOINTMENTS each time we come out here,” Johnson remarked. “We just have to be willing to go.” This is the purpose of Mid-America’s Witness One:Seven practical missions program. Through student participation, and our alumni like Johnson, we continue to go “to all the world for Jesus’ sake.