If you don’t know about Johnny, let me give you a little background. This old man had for decades gotten up at four o’clock in the morning and made his way to a busy street corner in Hamilton, Bermuda. There he would wave at the cars and scooters that drove by and shout out to them: “I love you and God loves you.”
Johnny was a member of one of the Seventh-day Adventist churches in Bermuda. He also was an elder and a Sabbath School teacher. But that isn’t what he is best known for.
If you don’t know about Johnny, let me give you a little background. This old man had for decades gotten up at four o’clock in the morning and made his way to a busy street corner in Hamilton, Bermuda. There he would wave at the cars and scooters that drove by and shout out to them: “I love you and God loves you.” All this while blowing kisses to the people. In earlier years, this was all done before he would head off to his job. I asked him why he went out there so early. His answer was simple, “I want to be in place when the tourists head to the airport or to the cruise ships.”
Now you may think that this was all a bit outlandish but that isn’t how the citizens of Bermuda saw it. They looked forward to their daily reminder that there was someone who cared about them. The day that I visited Johnny on his street corner, I had to wait in line behind tourists from Boston. A woman told me that whenever she visits Bermuda she makes it a point to stop and see Johnny. With tears in her eyes, she said, “If I had a choice between spending a few minutes with Johnny or with any celebrity out there, I would pick Johnny. I always feel better after being around him.”
Several years later, it was my privilege to represent the North American Division at Johnny Barnes’ funeral. Top government officials were in attendance. The accolades were many. As the funeral procession made its way from the services at the Bermuda Institute to the cemetery where he was to be buried, the streets were lined with admirers and mourners there to pay tribute to this interesting fellow. In one open lot that we passed, a trumpeter stood alone, playing a musical tribute to the man who had touched his life and the lives of so many others over the many years.
On that first visit when I met Johnny, I asked him, “How could you do this same simple act, for so many years?” His answer has stuck with me: “God has something for everyone to do. This is what I do for Him.” We are not all called to stand on a street corner like Johnny, but he was right—God does have something for each of us to do.
This issue of the Lake Union Herald focuses on stories of ordinary people like Johnny Barnes who have heard and answered the call of God to go and serve. It reminds me of that phrase: “Together in Mission: I Will Go.” What has God called you to do?
Ken Denslow is president of the Lake Union Conference.