Trading Near-Death for Real Life

by Amy Hand
June 2008


In a little office at the Salvation Army Rehabilitation Center in Norwood, Ohio, I met an angel.

This was no ordinary angel. The man I met did not always have wings. Just twenty years ago, the man was consumed with addiction and abuse, which ran his life completely.

This angel has a name: Roy Johnson. There was a time in Johnson’s life when he was ruled by drugs and alcohol. He has been shot, stabbed, and has gone to prison.

Speaking about the things that consumed him, Johnson says, “It was like a giant ball of wax.” With each tainted decision that he made, his life grew worse, spinning farther out of control.

He came to a point, on June 5, 1987, when he knew that he had to do something about his situation. No one else was going to fix his life. So, he put a stop to all of his abusive behavior on this day.

Once Johnson had a strong enough grip on his own life, he began reaching out to others. He was working with inmates in a justice center [jail], when his supervisor informed him of an opening at Salvation Army. He would be taking a big pay cut, though, so the decision was not easy. “I just prayed to God, and He sent me here.”

These days, God is a major part of Johnson’s life. He currently works as an intake counselor at the Salvation Army. He says, though, that the most rewarding part of his work is being able to bring people to Christ. He assists people in surrendering their life to Him and allowing Him to make changes.

“It is definitely a process to make changes,” says Johnson.

He spoke of a system that he uses called “BASK”. With BASK, people are forced to choose their own steps and goals to getting better, to overcoming their personal issues or turmoil.

“You have to do it yourself,” Johnson says.

He says that the most challenging part of his work is getting people to take an honest look at themselves. People often do not wish to recognize that they have a problem – any kind of serious problem. Once they are honest with themselves, though, they have the power to decide what to do about it.

Johnson plans on continuing his work in some form. He would like to go to school to get a degree in criminology and someday open a transition house for men and women.

It certainly takes an amazing person to go through everything that Johnson has gone through, in order to help other people and touch their lives forever. This is why he can be considered a kind of angel. Because of him, so many lives will never be the same.

Johnson’s work exemplifies what can happen if you just give yourself a chance.




Roy Johnson

Roy Johnson

Roy Johnson