Breifly tell us about your life/lifestyle from birth up to the point of your coming to faith in Christ?
I was brought up in a household where mum was a Christian and dad wasn't. As a child of three we were all sent to Sunday school and regularly attended church. I was blessed enough looking back now to be attending schools where many teachers were Christian. Like many young guys, I ran the roads and maybe got into what people would say wasn't the best company, but in it all I knew the foundations that life was built in was the church thanks to my mum and even my dad. I would have hung out at a local Christian drop in centre where I was to change my whole life around.
You went away with a work team, where was that to, who was it with and why on earth did unsaved Gary Johnston go on a Christian work team?
The story begins with a fella John who was a leader at the drop in centre who met all the guys each weekend night after the pub for grub and a chat. He asked one night what I'd like to do with my life and my drunken reply was, "build something in a foreign country." Well, God had started the work in my life. John later came back to me and asked if I remembered what I had said, which I did. He had arranged for me to go on a mission trip to Croatia with Magherafelt Baptist. We were to convert the upstairs of a house to a prayer room, demolish an old building and plaster a church. I felt this was right for me, being the son of a builder I'd been blessed with many hands-on, practical skills.
I shared with you how before I met you I would have been skeptical about non-Christians going along on a Christian mission/team. Since meeting you I've changed my mind. Tell us about how the Lord took hold of you on that trip?
Before, and even on the team, I would have thought I was a Christian, but I was two different people with Christians I was a different person with my friends. It was when the evening epilogue was happening and the guy (Bobby Jennings) was talking.
He read 1st john1v6, "If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. (1 John 1:6 ESV)"
I was so cross, I had lied to my self and was angry, I got up from that meeting and just needed to make my life right with the Lord. I've encountered many stumbles but with God's help I came through them all.
I would still have reservations about non-Christians being part of some mission trips. For example a trip that has as the primary focus speaking and ministering into the lives of people. What are your thoughts on this now?
I would agree with that completely regarding ministering and preaching, but I feel that practical mission trips can also play a large part in someone evaluating their life and leading to conversions. Mission trips tend to be completely surrounded by prayer -before going and while there. God is often at work in the lives of the people on the team as much, if not more so, than the people they are seeking to reach. In my experience while on a trip you can be so vulnerable, insecure and isolated - at times like these you tend to rely completely on the Lord and he can break you and make you at the same time.
So you got off the plane and arrived home as a new creation, can you share what that looked like and how it affected your daily life?
It was strange. I returned home to the lads and life just went on. Some things changed, but not as much as they should have. I still went to the pub with the lads. I would drive so I would have an excuse not to drink. But the devil worked his wicked ways and before I knew it I was back at the pubs and clubs every Friday and Saturday nights, and sitting in church on Sunday morning as a model Christian. On another trip God challenged me that I was still living a lie and I knew I couldn't go on. It wasn't until I was at my lowest that I knew I couldn't live both ways and I chose God's way. I still struggle and always will but as long as my eyes are set on him he will guide me through anything.
Flash forward to today and you serve Jesus in printing Christian literature, what brought you to leave the job you were in to go into Revival Movement?
I was made redundant from a newspaper as a maintenance engineer. I had received a job 500metres from my house. It sounded ideal, but it was a year of pure agony. I hated every moment and looking back I just realised just how bad it had been on me. I decide I wanted out and had heard of revival movement so had emailed a C.V. in desperate hope, but I didn't hear anything back. I finally left that nightmare job and took a job in a factory manufacturing parts for airport equipment. It was great but not exactly fulfilling. I felt there had to be more I could be doing for God with the skills he had given me. Through a series of events I was contacted by RMA and after interviews I was offered the job working a 5colour printing press. That was brilliant but I was worried about taking the job, I was comfortable happy working near home and was progressing well in the factory. I prayed for guidance what to do. That week I moved a picture and remembered Debbie (my wife) had wrote on the back of it, so removed it from the frame and the words from a song we had sang in church were wrote on it "A ship that's in the harbour is still and safe from storm, but it was not made to be there it was made for wind and storm, And I will go, where he shall lead me, for his fire lights my way." I didn't need anymore conformation than that.
You haven't lost your love for work trips to serve people with your skills. Tell us about other trips you've been on and do you have any planned for the future?
Following the Croatian trip a few of the trade men went out to Kosovo shortly after the fighting to build a children's mission centre and women's ministry building. I was involved in an Open Doors mission trips bringing bibles to a Muslim country and encouraging brothers and sisters in Christ. I have been blessed with opportunity to go to Brazil and serve New Tribes Mission organisation by making the trusses for a new roof for a mission school situated in the depths of the Amazon jungle by the Amazon river. Most recently I've had an opportunity to go and work on the early stages of Revival Movement's distribution centre in Africa. It's hard to know where I will be led next but each time, as hard as it is leaving my family, the Lord has always made it very clear, And so time and again... "I Will go where he will lead me" I know he will be there every step of the way.
If you could share 1 sentence, a verse or a quote that would encourage people to seek the Lord deeper what would that be?
Quiet a cliche one but has to be Jeramiah 29. 11 "For I know the plans I have for you" says the Lord "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and future"
Thank you so much Gary for taking the time to answer these questions about your life, service and love for Jesus.