We’ll miss you, Johnny

There is already an overwhelming response to Johnny’s memorial on this blog. Please keep the comments coming, as his family is checking frequently. Also, a special tribute video has been posted on Google Video and can be seen at the end of this post.

If you feel led, there has been a memorial fund set up for Johnny’s final arrangements. See www.trinityag.net/johnny for more info and more video clips of this unsung hero.

Very few readers who come by this blog have had the pleasure of meeting Johnny Underwood (or anybody like him, for that matter). When I first met him, it was my first Sunday in 1999 at a new youth pastorate position in Shepherdsville, KY. Like many others, he came up to me and said the usual statement “if you need anything, I’m here to help.” I didn’t think anything of it. I was appreciative of the offer, but like every other offer like it, I didn’t expect much of it.

johnny.jpgOver the following 4 years, Johnny blew my mind. Every ministry in the church that had any success or action, Johnny was heavily involved in it. He would help lead the food ministry, was a bus captain and integral part of the Kids ministry, played drums/latin percussion on the praise team, and was my right hand man in the youth ministry doing more than any other volunteer would ever do. The testimony of his salvation, and the resultant praise in his heart was known by every person who met him.

Johnny had a disease that would normally serve as a viable excuse not to be as heavily involved in things like he was. He was born with “juvenile diabetes”, so severe that he wasn’t expected to make it past the age of 30. In the year 2000, a gangrenous infection set in to his foot, and his right leg had to be amputated to save his life. When people would go to the hospital to encourage him, he was encouraging them. That was how Johnny was. As soon as he was well enough from the surgery, he was back at the church doing what he loved best: serving the Lord doing kingdom work.

Through events that would depress me and many of you, Johnny always had a praise in his heart, and a dance in his feet. When his left leg was amputated a couple of years later, I believe the devil thought he had won. But he actually lost. I’ll never forget for as long as I live seeing Johnny, following the second amputation, roll out onto the stage at Trinity Life Center in his wheelchair. He climbed down onto his knees, and danced like nobody’s business with “When the Spirit of the Lord” by Fred Hammond playing. Here was this man, if he were anybody else would be sitting back watching someone else dance, dancing his heart out with more passion than most of us able-bodied people have ever praised. It’s a picture that will forever be burned into my mind.

About 6 months ago, as diabetes began to take its toll on the rest of his body, Johnny was informed that his time was short. His heart was still full of passion for the Lord, and would still be praising, shouting, and lifting his hands in worship to Jesus.

Johnny was truly like family to all of us. There was not one person who knew Johnny who couldn’t say he was like their brother, son, or uncle.

Johnny was the description of three words: Passion, Friendship, Servant.

Tuesday night at about 11:45, the Lord called our dear friend, home to dance a dance before him that would rival that of King David. Johnny is now whole with his new body, to never be slowed by disease again.

Johnny, we’ll miss you – it’s not “goodbye”, it’s “we’ll see you later!”

In loving memory of:
John S Underwood II
November 11, 1968 – April 18, 2007

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17 thoughts on “We’ll miss you, Johnny

  1. Jim says:

    A true brother…thanks for sharing!

  2. Jeff says:

    I’m humbled by your tribute to Johnny. I look forward to establishing a deep friendship with this professional worshiper in eternity!

  3. Luke Wren says:

    See you soon Johnny!

  4. Jeff Howard says:

    Tj,
    I could not have said it better…..Johnny was a true friend and I will miss him. Johnny, I will see you in Heaven….be ready on the drums because we’re gonna have the time of our life!
    Jeff H.

  5. Allison Patrick says:

    This is not the last of seeing you Johnny you were like an uncle to me and i wont forget the first time i met you you took off legs to dance to “when the spirit of the lord” i thought that was awsome
    love you and you will be missed
    Allison Patrick

    italicized word added by admin

  6. Gordon Blair says:

    It’s 12:30 am, the memorial service is tomorrow, & I finished up trying my best to restore some pictures, audio & video recordings of Johnny here in the church media room, & remembered another audio recording of Johnny was on a backup disc from Sept ’05, still tucked away in my laptop bag…

    TJ- Can you post it here? ( For those of you who can’t hear it, It’s the one where Johnny jumped up during a revival service, and testified how God had confounded his doctors’ predictions of terrible things yet again, and how Johnny told his doctor that God will restore his missing leg, and the missing toes on his opposite foot. The Doctor replied that if there’s anyone that such a thing could happen to, it would be Johnny, because he’s already a walking miracle! Johnny remained with us for nearly 20 years beyond the Doctors’ best predictions, because God gave him a job to do first, which he has done remarkably well -now back to my own testimony about Johnny… )

    God doesn’t say he will do things for us exactly the way we expect him to (how small minded & arrogant are we to expect that of one so much greater than we?) but that unanswered mystery inspires us to continually have faith in God as we go through the crucible of his testing and training, that unwavering faith during this process inspires (or convicts) others more comfortable to develop the same faith when it’s their turn to face their own spiritual growing pains, and the cycle continues across this human race …all the way to the finish line in heaven.

    I’ve known Johnny for about a decade, & during that time, he’s become my brother in law for the last 6 years. I’ve watched him, I’ve observed his health, and his spirit, While his ‘Flesh suit’ (-I love that Christian expression!) was doing things that should have driven him out of his mind, Johnny’s spirit never faltered, even when life dealt him situations that would tear others apart from the inside.

    Indeed, I’ve actually observed Johnny in the midst of all that, actually living out elements from the stories of several characters in the bible in his everyday life:

    He Dances for the Lord like David,

    He Loves the Lord like John,

    He is outspoken like James,

    He was saved from a dark past like Paul,

    He has the zeal of Simon

    He has the spiritual Tenacity to the end like all the apostles who went on to travel the known world just to preach the Gospel.
    He may not have preached much from a pulpit (at least in our sense of the word), for Johnny’s pulpit was in his daily behavior. Just as Francis of Assisi instructed us all: Preach the Gospel at
    all times, use words when necessary.

    The list of Biblical similarities could carry on for days…

    But I will wrap up this list with just one more, that after all Johnny
    Underwood has been through during his stay here, God has finally given him his legs, his energy, his music, his health, his vision and his crown. The likes of which go far beyond anything we could imagine here, for by my own observations, Johnny has passed the test, and by my prayers I can feel God has indeed given him (more than) double for his trouble, Much like another biblical Character known for the same spiritual tenacity Johnny has … Job.

    Johnny had his good days and his bad days, he’s been hyperactive, and he’s been downright exhausted, and some people were offended or convicted (or both) by him now & then, but that’s the mystery of relationships, and part of the romance of evangelism. You wont please everyone, and nobody (but Jesus) is perfect, which is a good thing!

    For nobody can speak of perfection as well as someone who isn’t perfect.

    Way to go Johnny! Thank you for showing us to ourselves! We should all preach like you! And even after the part of your life that you lived here is long over, people here will still be talking and preaching (even without words) of the life lessons you have taught us!

    …and who can ever forget our own Pastor coining the phrase: “Johnny Faith”!

    I feel bad for seeing you go, but more than that, I am REALLY happy for you, where I know you are, and in what you left for us all to savor, enjoy, and learn from!

    Thanks guys for the opportunity to vent!
    I hope you like the recordings…
    Gordon

  7. Vonda Russell says:

    My heart is touched, humbled and grieved at the same time. Through all of the emotions I can’t hold back the tears. Many never had the privilege to meet Johnny, but I am proud to say that I and my family have. There is absolutely no exaggeration when TJ describes Johnny and how full of praise he always was.

    My family met Johnny in 1999 when visiting TJ and Melissa’s home in Kentucky and visiting Trinity with them. During praise and worship, our eyes fell upon this man that was obviouse in his passion of worship to our Lord. You couldn’t help but stare at him for the admiration of someone so ‘close’ to the Lord that NOTHING would stop his praise. This morning I’m talking about, Johnny took the microphone to give a testimony. There were very few, if any, souls in the church that morning that weren’t shouting during and after his testimony.

    He played the drums that day. I don’t mean ratta-tat-tat…I mean played them with as much passion as I had seen earlier with his worship and testimony. My husband was so incredibly moved by his playing. He said, ‘You can see his love for the Lord even when he plays the drums’. He did it with passion. Richard had to meet Johnny when service was over. They shared testimonies and preached to each other. Richard thanked him for his faithfulness and explained how encouraged he was in worshipping with Johnny that morning.

    Two months later, Johnny mailed my husband two broken and tattered drum sticks that he had broken in praise and worship service one Sunday morning when playing for the Lord. He signed them and told Richard to keep them as a reminder of constant worship to the Lord.

    Johnny will be missed. He touched many lives. Our lives were blessed by his. He will continue to bless lives for years to come. For, Johnny’s testimony lives on and will be shared for many years to come by those of us that knew Johnny and loved him.

    My prayers and heartfelt sympathy to Johnny’s family. Brenda, let your heart be full of comfort and joy as you know that Johnny is at the feet of our Lord doing what he did best here on Earth…..Worshipping his Lord!!!!!

  8. Megan Bennett says:

    Johnny,
    You have been everything to me uncle, dad, friend, enourager and most of all you were just there. It was an honnor to be a part of your family nad thank you for takin in a fatherless child and showing her the love . You mean the world to me and i’m sorry i wasn’t around in your last days. I will see you soon.
    Megan

  9. dean says:

    tj…
    thanks for such a moving tribute. makes me wish i’d have had the privilege of knowing your friend while here on this earth. the comments from others that were proud to call him “friend” have touched me profoundly, too. the words “well done, good and faithful servant” were never even in question on april 17. thanks for giving us this small glimpse of the heart of such an amazing man.

  10. Amber says:

    TJ,
    Thank you soo much for taking the time and power you have to spread Johnny’s story. His testimony is going to be used to save the lost and convict those who have lost their praise for years to come. This is just the start of what God has in store for TLC and the revival he is giving us. And to Johnny, you were like an uncle to me and an encouragement for the times when i thought nothing could be worse than my situation, but you showed me that even through your trials and troubles, that God is worthy of all our praise. You will be missed, but this is just simply an “I Love You and See Ya Later.”
    Amber Conover

  11. Tracy Field says:

    Johnny,

    We met when I was 7 or so … a cute young boy with a sweet smile. I remember the instant liking to you. I remember being over your house in Madison visiting your sisters and us ganging up on you to steal a kiss on the cheek. Time went on and we are seperated by our families decisions and spiritual legalism. But I never forgot you and still the liking was there. I moved away and by family decision again… Ohio was home to me aonce more. I was 18 … I remember seeing you on your job by chance ( maybe ) and then finding us together once again at church. The liking was still there. We had good times there and I remember so many times wishing you would notice me and wondering if you ever would. But once again, decisions made others and decisions of my own seperate us again.

    Time passes with great swiftness and after the loss of my marriage and my family, we meet again. The liking is still there. The talks on the phone when I was still in Texas for hours and hours. Listening how God brought you about and the passion you had and wondering to myself if you were for real. After moving to Kentucky… I saw the realness…the passion was evident in everything you did… everything you saw… to everyone you met. I waited for you… I waited a long time. I’m not the most patient woman but I waited. So as time went on… we grew apart again. This time it would be for good. Friends forever… but never a couple, never husband and wife.

    You got married and I found someone else.

    You got divorced and I moved away.

    I must tell you now… I love you!!!

    Time goes by quickly and you never think that you won’t have the chance again. But life is sometimes funny that way. We throw chance to the wind and never realizing that the wind is intangable and even though we can feel it against our face… it’s there and then it’s gone. Our chance slips away and we wait for the next feeling of it to come around once again. But the present wind we feel is never like the one before… never the same… never the same.

    You are whole and I know you are dancing like you have never danced before. How fantastic it must be!!!

    Keep Dancing…

    I will miss you !!!

    Tracy

  12. Falisha Buse says:

    TJ-

    Thank you for this blog…

    Now for my uncle….

    Uncle Johnny,

    There aren’t enough words to say that can express my love for you. From the time I could talk it was “Johnny this, and Johnny that”. I wanted to be just like my Uncle Johnny. I wanted to eat what he ate, do what he did, and go where he went. I can remember sneaking down to the river where we lived one day with him and Uncle James to go fishing with them. That was my first time I ever went fishing (being all of 3 or 4 yrs of age). How much fun that was.

    Another memory of Johnny growing up, was how he taught me to catch frogs and take them home to mom, with their guts all squeezed out of them. Not one of the most sweet times, but every moment I’ve shared with Johnny has been wonderful. He taught me how to fight, and boy did I. 🙂
    The best thing I have learned from him is how to worship and dance for God. He taught me that no matter what I go through, no matter how hard times get, no matter what the devil throws at me; no matter what, praise God and give glory to him because he is worthy of it.

    After all of these years I just want everyone to know that I still want to be just like my Uncle Johnny. He has truly left a legacy that will last through generations to come- His heart for worship, his dance, his servants heart, his faith in God, and the witness he was for God- through all his nieces and nephews both in the spirit and in the natural we will be your legacy. We will continue on the work that you have begun.

    To the only person (other than grandma and grandpa) who could ever get away with calling me “Fish”. I love you , and will always, always, always, miss you. For you were more than and Uncle to me:
    You were my brother,
    Love you and see you in the “morning”,
    Falisha

  13. Sis Jan says:

    Johnnie,
    When Melinda called me that morning at 1:30 a.m. I listened to what she was saying. As I hung up the phone I lay in disbelief that the young man that called me mom for years was gone. I just knew that if anyone would get a miracle from God you would. You were always so full of life. My mind goes back to when you were young and we were all going to church together. We would sometimes take you home with us on Sunday after church for the afternoon. I remember wishing that I had a son like you. Then as time went on i would see you occasionally here and there around town, but the most precious times I recall are our talks in my office after I came to work at Trinity. You made me feel so welcome and needed. You always showed me great respect and always had encouragement on your lips when we would talk. I remember so many times I would joke with you that I would take your legs and hide them. You would just laugh and say, that won’t stop me. I will serve God without them. Not a problem. I would ask you how you felt when you would come into the church to work and your response was always”Mawwvelous. ” Not Marvelous- Mawwvelous. I watched as your body began to deteriorate and you never lost your passion nor your praise. No matter how you looked, you always said you were doing well and you were fine. When I would come to visit you at the hospital, I would have to fight with myself to come, not because I didn’t want to see you, but because I didn’t want to see what was happening to you. You were like my son. I couldn’t imagine what your mom and dad were going through if I was having such a hard time. Its hard when we see anyone going down hill but for a young man or woman it just isn’t supposed to happen. You never lost your fight and you never lost your smile. The last time I saw you was in March when I came to Shepherdsville for a visit. We spoke for just a few brief minutes because you were on your way out of the sanctuary, but I turned as I was going out and I knew in my heart I would never see you on this side of Glory again. You know Johnnie, sometimes God shows us things so that the pain won’t be as bad and the grief won’t be as devastating to us. This was one of those times. I lef the church that night so very sad because of what I knew, but I knew that the Lord had a plan for you and you were well able to accept whatever plan he had. So to you my adopted son this is what I would say if I had had the chance to see you one more time…” Do not worry about those of us that are left behind. We will take care of one another and we will give each other hugs when necessary. We may cry because you have gone ahead of us but oh the joy of knowing where you are and that you are whole and have your legs and are in perfect health. So praise on my son and dance your heart out until I get there. Do one last thing for me Johnnie if you will,…Save one dance for me, for when I get there I too will be able to dance like I want to here. I love you son. Thank you for being there and Thank you God for letting Johnnies’ life touch mine. I am far the greater for it. Thank you Frances and John for sharing your only son with me.
    I will miss you.
    Sis Jan

  14. Trenda Loucks says:

    Johnny,

    I wish that I had one more day to tell you how much I love you. The last week has been very difficult for all of us. I’m not sure when/if the pain of losing you will get any easier. Johnny, I love you and I know you’re watching over me because when I came back to work today one of my employees shared a story with me that I want to share with everyone reading this. I know you would want me to share it.
    I went into work on Monday however I left shortly after arriving I was not able to think or function and I was still very emotional. I then returned to work on Tuesday to find one of my employees waiting to speak to me. She sat down in my office and said I’m not sure how to tell you this because I’m not sure of your religious beliefs but I have to tell you this. She then told me that she was in church Sunday morning and stood in a prayer line for me and my family. She said when it was her turn her minister asked her who/what did she need prayer for. She told him that her boss lost her brother and that she would like prayer for her and her family. She said when her minister laid hands on her and the church began to pray the whole place started shouting and praising God. She said the minister didn’t get to preach his message Sunday morning because they couldn’t stop shouting and praising. Her minister told her after church that she needed to tell her boss that who-ever her brother was he’s in heaven and he and God heard our prayers today. I’ve never talked about Church or God with this particular employee and it was a shock to me to hear this from her. I then shared with her how I was raised in the church and how Johnny impacted so many people with his love for God. I’m going to share his video with her tomorrow.

    Johnny, I know that you wanted to see me get back in church and serve God and I promise you that I’m going to do this. You’re death has had such an impact on both Rich and my life that I can’t even explain it.

    Maybe I will try this church, my employee goes to, since you’re up in heaven trying to pick the right one for me.

    I love you and I will miss you always.

    Love,
    T

  15. Maryann Brown says:

    Johnny,

    I was very saddened when I received the news from my sister and your second mom (Jan Howsare) . Not saddened that you had gone to be with the Lord , but saddened at the loss your parents and friends would be going through by your not being here. I know as age catches up on me, we cry because we don’t want the ones we love to leave us here on the earth, so its a kind of selfishness for ourselves.

    Johnny, when I came to Kentucky to visit with my sister I had the chance to work the phones for the day to help out. I remember your coming in and giving me a great big hug (just as you did when you were a kid) and telling me how glad you were to see me once more…As I sat there at the front desk you told me about your health and all that God was doing for you…You were preparing to go to Ohio to visit and you said that there were those who really felt you shouldnt take the trip, but you (The man of Faith) said to me…I will go and I will be fine. I know my God is healing me and I trust him with all of my heart. I remember watching your face as you praised God with each sentence regarding what God was doing in your life. You smiled as you talked and there was an aura around you as you spoke His name in conversation. There was no doubt in my heart that you were a man who walked the walk and didn’t just talk the talk. You were a shining example of what each and every one of us should be as we take our journey with God. You beleived what God said and that was that. There was no doubt in you or in your expressions. Only Trust in the One you loved and Served. You have touched many lives and the seed has been sown and one day Johnny when we all get together at HIS PLACE we will see just how those seeds you sowed were multiplied over and over.
    My Brother didn’t have the opportunity to know you, but he is in a wheelchair and an amputee also. He doesn’t know the lord and even tho he did accept Christ as Savior when he was young, he never took his walk with God . I am going to send this video to him and I will be there when he watches it and I know in my heart of hearts that God will use your life and love for God to bring my brother to God in a real way and change his life. I am so thankful that its never too late for God to save us…Thank you Johnny for your heartwarming and awesome testimony of your life with Christ. This will be one of those seeds that we will see the result of when we meet again .
    Dance Johnny Dance and as my sister said….save one for me too….
    Maryann (Servello) Brown – your sister in the lord who is proud and blessed to have known you.

  16. Victoria J. Burns says:

    My brother, my friend, and my inspiration I thank you. Your legacy extends way beyond the grave, your love for God and His people is your legacy and your legacy is alive and well. Your praise is my inspiration and your determination is my encouragement. I thank you. Alleluia Alleluia Alleluia Alleluia Alleluia Alleluia Alleluia Alleluia

    Minister Victoria J. Burns

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