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.
Over 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