Pastor aims to make an impact

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 26, 2002

&uot;A hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove…But the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child.&uot;

These words grace the office walls of the Rev. Neal Johnson, 42, associate pastor for music and worship at the Nansemond River Baptist Church. It is this belief, in part, that fuels his daily ambition to have an impact on the world.

Johnson has found another way to do that in his newly appointed role as area coordinator for the 2002 National Christmas Child project.

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Nansemond River Baptist Church, located at 2896 Bridge Road in Suffolk, has been designated as a collection center this year.

In this capacity, Nansemond River Baptist is the drop-off site allowing participants to fill shoeboxes with toys, candy, school supplies and personal necessities for delivery to underprivileged children across the world.

&uot;We can have an impact on the world,&uot; stressed Johnson. &uot;One small shoebox filled up can have a huge impact on children in different parts of the world. For some children, it will be the first time they have ever received a gift.&uot;

Johnson also annually encourages his own children to each sponsor a child their age. &uot;They understand that there are children who don’t have the same privileges as they do,&uot; said Johnson.

This year’s goal for the Hampton Roads campaign is 22,000 boxes, which will be collected at the church from Nov. 18 -25. Other drop-off locations will be located in Chesapeake, Emporia, Exmore, Hampton, and Williamsburg.

More than 5.4 million shoeboxes were collected worldwide last year and put in the hands of children on faraway territory, impacted on a reoccurring basis by terrorism, war, famine, illness and natural disaster. Contributions in Hampton Roads accounted for 16,000 of that number.

The collection center at Nansemond River Baptist Church will be open from 8:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday; and from 8:30 a.m.-6 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Boxes will be accepted from 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. on Sunday.

Operation Christmas Child is partnering with Samaritan’s Purse, which is headed by Franklin Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham. Samaritan’s Purse is active in some 100 countries worldwide assisting victims of disaster, war, poverty, disease, famine and persecution.

Johnson is calling on members of the community to volunteer in anticipation of receiving thousands of shoeboxes from area residents.

&uot;It is a great opportunity for Hampton Roads to help provide some joy and a little bit of Christmas to children around the world,&uot; said Johnson.

To get involved, call 1-800-398-3967. As for more about Hampton Roads’ area coordinator for Operation Christmas Child:

Name? Neal Johnson

Age? 42

Hometown? Arlington, Texas

Family? Married to Catherine Johnson for 21 years; 2 daughters, Angela (12) and Alex (10)

Education? BS from The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas; Masters of Church Music from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Ft. Worth, Texas

Career\Occupation? Associate Pastor/Music and Worship, Nansemond River Baptist Church

Volunteer activities? Hampton Roads Collection Center Coordinator for Operation Christmas Child; Serve on the Board of Directors for Suffolk American Cancer Society

Favorite thing about life in Suffolk? The laid-back life style; it’s location close to the beach and to the mountains.

Why did you pursue your chosen career? I felt a definite calling and leadership

Favorite thing about your job? Being able to minister to and spend time with people at Nansemond River Baptist.

Least favorite thing about your job? There isn’t anything.

What accomplishment are you proudest of? All of it is a work in progress.

Who or what motivates and inspires you? The Bible; there are some special people in my life and ministry that are an inspiration to me.

Favorite way to spend your free time? Spending time with my family, traveling.

What words of wisdom would you like to share with others? A quote that hangs on the wall of my office, &uot;A hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove… But the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child.&uot;

What ingredients are in the recipe for a good life? Faith, Family, and Friends

We all have our &uot;15 minutes of fame&uot; in this life. How would you spend your time in the spotlight? By sharing my faith with others and letting them know how they can experience the same joy that I have found.