For 15 years, Merrie Johnson has coordinated summer camps at the North Carolina Baptist Assembly at Fort Caswell, and the impact of her ministry on the youth of North Carolina is far-reaching.
Merrie Johnson, youth evangelism and discipleship consultant for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, celebrated her 15th anniversary this summer.
Under Johnson’s leadership, nearly 90,000 students from more than 3,500 churches have attended summer youth weeks at Fort Caswell over the past 15 years. And Johnson, who serves as the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s youth evangelism and discipleship consultant, has seen God work mightily during that time.
Of those attendees, Johnson has witnessed more than 5,700 youth trust Christ as their Savior, more than 43,000 rededicate their lives to Christ and 3,100 more who have sensed a call to vocational ministry.
“Go God,” says Johnson, which is a statement she often hails.
Yet there’s also another group of individuals who have felt the impact of Merrie’s influence on their lives and continue to do so. Those are the current and former youth weeks’ staff members who work alongside Johnson for seven weeks each summer to minister to and serve the middle and high school students that come to camp at Caswell each year.
More than 80 current and former staff members and their families held a reunion at Caswell this summer to honor Johnson and celebrate how God has worked through her life and ministry.
“We have talked over the years about having a reunion, and 15 years seemed like a good number” said Jonathan Waggett, who served as a camp staff member from 2011 to 2014 and organized the reunion weekend. “For me, this reunion is a homecoming for staff new and old to celebrate Merrie as a leader and celebrate what God has done over 15 years at Caswell.
“Merrie has greatly influenced the staff and the campers here … She’s had a tremendous impact on my life, opened many doors for me in ministry and taught me a lot about growing in the Lord.”
John Astle, who served on the worship team during some of Johnson’s early camp staffs, said Johnson has been like a second mom to him and others.
“We call her ‘Momma Merrie,’” Astle said. “She’s somebody I’ve always gone to for counsel, and is someone you can go to and celebrate the good, and cry through the bad. She’s just a special person to me.”
Johnson recognized the former staff members who came in for the reunion during the concluding youth weeks’ worship service on a Friday night. Former staff who had served on the worship team joined current staff during one of the songs. The weekend also included a Saturday morning brunch, where Johnson and the attendees shared memories from youth weeks and caught up on where life has taken them. Johnson said she was touched to see what God has done in the lives of her former staff members.
“They become a staff member while they’re in college, so I’ve been there with them as they are growing into becoming an adult,” Johnson said. “While they are here, they are really hungry to know what God’s will is for their lives. It’s been a joy and a privilege to be able to pray with them through the years and walk with them through those decisions.
“The greatest joy is seeing how they have taken the platform God has now given them to love people, show compassion and live out their faith.”
Magan Keith credits Johnson as being a great influence in her life. She grew up in Christian home and attended summer camp at Caswell as a youth. But she says it was during her time while serving as a staff member with Johnson from 2004 to 2007 where she understood what it meant to have a vibrant, daily relationship with the Lord.
“It was actually when I was serving on staff that I committed my life to the Lord,” Keith said. “When someone asks me, ‘Who is one of the most influential spiritual people in your life?’ I always say, ‘Merrie Johnson.’”
To watch video testimonies of how Merrie Johnson has impacted the lives of current and former summer youth weeks’ staff members, visit: vimeo.com/181683750.