FAIRFIELD — John Johnson, his head shaved and his beard long, sat Monday in the sanctuary of the First Christian Church in Suisun City and spoke about how as a youth he gave up on God – and what happened in 2010 when he met the pastor of the church Johnson had been tricked into helping.
Johnson, who is now homeless ministry director for the church in Suisun City, said after a friend fooled him, he ended up assisting at a church event for the homeless and met the Rev. Steve Kiefer.
A church wasn’t where Johnson wanted to be, but Kiefer helped make him a believer.
“I blamed God for everything – all my problems,” said Johnson, who began drinking as an 8-year-old and using hard drugs a few years later. “Pastor Kiefer showed me it wasn’t God’s fault. It was my own fault.”
Of his new life, he said, “God did this. All I did was put the first foot forward and had faith.”
He spoke after welcoming about 50 people to a Christmas dinner for the homeless and others gathered at First Christian Church. Kiefer followed by telling diners, “We’re really glad that you’re here.”
“This is about all the glory going to Jesus,” he said.
The pastor later said of Johnson that “I know there was a hard shell” – but a warm center.
“It’s just humbling,” Kiefer said, “Just to be a part of John’s journey.
“It’s the transformed heart that has a new beginning, new life and second chances,” the pastor said. “It’s faith in Christ that genuinely transforms us.”
Maria Wiley, 69, is staying at the Princess House, a program for transitional living after being displaced from her home.
“It’s the most marvelous thing in the world,” she said of the church providing a Christmas dinner.
The meal included turkey, stuffing, pumpkin pie and Fairfield resident Ralph Caines, 64, as Santa Claus. Caines, retired after working for a cable company, has been a Santa at sites including the Sunvalley Mall in Concord, but said it’s events like Monday in Suisun City that have the most meaning.
“It’s better than getting presents,” he said. “I didn’t realize how good you feel when you help somebody.”
Reach Ryan McCarthy at 427-6935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.