Derry Johnson says it was a divine appointment that brought her together with Alabama Baptist Children’s Homes & Family Ministries. A nurse practitioner, lawyer and pastor’s wife, Johnson has long had a heart for children and families. Her main area of law practice has been family law.
But before she got to know Rod Marshall, ABCH president, she and her husband, Morris, got acquainted with the building of the former Industrial City Baptist Church in Hueytown.
“We knew God had called us to the Hueytown area to plant a church, but we didn’t have a place to worship,” Johnson said, noting that they had been meeting in borrowed spaces ever since her husband, a pastor for more than 25 years, had felt God calling him to plant a new church. (Hear that story at tabonline.org/johnsons.)
“We saw this building, and we walked around, and we looked, and we prayed,” she said.
They found out the church had donated the building to ABCH when it disbanded, and when they met with Marshall about it, he quickly got interested in two things — the couple’s vision for Hueytown, and Johnson’s heart for children and families.
The new church plant — Integrity Baptist Church — bought the building. And Marshall recruited Johnson for the ABCH board of trustees.
“Mrs. Johnson has an incredibly impressive resumé as a registered nurse, a pediatric nurse practitioner and an attorney,” Marshall said. “She has served our board remarkably well in the last five years.”
And Nov. 5, she was elected chair of the ABCH board.
“When our executive committee came together to select a candidate to serve as our board chair, she was an obvious outstanding candidate,” Marshall said. “She cares deeply for the children in our care, has a keen mind for risk management, and being married to a church planter, she understands our state denomination very well.”
He said Johnson brings much to the position and her election also happens to be historic in that she is ABCH’s first Black board chair.
“She is uniquely prepared professionally to work with me and our team in realizing the vision of our strategic plan,” Marshall said, referring to Vision 140, a new 10-year plan the board voted to approve during its Nov. 5 meeting.
Also during the meeting, the board elected James Bearden of Valley Grande as vice chairman and Helen Fisk of Birmingham as secretary.
Johnson said she loves the fact that the vision and the purpose of the organization is to protect, nurture and foster the love of Jesus Christ with everything they do.
“We are dealing with fragile families and children who are in the middle of many, many conflicts in life. We want to have a ministry that cares, really cares, a group of people who have the vision and the love of Jesus in their heart,” Johnson said. “I came into this ministry with a willingness to follow, to do what I could do to help the ministry achieve the mission. I had no idea that I would matriculate through the ministry to become the board president. I am thankful God orders our paths.”
Leah Stephens, outgoing chair, said she is “thrilled” Johnson is assuming the role.
“She has shown enormous compassion and a level of knowledge of understanding of children in foster care and children from hard places because of not only her background as a lawyer but also because of her Christian heart,” Stephens said. “I think she will take this board and it will soar under her leadership.”
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