Sometimes God calls us to do things that are bigger than us – so big that all we can do is rely on His strength to get us through.
Captain Ron Johnson experienced that truth in an inspiring way. He’s a retired African-American police officer who became well-known after the governor of Missouri assigned him to lead security efforts in Ferguson, Missouri after a young black male, Michael Brown, was killed by a white police officer.
The events of the summer of 2014 are seared into most of our memories. Ferguson became the epicenter of the longest-lasting sustained riot in American history. Buildings were looted and burned as gun shots rang out and tear gas was deployed in the streets. It was an awful time, and it became a national rallying cry for racial justice.
And Captain Ron Johnson was thrust right into the middle of it all.
He relied on his training to bring calm to a community in chaos. But there were also a number of moments along the way when he felt the job was too big. During his darkest days, he would go to the restroom, lock the door, and cry and pray. In those moments, when he felt the weakest, his faith in God gave him strength and kept him pressing forward.
His incredible story of faith and courage is also a story of humility. He tells about a thought-provoking encounter he had at a restaurant some weeks after the rioting in Ferguson. He and his daughter were in a sports bar for dinner and noticed four young white males sitting together at a table across the room. They were drinking beer and staring. Most of them had buzz haircuts, and one wore camouflage pants and boots.
Captain Johnson believed they were discussing him, and he began to think of how he would handle the conflict that he felt sure was stirring.
About that time, a waitress told him something that confirmed his fears: the four young men had, in fact, been talking about him. They wanted him to know … that they were paying for his dinner.
When Captain Johnson approached them to say thank you, they said, “No, thank you.” It was the least they could do after all he had done to bring peace to Ferguson.
Captain Johnson now tells people, “Show other people respect and dignity, and when you look for racial bias, start with yourself first. Even when we have an unconscious bias, we still have a choice in how we respond.”
Captain Johnson is our guest on our Focus on the Family Broadcast “Finding Grace in the Midst of Racial Division.” He’s sharing how God guided him every step of the way through his experiences in Ferguson. Join us on your local radio station, online, on iTunes, via Podcast, or on our free phone app.
Captain Ron Johnson is a retired 30-year veteran police officer, and is now the founder of Lodestone Solution Group, which develops and inspires leaders. You can read his story in his book, 13 Days in Ferguson.