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A Faith Driven Life

May 12, 2017

Morgan Johnson and his wife Rosalie moved to the Hermitage Northern Virginia about seven years ago. Before coming to the D.C area, the Johnsons led a life of faith driven work as missionaries.

In 1951 at the age of 22, Morgan was finishing seminary at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University. Through the Board of Missions of the Methodist Church, he made his first missionary trip to Africa. Upon his returned three years later to Macon, Georgia, Morgan was set-up on a date with a young lady entering medical school at Emory. Rosalie was one of three females in her class of 70. They quickly fell in love and were married after the completion of her first year. Shortly after graduation, their first daughter Linda was born. Linda was the only child born in the United States, the Johnson’s other four children were born in Zimbabwe. Morgan began teaching at a local high school while Rosalie began her medical internship.

Morgan finished his dissertation for his doctorate in education in 1974, and the two traveled to Zimbabwe, still Rhodesia at the time, where he previously served as a missionary. Rosalie served as the only doctor at Old Mutare Centre, a job that included visits to village clinics. Morgan taught in the secondary and teacher training schools. For 18 months, he also served as the pastor of the Mundenda circuit.

Sympathies with African political parties protesting in Rhodesia, as well as visits to the political detention camps at Gonakudzingwa and Hwahwa are possible reasons for the family’s deportation in 1975. Following deportation, the family traveled to Birmingham, Alabama to be with Rosalie’s father. From Birmingham, they moved to Atlanta where Rosalie took a residency position and Morgan helped look after the children while taking classes at Emory and Morehouse College. In 1976, they were appointed to Zambia where they served in Livingstone and Kitwe.

After 6 years in Zambia, the Johnsons were finally able to return to Zimbabwe after it became independent. A former student working for immigration, helped remove the family’s deportation order and returned them to “permanent resident” status. They served the next 10 years back at Old Mutare where they began their work 20 years earlier. Rosalie was once again the only doctor in the area.

In 1991, the Johnsons retired from their service in Africa and settled in Atlanta. After a year of itineration to supporting churches, Morgan retired. However, Rosalie began working as a doctor for the AIDS clinic in Atlanta, which was across the street from the hospital where she had interned and completed her residency.

When Rosalie finally retired in 2001, she and Morgan decided to move to the D.C. area to be closer to their children, three of whom were living in the area. In 2007, Rosalie and Morgan traveled to Atlanta to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. They renewed their vows in the Fort Street Memorial United Methodist Church where they were members for 10 years. In 2010, they made the move to the Hermitage Northern Virginia in Alexandria, Virginia.

The impact that individuals, especially those who live a life of faith among people of diverse backgrounds, is often difficult to measure. The tremendous impact that Rosalie and Morgan have made among the residents and team members at the Hermitage Northern Virginia was notable upon Rosalie’s death in January 2017. A celebration of her life was held on January 19. Stories of her remarkable life and work, especially as a female in the missionary medical field, were shared and remembered. Weeks later, team members were still telling others about this powerful woman.

Lives dedicated to serving others. A powerful story of witness to their faith and love for a country which both accepted and turned them away. Testimony still being offered with passion and strength by near 90-year old with a tremendous legacy to offer to the rest of us.