78°F
weather icon Mostly Cloudy

Methodist pastor works within community of all faiths

When Sandy Stratton Johnson took over the leadership of the Boulder City United Methodist Church last year, one of her biggest challenges was to grow the church.

It hasn’t been easy.

She admits some people left the Boulder City church because they didn’t like her “more liberal leanings” than the previous part-time pastor.

Yet she believes the congregation has become “excited and enthused about growing” to 100 members when they can be officially chartered by their denomination to build a church.

In the past year, the Boulder City church has gained 18 members and their roster now consists of 80 members.

“Are we making a difference in Boulder City?” Johnson asked.

Johnson has immersed herself in Boulder City activities and is working with the Episcopal Church to develop a joint youth program. She is hoping to “get the kids in service in our community.”

She and members of her congregation spent four nights cooking for the families of Family Promise at Grace Community Church in May; they worked with the Boulder City chapter of Nevadans for the Common Good in helping pass legislation against sex-trafficking; and, most recently, they organized a dunk tank at the Damboree to benefit Lend A Hand.

The pastor admits she loves challenges and working with day-to-day issues because “people need guidance.”

Johnson invites the community to the Sunday service at 10 a.m. at the Senior Center of Boulder City for “good solid worship” and perhaps a few exciting detours along the way.

Johnson traveled a long and varied road to get to the position in which she serves today.

Her official title is “student local pastor,” but in June, the “student” earned a Master of Divinity from Iliff School of Theology in Denver.

Johnson was born in Eugene, Ore., earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Oregon State University in 1983 and began working as a night child care worker at Rosemont Inc. in Portland in 1984.

She and her husband John “JJ” Johnson were married in 1987 and relocated in 1988 to the Las Vegas area where Sandy Johnson continued her work with emotionally disturbed youngsters until 1994.

Then the future minister began working for Mary Kay Cosmetics, turning what she thought was going to be a part-time-so-she-could-stay-at-home-with-the-kids-job into a lucrative position that earned her the use of two free cars from the company.

She said although she didn’t know it at the time, she was “being perfectly prepared for a pastor position” while working with Mary Kay.

“People want to know that they are important. When you share with them, whether it’s selling lipstick or selling Jesus,” you are adding “value to their life,” Johnson remarked.

It was 1999 when Johnson truly felt a calling to the ministry. She left the cosmetics business and applied to Claremont School of Theology that year, but her road to the ministry wasn’t going to be straightforward.

There was a divorce and a move into the event, planning and production business with Encore Productions, and later a six-figure-a-year career with Global Experience Specialists as an account executive selling custom trade show exhibits.

On the road to her ministry, Sandy Johnson was always active in United Methodist Church activities.

Her work involved, among other church and community activities, serving as a Bible study leader, a youth coordinator, women’s ministry leader and facilitator and leader for women’s retreats.

In the fall of 2010, Sandy Johnson enrolled in the master of divinity program, worked full time and completed her degree in three years.

In July of 2012, the Boulder City church was in need of a full-time pastor. Sandy Johnson was certified and appointed to the position after she completed the requisite testing and psychological evaluation by the District Committee on Ministry of the United Methodist Church.

The appointment was, according to her, “an answer to prayer.” She had been on the road to the ministry since 1999, and the same year the Boulder City church was established.

She felt “there was a connection even back then.”

After serving as Boulder City pastor for one year, Johnson said, “Being able to serve God and get paid for it has been amazing. It’s the hardest job I’ve ever done, but it is more rewarding than anything I’ve ever done. I feel like I’m floating above the ground most of the time, even when crappy things happen.”

During the years it took Johnson to complete her journey to the ministry, she reunited with her husband. The couple has three children: Calvin, 23, who works in Las Vegas; Claire, 21, who attends Pfeiffer University in North Carolina studying psychology; and Cameron, 9, who will be in fourth grade this fall.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
THE LATEST
Legos, lights liven library

The Boulder City Library has made some additions to its services and changes to the building as the Friends of the Library group has funded a Take What You Need station, Lego wall and new LED lighting.

Increased rainfall helps drought, hurts some homes

With Nevada being the driest state in the country, we’ve certainly seen some wet and wild weather these past weeks. Heavy rains and gusting winds have caused myriad floods and road closings. Based on current forecasts, it looks like more thunderstorms are headed our way.

Story Tellers Corner: Author finds meaning in everything

The life of Scott Roux changed forever June 20, 2011, after a car accident left him with two broken feet, a severe headache, a sore back and a brain injury. Now a resident of Boulder City, Roux has adapted to his life in the 11 years since the accident.

In desert, plants need purpose

Q. Our sweet bay laurel trees face east and are watered by a drip irrigation system on a separate line for trees only. Obviously, these trees are not doing well. They were originally 24-inch boxed trees planted in 2013. Our homeowners association contends they are close to the end of their lives, and they will be removed. Any ideas?

St. Christopher’s to mark 90th anniversary

St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church will celebrate its 90th anniversary and service to the community with a two-day event Aug. 13 and 14.

Locals rallies in support of agency’s school supply drive

In July, Geoffrey Baughman’s Farmers Insurance Agency launched a school supply drive to provide the campuses in Boulder City with materials for the coming year. The goal was to fill 24 backpacks, but an overwhelming amount of support from the community got that number to 60 backpacks.

Story Tellers Corner: Ghostly tales make appearance in new book

Southern Nevada has a rich history that features a search for silver, gold and the construction of a dam. But nowadays a lot of the areas from the late 19th and early 20th centuries are abandoned, which has paved the way for something else the region can be known for: ghosts.

Chautauqua pays homage to aviation pioneers

“Pushing the Envelope,” featuring three aviation pioneers, will be theme of this year’s Boulder City Chautauqua.

Uneven weather pattern to blame for moldly fruit

Q. Birds were flying in to harvest my Summer Delite apriums. Turns out most of my apriums have problems with some type of fungus or rot. Also, most appear to be half ripe — green on one side and yellow on the other. Your thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

Vinny’s Pizzeria faces ‘Impossible’ challenge

There is no doubt that Vincenzo “Vinny” Cimino loves his family, his community and his work. It was on full display for thousands of people to see when his restaurant, Vinny’s Pizzeria, was featured on a recent episode of “Restaurant Impossible” on the Food Network.