Educator to spend year serving India's poor
By FLORI MEEKS
For Thomas Johnson, serving others is an expression of his faith.
The College of the Mainland chemistry professor has spent 15 years visiting the poor in West Bengal, India, and ministering to them.
Now the Pasadena resident is taking a one-year sabbatical in West Bengal so he can focus on full-time service with his wife, Daisy Johnson, and children Christina, 13, and Stanley, 10.
To serve God, to love God, means to love others, too," he said.
Johnson, who was raised in a Christian home in south India, was pursuing his bachelor's degree in geology when his faith shifted from philosophy into something far more tangible for him.
I had an encounter with the God of the Bible," said Johnson, who has felt strongly led since that time to serve others. That revolutionized, it changed me forever."
Johnson went on to complete his bachelor's degree and then a master's degree in geology.
It was while he was pursuing a second master's degree in geochemistry at the Indian Institute of Technology that he first experienced village life in West Bengal in northern India.
Struck by the extreme poverty of the villagers there, Johnson started sharing his resources.
He would remain in the area while he completed his doctorate in geochemistry at the institute.
Johnson left for a while to complete some research work at University of California, Los Angeles in 1991, the year he met and later married Daisy.
He returned to West Bengal to complete his doctorate and then settled in Texas, teaching for five years at Texas A&M University at Galveston and then 10 years as a chemistry professor for College of the Mainland.
The teaching has been consistently fulfilling, Johnson said.
I really enjoy teaching and being part of the classroom, to help students, to motivate them, to challenge them."
Johnson's friends and family have supported his regular journeys back to India, where he's served in cooperation with Christian service organizations.
People have asked us in the past why we are here. We say, We love you. God loves you. We're here to help you.'"
During the family's one-year stay, Johnson plans to focus on caring for orphans and poor children, drilling tube wells, feeding the hungry, training local teachers and teaching adults to read.
The timing, he said, is perfect. He has worked long enough at COM to qualify for a one-year sabbatical, and he and his wife want Christina to have the opportunity to make this trip before she begins high school next year.
The children will be home schooled while in India.
They're interested to go," said Daisy, a medical technologist with Bayshore Medical Center. They know how the people live. The kids their age have nothing.
When we go, we can start to understand a little more about how we can help them with our money and our knowledge."
Johnson said he's especially excited about the steps he and Daisy can take to educate the poor and give them tools to change their situations.
People who are hungry, they do not know what to do or how to get out of the cycle. This is where an outsider can make a difference."
Johnson and Daisy want to give teachers basic information and ideas for teaching science and also to pass on techniques, including hand washing, that can help prevent the spread of disease.
Johnson will document his efforts by photo and video and to share it with COM and on YouTube.
I want to motivate my students and the community here to go on an extra-mile journey to help others," he said.
People need someone to help them and love them and tell them there is a way out.
You don't have to go to Africa or India. There are a lot of people here hurting."
For more information about Johnson's efforts, visit www.professorforthepoor.org, send an e-mail to DrJohnsonOasis@gmail.com, or call 832-687-6902.
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