From Foster Care to Faith: Michael Johnson’s Story

Michael Johnson
From foster care to faith, follow Michael Johnson’s journey to find faith in God. Through trials and many difficult tribulations, Michael put his life in God’s hands and has never turned back. He talks about how he is able to share his faith at work and with whoever will listen. Learn more about Michael’s story in this week’s podcast:

Note: Below is a transcription of this Walking Our Talk podcast. Please excuse any grammatical or punctuation flaws, as the transcription is a written version of our fluid conversation.

Pauly [00:00:07] Welcome to walking our talk with Alan and Pauly Heller, join our conversation as we discuss practical ways to apply spiritual principles to your everyday life and help you walk your talk one step at a time.

Alan [00:00:24] Hi, this is Alan Heller. I’m here today with Pauly, but also a special guest, Michael Johnson, and he’ll introduce himself and his family. And we’re going to be talking today about walking our talk. And specifically, we wanted you here, Michael, because we think you walk your talk. And that doesn’t mean, you know, all of us deal with our insecurities or things that don’t go right or whatever, but that’s why we have the Lord. So we’re glad you’re here.

Michael [00:00:58] Thanks for having me. Good to see you.

Alan [00:01:00] So tell us a little bit about your wonderful family and, um, you know, where you grew up and sort of a little bit of your background. That’d be great.

Michael [00:01:11] Sure. Well, I’m married and I have five children with a dog.Family with dog

Alan [00:01:17] Just five?

Michael [00:01:18] Just five.

Alan [00:01:19] When we got past two, you know, one on one was great. Then the third one, it was like, “AH!”.

Pauly [00:01:27] It was a juggling act.

Alan [00:01:27] And then I hear that after you get past three, it’s like you just add them and you help get the older one to help or something. I don’t know.

Michael [00:01:35] You know, it’s looking back at my life to have a family. I’m very grateful. You know, I was a foster child, so I had many families kind of growing up. And now I have a beautiful wife and I have three daughters, two sons who love me. And I just am grateful for that. I’m from Arizona, did most of my moving around in foster care system and well, all of it in Arizona, most of it in Tucson area, end up in Show Low, Arizona. So I then I came down to the Phenix area and that’s where I met who’s now my wife. Yeah. So, yeah.

Alan [00:02:18] And so. And where did you go to school? Did you go to school for something?

Michael [00:02:23] Yes. So I went to high school in Sholo, went down here to ASU.

Alan [00:02:29] Oh what did you major in?

Alan [00:02:30] I was premed biology major and with the pursuit to become an optometrist.

Alan [00:02:35] OK, and you are one.

Michael [00:02:37] I am one.

Alan [00:02:38] That’s amazing. 90 percent of the people who have an education don’t use the education. I had a degree and I am not teaching PE to anybody.

Michael [00:02:47] No, I’ve been working as an optometrist for going on 17 years.

Alan [00:02:51] Wow.

Pauly [00:02:51] That’s great. Did you ever think that you would not get the kind of education that you have now?

Michael [00:03:02] You know, I had a child psychologist, a shrink, if you will, and he got nowhere with me, but he invited me out to his ranch where I learned how to work and have a good work ethic.

Alan [00:03:19] And how many times was that? I mean, was it…

Michael [00:03:22] That was over the course of a couple of years.

Alan [00:03:25] OK, so it was a long time.

Ranch with fenceMichael [00:03:27] I was old enough to have a tax-paying job. It was this is my first working with my hands kind of job, you know, out on the ranch. And I learned hard work, you know. And so to answer your question Pauly, you know, the answer is yes. As long as I worked hard, you know. But that was my mom who adopted me. She instilled in us. You got to work hard.

Pauly [00:03:47] Yeah.

Michael [00:03:48] And so I always did.

Pauly [00:03:50] Wow. So you must credit her with a lot of stability in your life. Did she change things for you quite a bit coming out of foster care?

Alan [00:04:02] Or, is there something else that did that?

Michael [00:04:04] Yeah, no. Yes and no. I but getting adopted when you were in foster care, you get some stability with that because you’re not moving around and you know, you have a home with awith a new name. However, you know, right when we were adopted, her husband was having an affair and with a coworker and then they started the divorce process and then he died shortly after. And so so, yes, she gave us the stability that we want in foster care anymore. However, wasn’t a Christian home or anything like that, and it was just her and doing she did the best she could with what she had to work with.

Alan [00:04:51] And what about father influence? What kind of father influence did you have?

Michael [00:04:55] Yeah, we didn’t really have a father influence growing up. We had coaches, you know, we had coaches who were kind of like mentors, if you will, and that was the closest thing that we ever had to to a father.

Alan [00:05:08] And then when did you actually come to know the Lord and how did that happen?

Michael [00:05:12] So I had a girlfriend, a very beautiful girlfriend, and in college, who’s now my wife. OK, but at the time she became a Christian and then so she would take me to places where I would kind of hear about Jesus, hear the gospel,.

Alan [00:05:31] And what did you think when you first heard?

Michael [00:05:33] You know, I was an atheist, you know, and I didn’t receive it at all. It was just foolishness to me until one day, you know, it just it was September, 2003. I was twenty-five years old. And here she had taken me to a little church in Tucson. And that day it all just made sense. You know, that I’m a sinner and I need a savior in the savior Jesus Christ who died and rose again and to offer me forgiveness and eternal life. And that was a real game-changer in my whole in my life.

Alan [00:06:07] So, then what happened to your life and what changed?


Michael [00:06:10] Well, the first thing was within a month I had gone out and got an engagement ring for that girlfriend. And so we’ve been married for going on 17 years. So that was huge because my friends at the time were thinking I’m crazy, which was a crazy move because my mindset was not ever on that track. But God was with me at the end and is now and began to give me new ideas in new ways.

Alan [00:06:43] So, what was the most influential thing that happened to you in the early stages of your Christian life? I mean, I know Wayne was a big thing in your life. So tell us about Wayne and how you met him and what that was a pretty radical change, right?

Michael [00:07:05] Absolutely.

Alan [00:07:06] So describe who he is and when that happened.

Michael [00:07:10] Yeah. So early in my Christian walk, I was given a Bible which I began to read a lot. I read it every day and I began to kind of learn. But, you know, when you start off reading the Bible, everyone starts off in Genesis. Right. And kind of you get kind of bogged down when you get into numbers in Leviticus. Right. And so I was I had my head down and I was walking here at a Living Streams church and I felt this arm around me. And I looked over and I just kind of this little white guy, and that’s Wayne Short. And he put his arm around me and he says he says, “young man, why is your head down when heaven is up?” And he said, and that’s what we’re going to go one day. And so that’s how I met him. And since then, he mentored me. We met  once a week for seven years, until he moved out of Arizona.

Alan [00:08:15] And you sort of consider him your spiritual father.

Michael [00:08:19] Yeah, I do. Yeah. And he and he put his arm around me at a time. Not only was it getting bogged down, reading through the Bible and not getting an understanding of the relationship that we had with our father recently, shortly before it, I met my encounter with Wayne, my younger brother shot himself and died.

Alan [00:08:38] Oh, my gosh.

Michael [00:08:39] That was three years after I received Christ early in my walk.

Alan [00:08:43] And what did that do to you? I’m sure it shook you.

Michael [00:08:45] You know that that was devastating.. Yeah. Yeah, it really did. And but during that time, you know, that’s when I heard very clearly from God and what God gave me purpose for my life. I was kind of lamenting if you will, and I had the thoughts. I had suicidal thoughts just in a moment and I heard another voice. I will not die but live. And you will proclaim what the Lord has done. And so God gave me another option. I can do my thoughts or I can do his thoughts. And so obviously, I wouldn’t be here today if I didn’t have.

Foster to FaithAlan [00:09:21] If somebody I was listening and they had suicidal thoughts. I mean, I have no idea who’s listening, but what would you say to them?

Michael [00:09:33] Don’t do it.

Alan [00:09:34] Yeah, don’t do it. And from your experience, like what? What would you say to encourage them in terms of hope?

Michael [00:09:44] Well, there’s hope in Jesus Christ and Christ will always give us a way out. And there are other options besides that. And that’s a bad one. Yeah. Don’t do it.

Pauly [00:09:55] It’s good. Yeah. Did you know that your brother was considering suicide? Had he ever mentioned anything to you like that?

Michael [00:10:03] No. No.

Alan [00:10:05] He caught everyone by surprise.

Michael [00:10:07] Yeah. I mean I mean, looking back, he did struggle with alcohol and drugs and we just would never have thought he would make that choice.

Alan [00:10:15] Right. So because we’re running short of time, I want to get like two or three principles that you think are important. That you gained either from Wayne or just your walk with the Lord. How do you keep your walk fresh? How do you walk your talk as best you can in this life, that throws a lot of curveballs at us?

Michael [00:10:36] Yeah, it’s remembering that God is with me and cultivating the relationship, you know, the fellowship you have with our father in heaven through.

Alan [00:10:47] And how do you do that for some of the things? Because it’s different for everyone, I think.

Michael [00:10:53] Right. I always give thanks in the morning when I wake up. I’m grateful when I pray, with my family, with my children early on in the morning. I’m just I give thanks because really, you know, my biological father, he did prison time. My younger brother shot himself. I could be dead or in prison, but I’m not you know, I’m here.

Alan [00:11:17] So you have a lot to be thankful for. So as an example, like if your kids were at the table here, if I was one of your kids and I’m at the table here, what would you be thanking today? Where would you think be thankful for?

Michael [00:11:29] Well, I would be thanking God for my children. You know, I had breakfast with my little daughter this morning, and she gets up early just to have breakfast with me this morning, every morning. But she did this morning. And I made her a little bowl oatmeal with me and I held her little hand. And I just thank God for her in my life and how much I love her. And I’m grateful that she’s my daughter. And then she comes and she gives me a hug and a kiss. And I just am grateful, you know?Spending Time With God

Pauly [00:11:55] Precious.

Alan [00:11:57] So thankfulness – what are another couple of things? Do you read the word every day or do you what’s you know, what are some of the things Wayne told you, hey, in order because I know Wayne is by the book, so. Right. What are the two or three things that he said? These are things you have to do if you’re going to grow in the Lord.

Michael [00:12:15] Sure. Well, what I learned from Wayne is first to create to keep Christ preeminent or keep your eyes fixed on Jesus and abiding and crossing.

Alan [00:12:26] That’s what he said when he first hugged you.

Michael [00:12:28] Right. Yeah. You know, and that’s always most important is just to remember Christ, he’s with you and he loves you and just to keep your eyes on him and what he’s done for us always. Second, you know, I would say the Four talks for spiritual growth.

Alan [00:12:46] And for those who don’t know what those are?

Michael [00:12:48] I’ll tell you real quick you know, the first one is that I talk with God through prayer and praise. So you pray that thankfulness, you sing, you know, I worship  and that carries over bubbles over everywhere. You know, I mean, I’ve been humming or singing at work and they’ll say, Dr. Johnson, what are you singing? What are you humming? You know?

Alan [00:13:09] Lady Gaga, haha.

Michael [00:13:12] Right. Oh, it’d be Amazing Grace. You know, I decided to follow Jesus.

Alan [00:13:17] It’s just a way of life.

WorshipMichael [00:13:18] A way of life. Sure. And then the second is God speaks to us through his word, you know? So, yeah, I do read my Bible every day or I meditate on a passage or a chapter and try to. Wayne always said the best place for your Bible is not on your shelf or in your back pocket, but it’s in your heart, you know, and so you put God’s word in your heart and you’re putting Jesus in your heart because he’s the word, you know. So you read the Bible. So God speaks to me through the word and I speak with Christians to fellowship is the third talk, OK? And so I have men that I disciple and then guys that I meet with regularly that are Christians.

Alan [00:14:01] I think I know that you speak at Teen Challenge to.

Michael [00:14:05] Yeah. Once a month regularly. The first Sunday every month I’m there.

Alan [00:14:08] So that’s an outlet and a way for you to give back to guys who some are having a hard time.

Michael [00:14:15] Absolutely.

Alan [00:14:16] With things that take them in the wrong direction.

Michael [00:14:20] Absolutely. It leads to the fourth talk, which is I talk with non Christians through witnessing. And so, you know that going to teen challenge is intentionally going out to the gospel.

Alan [00:14:32] Well, you’re going to end up with some there. But also, how do you do it at work? How does that integrate? And we’re going to have to bring this home pretty quick here.

Michael [00:14:42] OK, so every pretty much every time I walk into the exam lane to do an eye exam, yeah, I, I walk in and they’ll say, well how are you doing doc. And I put my hands up like this and I look up and I say I’m thankful, you know, and then I’ll sit down.

Alan [00:14:57] And what will they say?

Michael [00:14:58] When I open up their chart on the computer, they’ll say all kinds of stuff, you know,.

Alan [00:15:02] Give an example.

Michael [00:15:03] Well, for example, if they’re they’re believers, they’ll say, well, amen, praise the Lord, you know?

Alan [00:15:09] So you’re encouraging them. So and then now what about the person who doesn’t know anything about Jesus and is trying to figure out why are you going, I’m grateful. I’m thankful.

Michael [00:15:18] Sometimes they’ll ask, well, why are you grateful for, you know, have you seen the news had. You seeing what’s going on around covid? I mean, you must have got your shots or something, you know, and so then that opens up a door if they ask, yeah, OK.

Alan [00:15:35] You’re not pushing them.

Michael [00:15:36] Right.

Michael [00:15:37] But a lot of times they ask you again, what’s the line you give them?

Michael [00:15:42] I’m thankful.

Alan [00:15:43] Just a simple. Yeah. That’s great. And they’re surprised.

Michael [00:15:49] Yeah. You know, and sometimes I’ll tell them, you know, this is the day the Lord has made, you know, I’m going to rejoice and be glad in it. You know, I’m thankful that I’m alive, you know.

Alan [00:15:58] And you can say why? Because you’re very thankful you’re alive. And you could be in a whole different place.

Michael [00:16:05] Sure. Exactly. I tell a lot of people I’m thankful for you for being here, because without you I wouldn’t have a job. But I got a wife and five kids, you know, you know, and and so thank you for being here. And and, you know, because even the Bible says that even the ability to work is a gift from God. That’s great.

Alan [00:16:21] So we have you have the word in your heart and in your mind, and it’s helping you to just be a fragrant aroma is what the word says to those who some are who are perishing and some who are not. Yeah, well, this has been a great time to talk with you. I mean, you have so many stories and things, powerful things. We may ask you to come back and tell a couple of those in-depth because your deep water and I just I’m encouraged my faith is encouraged by what you do every day. You’re doing your work, but you’re also speaking to people about the Lord and a very winsome way.

Pauly [00:17:01] But also such a great testimony to the faithfulness of this one man, Wayne Short, who took the initiative now to look at you and put his arm around me and ask you what was going on in your life.

Alan [00:17:19] Yeah, so that’s what I’d like to say to those who are listening, is think about these things that Michael’s talked about. And he’s a worker just like you are, and yet he’s sharing his faith. But it was because somebody took the initiative to put his arm around him and say, look up. And that’s what I’d say to you as you walk your talk. And if you want to get some more resources and stuff, feel free to go to our website,, and pick them up. We’ll see you next time.

Pauly [00:17:57] This has been walking our talk with Alan and Pauly Heller, where we put into action those principles. We know from God’s word one step at a time. You can find more help at our website,


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