By Carolyn Anderson

Pat and I became friends with Joe and Sarah Johnson when they moved to Lakeland in 1989 and joined Lakeside Baptist Church where we were members. We quickly realized that we shared common passions, including missions and concern about the radical changes taking place in the SBC.  Their story together began in 1938 when, as children, they arrived as new residents at the Florida Baptist Children’s Home. They became friends, then high school sweethearts. They both attended and graduated from Stetson University and then got married in 1949. They were both employed by the Florida Baptist Children’s Home after graduation and were relied on at the highest levels.

Six years after Joe passed away in 1999, Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast; Sarah volunteered to go with the church’s co-pastors, Tom and Joyce Cleary, to help CBF Florida’s Disaster Relief Team with cleanup in Mississippi. Joyce Cleary said that Sarah’s enthusiasm impressed others in the group. At the end of the week, she was recognized for being the oldest and best volunteer of the week. Joyce recently said, “I was blessed to have known Sarah and to have worked with her for a few short years of my life. I will never forget her dedication to every task and her devotion to our Lord.”

Tim Sizemore, her pastor at the time of her death, shared that Sarah was a missionary Christian promoting missions, organizing local work, and sometimes disappearing for a few days to make personal deliveries to one of the Florida Fellowship’s various ministries. Her heart was always with the less fortunate. In her last years she would read to her neighbors in the retirement residence where she lived.

Craig Sherouse, Joe and Sarah’s pastor at Lakeside Baptist Church, summed up two lives well lived with these remarks: “Joe and Sarah were the best kind of Christians and Baptists I have known, deeply committed, broadly generous, who loved children and young people. They loved the Lord, the local church and the best ways that Baptist do missions. They were deeply committed to and involved with the formation of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Florida. Their bequest to CBF Florida, paid after their passing, is another of many ways that their humble generosity continues to strengthen the work of the Kingdom and to illustrate their faithful stewardship.”

Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord...that they may rest from  their labors, and their works follow them. Revelation 14:13

We celebrate Joe and Sarah, faithful servants who understood how to continue helping the work of God even after their lives on earth have ended