Merry Christmas 2017!

Johnson Family Newsletter

Volume XXX

504 Richard St, Union SC 29379

If you write annual Christmas letters long enough, you eventually arrive at the “XXX” edition! No worries though. There will be no seductive pictures of Steve’s colonoscopy scans or the two of us in our matching Elf leggings, passionately smooching under the mistletoe. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that!) Instead, you’ll have to settle for our 30th consecutive holiday missive…a recap of two adventurers living in a 300-square-foot house on wheels.

Grandpa in his ’55 Olds

The first big event of 2017 was the 80th birthday celebration for Steve’s dad, aka Grandpa. Grandpa’s year was highlighted by finding love again and marrying Gail, who we happily welcomed into the family. He also is courageously battling cancer which, to date, has been kept under control. He appreciates prayers but tells us not to worry about him because, “I’ve had a great life…made it to 80, which is longer than anyone in my family has. I’m not going to start complaining now.” There is peace in knowing your future is secure.

Finding love in San Diego

We returned to Tucson, AZ and our RV in mid-January, where Steve, aka Fob, with Janet’s superb editorial assistance, published his first novel, which chronicles his 2016 thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. Many reading this letter have supported and encouraged Steve’s fledgling writing career, and for that he is grateful. When we weren’t stalking extraneous commas and dangling participles in the Arizona desert, we volunteered with the Tucson Food Bank…where we learned about food bag assembly lines, harvesting broccoli and chard, and building and maintaining earthworm farms. Steve found cultivating earthworms to be remarkably similar to his Pentagon tour.


In March, we pointed the RV west and then north on an ambitious Wild, Wild West Tour. Over the next 6 months and 8,000 miles, we…

  • Volunteered, as Sojourners, at…
    • Yosemite Bible Camp, CA – tended to the mother of all burn piles at a camp heavily damaged by floods & fallen trees
    • Delano Bay Christian Camp, WA – prettiest spot on the Sojourning circuit; during play time, Steve learned to harvest giant clam-like gooey duck nostrils with a shovel
    • Yellowstone Bible Camp, MT – returned to the beautiful mountain camp we had visited 25 years ago, where Robert Redford once filmed A River Runs Through It
    • Rupert Church of Christ, ID – painting & VBS & more painting & more VBS
    • Mountain States Children’s Home, CO – home to some of the coolest kids and staff on the planet. Steve was invited to make his first Lessons Learned on the AT presentation, and has since shared versions of it at churches, schools, and civic organizations around the country.
Lil Jan, Big Paint Job…Rupert, ID
  • Hiked and were inspired at 15 national parks…
    • Joshua Tree – named for its trees (plants), but it’s more about rock climbing
    • Yosemite – stunning! Our favorite overall national park!
    • Sequoia, Kings Canyon, & Redwood – you have to see the trees to believe them
    • Crater Lake – 2nd only to Yosemite in its beauty, especially with 12’ snowfall banks framing the rim
    • Olympic – incredible variety, including a rainforest
    • Yellowstone – 2nd favorite park and the best for wildlife and geothermal activity
    • Grand Teton – visited on an overcast day, but did see a mother Grizzly + 2 cubs
    • Zion – features the Narrows…best national park hike we’ve done and one of the best canyon hikes in the world; also featured a visit from relatives Dana & Cody
    • Arches – turns out the park is not named after parts of the foot formed by the tarsal and metatarsal bones
    • Capitol Reef – go for the history and 100-mile-long Waterpocket Fold; stay for the warm, homemade pie at the Gifford Homestead
    • Bryce Canyon – went to the hoodoo-filled amphitheater & sang Bryce, Bryce Baby
    • Canyonlands – teared up at the spot where Thelma & Louise plunged to their deaths
    • Rocky Mountain – John Denver got it right
Crater Lake Lovers
  • Explored several cities…
    • San Diego – easily our favorite CA city. Nearby La Jolla, with its magnificent shoreline and hundreds of seals, belongs on everyone’s bucket list.
    • Los Angeles – not fans. Horrendous traffic, smog, over-crowding, the Lakers, etc. We did enjoy attending the filming of America’s Got Talent…and the behind-the-scenes look at movie-making on the Warner Brothers Studio Tour.
    • San Francisco – featured Steve’s favorite West Coast city attraction…Alcatraz Island!
    • Portland – every city should have a Powell’s used book store
    • Astoria, OR – Da Goonies met Da Johnsons
    • Seattle – did we watch them toss salmon at Pike Place Market; ascend The Needle; and visit the first Starbucks? Of course, we did!
    • Hill AFB, UT – a great military RV campground to finish Fob’s Vol 2, so we did
    • USAF Academy, CO – another great military campground, where we watched the eclipse

In September, we traveled to hurricane-ravaged Beaumont, TX, for a week of relief work with the Church of Christ Disaster Response team. If you ever think you’ve got it bad, spend some time with people whose every last physical possession was under water. With God’s help, they and others affected by the ’17 storms will get back on their feet.

What 8′ of water does to a bedroom

In October, we finally sold our Virginia house and happily relinquished the landlord title we’d held for 9 years. We also returned to Marshall, TX for our annual Sojourner workshop, where we caught up with “old” friends and made an appearance (along with our RV) in a few Sojourner promotional videos…viewable at or on Facebook at “Sojourners Evangelism.” We then traveled around the Southeast visiting friends and family we hadn’t seen in a while.

Johnsons on the AT near Delaware Water Gap

In November, we gathered with our sons and their wives for a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend in Pennsylvania’s Pocono mountains. Despite arranging them private rooms, there are still no grandbabies to announce. We are excited that Jason & Rachel will be moving to Winston-Salem NC in January where he’ll begin his second year of residency in Prosthetics & Orthotics. Meanwhile, Kyle continues his ministry work with the Lafayette church near STL as he and Laci both work to finish their graduate degrees and raise Pita (a precocious Bichon Frise with her own Instagram account).

Thankful for our daughters!
And our sons!

This holiday season, we’re thankful for family and friends around the country. We’re thankful for our little home on wheels. It forced us to downsize and simplify, and that has opened up opportunities around the country to travel, serve, meet incredible people, and write a few books. Mostly, we’re grateful to God for sending Jesus, a gift that keeps on giving. Merry Christmas!

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One thought on “Merry Christmas 2017!”

  1. We wish you a very MERRY CHRISTMAS and a wonderful NEW YEAR! May GOD continue to bless you as you strive to serve HIM! Love and hugs to you both. Helen and Jerry

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