Lekevie Johnson tackles his mission head on

By Anthony Zilis

CHAMPAIGN — Lekevie Johnson paced back and forth, sweat beading on his forehead as he shouted into the microphone in his hand.

"Hope maketh not ashamed," he said.

The first-year Centennial football coach wore the same light blue polo he wears on Friday nights, but he wasn’t imploring his team in the locker room or on the field, or in the weight room, where he gives his pregame speeches.

He stood in an arena that was much more familiar to him. Church. His church.

"In other words," Johnson said to the congregation of the Jericho Missionary Baptist Church in north Champaign as his voice raised into a full-out yell, "I’m not embarrassed about my experience. Can I suggest, the problem with early-21st-century Christiandom is most of us won’t tell our story, and we want to be caught up in this closet. We don’t want anybody to know where we come from, what we’ve been through. But I’ve got a story to tell. And I don’t care who knows my story."

Calls of "Preach," "Amen," and "Yes, Pastor" serenaded him as members of the congregation stood on their feet.

"I’ve got a story to tell," he said. "And sometimes it’s not good, but I’ve got a story.

"And my problem with church folk," he said, his voice lowering, "is we don’t want to tell people the truth about who we are. And I want to suggest to you, you ain’t all of that. You’ve got some problems, some issues, you might as well tell somebody else so they can be helped along the way. I’ve got hope. This is hope, and hope maketh not ashamed.

"It’s a good thing to be able to tell somebody, ‘Yeah, I did that, but it didn’t kill me. I made that mistake, but it didn’t set me back. And despite all of the mistakes I made, I’ve still been able to accomplish things, even through my mistakes.’"


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