By Alisha Thompson
The Tohnika’s have a lot to celebrate.
Four weeks as the new pastors of Immanuel Baptist Church. The first Sunday, Sept. 5, Johnny preached was his birthday. The next Saturday they had a party to find out they are expecting a little boy in February of 2021. Life is good right now for the Tohnika’s and the best part? They are having fun.
“I forgot that it can be fun. It was really fun,” Johnny said. “Man, I had fun.” So much fun that he didn’t get his first sermon finished about Zacchaeus. Johnny seemed to enjoy talking about Zacchaeus’s desire to seek and know more despite his position as a tax collector and someone in power. “People thought he was lacking because he wanted more. No, it was just who he was.” Johnny said that he wants Immanuel Baptist Church to be the place where those who are looking can find more.
“We’re not perfect. We want to be the church where people can come and know they are loved. We want the person who feels marginalized or forgotten to feel at home. We want to know their name. Everything changes when someone knows your name.”
Johnny and Kayla plan to be intentional at Immanuel Baptist Church with people in mind.
It’s easy to for Johnny to remember when he realized there was a call to the ministry on his life. He said James Lankford called him when he was 19 or 20 to go Indiana to do revivals all summer long.
Johnny said that his Uncle Alfred was the one who greased the wheels with his dad when it was time to talk about leaving the nest to make a little money but a big impact for Jesus. Johnny said that his Uncle Alfred “the town drunk” may have been his hero because he was the one who encouraged him to follow the call on his life and his cousins made sure that others respected Johnny’s dedication to the Lord.
Looking back, Davis almost lost the Tohnika’s.
They both recognized that the Lord was leading them from youth ministry to becoming pastors. “We knew this, but we didn’t know where,” Johnny said. “There is always opportunities. We weren’t sure what or where.”
Johnny said he got a phone call from a church in southeast Oklahoma. They talked on the phone and they met in person. Johnny preached at a service and was offered the job as the pastor of this church. Then COVID-19 hit and everything went on hold.
“It was then we realized the Lord wasn’t done with us in this area,” Johnny said. The couple knew in April that they wanted to stay in Davis. Shortly after that they were approached with the opportunity to potentially pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church. The rest is history. “We feel really at peace with this,” Johnny said. “When you know the Lord’s in it, there’s a peace in it.”
The couple has plans to restart the youth and children’s programs. They have children’s outreach programs that they plan on starting by visiting neighborhoods passing out goodies and hoping to connect with children and parents. “Those are things they have had established there in the past,” Kayla said.
“One thing I talked to the committee about is that we don’t want to reach people just for the sake of numbers. We have something to say that is life changing,” Johnny said. “We have got to get workers to get these programs to start again. We need more youth workers, too. If we are going to do it well, we have to have the right people there.”
A women’s and men’s ministry group are on the list for groups at Immanuel Baptist Church in the future. The church will be a missions minded church and mission trips will be a part of Immanuel Baptist Church.
Services are 11 a.m. Sunday and kids will meet at 6:15 p.m. and youth (seventh – twelfth grade) meet at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday. The Tohnika’s would like to see a Wednesday night service in the future.
When asked what do you have to say to people thinking about visiting Immanuel Baptist Church? “Come and see what we are doing. What we are doing. What we are about. Can we really love God if we don’t love people? Because they have value and they are made in God’s image. We are not about judging or shaming people. We want them to come and see. We need them,” Johnny said.
The church is located at 902 E. Ellis. For more information visit the church’s Facebook page or call (580) 369-3331.
By Alisha Thompson