Churches, groups pull together for area native

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 6, 2005

Ray Johnston considers himself a very fortunate man.

Even though a dream career in professional basketball has ended, his very life placed in jeopardy, Johnston, a Hayneville native, will tell you he knows what the important things in life really are.

Johnston is currently in &uot;complete and total&uot; remission from leukemia. After rounds of chemotherapy, he happily reports he still has all his hair (&uot;it’s not that pretty, but it’s there&uot;) and is down to one IV therapy treatment each week.

&uot;I’m starting to work out again and get back into shape. I’m feeling good,&uot; Johnston said.

He’s doing so well, in fact, Johnston is leaving his current residence in Dallas to come home for a visit later this month. While here, he plans to spend time with family and friends – and to sing his praises to the Lord.

A &uot;Praisefest&uot; is scheduled at Hayneville Baptist Church, on Sunday, August 21, at 6 p.m. In a telephone interview on Friday, Johnston said he plans to speak briefly during the event about his personal experiences with battling cancer.

But mostly, he says, the service will be all about praising God, and giving thanks for answered prayers.

&uot;We are going to do a lot of praise singing that night. I’ll have my guitar; other folks will be playing the piano. It’s going to be a great evening,&uot; he says with enthusiasm.

Johnston is eager to spread the word about the power of prayer. After all, he’s living proof of it.

&uot;I want to share this experience with others; I don’t mind talking about it. So many people have been praying for me, and I feel like this is a good time to do this,&uot; Johnston said in a telephone interview on Friday.

Johnston had a promising career as a player for the Dallas Mavericks, before being struck down by the disease.

He credits his personal faith and his physical and spiritual families for getting him through the ordeal.

&uot;My mom’s [Martha Johnston Chapman] church, Hayneville Baptist, and my dad’s [Ray Johnston] church, First Methodist in Montgomery, have both really been there for me, offering such great support. I’ve had help, both spiritual and financial,&uot; Johnston said.

And, while his parents may no longer be together, each has been there for him whenever he needed them, Johnston added.

&uot;My mom is the more ‘hands-on’ one, but they both have been so supportive. It’s brought all of us – siblings, parents, stepparents – closer together,&uot; he said.

Johnston, now a mortgage broker in Dallas, says he plans to make himself available &uot;anytime he can&uot; to churches, civic clubs and other organizations interested in listening to his story.

And he’s very much looking forward to his time back home in Alabama.

&uot;I still need to put on some weight, but I’m hoping five days in Alabama will help do that for me,&uot; Johnston says with a laugh.

He’s also hoping many folks will turn out to join him for the Praisefest on August 21.

&uot;This is such a special event to me. I’m going to shake a lot of hands, share a lot of smiles and just praise God for giving me life,&uot; Johnston said.

Johnston can be contacted at (214) 682-2086, (214) 351-2764 or via e-mail at