His Life Before Jesus Came In:
My guess is that Johnny Gardner was born about 1943. A native of Columbia, S. C., his father ran a little store in a poor section near the governor's mansion. He remembers that his dad died of the effects of alcohol. In fact he was headed down that same road when, at age 26, "I had a head-on collision with The Lord."
His Life Since Jesus Came In:An occasional speaker at my daughter's church, you'll see this man of courage in front of the state house at Gervais & Main Street several days each week. He has a stroller with a baby doll in it and a red and white sign, "stop abortions now". He looks the oncoming motorists in the face through thick glasses (as I watched the 1/3/2006 Orange Bowl, I noted that Coach Joe Paterno resembles Johnny). Many think this man is an "oddball" or a "crazy". I see him protesting sometimes on the westbound side of highway 378 at I-26.
Columbia's Famous & Courageous Abortion Protester
"After I got saved, I thought that maybe The Lord wanted me to be a preacher. But there were things in my past that seemed against that. For some reason, about 13 years ago , I felt lead to stand against abortion out in public. I had no idea how to do it. But I thought, if He wants me to do this, He'll show me how. Most of the way, I've had to support this effort with secular jobs. The last year or so [since about late 2002], I've been able to do this full time."
But, my daughter says that his talk in church is anything but oddball or crazy. You see, Johnny Gardner has made a life commitment to challenge every-day people in his sphere of influence to think about an awful topic (abortion) by becoming a topic of conversation, himself.
In April 2001, an S. C. House of Representatives subcommittee was considering testimony about a pending "right to life" bill. Among the observers was Johnny Gardner of West Columbia, who also wore around his neck one of the plastic fetus models he is often seen wearing to protest abortion when he pickets alone outside the S. C. Statehouse. "Even if we are overturned by the Supreme Court, our consciences will be clear,'' he said. "Someday we will all stand before the Supreme Judge, and our God is higher than the Supreme Court.''
Mr. Gardner is director of Voice of the Unborn, a Columbia, S. C. anti-abortion Christian organization. Psalm 127:3 is lifted up, "Lo: children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward." Mr. Gardner's note on a posting at Joel Baptist Church says, "Dear brother Wood & church family. Thanks for agreeing to host the next meeting of Voice of the Unborn, and thanks for your faithful support. On behalf of the babies, John Gardner." My former Sunday school classmate, George Bower, has had a number of interesting roadside conversations with Mr. Gardner.
"I only know of 4 or 5 instances where I might have been used by Him in this to save a life. I remember so well a lady, a few years ago, came up to me and said, 'This is my 5 year old daughter. You spoke to me through the car window as I stopped when I was pregnant, and I changed my mind and decided to have the baby'."
I hope to learn more of the testimony of this giant of courage who is willing to set himself so publicly apart...sort of like the street preachers who challenge citizens in such shocking but memorable ways. Have you got even 1/1000th of the courage of this saint?
[On 19 April 2004, it was my great honor to hear Mr. Gardner speak at Joel Baptist Church and then to shake his hand afterward and talk with him. He is about 5 feet 10 inches tall and humble about his courageous work.]