Longtime Pastor Finds Joy Amid Adversity
By Kim Ousley
Pastor Johnny Creasong has enjoyed a good life. Married to his sweetheart, Ronda, since 1978, and the father of four beautiful daughters, he now loves being a grandpa to eight grandchildren. Three of them were born just last year.
“God has been good to us,” said Creasong. “I pastored for over forty years all over the country, really.”
Just out of college, Creasong helped plant a church in New Mexico. Since then, he has pastored in Oklahoma, Missouri, Texas, Louisiana, Illinois, and Ohio. He has shared the message of Jesus at various camp meetings, revivals, and conferences.
However, as many times as he has comforted those in the hospital, he said he had never been sick. That all changed when he started having spells of tripping, even falling. At his daughter’s wedding, he recalls he fell that day, and had to walk her down the aisle and perform the ceremony from a wheelchair.
“When I was headed back home from New Mexico, the girls all ganged up on me: ‘Dad, you need to go and get this checked out.’” He had fallen a few times over that year, but didn’t think anything of it. “I thought I [just] tripped,” he said.
When he got to the emergency room after going to the hospital, the doctor said, “Your creatines are all out of whack.” The doctor immediately sent him to a neighboring hospital. Creasong started kidney dialysis that very day.
He didn’t know what would happen next. In the middle of this whirlwind of activity, Creasong decided to retire early from First Church of God in Shelby, Ohio. He and Ronda packed up and moved to Louisiana, where two of their daughters live, in order to be near family. He didn’t miss a beat and continued therapy with no interruptions.
This wasn’t going to be the only unexpected health crisis amid the kidney dialysis. While in Louisiana, Creasong worked toward finding a kidney donor. In the process of running tests for a kidney transplant, the hospital found he had three heart blockages. Then the doctor said, “We found a goiter, and it’s inside and down in your body.” This was the strangest diagnosis yet.
Creasong remembers his aunt having a goiter that she carried like an appendage. After surgery on the blockages, and to remove the goiter, he endured one hundred days of hospital stay before being sent to rehab to recover.
That’s not all. They found a pressure wound on his left foot. Now he had to do wound-care on top of recovering from surgeries. Anyone would have wanted to give up. Creasong may have had his difficult days, but his spirit never faltered—even when a new pressure wound showed up on the other foot.
“They did surgery on the first pressure wound,” Creasong said. “All the way down to the bone. That hindered the rehab part.” But something greater was about to take his journey in a new direction.
Writing. Creasong started writing a book on his cellphone. It was the only thing he had electronically with him during rehab. Creasong titled his book How to Make a Good Pastor Great: Six Steps to Encourage Your Pastor.
At some point he met a lady at church who offered to edit his book. She encouraged him to self-publish on Amazon. “One book turned into two, then three and four,” he said. Even though there’s no publisher pushing his book out there, he has been successful in getting up to seven books listed on Amazon.
He says it’s very simple. “The process KDP (Kendall Direct Publishing) is all online. Once you upload it and edit it, you can choose covers and styles and all of that. I mean, its work, but you have complete control.” Even after Creasong publishes, he can go back and correct or edit anything in his books. Even the lady who helped him, Winona Thomley, has published her own marriage workbook, called Marriage is a Jeep.
How has the journey been during the COVID-19 pandemic? He explains that his heart surgery went well, then he had to have his gallbladder removed while in rehab. The wound care has been working on his feet. One wound has healed up and the other one is almost there. “I haven’t driven a car in a year and a half.”
That doesn’t stop him. He and his wife live in a handicap-accessible apartment that is just minutes from both the wound-care and the kidney dialysis centers. They leave every Sunday morning at 7:30 to head two hours away so he can preach from his wheelchair as an interim pastor at First Church of God in Homer, Louisiana. Otherwise, Creasong would attend a church in Shreveport. Creasong once thought his ministry was over, but the Lord has been very kind to him and his family. He can still work with other churches.
“That’s been the beauty of it,” said Creasong. “God has a way of turning difficult problems even unbelievable problems into beauty. I’m thankful that I’ve had this opportunity.”
Rehab was quite difficult, at times. But once he left and went to the apartment, he felt like life had some normalcy again. “I am thankful the Lord provided a senior citizen apartment for us, and that it’s handicap-accessible.”
Johnny Creasong’s writing career is just taking off. Right now, he says he has three books in the works—all done on his cellphone. This has been his way to reach God’s people through his trials and testimony. And, he approaches it all with a grateful heart.
The Church of God is a beautifully diverse movement of “Jesus people,” such as Pastor Johnny Creasong, boldly living out the love of God in their communities and beyond. Learn more about the Church of God at www.JesusIsTheSubject.org.
Kim Ousley is a freelance writer from Anderson, Indiana.
Feature (top) collage: Johnny Creasong preaching through adversity; Creasong’s family is vitally important to him.