An unlikely journey
Inspired by the life and death of his father, Kyle Johnson ’10 has published a book detailing his difficult senior year, adventures around the world and journey to an authentic faith in God.
By Natalie Brubaker ’16
Elon alumnus Kyle Johnson never planned on turning his personal journals into a published book. But after the death of his father, Richard, and a yearlong mission trip around the world, Johnson’s
journey is now printed in the 215 pages of his new book, My Father’s Son.
“I didn’t actually know I was writing a book … to me it was just a journal, which I needed to keep my sanity while losing my dad,” Johnson says.
Johnson’s journey began Sept. 25, 2009, during his senior year at Elon, when his dad told Johnson he had liver cancer. Johnson spent most of that fall traveling home to Raleigh, N.C., to care for his dad, who died during Winter Term. Just days after graduating in May 2010, and inspired by his father’s legacy, Johnson embarked on The World Race, an intense mission trip that takes teams to 11 countries in 11 months and focuses on adventure, ministry, community and self-discovery.
That experience served as the basis for Johnson’s book, which was published by the Texas church where he now works as an associate pastor, on Sept. 25, 2013—exactly four years after he learned of his father’s illness.
“The book takes place during my team’s month in South Africa while flashing back to our service in previous countries and my senior year at Elon, when I found the faith and courage to leave home in the first place,” Johnson says. “It’s a blend of the journals I kept during those times, each working to tell the same story from a different perspective.”
My Father’s Son offers an intimate, raw account of Johnson’s experiences both as a college student losing his father to cancer and as an international missionary circumnavigating the globe. Despite the personal nature of his journals, Johnson says it was important to him to keep the story genuine. “Even when I reread parts and realized I had overreacted or been immature, I had to resist the temptation to repaint myself as a righteous hero,” he said.
And because Johnson was writing the story as it actually occurred, he says the details and imagery are extremely vivid. “When I began to pursue what I believed was a specific call to publish the story, it was
really difficult to relive the experience of losing my dad over and over again with each round of editing,” he says.
But Johnson says the experience has also been a testimony of God’s faithfulness in his life. Even after he decided to pursue the opportunity, Johnson doubted the book would ever be published. “Now I know not to doubt that something is somehow too big for [God] to accomplish,” he says.
Although the book was only released a few months ago, Johnson has already been encouraged by the feedback he has received from readers. He says getting emails from complete strangers telling him how the story has influenced their lives justifies the long hours of work. “My goal is simply to get other people
thinking about their own story, and about what they believe,” Johnson says. “While this is ultimately a story of how my dad’s faith influenced me to also follow Jesus, I am careful not to push my beliefs onto the reader. Faith is personal and so it has to be rooted in our own stories. My hope is to simply get people thinking about what they believe and how to live like they mean it.”