Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | January 16, 2014

On My Short List of Heroes

I have a short list of personal heroes, people for whom I have the highest respect and admiration, and Elmo Johnson is on that list. For the past 30 years, Elmo has served as pastor of Rose of Sharon Missionary Baptist Church in Houston’s Fourth Ward. But beyond that, he is also a pastor to the people of the Fourth Ward, once known as Freedman’s Town, a community originally settled by freed slaves.

Elmo and I have been close friends for almost 20 years. In that period of time, I have seen God use him to bring about community transformation in neighborhoods once known for crack houses and drug deals. He cares deeply about the Fourth Ward and those who call this historic part of Houston their home. No matter where I go when I am with Elmo, people know him by name and his phone rings too many times an hour for me to count.

Elmo loves people and the people of the Fourth Ward love him. They know he cares. He knows people by name and he knows the struggles and challenges that they face every day. He feels a personal sense of responsibility for all of the people who live in the place where God called him to serve when he was just a young man. And he is still as passionate, probably more so, about preaching and living out the gospel as he was when he came to serve at Rose of Sharon.

Elmo Mike Omar
Earlier this week, Elmo invited me and our dear mutual friend Mike Briggs to join him for lunch in the Fourth Ward. It’s been a while since the three of us have been together. Elmo wanted to encourage Mike who lost his wife Mary to cancer last year. Mary and Mike often joined Elmo to help people in need. Elmo also wanted for us to meet an elderly man who had recently moved in to a single occupancy room at one of the church’s elder care centers — a lonely and frail little man who has no one left in the world.

Elmo Mike Groceries
When the old man opened the door to his room, a pungent odor greeted us along with his handshake. This man will likely spend the remainder of his days in this room. On the single nightstand beside his unmade bed, he had a list of grocery items scribbled on a wrinkled envelope. We decided to take that list and buy all of the items for the man. When we returned an hour later, he was visibly happy and so full of gratitude for this simple act of kindness. We unpacked the items and filled his little dorm-room-sized refrigerator.

As Mike and I drove back to Katy, we talked about Elmo and how he is famous among the poor, the lonely, the addicts, the weak, the elderly, the troubled, and the least of these. Elmo’s only ambition for the past 30 years has been to live incarnationally among the people of the Fourth Ward and to bring glory to God in his community.

Like Jesus, Elmo is always moving in the direction of people in need. He is drawn to them like a moth to a flame because he cares. Every time I visit Elmo I come away encouraged but deeply convicted that I too must do the same — love God and love people without condition and always move in the direction of those in need.


  1. Very inspiring!
    May The Lord bless you Pastor Omar

    In Him,

    Marina Medrano

  2. It was so great to meet Pastor Elmo when I was down there last June – he is one of those bigger than life kind of people that you never forget. I have told so many people about that visit to his church and what you shared with me about Freedman’s town.

    God Bless You Omar!

    • I am glad you both had the opportunity to meet while you were in Texas. Blessings, Chad.

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