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The Word

What’s Happening at Mr. Surf’s & some
COOL  Messages / Stories

 

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This is a true testimony of how God worked in my life recently with the passing away of my father. I hope you read it & may it inspire you to grow more in your relationship with God.

My Story:

I would like to let you know something that happened just before my Dad passed away which has completely changed me within to the deepest part of my soul and has helped to solidify my faith. I now believe without a doubt that there is a God and that there is another life after this one. I also would like to let you know that although I was adopted, it was this dad (my dad) who raised me from a very young age (4 years old), so I have always considered him to be my one & only father. We never had a close relationship (father-son talks, play ball etc.) not that this was a bad thing it was just how life was in our home. However, the one thing that was important was that I had to work for any & everything that I wanted. And, whether or not I got it, I still had to do my daily chores & follow the rules of the house – Like them or Not (I would learn later in life why this was so important).

My sister, Jo, called me a week before Sunday July 15th to tell me about my Dad’s situation. My dad had been admitted to the hospital and was not doing too well, the main problem being Congestive Heart Failure. It was not a good time for something like this to happen. Unfortunately that’s how life is. Things always seem to happen at the worst and unexpected times. We (my wife and I) were smack in the middle of our busiest part of the season, and I knew I had to make a decision to either turn my heart to worldly matters (the business) & or Spiritual matters (the family). I only say this because I have been called back home twice (and once recently) to find that the situation was not as serious as I had thought. Against all my inclinations to stay here and finish out our season, which was only about three more weeks, I dropped everything and went out to California to see my dad. All odds were against me for leaving. We recently had lost several employees making us very shorthanded, so it was a very serious issue for me to leave knowing that Lib (my wife) would have to handle the load of the business at our busiest time of the year, and also knowing that it would put a lot of stress on her (if you own a very successful business you know what I mean). To top it off, the Saturday before I left, someone broke into our shop (a brick though our window) and stole a case of $4,000+ worth of sunglasses. So, things were not going well at all. I think the Lord was testing me in a way as to what was more important in my life.

I consider myself to be a believer and received Christ in my heart (do not know exactly when) sometime ago. However, I have always sensed some sort of uncompleted business with my faith because I have never experienced or had any type of spiritual moment/s in my life. Unfortunately, there are times when I questioned the Lord (Andy’s -my best friend – death was one of them). So, I still had some doubts, although very small, they were always there. I could never shake them. Still I tried to keep my faith as strong as I could, and I did what most everyone else seems to do (reading the Bible, praying, going to church at times, etc., etc., etc.) I did believe, but deep within I continued to search & hope for something to complete my faith. Meanwhile, one of my deepest prayers was that one day my mom (which she already has done), and my dad would somehow come to know God the way I had & know without a doubt that they had their future secure in heaven. Keep in mind my faith was not complete, although I thought it was. We (our family) were never brought up in a truly God fearing home which was reading the bible, going to church, prayer time, etc. – not that this was bad, it’s just how it was.

Somewhere down the line while I was in the military, the Lord got involved in my life (He has always been involved in my life I just never paid attention). Exactly how and when it started I do not know, but I started on this journey in establishing a relationship with the Lord. This journey was rocky in the beginning being easy at times and difficult at others. And, to add to the rockiness, there were so many different types of ways out there teaching how to establish that relationship (i.e. many different types of religions, messages, and preachers, etc.) that it was confusing, and this hindered what I was missing and needing the most which is what I now consider, “TRUE FAITH”. I don’t want to mislead anyone here to the conception that this hindrance was a bad thing because it wasn’t. It actually was a part in helping me along in strengthening my relationship. However, the main point I needed was the base for completing my faith , “complete trust”. The only way I could begin the process in that direction was to turn all my energy towards knowing God by focusing in on this one factor.

Just a few years ago, once again I cannot pin point a specific time and situation, I made a sound decision to begin focusing in on growing my relationship with the Lord. One of the primary reasons that helped me make that decision was that I realized how good I had it in life. I was very blessed to have all that I have, and I couldn’t understand why it was so. Mostly I felt guilty and that I did not deserve it. Why was it so? There had to be a reason. I began to make it a point to spend much more time in Bible Study (on my own) through programs on T.V. and books that I felt were helping me in this relationship. I spent as much quiet time with the Lord (this is time strictly dedicated to spending time with the Lord by myself with no distractions whatsoever) as possible the least being one to two hours daily. I spent more time in prayer. I began to truly tithe. And, I tried at all times to stay keenly aware of what I was putting into my mind and heart (i.e. people I associated with, movies, books, music etc.) In doing all this I began to see and feel tremendous changes deep within me (a certain kind of peace). I began to have more peace and understanding of things that used to unsettle me. I also began to notice changes – all good – happening around me. I can’t explain it – it just was so. I truly believe that it was leading me up to the event when I would spend my last moments with my dad.

As I mentioned before our family did not have any religious/spiritual upbringing & my dad did not believe in God, or so he always told me. He did not want to know and or hear anything at all about God. Anytime I would even remotely mention the subject, or anything close to it, he would walk the other way. For some reason that’s just the way it was with my dad. I could talk to my mom but not my dad. I also know that in these last few years I could sense some unrest within my dad. I prayed and wished with all my heart that God would allow me the opportunity to talk with my dad about Him and/or allow some situation or some person to have the opportunity for my dad to come know the Lord before he died. I knew it was getting closer to that time. And, it was even closer to the time when my dad’s mind would not be able to accept such an opportunity because he had Alzheimer’s Disease, and the disease was taking its tole on him. There were times when his mind was in and others when it was out- that’s the nature of the disease. One of my worse fears and thoughts was a deep sense that when I die and would go Home (that’s what I call Heaven because it is our true home – this is only a temporary life and place) that I would not see my dad there. The reason it was so important to me is that, although my dad was not the greatest father a boy could have, he did what he could do, and was a good father. Also, other than the Lord, he was the critical source that helped me to become who I am, and in turn have all that I have and do everything that I have accomplished. My enormous success in most of all my fulfilling works and in business were all learned by my father’s example of penetrating the sound basis of solid work ethics into my being. He taught me how to work hard to get what I needed or wanted in life. This gift has been a very important part of who I am, so the thought of knowing that my dad would not go to heaven when he died left a deep restlessness within me, so much so, that it was one of my most earnest hopes and prayers that God would accept him when he was ready to come home.

Now here it was Sunday July 15, 2007 late afternoon, and I was (unbeknownst to me) visiting my dad for the last time. All week long I had not had the opportunity to talk with him the way that it needed to be done when there was such an important matter to discuss. It just wasn’t right. There were always too many visitors and family members around and another patient in the room, so I did not feel comfortable. Also, there was the fact that my dad was not very coherent and was suffering through all the pain and junk that comes with lying in a hospital bed when you are dying and your body still has enough function to keep the process ongoing. I tried to discuss the subject when I first arrived but my dad was in too much pain & not very coherent. Now I was going to visit my dad one last time before having to return to Florida. I only had only an hour or two to visit.

Upon arriving I found my dad asleep, so I took a seat next to the bed and started to watch television. I did not want to wake him because of his condition knowing that when he was awake: (1) He was uncomfortable most of the time and sometimes in pain & (2) He was in & out of being coherent. It was best to let him sleep when he was able. It was getting late, and I noticed the time was near when I would have to leave, so I said a silent prayer that God would allow my dad to stick around until the next time that I could come out and see him. It was a few moments later that my dad woke up. At first he did not recognize me. I talked to him telling him who it was and asked if he knew me. He did not know me at first then asked me if I could wipe his eyes with a cold cloth because his eyes were burning and he had some gunk built up on them. I began to wash and care for him just as Jesus washed the feet of His disciples at the Last Supper. All of a sudden my dad became very alert, and we started talking normally as if he were the dad I knew years ago. I told him that I had trimmed the tree at home out front just like we use to do when I was young and that mom gave me hell the whole time because I was cutting too much (just like she always did back when my dad and I would trim the tree). He smiled and knew exactly what I was talking about.

Then my dad looked at me and our discussion changed. I cannot tell you in the exact words as to what he said, but I do know it was to the matter that he knew he was coming to the end of his road. We talked about that fact and that everyone would be there one day and that I too would be in the same situation. It is inevitable that we will all face death. I felt that now was the time, now was the moment to ask my dad about God. I have know doubt as to what happened next that God had planned this whole scenario and had brought me to where I was at that time.

I told my dad that he was getting ready to go home that he was going to leave this life. His reply was simple and he said, “I know”. I told him that although life was strange, and at times very difficult, that this was not the end of it. And, that there was something more after this life that nobody on earth can comprehend or explain. He said, “I know”. Then I told my dad that he had done good, and that I was living proof of that. I continued to tell him how I owed everything I had -a good life and success – because of him. I saw a peace in his eyes and he smiled just a little. It was then that what I can’t explain but only say it felt like magic – that a kind of process began.

Something and/or someone was present with us (I know it was the Spirit of the Lord) as I told my dad that I loved him very much and that I could never thank him enough for all he had done for me. I said there was one thing that was most important to me that he had left unfinished. He said, “I know”. I told him that there was a much better place for him to go than this life and that he was getting ready to go to that place. I told him that the Lord would take him to that place & accept him no mater what, but I could not ask the Lord to do it for him. Again he said, “I know”. I told my dad that if he wanted to go there he was the only one that could ask the Lord to come home, and all he had to do was ask. He said, “I Know”. I told my dad that I wanted to see him again and that we would see each other again only if he was where I was talking about, and he shook his head in agreement.

I then asked my dad if he could do this one last thing for me. He looked at me for a moment and something was there – a connection – that I cannot explain. Then he said I will do this for you, and he accepted the Lord and asked Him to take him home. To me it was the most powerful experience I have ever had. It was like a huge weight was lifted off my chest. I then asked my dad if I could pray for him and he said, “yes”. I said a short prayer and asked God to prepare a place for him and take him home when He was ready to. There was an incredible peace between me, dad, & in the room. It was also a very emotional experience for me & shook me to the core of my soul.

I had to walk out of the room. Standing in the hospital hallway, I felt like dropping to my knees and crying out to God. I cried out silently, “thank you, thank you , thank you!, Thank you for your incredible love, Thank you for all that you”ve done, and Thank you so much for the experience that just had just occurred”. I asked God to forgive me for ever doubting that he was real, and now, I knew exactly what He wanted and that is to truly know and serve Him in completely surrendering my life to Him. In doing so, it would allow me to have this incredible peace that only those who have been where I was that afternoon can understand.

The nurses came in shortly after all this had happened to wash dad and bring him his dinner. They told me that they had not seen him so alert as he was at that time than in the last couple of days. There was a peace about my dad, and we both knew what it was, but we did not talk about it any longer. We knew that he was ready to go home when the time would come. Just before that last few moments we spent together alone, he looked at me and told me that he was ready to leave and that he would be around a little while longer, but that it would be tough. I told him that I believed that but that everything was ok now. He agreed. I left that evening saying goodbye to him and mom, and my sister. I kind of thought that I would be coming back in a few months to see him once again. It was two days later after I returned to Florida that my sister called me and told me that my dad had passed away.

I feel more joy than sadness. I know that my dad will no longer have to suffer. He is at peace , and I know without a doubt that I will see him again. I would like to tell as many people possible this story. Not only because this story is true, but I hope it will inspire them to strengthen their relationship with the Lord. As for me I will live my life as it comes at me, but most importantly, from that Sunday on I have given it all completely to God, and I have an incredible peace because of this commitment. It’s ironic that during most of my father’s life he did not accept or believe in God, but in the end when he did accept the Lord, he also helped me to fill in the gap that was missing in my own faith.

THE GREAT ADVENTURE: Commitment, Perseverance & Faith Spawn a Dream & Never Ending Great Adventure.

When looking at our business/surf shop, it is still hard to believe that over a decade ago ago it was just a vision and dream that we had for Mr. Surf’s, but now that dream stands before us, & continues to do well even when facing hard times. I never could have imagined owning a store as successful and unique as the one we now have. We are blessed to have the opportunity to live and work around a lifestyle (the Surfing Life) we love so much. We believe God led us through success as well as failure, to this place and time for us and those in and around our community. I truly believe that God’s desire for us is much greater & far reaching than our wildest dreams & to realize the simple fact that God had all this planned for our life everyday blows me away when I am at work.

I believe the journey towards this dream really set in motion on a remote beach in Puerto Rico on Sunday afternoon January 7, 1991. My wife and I were stationed with the Navy, and at that time I had more than 12 years on my belt in the military and planned to make the Navy my career. We went surfing that afternoon, and to make a long story short, we were held up at gunpoint by Bandits. I was shot and severely wounded protecting my wife. Within a matter of minutes our lives took a dramatic turn, and we did not know it then, but God was setting the roadway to where we are today. The bullet went through my upper left arm severing my artery. My wife and I were stranded miles from any help because the few locals who were in the water left because they knew the group of bandits and did not want to get involved. By the time I reached medical aid it was several hours, and I had lost over half my blood supply (the bullet severed my artery), and the doctors fought to save my life. Then upon recovering, it was several weeks before I knew if I would be able to keep my left arm. Afterwards, I had to wait several years to make sure I had not contacted AIDS or Hepatitis due the blood transfusion. I went through many trials for a long time, wondering what was going on in my life. All the time I sought answers from family, friends, professionals, and God. I think that most anyone who has had a traumatic life threatening experience, whether it be himself, herself, a close family member or friend, will begin to seek answers as to why things sometimes happen they way they do? And, what is puts them into a search mode to answer a question many of us look for “What is the purpose in life?- or so to speak “What is God’s plan for my life?”.

The injury left permanent damaged nerves in my left arm and left me with a slight disability, and in time the military released me early. As the time neared for my release I began to both plan and wonder what I would do upon getting out. I researched the idea of opening a surf shop. However, after looking at businesses and speaking with several business owners, I decided that it was a road too difficult to pursue. At that point I returned to college and completed my degree in Special Education and decided to go into the teaching field. It was during my internship that I received a phone call from the Brown’s (the original owner’s of Mr. Surf’s) and was asked if I would be interested in purchasing Mr. Surf’s Surf Shop. I immediately said, “No thank you but thanks for the offer”, and I hang up the phone. However, my wife Lib, who is originally from Panama City and a graduate of Bay High, told me to call them back and tell them that we would think about it. From then on, through a lot of prayers it was as if the stepping stones were being laid out for us to lead us to our dream. Just when we thought it wasn’t meant for us (loans being rejected, not enough personal credit or funds, etc.), a path would open up and before we new it, we were the new owners of Mr. Surf’s Surf Shop. And then, that’s when things really started getting tough

We were new to the business and didn’t know much about retail but were eager to learn and work hard long hours. We looked at other successful businesses in the area and would talk with the owners and other people we looked up to in the community. It was very tough the first year. Especially when (again in a January) a tornado came through the beach and destroyed our new home with almost everything we owned . Once again the questions resurfaced, and we wondered if we were doing what God willed us to do. Again we sought answers through professionals, friends and family members, and through a lot of prayers, the stepping stones began to appear.

It was about a few months after the tornado incident that we began to plan to rebuild a new Mr. Surf’s. That’s when we had a vision of this funky looking surf shop that would offer more to our patrons and the beach community, in addition to, adding depth to Mr. Surf’s charm where kids and adults both would come to not only shop but feel the love of the lifestyle (surfing) which we both enjoyed. It had been only two years, and in that time my wife and I significantly increased business and brought Panama City Beach to the forefront of both the national surf and skim community. In 1999, we received an award from the Eastern Surfing Association (the largest Amateur Surfing Organization in the world) for the largest growth in district membership in the United States. Again in 1999, we hosted the first Pro/Am Skim Board Championships which at that time became the largest Pro/Am skim board competition in the United States bringing in skim boarders from all over the nation. In doing so, it ignited the sport of skim boarding on the Northwest Gulf Coast. Even today, Panama City is considered to have some of the best amateur skim boarders in techno maneuvers and small wave conditions in the nation, and the annual skim event continues to be one of the main events for kids on Panama City Beach during Spring Break. We continue to host many other special events for kids and their families out on the beach. All of these factors, as well as support from our patrons, other local business owners, and community leaders, helped to bring us closer to the dream God had planted in our hearts.

As with any business and/or anything in life, it takes hard work, commitment, and perseverance fed by optimism, enthusiasm and creativity to truly be successful. We believe that one must put God first in all of one’s efforts, and He will show one the way and aid in fulfilling every goal leading to success and the ultimate dream. We still have to face many trials, and we still make mistakes because we are human, and it is a natural part of life. However, whether or not one is a religious person, the deep teachings of Christ can only lead to success because it steers one away from the serious mischiefs of life that keep one from reaching his or her goals and/or God’s will for them in their life. Through Commitment, Perseverance, and a whole lot of Faith our dream has come true and we are truly -Walking On Water -living a life we love so much. As for the future, well that’s another great story to be told by the Lord & I can already see Him laying the stepping stones in place for another great adventure. And. that’s exactly what it is each day when you walk with Christ “A GREAT ADVENTURE!”

 

Tony Johnson

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