January 12, 2024

A surprising question leads to a dramatic transformation, revealing God’s presence and healing power

Eric and Darbi Johnson of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in New Albany experienced God’s healing power during a vacation. (Submitted photo)

Eric and Darbi Johnson of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in New Albany experienced God’s healing power during a vacation. (Submitted photo)

(Editor’s note: The Criterion invited our readers to share their stories of how God has made his presence known in their lives. Here is another one in this continuing series.)

By John Shaughnessy

Eric Johnson’s atheist co-worker insisted that what happened to Johnson was simply a case of mind over matter.

Johnson insists that what happened to him is a definite sign of God’s presence and healing power.

“I had a neuromuscular disease for 7 ½ years,” begins Johnson, a member of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in New Albany. “I was told that it was a permanent disability.

“As the symptoms developed, I started losing physical abilities. I had pain and twitching in my legs and feet 24 hours a day. I also would lose control of my hips, knees and ankles. I would go down the steps in my house once in the morning and walk or crawl up the steps once in the evening. Some days, I crawled up the stairs on my hands and knees, using my arms to pull me up each step.”

The symptoms progressed to the point that he used an electric scooter when he was in a store, and he reluctantly relied on an elevator and a cane to get around the factory where he worked.

“After falling down steps and stumbling down the hallways at work, I decided to start using a cane.”

Then came the moment during a spring break vacation in 2017—on March 25—that started to change everything for him.

As Johnson arrived at Hilton Head, S.C., with his wife Darbi, their two sons and their sons’ two friends, he was greeted by a couple as he prepared to enter the condo they had rented.

Noticing that his sons were both wearing Purdue University shirts, the woman asked Johnson if his family was from Indiana. When he said yes, she said the same was true about her and her husband. She also told him that since they had been there for six months and were leaving soon, he should stop by their condo later because they had a lot of food that Johnson’s family could have because it would go to waste otherwise.

Once inside their condo, Johnson told his wife that the couple was nice, but he wasn’t going to take their food.

“We changed into swimsuits and went to the beach,” recalls Johnson, a 1984 graduate of Father Thomas Scecina Memorial High School in Indianapolis. “I had my son carry my beach chair. As we got to the sand, Darbi had to help hold me up because even with my cane I was having trouble stabilizing my legs on the sand.

“After several hours, we returned to our condo and noticed a note on the door with a list of food. I told Darbi, ‘Now we have to go meet this couple.’ Ronnie and Joe Jachim loaded two boxes with food, and my kids and their friends took the boxes back to our condo.”

That’s when Ronnie asked Johnson an unusual question.

A surprising question

“Do you believe in miracles?” Ronnie asked.

“I said yes,” Johnson recalls. “She told me that she wanted to share with me some water that has been associated with miracles. At that moment, I felt a strong presence of God. Ronnie asked if I took medicine daily.

I said yes. She said, ‘Drink this water with your medicine each day, but before you drink it ask Mary, the mother of Jesus, to pray for you and ask God for healing.’

“That night, I asked Mary to pray for me and asked God for healing. The next morning, Darbi and I went to 8 o’clock Mass at Holy Family Church. After Mass, I saw a shrine to Mary across the parking lot and asked Darbi to go over there and pray with me. I do not recall how long we prayed, maybe 15 to 30 minutes.”

Soon, the beach called to the couple, and this time Johnson noticed a difference in himself as he approached the sand.

“I told Darbi that she did not need to help me walk in the sand because I could feel that my legs were getting stronger,” he says, recalling that moment when he still relied on his cane. “My wife was reading Harry Potter books, and I continued praying all day as I sat in a chair near the shoreline and watched and listened to the waves crash on the beach.”

That evening when they went to dinner, Johnson walked from the parking lot to the restaurant, forgetting that he had left his cane in its usual place in the front seat.

“Monday morning, I said, ‘I no longer need this cane,’ ” Johnson recalls. “I grabbed my own beach chair and walked on the sand without a cane. Each day, I sat and enjoyed the waves as I prayed all day. I prayed for healing at first, but as I gained strength in my legs and the pain and twitching subsided, I began thanking God for healing me and thanking Mary for praying for me.”

‘I told him there is a God who loves him’

Each day of that week, Johnson says, he grew stronger.

“Darbi and I started taking longer and longer walks on the beach. On Thursday, we went to Savannah [Georgia]. I was walking faster than Darbi and faster than my sons, Nathan and Noah. I thanked God all day. I walked 6.6 miles that day with no twitching, no pain, no loss of joint control, no paralysis. I felt so good.

“On Friday, Darbi and I rode bikes down the beach. We rode inland and saw alligators and birds. We rode to Holy Family Church, where we stopped at the shrine to Mary and prayed. We rode bikes five miles that day. I had not been on a bike for 7 ½ years because I did not have strength in my legs to pedal a bike.”

The physical transformation continued the following Monday when he returned to work.

“I was walking fast up and down the hallway,” he says. “I was stopped by co-workers. They asked me if I had surgery or if I was taking a new medicine. I have told at least 50 co-workers about my miracle, three of whom are atheists. One atheist interrupted me repeatedly while I described the events of my miracle and said it was mind over matter, that there is no God.

“I told him there is a God that loves him.”

On April 8, 2017, the Johnsons visited the Indiana place where Ronnie Jachim had got the water that she gave to him—Mother of the Redeemer Retreat Center in Bloomington. The couple walked the path of the Stations of the Cross and attended Mass, where Johnson thanked God again for his healing.

“I thank God many times a day, every day, as I complete simple tasks such as walking, going up and down stairs, and going shopping with my wife,” says the 58-year-old Johnson, who volunteers as an assistant coach for the boys’ tennis team at New Albany High School.

Johnson recalls the appointment he had with his neurologist in December of 2017.

“He said that there is no medical or scientific explanation for my healing.”

As Johnson continues to thrive, he also continues to hope for his friend who is an atheist.

“My hope and prayer are that I have planted that seed of doubt in his current beliefs and that someday he and others like him become Christians.” †

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