In memoriam: Missionary emeritus Hershel Conrad Johnson, 87 

Hershel Conrad Johnson, 1935-2022 . IMB Photo

Hershel Conrad Johnson, an International Mission Board missionary emeritus who shared the gospel in Japan, died Nov. 4, 2022. He was 87.  

Hershel was born Oct. 28, 1935, in Big Stone Gap, Virginia, to the late Eldridge H. and Reba Johnson. He received the Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Tennessee in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and the Master of Arts degree from George Peabody College in Nashville, Tennessee, and completed classes at Louisiana State University that counted toward his Ph.D. 

After receiving his master’s degree, Hershel taught English and Spanish at a high school in Maryland. In 1960, he received a scholarship to study in Mexico, and he had the opportunity to travel around Latin America. For nine summers, Hershel taught Spanish and English at St. Alban’s School for Boys in Washington, D.C.  

While teaching in Maryland, he met his wife, Elizabeth Wells. They married in 1962.  

While pursuing his Ph.D. in Louisiana, the Johnsons considered serving with the Foreign Mission Board (now the International Mission Board) but Hershel opted to take a job as a professor at the University of Maryland in College Park, Maryland. Starting in 1969, the Johnsons traveled from assignment to assignment in seven countries in Asia and Europe to teach. They spent three years in Asia and one in Europe. 

Their time abroad revealed the Lord had more in store. 

“The yearning to do more cannot be stilled,” Hershel wrote when seeking missionary appointment.  

In 1982, the International Mission Board appointed Hershel and Elizabeth missionaries to Japan.  

The Johnsons visited Japan during their year teaching abroad. They wrote in their first newsletter about the changes they noted in the 10 years since they visited. 

The Johnsons served in the city of Fukuoka as teachers. Hershel taught at Seinan Gakuin University, a Baptist university founded in 1916 by a FMB missionary. Hershel wrote of his pride in working at what was, at the time, the largest Baptist-related educational institution outside of the U.S. 

Hershel was the faculty advisor for Seinan Gakuin’s English Speaking Society (ESS), a club that met for debates and speeches. The school’s ESS was well-known nationally. Students in the club voted to name their summer workshop and intramural contest the Johnson Trophy after Hershel. 

Hershel and Elizabeth joined a church with members who also taught at Seinan Gakuin. They actively served in the church by teaching an English Bible class at the church. In a newsletter, they shared the story of a woman who committed her life to Christ as a result of the class.  

The Johnsons served for 21 years before retiring from missionary service. 

Hershel is survived by his wife of 60 years, Elizabeth.