Beni Johnson of Bethel (1954-2022): The happy intercessor | Magazine Features

Beni Johnson of Bethel (1954-2022): The happy intercessor |  Magazine Features

Put down the flags, turn off the telephone, the happy intercessor is gone, for the house of Jesus.

On July 13 at 8:59 p.m., Beni Johnson passed away, after a long battle with cancer.

Putting the words of this play together, there are a hundred strings to her matriarchal bow.

co-senior pastor of Bethel Church, Redding, CA; mother of Eric, Brian and Leah, beloved wife of Bill Johnson, grandmother of eleven children, spiritual mother of hundreds, intercessor of intercessors, horticulturist, nutrition expert and author of several books including The happy, healthy and free intercessor, The joy of intercession, 40 days of wholeness, Embracing the transition, Experiencing Jesus through communion and The power of fellowship.

Having only witnessed this dancer in the divine for about ten years, I do not know the young Beni, the one her husband speaks of, who at 18 was shy and timid. Because I only know the lioness, the one who held a room with an authority like that of a monarch in a palace.

Such is the encounter she had one night in Toronto in the 1990s, under the amazed and reverential gaze of her husband. In one evening, with one encounter, her heart for God and the world took on an entirely new and breathtaking posture of intercession. Fearless towards any mountain, tireless as a warrior of prayer, it was Beni who ensured the priority of intercessors in the church. It was Beni, who would leave room for our tears with his compassion, while reminding us to persevere. It was Beni who told us to dust off the communion cup and break the bread, long after we had given up.

She was the one laughing in the middle of childbirth. Who could lift our spirits as much as she could potentially lift a Buick (there was a reason we called her “grandma with muscles”). Who rejoiced in miracles as well as our foolish sarcasms. She taught us to ask ourselves what God is doing, not what we want him to do; pray with him, not against him.

She taught us to plant, to build, be it the flowers of our gardens or the souls of our children.

She reminded us that when God gives you freedom, it is our responsibility to keep it.

She taught us to wait with her sun and to greet the rising of it (pun intended).

She would laugh seeing the generosity from person to person and in a straight line for those lurking around. I know it’s true, because I was one of them. You had to be careful to comment on how much you liked her shoes, because the next week you found the same brand new pair, in your own size, waiting on your doorstep. Whatever she does, she does it with tremendous passion. And even though the world might scream cancel, she smiled with a hug.

Like many things, she chose the more difficult choice, rather than the popular take.

Always warm, always tender, always brave.

We talk about Beni losing a battle, as if death had the last call, but it’s the sky that still cries, as the thousands of our individual stories, across the land, tell of Beni’s impact, flooding us from the sky as confetti. It is a brutal beauty that resonates in the abyss of sorrow. But one we’re willing to persevere in, just as our own Queen B taught us.

But we don’t mourn the embrace she meets now, we mourn the maternal one she left behind.

You can see why saying goodbye will be so difficult. For many of us, she was a transformational matriarch, to whom we owe much wisdom and revelation. For the chosen and privileged few, they have lost a mother, a wife, and knowing that the blessed intercessor leaves us with tears flooding our face, I know that in time, following his compassion to let us cry, she nudge us one more time pick up the flags, undo the drum, let the mourners go, so the kingdom can come.

It was his observational calculus that took more breath for his breathless new grandchild, it was his prowess in searching for him, that restored marriages, that gave hope to a depressed man. It was his undeniable peace that made any intimidating and unwanted giant buckle, while we stood in the room to watch these miracles happen.

If ever there was a legacy to be gained from Beni Johnson, aside from prayer life and passion, aside from that sign and wonder that Bill often ushered into a crowded room, it was the importance of a woman, of an individual, whose heart for the Lord was so fully devoted to Christ that it changed ours – forever.

Although our natural urge is to seek her out for solace in a loss as huge as this, in time we will raise the flags, we will turn off the drum. We will let the sky ensure your recall Beni… for his kingdom always comes.

Amanda P. Whitten