Transformed Prodigal’s Powerful Tale

By Richard Greene   •   March 23, 2012

Johnny Dorsey opened his car door and tossed the brown sack filled with drinks onto the passenger side seat. Starting the ignition and revving the cold engine, he thought about his wife, Dee, back at their house cooking. He couldn’t wait to get home and celebrate New Year’s Eve—and say goodbye to 1981.

On his way out of the parking lot, Johnny was broadsided. His car was demolished.

Johnny and Dee couldn’t afford another vehicle, so he had to walk four miles every day to work and home again. That afforded him a lot of time to reflect on his topsy-turvy life and how he was growing tired of doing good one week, then bad the next.

Dee and Johnny’s mom constantly encouraged him to go to church with them. But he always brushed off their invitations.

One day, while crossing the Trinity River Bridge between Dallas and Irving, Texas, Johnny, out of both frustration and longing, cried out to God, “If You’re there, I need to hear from You. I’m ready for my life to change.” Though he wasn’t a believer, Johnny sensed God speaking to his heart, directing him to go to church, where he would hear the Truth.

Sunday after Sunday, Johnny heard about God’s unfailing love through Jesus Christ: “For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” Johnny pondered what he heard.

Finally, convinced of the authenticity of the Gospel—on the second Sunday of November, 1982—Johnny knelt down and prayed, “God, I’m giving my heart to You and surrendering my life into Your hands.”

Johnny’s pastor urged him to start reading the Gospel of John every day. And Johnny began praying for and witnessing to his colleagues at work. They were skeptical. “No, I’m telling ya, I’m really born again,” Johnny would tell them.

One Saturday while praying, not too long after his conversion, Johnny sensed God’s leading for him to go to the Irving Theater at the local mall. He obeyed and when he arrived, he noticed that the film, “The Prodigal,” was showing. It was produced by Worldwide Pictures of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Johnny bought a ticket, sat down and watched it.

At the end of the movie, Billy Graham invites people to receive Jesus Christ as their personal Savior. At that point, Johnny walked down to the front of the theater, turned to the audience and explained what Mr. Graham had said. Then he extended an invitation for people to commit their lives to the Lord.

Johnny watched “The Prodigal” several more times that day, and each time invited moviegoers to surrender their hearts to Christ. He talked with several people about Jesus and how they could know God through His Son.

In the ensuing years, Billy Graham visited the Dallas area in person, holding Crusades in the city’s largest football stadiums. But Johnny’s work schedule always precluded him from taking part in a BGEA Crusade event. Until now!

Today, the 55-year-old Dorsey serves as pastor of Highland Baptist Church in Terrell, Texas—east of Dallas—where he grew up and moved back to about five years ago. Highland Baptist is one of more than 80 churches participating in this weekend’s Trinity Valley Will Graham Celebration. Will is the oldest son of Franklin Graham and a grandson of Billy Graham.

All events will be held at the Terrell ISD Performing Arts Center on Poetry Road. Meetings on Friday and Saturday evenings begin at 7, while Sunday afternoon’s service starts at 3. A KidzFest will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday.

The Will Graham Celebration sprung out of a communitywide ministry outreach begun about 18 months ago by Terrell churches called “Labor for Your Neighbor.” Highland Baptist benefitted from this partnership when members of First Baptist Church reached out and helped the small congregation replace its damaged roof. A budding friendship developed between Johnny and First Baptist’s pastor, John Lowrie, and the two have provided key leadership to the Celebration.

“This Celebration has definitely helped bridge different cultural and ethnic divides and caused us to actually talk to one another and now to work together for God’s Kingdom,” Johnny explains.

“It’s a privilege to take part in this united effort with so many good churches so that lost souls can hear that God loves them, that Christ died for them and that they can have their lives transformed forever by the power of the Gospel,” he adds.

Seek and Ye Shall Find
Saturday night will be geared primarily but not exclusively toward teenagers and young adults, especially with youth-oriented bands—Fireflight, Tedashii, Brenton Brown and Rend Collective Experiment—singing before Will’s preaching. This special emphasis excites Dr. Bob Price, who teaches ethics at Trinity Valley Community College.

Contrary to their constantly shifting beliefs and behavior, young people are searching for absolutes to hold onto like an anchor, Price says. “They’re desperately looking for that,” Price says. “This weekend they’ll hear the Gospel that’s not watered down and it will change them.”

There’s Always a First Time
Though admittedly a little nervous, Stephen Nichols can’t wait to share the Good News this weekend. Nichols accepted Christ in 1958 during the Billy Graham Crusade at the Cow Palace in Oakland, Calif. He was 17 years old then, now he’s 71 and lives in Terrell with his wife, Sandra. He’ll be among the hundreds of trained volunteer counselors who will explain the Gospel with those coming forward at Will’s invitation to give their lives to Christ.

“I’ve witnessed to people at work and places like that, but I’ve never been a counselor during an event like this,” Nichols says. “But I know the Holy Spirit will speak through me and directly into people’s hearts. He’ll do it, and I can trust Him!”

You Can Pray:

  • For Will Graham’s voice, which has been weakened by heavy pollen in this area. “I feel fine, but my voice is extremely weak,” he says. “Please pray that God will give me enough strength to make it through Sunday!”
  • For the Holy Spirit to draw many people to Himself. “Just as in Gainesville last weekend, believers here in Terrell are coming together to lift up the name of Jesus,” Will says. “Please pray that many people will respond to the Gospel and will confess their sins, turn to Christ and receive Him by faith.”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published but you will receive our next BGEA ministry update. You can opt out of future emails at any time.

One comment

  1. Hal says:

    I had the great privilege of getting to know Johnny Dorsey this past weekend during the Will Graham Celebration! What a wonderful, on-fire man of God he is! May God richly bless your ministry. Thank you, BGEA and God for sending Will here.