The largest uniformed Christian youth organisation in the country, Boys Brigade UK, has elected a new president.
Rev Dez Johnston is an ordained Baptist minister and director of Alpha Scotland. He was also recently appointed as Europe, Middle East and North Africa Youth Director for Alpha. However, before entering Christian leadership, Dez worked as a nightclub bouncer in Glasgow - the city where The Boys’ Brigade began in 1883.
Dez struggled with drug and alcohol problems when working in the security business. Things became so dire that he ended up crying out to God for deliverance.
In a recent conversation with the Church of Scotland, he recalled that time in his life:
"I moved to Glasgow and in that time I started working on the door as a bouncer. As I was doing that my life just continued to go in that downward cycle and as I got involved in more and more violent acts and things.
"I took more and more drink and drugs to hide from it really. You know it became like a mask that I wore and then I took a massive overdose one night—not intentionally I was just quite greedy.
"I just took too much and I made what I now think of as a crisis prayer, like I cried out to God and was just like, ‘hey if you're there I want to live' and then I woke up the next day and never touched cocaine again."
Dez went on to meet his future wife, Fiona, who challenged his ideas of faith. This then led to him read the Bible and start attending Church. He was later invited on an Alpha Course, which gave him the opportunity to ask questions about whether God exists and ultimately led him to believe in God's unconditional love for him.
Dez first joined Alpha Scotland as the youth coordinator, before becoming Director in 2018.
After being named as the successor to Lord Leslie Griffiths who stood down from the role last year, Dez commented:
“It’s amazing to be joining the BB family as President. I’ve been working together with the BB over the last three years and have loved being involved and seeing for myself the work that is going on.
"I know I might not look like a President, but then again what does a President look like? More importantly, I’m excited about being part of the BB’s work to advance Christ’s kingdom and of supporting their vision of young people experiencing life to the full.”
Jonathan Eales, Chief Executive of The Boys’ Brigade, commented: “I am delighted to welcome Dez as our new President. As a Christian youth organisation, we are determined to build and to strengthen our partnerships both locally and nationally with the Church.
"We believe that Dez will be able to support this work and that we will be able to learn from his experiences of working inter-denominationally. Dez has an incredible passion for the love of Jesus which is at the centre of our work.”
After experiencing a number of challenges during the Covid-19 pandemic, BB has now announced that groups across the UK and RoI are beggining to restart their face-to-face activities for the new school year and are open to new children and young people. The vision of the BB is that children and young people experience “life to the full" (John 10:10).