Nate and Rosa Johnson in Rosa’s favorite portrait of the couple, taken around 2003.


Nate Johnson popped into his prison’s chapel service, planning to slip out after a few minutes to lift weights in the gym.

That day, the chaplain was preaching on John 3:16, and he spoke with such conviction that he caught Nate’s attention.

“The chaplain was preaching his heart out, and it went straight to my heart,” he said. “I had listened to that verse before, but this time I heard it. I did some things I could not forgive myself for—I stole from my dad while he was dying. I finally heard that God forgave me because of what Jesus did, and it changed my heart.”

That was more than twenty-five years ago, and it was the beginning of a new path that involved Crossroads and other programs as Nate soaked up as much learning as he could. After his release, he moved in with his mother, worked, attended church, and initiated contact with his estranged wife, Rosa, and their children. As Nate showed over time that he was truly a changed man, he and Rosa worked to reestablish their relationship. Unlike their first attempt, this second chance was built on faith.

“We struggled for years, but we were determined that we were supposed to be back together,” Nate said. “We learned to trust God with each other. We had to see that it was not our job to change one another. I had to trust God to change her as He wanted. And she had to trust God to change me. Once we saw that, we have been best friends ever since.”

Nate attended Wheaton College to earn a degree through the Charles W. Colson Scholarship. That led to work as a reentry specialist and then to a post as assistant pastor of Christian Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church in Chicago. After ten years as assistant pastor, Nate was promoted to lead pastor in July 2023. With his promotion, Rosa became the first lady of the congregation, playing a vital role in the church’s ministries.

“I couldn’t do it without her,” Nate said.


Every mentor has undoubtedly wondered about past students. Did they continue to grow in faith? Did Crossroads make a difference? This series features the stories of former students who affirm that Crossroads helped them turn their lives around.

If you are a former student, we would love to add your story to our growing collection. Please mail us a letter or send an email to stories@cpministries.org.