A Lifetime in Asia

40 Years on the Silk Road

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Father Dale Albert Johnson is a Skagit Valley native who has gained international recognition for his discovery, translation and interpretation of manuscripts written in the language of Jesus.

But that’s far from being his only accomplishment. Ordained as a Syriac Orthodox Priest in 1991, Father Johnson has served refugees, internally displaced people and religious minorities of the Middle East for the last 25 years. He’s also a winner of the prestigious Role Model Leadership Award awarded by North Carolina State University. (Previous winners have included Poet Maya Anjelou and former North Carolina Governor James Hunt.)

As a writer of 89 books on history, linguistics and Silk Road studies, Fr. Johnson is also a contributor to academic conferences on the Silk Road every four years in Salzburg, Austria. Recent books include Return to Antioch, Forty Days on the Holy Mountain, and Searching for Jesus on the Silk Road.

As a founder of Dominican Outreach Schools in the Dominican Republic and an orphanage in Haiti, his efforts resulted in a microloan program in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic benefiting more than 400 families. Last year, he helped create the Seeds of Hope Nineveh Project, sponsoring 223 gardens to feed the souls and bodies of more than 2,000 families in Iraq, Syria, and Turkey. He continues to assist refugees in the region.

Father Johnson began his career searching for Syria/Aramaic manuscripts in the Middle East. He contributed more than 20,000 pages of previously unknown material to the Arthur Voobus manuscript collection at the University of Chicago. During these years he was chosen by Bishop Athanasius Y. Samuel to be his personal assistant. Bishop Samuel was famous for owning and naming the Dead Sea Scrolls when he was bishop of Jerusalem in 1948.

Father Johnson did brief projects in South Africa, and was the guest of Nobel Prize winner Bishop Desmond Tutu in 1988. In 1990, Fr. Johnson was sent to St. Gabriel Monastery in southeast Turkey, where he served thousands of refugee families during the first Gulf War. He was ordained on July 28, 1991 in Teaneck, New Jersey and briefly served as a local priest on Long Island. A year later he returned to Turkey, where he served for the next 10 years. 

In 2003, he was asked to manage a program for Orphanage Outreach, where he mentored 1,500 college students on humanitarian service.

In 2010, he was asked by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to assist in disaster relief in China. He taught at Ningxia University for four years and did research on the Silk Road, discovering even more evidence of Semitic Christianity in eighth century China.

Early in 2015, he returned to southeast Turkey and Northern Iraq to survey the needs of refugees fleeing ISIS in the region. During this time, he also founded the Seeds of Hope program. 

In 2016, he was elected CEO of a small NGO in Germany to serve refugees who had made their way from Syria to Germany. One of his first official acts was to set up an international law office in Antakya, Turkey, to assist refugees trying to get across the border from Syria. True to form, Father Johnson will return to the troubled country later this month to continue assisting refugees fleeing ISIS.

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