DBU Education Alumna Joy Johnson Serves Next Generation in Burundi

Joy Johnson

In the fall of 2008, DBU alumna Joy Johnson, alongside her husband Jesse, opened the doors of Discovery School, a private Christian preschool, primary, and secondary school in Burundi, Africa. With only 80 students at the time they began, the Johnsons never could have dreamed their school would one day offer education to over 1,200 students, employ over 120 staff members, and touch the lives of countless others.

Joy and Jesse Johnson both grew up in missionary families. Joy spent most of her childhood years in Liberia and Ethiopia, and Jesse was raised in Burundi, Africa. The two met while attending high school at Rift Valley Academy in Kenya, but it wasn’t until Joy and Jesse separately decided to attend Wheaton College, where they both obtained their bachelor’s degrees, that the two got connected. The Johnsons began dating in their sophomore year of college and got married in 2002. Together, they have three boys ages 15, 13, and 10.

The Johnsons moved to Burundi, Africa in January of 2006. Burundi was just emerging from more than ten years of civil war. Because of this, educational needs were enormous. On the church property where the Johnsons were living, there were two old classroom buildings occupied by refugee families. In 2008 those families were able to move home, opening the way for the Johnsons to open a preschool by the request of their Burundian partner church. Thus, Discovery School Burundi was opened, offering education to 40 three-year-olds and 40 four-year-olds.

Discovery School grew in ways only explained by the goodness and provision of God. In 2009, Burundi joined the East African Community, making the integration of the English language vital to those living in the country. After this, the demand for an affordable, English-speaking school soared, and parents began asking Discovery School to add a primary school. As Joy says, “the rest is history”.

Discovery School offers quality Christian education while charging an average of only $33 a month in tuition, while other private schools in the area charge $200-$600 per month. Children learn English, Kirundi, French, and Swahili, are given the chance to participate in sports and fine arts, and have access to technology and craft projects, all while receiving the good news of Christ in hopes of fulfilling the school’s motto: “Rooted in Christ, Ready for Tomorrow.”

Joy attended Dallas Baptist University from 2016 to 2020 where she obtained her Masters in Education Curriculum and Instruction. Joy says “The MEDCI program helped me to improve in each domain necessary to be a good leader and provided the resources and skills I need to keep learning in the years to come.”

Through her time at DBU, Joy was able to expand upon ideas and concepts she needed in order to lead Discovery School with even more knowledge and wisdom. “My academic work at DBU has exponentially grown the knowledge base I draw from to provide effective supervision for Discovery School,” Joy explains. “My calling to serve Discovery School was clear before I started at DBU, and God continues to confirm it each day. However,” Joy continues, “as a result of the MEDCI program, I am now able to serve my faculty better.”

Joy and Jesse care deeply for the lives of each child and staff member they work with. Discovery School aims to provide Christian education for their students and show faculty members their jobs are more than a position, but a calling. The abundant growth of the school is inspiring: “We now have around 120 Burundian staff, 2 part time Kenyan staff, and 4 American staff (all volunteers) including Jesse and me.” Everyone works together to meet the needs of the 1200 students now attending the school. Joy is excited to announce, Lord willing, that Discovery School plans to graduate their first class of students in July of 2022. 

Life across the world differs in many ways, but Joy explains “in so many ways, people are the same.” Joy says, “students at our school have good days and bad days, teenagers struggle with wanting to be treated like adults, but not always making responsible decisions, and little kids give their teachers the greatest hugs.” The Johnsons are thankful for the warm weather in Burundi that allows the doors of the classroom to stay open and makes outdoor play possible.

Discovery School’s constant struggle is the limited resources in Burundi: “Internet is slow, technology is unaffordable or out of date, and craft and art supplies are hard to come by.” The Lord is doing a great work in Africa through Joy and Jesse Johnson. Joy asks the DBU family to be in continual prayer, asking God to make the Discovery School a place the Lord uses “to spread the aroma of the knowledge of Him,” as described in 2 Corinthians 2:14. Pray for the provision of the school’s building needs as Discovery School expands their physical campus in order to reach more lives in Burundi. Finally, pray that the Lord will provide good college homes and jobs for Discovery School’s upcoming graduates.

Written by Emmalie Ellis

Emmalie Ellis writes for University Communications at Dallas Baptist University