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Apr14WedTV host Maggie John is passionate about finding God's story in the headlines. April 14, 2021 by Helena Smrcek
Maggie John broke into Christian media as an intern reporting for Listen Up TV from New York City on 9/11. She remembers the response of The Salvation Army at Ground Zero.
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“Handing out water and Bibles, they were the embodiment of the church in action,” she recalls.
Now, the first Black female host of 100 Huntley Street steps into her new role anchoring Context: Behind the Headlines, the same program she interned for 19 years ago.
“Never did I think I’d be sitting where I am today.”
If there is one hallmark of Maggie’s career, it’s action. “She’s a powerhouse media professional, passionate about finding the God story in the headlines,” says Cheryl Weber, 100 Huntley Street host and international producer for Crossroads Cares. “She curates important conversations with intelligence and compassion.”
Born in Toronto’s St. Joseph’s Hospital to first-generation immigrants from Trinidad and Jamaica, Maggie grew up in one of the city’s housing projects. Rising from field reporter to producer to on-air talent, Maggie recently achieved another major milestone.
“I’m honoured that I was chosen to be the anchor of Context, and Lorna Dueck (retired CEO of Crossroads, founder of Context) has given me her blessing. It is very important to me.”
Throughout her trail-blazing career, Maggie overcame many hurdles. No stranger to racist comments, such as being addressed as “the coloured girl” or “that lovely Black girl,” she fights against the stereotypes of our culture and persists with strong faith and excellence.
“Maggie broke ground in Canadian Christian media with her comprehensive special broadcast on The Year of The Gun, when 52 people were killed in Toronto in 2005. But the demands on her journey never compromised her No. 1 responsibility of placing her family first,” says her former boss, retired executive producer George McEachern.
A mother of Ethan and Joshua, wife to Elton, Maggie takes her family life very seriously.
“I couldn’t do this without Elton’s support,” she says, “but he’s also my critic, and I look for his feedback after the show.”
Their marriage is a balance of give-and-take. “God has brought us to a great place where we encourage, but also allow each other to be who God wants us to be.”
Maggie’s schedule requires her to travel extensively, and the pandemic of 2020 brought many additional challenges, including shutdowns, school closures and mass protests.
With the help of her passionate and diverse team at Context, Maggie tackles various hot issues, such as the opioid crisis, medical assistance in dying and race. “Every day as I swipe my ID card and enter the building I work in, I carry more than just myself through those doors. I carry perceptions of my culture, past experiences of people’s interactions with my people and the responsibility of undoing negative stereotypes propelled by pop culture.”
Maggie sees Context as having a unique opportunity to challenge the church.
“God wants us to stand up for the oppressed,” she believes. “We’re so bogged down by politics. There’s so much division. People forget Jesus is at the centre of all this. I’m speaking specifically to Christians because there’s a higher expectation put on us as followers of Christ. Being a part of a church community means not to be afraid to enter into hard conversations, to have an open mind, to listen to your brothers and sisters.”
“Our Own Right”
Maggie takes an active role in her efforts to bring about change. She serves as chair of the board at The Meeting House church, is a founder of the Baby Depot ministry, which helps fight child poverty in Hamilton, Ont., and is an active board member of GEMS Girls’ Club, a non-denominational, non-profit, Christian organization.
“Growing up in the 2020s is challenging,” she says. “Girls have always been told who they should be and how to act, but they need to centre their identity on Jesus.” Maggie often challenges women to talk about those same issues.
“We’re God’s daughters, but so often get mired by taking care of everybody else and forget that God has created us with unique talents. He called us in our own right.”
A Better Place
What drives her today is the continuation of her grandparents’ legacy, who lived in a small village in Jamaica. At her grandmother’s funeral, Maggie found out about a scholarship her grandparents awarded to young people in their village so they could go to university.
“They saw past their own 13 children,” says Maggie. “I started to cry, not only over my grandmother but also over this lesson the Holy Spirit was teaching me, about the privilege that we’re given, not to hoard, but to give it away.”
Maggie envisions leaving a better place, not only for her children and grandchildren but also for others, for those who are watching, especially for those who feel they have no future.
“I started my first season of Context outside the Toronto housing project where I grew up. It took somebody to open the door for me so that I can open the door for somebody else, somebody who may be in the Toronto housing, thinking, There is no way that I can be on TV, sit on a board or be a leader in my community.”
Maggie is showing others that they, too, can have a voice.
Christian Media 101
Crossroads Christian Communications Inc. is Canada’s leader in providing faith and values media content for people of all ages, supplying a relevant message of faith for millions of Canadians for more than 50 years. 100 Huntley Street, the flagship television program of Crossroads, was founded by Rev. David Mainse and is the longest-running daily television program in Canada. Context: Beyond the Headlines (originally aired as Listen Up TV) is a weekly national television program and digital content producer, whose mission is to create boundary-breaking media that reveals Jesus. The show explores news and current affairs with Christian analysis by looking into stories and issues that affect Canadian lives.
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