Not your average Joe

Johns stands behind the counter at the Subway located in the Student Union.
Johns stands behind the counter at the Subway located in the Student Union.

He’s 19, he’s been to four continents, and he manages one of the busiest Subways in the state. He’s not your average Joe, but he is Joe Johns, the guy you see every time you buy a sandwich at UAA’s Subway. Johns is only 19, the age of many UAA students, and yet he has already worked his way up through Subways in Anchorage to become the store manager at UAA’s Subway.

“I was 16 and I needed a job so I went to the [Dimond] mall, and I was going to apply for every store that was in the mall, and the first one I picked was Subway,” Johns said.

His first Subway job at 16 helped him work his way up the Subway chain. After being a “sandwich artist” for a year at the Dimond Mall, he was promoted to shift manager for a year. After taking a break from Subway to do missionary work, Johns came back and was promoted to assistant manager, before eventually becoming the store manager at UAA.

For most people, being the manager of people who are older would be a difficult task, but Johns has no trouble working with any of his four employees.

“It’s not hard for me. I’ve never been a typical teenager,” Johns said. “I’ve always been able to relate with adults easily, but when you have experience in what you do, it makes it easy to teach other people no matter how [much] older they are. I don’t pay attention to age difference. I treat them all the same.”

Johns is constantly working, and he estimates that he averages 50 hours a week at Subway. His day as a manager starts with a 4 a.m. wake-up call so that he can be at work by 5:45 a.m. to prepare the bread, cookies and other food items for the day. Johns says the reason he works so hard at his job is because his biggest passion in life is going on mission trips.

“I believe it’s life and death, and it’s so important to me that I would go to another country, I would pay thousands of dollars, work months and months to raise money to go to another country and tell people about this,” Johns said. “I make an effort to tell people here as well, but giving that gift is my biggest passion and that’s why I want to be a missionary.”

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Johns has been on several mission trips already. His first mission trip was to Chicago, and his first out-of-country mission trip was in 2014 to Burkina Faso. He had originally selected Sierra Leone as his first choice destination, but that trip had to be canceled because of the Ebola outbreak. Instead, Johns spread Christianity while also doing service work for the community in the form of cleaning houses and the church.

After Burkina Faso, Johns went to Belgium for debriefing and toured Brussels for vacation while he was there. His next stop was Bolivia, for missionary training.

“I went to Bolivia with an organization called YWAM, or Youth With a Mission,” Johns said. “It’s a college-age organization that sends college age kids overseas and trains them to be missionaries. They have an entire university that is spread all across the world that is called University of Nations.”

Johns was in Bolivia for Discipleship Training School for six months, and part of his training was doing outreach in a different country. Johns and several friends chose to go to Brazil for missionary outreach.

“We went to Brazil, we took a bus the whole way,” Johns said. “There’s a lot of bus systems instead of planes because it’s a lot cheaper and so we would drive for 16 or 20 hours every time we went somewhere. I went to Rio, Sao Paulo. We mostly just helped churches. Most of the same stuff as I did in Burkina Faso, lots of Evangelism with skits and dramas.”

While he was in South America, Johns and some friends went to Peru for vacation, where he toured Cuzco, Lima, and ate guinea pig — something you don’t see offered in the meat selection at Subway.

Recently, Johns went to Israel for a missions convention. While he was there, he was able to see Jerusalem.

Johns is young, and students at UAA often ask him if he is also a student. Johns always replies with, “No way… I work way too much. I don’t need that much stress in my life.”

While Johns has no plans to ever attend UAA, he does hope to get a missionary related degree through the missionary school, University of Nations.

“Each base offers several different classes you can take through the University of Nations. It has bases in Kona, Hawaii or Perth, Australia, [which] are the two largest bases,” Johns said. “They offer the most classes, so it is probable that I will go to either Kona or Perth next. But right now, I’m looking just to save money and do that. I’m not looking to stay in Subway forever.”

He doesn’t plan to stay at Subway forever because his goal is to become a lifelong missionary, but while he’s here he still has his favorite Subway sandwiches to comfort him, which include the BLT, rotisserie chicken with bacon and meatball.