Jeff Nelson
April 19, 2018 10:05 AM

Consider Michelle Williams‘s destiny fulfilled!

The Destiny’s Child singer revealed exclusively to PEOPLE that after a year of dating, she is engaged to boyfriend Chad Johnson.

After meeting at a spiritual retreat in March of 2017, Williams, 37, and Johnson, 40, kept in touch, building a strong relationship through conversations on Instagram, over text message and via FaceTime calls. They took their whirlwind romance public in July; on March 21, Johnson popped the question with a stunning 5-carat engagement ring; and the happy couple plan to wed this summer.

But just who is the star’s fiancé? Johnson opened up about his journey to meeting his bride-to-be.

Austin and Nicole Barkis / Barkis and Co.

He’s a Pastor and Pro Sports Chaplain

Johnson found a passion for Scripture as a teenager when, at age 17, he attended a Fellowship of Christian Athletes Camp. He went on to earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Christian Ministries from Arizona Christian University in Phoenix.

Over the years, Johnson has worked as a pro sports chaplain, leading athletes — including the Arizona Cardinals, Pittsburgh Steelers and L.A. Dodgers — and their families in daily devotionals.

Since 2006, Johnson has run Elevate International, a nonprofit that serves urban youth and families with spiritual retreats. It was at a 2017 retreat for adults that Johnson met Williams.

“I was in a horrible, dark place,” says Williams who had recently ended a relationship and opened up about a cheating ex on The Real. “I just needed to go somewhere where I could get a message of hope and restoration, rejuvenation — get connected to God.”

Chad Johnson and Michelle Williams
Austin and Nicole Barkis / Barkis and Co.

He’s a Family Man

Johnson — whose parents divorced when he was 13 — has helped raise his two nephews, who are 15 and 16 years old. Starting a family, he says, has always been a priority. “The biggest desire in my life is to have a wife and kids.”

After focusing on work for years, he is ready to settle down.

RELATED: Michelle Williams Is Engaged! How the Destiny’s Child Star Found Love with Pastor Chad Johnson

“I was getting ready to turn 40, she’s in her late 30s,” Johnson says of his life before he met Williams. “Neither of us have been married, had children, and I think you just get to a place sometimes where you’re just so career-driven, so focused on what you’re doing at the moment, that it’s kind of a comfort zone. … Both of us were in very similar places on a personal level.”

Chad Johnson and Michelle Williams
Austin and Nicole Barkis / Barkis and Co.

He’s Based in Phoenix (for Now!)

Johnson was born in Colorado and grew up spending time there and in New Mexico. He moved to Phoenix for college, and Arizona has served as home base for years now, though he travels often working as a sports chaplain.

When he and the Believe By Michelle Williams designer first met, he was splitting time between Phoenix and Pittsburgh. But when they get married, Johnson will move to Los Angeles to live with Williams, a Rockford, Illinois, native.

Beyoncé and Kelly Rowland Have Met Him

Williams and Johnson’s relationship grew for nearly three months before they officially began dating in July of 2017. And until that point, Williams had kept it private.

“I didn’t even tell any people I was talking to Chad. I wanted to treat this relationship differently because obviously all my past relationships have failed. I didn’t want to talk about another relationship that possibly wasn’t gonna go anywhere,” says the singer, who didn’t start to introduce her new beau to friends — including fellow former Destiny’s Child members Beyoncé and Kelly Rowland — until they were Instagram official.

But Johnson met Rowland in July, then Beyoncé and husband JAY-Z at the Made in America Festival in early September.

And Williams and Johnson received their blessing from Beyoncé’s mom, too!

“This is my newest favorite couple. They are evenly Yoked. A fine young man. A gorgeous young lady inside and out,” Tina Knowles Lawson captioned an Instagram post with the pair in September.

He’s Heavily Involved in the Wedding Plans — But Don’t Call Him a Groomzilla!

Johnson was gung-ho on getting the ball rolling on wedding planning from the moment he proposed and says he’s “invested” in their big day.

“She was like, ‘Can we just revel in the moment, relish the feeling? ‘And I’m like, ‘Let’s go, let’s go!'” says the pastor. “It’s gonna be … think James Bond-meets-Midsummer Night’s Dream — with a little hood in it [laughs]. It’s gonna be very traditional. We’re doing black-tie. We want it to be small and intimate and very private.”

Both Williams and their wedding planner are impressed with Johnson’s commitment to prepping for their ceremony.

“Chad is very creative. He has great style. I’m excited to have someone who wants to be involved because our wedding planner was telling us sometimes they don’t even meet the groom until the wedding day,” says Williams. “And the day after we got engaged, Chad was like, ‘Okay, we gotta pick the wedding date! We gotta do all this stuff!'”

RELATED: Michelle Williams’ Fiancé Saved Up 11 Years for Her Engagement Ring – See the 5-Carat Stunner!

The Couple Is Proud to Share Their Interracial Relationship with the World

“I’m white, she’s black,” says Johnson. “What a special time for our relationship to be on display in that respect with the tension in the world and in our country.”

And the pair want people to take away a message of patience from their relationship, too.

“Don’t lose hope in love,” says Williams. “I do think you should not focus so much that if you’re not in love that you get depressed about it. … Just don’t lose hope. But definitely be doing what you can do to make yourself a better person for the person that possibly is on the way for you.”

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