This week, I have had the honor of working at the Veterans Restoration Quarters in Asheville, NC, which is a former motel that now houses homeless veterans. I served there on Monday. Most people in our group took the opportunity to go to something different Wednesday than what they worked on Monday. I had such an uplifting, inspiring and amazing day on Monday, I had to go back on Wednesday. What made it so inspiring and uplifting was one veteran in particular.
Joey didn’t always have an easy life or have a relationship with God. He grew up with an abusive and drug- and alcohol-addicted father and didn’t dedicate his life to Christ until he was 15. Sadly, after that, he and his family moved, and his relationship with God began to fade away. Joey served in the US Navy for 5 years, the NC Coast Guard for 4 years, and a volunteer firefighter for 4 years. With all of his service, his relationship with God wasn’t there. Things began to go downhill; he began to drink heavily and became addicted to prescription pills, he partied almost every weekend, and just overall didn’t make smart choices. It was at this point in his life that, as he said, God stepped back so he could learn. He thought he had nothing to worry about because he had a nice house, car, job, and nothing could go wrong. That was until he woke up in a hotel 4 days later with no home, no car, and nothing going for him. After all of that is when he began to rekindle his relationship with God. I was very touched and moved by his story – I told him so. I shared some things with him and, in return, he gave me some very helpful, honest advice that I will take with me forever. One of those was if you’re in a relationship with someone whether it is a boyfriend, girlfriend, friend, husband, wife, peer, and they are affecting your relationship with God, they probably aren’t the best people you should be with and the type of people God doesn’t want us to be with.
I was excited to go back on Wednesday to serve alongside the veterans, and got the chance to talk to Joey more as well as other veterans. Lowell Shelton and James Howe got into a corn-hole game with two veterans, and the rest of us were cheering them on. While sitting on the grass cheering Lowell and James on, I felt a tap on my shoulder – it was Joey. He told me he had something for me and handed me his firefighter badge from when he was a firefighter. At first, I thought he just wanted to show me, but when I tried to give it back, he told me it was for me to keep. I never expected anything and to receive his badge that he wore when he was a firefighter was truly an honor. It will always remind me of the amazing work I did and that I did something great, even though he didn’t tell me why he gave it to me. I will remember the experience I had with Joey while serving God.