I am one of four children. My mother is a recovering alcoholic and my father struggles with a heroin addiction. I know they both love me. However, their problems created what I can only describe as a destructive lifestyle. As a result, our family has been spiritually and emotionally devastated.
From as early as I can remember, we were evicted from apartment after apartment. At age 15, I started working to help pay the rent and other bills so our home could have some semblance of stability and security. Eventually, we moved into a house.
That house was the first time we were able to plant some roots, so all things considered, it was a happy time in my life. I had school friends and even a crush on Carly, a girl who lived a couple of houses down the road.
But just like always, that stability and happy time was short-lived. My father started to secretly keep our rent money to support his addiction; the same destructive cycle raised its ugly head again.
In time, all our utilities were cut off and we received yet another eviction notice. Having no money and nowhere else to go, my father broke into the basement of the house so we could have a place to sleep.
As we slept one night, we heard a knock on the door. It was a police officer. He immediately escorted us out of the house; he forced us to leave behind everything that we owned. I left little of real financial value, but a lot of sentimental items from my childhood. Later, I found them in a dumpster—broken and destroyed.
When I reflect on that night we were evicted, I remember something else the officer did. He paid for a hotel room and a pizza so we could eat and stay together. In the midst of the most demoralizing night of my life, his amazing act of selflessness would later impress me greatly.
At the time the officer evicted us, I viewed him as someone who was destroying our lives. But when I became a man, I began to see his selfless act of compassion as something that dramatically redirected the course of my life.
I am forever grateful for the kindness that officer showed my family. I can only assume that he was also the person who gave my dad contact information for The Salvation Army Family Caring Center because that’s where we found ourselves the next day.
Food to eat, a place to sleep
To be completely honest, I hated the circumstances that found us living in a homeless shelter. Back then, it was easy for me to feel ashamed and victimized. Now as an adult, I see what my child’s eyes missed; thanks to The Salvation Army, I had food to eat. We ate breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Much to my surprise, the food tasted good and the meals were hot. I had a sense of security knowing that the constant threat of eviction was behind us. Rather than dread people knocking on the door, I looked forward to it.
Someone else held my father accountable for his behavior, which lifted a huge burden off my young shoulders. I was able to see the benefit of a structured schedule. Our lifestyle shifted completely from the chaos that I knew.
Something else that seemed small at the time but impacted me later were all the trips The Salvation Army provided. I went to baseball games, museums, and parks. These outings allowed me to be a child; something I so desperately needed.
For sure, the biggest blessings The Salvation Army gave my family were renewed relationships with each other. Without the Family Caring Center, we would have surely been put into foster care. I can only imagine the inevitable cycle and rift of separation that would have taken place among us all. But because of The Salvation Army, my father received helpful resources for housing. This helped us remain the strong siblings we are today.
Sharing our story
At present, my wife and I have recently started sponsoring monthly birthday parties for the children at the Family Caring Center. Throughout the past three months, we’ve had the privilege of getting to know and seeing firsthand what an amazing job Envoy John Barnett, his wife Envoy Nancy Barnett, and all the staff are doing at the center. The amount of compassion and heart they have for each family who enters the building is truly remarkable.
We continue to share with parents and children our personal testimonies of how God transformed our lives. In life, everyone is faced with mountains, giants, and storms. Actual trials and circumstances will look different, but the One who brings us victory over them remains the same.
I stand here today because of the grace of God and my faith in Jesus. God used what I once saw as the most devastating and terrible times in my life, to save, strengthen, and bless me more than I could have imagined.
My story is just a tiny paragraph in a giant book full of testimonies that tell how God uses The Salvation Army to shine a light on people who are living in spiritual darkness. I give all glory and honor to God. It is only by His grace that my eyes were opened.
I also thank Carly, the girl who lived down the road from me when I was 15. Although we lost touch with one another when I went into the shelter, we later reconnected in our 20s. Today, I am honored to call her my wife. She has stood by my side through the worst storms and when circumstances seem impossible. Her love is truly unconditional.
Then there are my children, Elijah and Isaac. Because of them, I am reminded daily to be a better man. I know they are looking to me to lead them.
And finally, I thank The Salvation Army Family Caring Center for giving my childhood family the help, resources, and opportunity to stay together during hard times.
by Josh Linder