"At age ten, I was an alcoholic. When I was fifteen I got alcohol poisoning and that’s when I started using drugs. It went for years with the drug abuse and it scaled from marijuana to cocaine and to different narcotic pills. I was arrested in Michigan in the middle of nowhere and I lived in Florida - 2,000 miles apart.” Karl’s story opens like something you might hear in a movie. “I did some stuff that I should have gone to prison for.”
Where can you turn when you feel like you’ve burned all of your bridges? Is there anyone who will still take you in and help you through this horrible situation you’ve gotten myself into? For Karl, these questions hung over his head every day. From a very young age he had experienced some incredibly difficult circumstances. The consequences followed him for the majority of his early adulthood.
Yet, in the middle of this pain and all of these poor decisions, Karl felt God moving in his life. He had a strong sense – a calling – that God wanted him to be a preacher and share the good news about Jesus with people who needed to hear it.
Karl was aware of God’s presence, even when his life was at its worst. He had been living on and off the streets for several years, being exposed to many difficult situations and seeing things that most people would never believe. At the same time, he had faith that he would not be there forever.
Karl turned to The Salvation Army after one particularly difficult episode of homelessness. He had heard about The Salvation Army and found himself walking through that part of town when he decided to walk into the office. After meeting with him and developing a plan to help, a counselor with The Salvation Army helped Karl move into an apartment and paid his first month’s rent.
“You just paid my first month’s rent” Karl recalls telling The Salvation Army officer. “And I have nothing to do. He said that I could come back tomorrow and help shred some papers.”
The Salvation Army did more than help Karl find a place to live. They recognized his servant heart and willingness to help out in any way that he could. Karl continued to come back to help around the office and eventually began attending church services and participating in Bible studies at The Salvation Army as well. God had been faithful in protecting Karl through the years, and through the relationships with the people he met there, prepared a way for Karl to become a minister with The Salvation Army.
“To be homeless, you have nothing to be responsible for, but to be a pastor of a congregation of people who are hurting, of people who are in need, people who may be experiencing life-threatening illnesses and the only person they have to turn to is you… that’s powerful.”
Karl continues to serve as an officer in The Salvation Army, ever faithful to God who has been faithful to him.