I had stopped under the train trestle on 8th Avenue to rest. I remember seeing this piece of newspaper floating through the air and thinking … that’s me … tattered, worthless … old news.”
Sitting there, Ken was approached by a homeless man who told him he could get a meal at Nashville Rescue Mission … a short distance from where he was sitting. Maybe it was pride that kept Ken from leaping at the chance of a hot meal. Whatever it was, Ken had no idea his prayers were about to be answered.
“Growing up had more downs than ups,” shared Ken. “My parents were divorced. My younger sister and I bounced around with our mom, eventually moving to Minnesota. One day, my stepdad decided he didn’t want kids anymore. My mom took us to DHS and left us there. I was in the 6th grade. We spent time in foster care before our dad came to get us and moved us to West Virginia. I hated it and kept running away. One night he packed my stuff and put me on a bus back to Minnesota.”
It was summer and Ken was expected to work on the farm. His stepdad thought it would be cool to give him beer at lunch. Trouble was, Ken was 13, and after drinking, he struggled to work. This made his stepdad very angry.
Eventually, Ken went back into foster care where he would spend the next four years.
“I was 17 when I was placed with a single woman,” shared Ken. “I struggled with anger, and one night it scared her. She called the police. I had an altercation with the officer and landed in a juvenile detention center. Four months after I turned 18, I was released.”
Afterwards, Ken struggled with addiction and sought treatment. Three years had passed when Ken hitchhiked from Minnesota to Memphis … finding refuge with his dad once again. Ken settled down. He got married. Two years later his daughter was born, followed by a son soon thereafter. But after seven years the marriage ended.
“I was a horrible husband,” said Ken. “Thankfully we are good friends now, but it wasn’t that way for a long time.” After his divorce Ken could never seem to find a place to call home. He hitchhiked between Nashville, North Carolina, and Mississippi… his habit still going strong.
After not seeing his kids for a least a year, Ken was on his way back to Mississippi when he stopped in Nashville.
“As I watched that newspaper fly around I felt lost and lonely,” said Ken. “I had not spoken to anyone in a week and had not eaten in three days. The night before, I slept at Bicentennial Mall. I didn’t know how to pray, but I do remember saying, ‘God, if you’re real, I want to take a shower, lay in a bed one night, and eat something.’ I was so hungry, I finally swallowed my pride and made my way to the Mission.”
While in line, a chaplain asked Ken about his story. “I didn’t know what to say, but the next thing I knew I was in this room with a bed, a shower, and a sack lunch with 3 sandwiches.
Then it occurred to me … ‘This is exactly what I prayed for.’ God answered my prayer. It wasn’t how I had expected Him to answer it, but He did answer it.”
The year was 1998 and Nashville Rescue Mission had a program outside of Nashville called Mission Acres. Over the next four months Ken’s life changed dramatically—starting with accepting Christ into his heart. He developed a close friendship with Paul Rose, who managed Mission Acres.
“It was just before lights out, I was reading my Bible, when I heard my name over the intercom saying I had a phone call. I hadn’t told anyone where I was … and yet my daughter was on the phone saying, ‘Hi Daddy.’ I melted.
I had been praying every night for my children and to reconnect was a blessing and a miracle.
“Sadly, I messed up right away after finishing the Mission’s program,” said Ken. “I had moved back to Mississippi and was working construction. My second day on the job I was smoking pot with the guys. I wasn’t drinking, so I thought I would be okay. But within three months I was drinking all the time.”
Overcome with shame, Ken left. This time to Memphis. He slept in his van and worked day labor jobs until he had saved up enough money to pay for a room. Eventually he landed a good job and moved into a nice apartment. He stayed free of drugs and alcohol. Life was good.
“Then I learned my ex-wife had remarried. I have no idea why it bothered me so much. I didn’t leave my apartment for entire month … ordering pizza every night. After 30 days I knew I would be evicted because I couldn’t pay the rent, so I left.”
Ken called Paul Rose. With Paul’s encouragement, Ken went back to Mission Acres eight months after completing the program. “I hadn’t touched drugs or alcohol in months … but my mind was messed up.
I stayed another eight months, and each time I would start to leave, Paul found an excuse to keep me there. Eventually, I accepted a position working at the Mission and started on April 1, 1999.”
Ken has spent the last 18 years serving men who much like himself, were once homeless, addicted, and alone. His progression from supervising the warehouse, to directing activities for the men, to scheduling work therapy at the Men’s Campus, to his most recent promotion to Director of the Men’s Life Recovery Program speaks volumes to those he serves. Ken frequently refers to this as “nothing short of a miracle.” His passion for helping those in crisis is like the light that illuminates the city on the hill—offering hope to those in need. “I’ve been blessed to work at Nashville Rescue Mission for the past 18 years and have grown and experienced so much here.”
Over the years, Ken has still encountered his share of ups and downs, but having a relationship with Christ has made all the difference. “There are days when I can hardly believe where I am today. It is an honor and privilege to share the love of Christ with men who are standing where I once stood. If my testimony can give them a little hope, there’s no telling what God is going to do in their life. He still performs miracles every day.”