It took five businessmen at a church in Charlotte, North Carolina, to set Juan Nelson on the path to new life.
That was no easy task: Juan had just arrived in the Queen City seeking recovery from a nagging drug addiction. His criminal record scared away potential employers. But after he joined a ministry geared toward renewal through spiritual means, his life began to change.
“The men in my church imparted a lot of principles,” Juan said. “Instead of telling me how to do it, they literally put their arms around me and showed me how to do it, how to change.”
The process was slow and required a solid dose of humility up front, but soon Juan was hired in a supervisory role to help clean Harris Teeter stores.
“It taught me how to work for someone else and humble myself,” he said. “It taught me how to be on time. It taught me how to pay my bills.”
Juan soon wanted more, so he pursued an entrepreneurial endeavor: He founded his own moving company. Life was good. Juan had plenty of money flowing in. He could afford a nice place to live, and he provided plentifully for his wife and kids.
But there was a downside, too. Because he hadn’t experienced that level of prosperity before, he spent too much and didn’t save enough, eventually leading to trouble.
That’s when he and his wife decided to move to Raleigh — and when he discovered StepUp Ministry, a nonprofit in the capital city that teaches financial, life, and jobs skills to the disadvantaged. (Read our Grantee Profile of StepUp Ministry here.)
Juan went through StepUp’s Life Skills class. Along the way, he earned $650 from the ministry for a deposit to lease a house in the area.
“That single action changed my life forever,” he said.
Another factor that changed his life: Juan’s co-partner in the Life Skills program, a man of a different color and different background, but who still provided valuable insight.
“Somebody who did not look like me and did not know where I came from taught me how to live better,” Juan said.
Passing it on
Juan ended up selling his moving business in Charlotte. He joined StepUp Ministry in 2010, and today he works as a case manager for the Life Skills program. He’s blessing others with the same blessings he received from the ministry early on.
“When God wants to bring wholeness to your life, He wants you to be free in every area,” Juan said. “That’s why I love StepUp so much — they bring you to a full level of wholeness in every area.”
He emphasizes the importance of application. “The only difference between me and the students is application,” he said. “The moment that you start applying the principles that you’re learning, that’s the moment your life starts changing.”
anger management and how to keep a job.
In addition to his work at StepUp, Juan is an ordained minister and is in the process of planting a church in southwest Raleigh. One day, he hopes to go into full-time pastoring and become a philanthropist.
Like the five men who first set him on the path to new life in Charlotte, Juan wants to help others. “I’ve come full circle with my family, my career, and my ministry,” he said. “Now, I want to help people have jobs, build businesses, and walk with God.”
To learn more about the John William Pope Foundation’s support for humanitarian charities like StepUp Ministry, click here.
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