A Sit-Down with Josh Meadows of Neighborhood Hope

As Part of the Heroes of Change Podcast

Jeremy Turner, Founder & Managing Director of EPIC Mission:

Thank you for tuning in to this episode of the Heroes of Change podcast from EPIC Mission. This is Jeremy Turner, Founder and Managing Director of EPIC Mission and I’ll be your host here on the podcast. We are highlighting the trials, victories, and applied wisdom of our community change agents, unsung heroes, and those who empower them to be the change across Appalachia and beyond. We seek to inspire and equip everyday heroes just like you take on our greatest challenges because together, we are the change. And today it’s an absolute pleasure to welcome my friend and change agent, Josh Meadows. And we’re going to get to him in a second. Let me, let me read a quick little clip about Josh. 

Josh Meadows is husband to Jenny and father to one-year-old Israel. Josh and Jenny lead Neighborhood Hope, which was formerly known as The Abandon Project. Josh has been doing life with forgotten neighborhoods in East Charlotte for the past eight years. He has a strong passion to see the narrative change in the lives of the community. The mission of Neighborhood Hope is to model the love of Jesus to forgotten neighborhoods who deserve freedom from negative cycles. Awesome stuff. Definitely want to learn more about all that’s going on. And it’s been a little while since we talked, but so first Josh, as you know, everybody’s got a bio or LinkedIn profile or something like that, let’s get a little bit more personal. Let’s go beyond the bio. First, welcome to the show. And second, tell us a little bit about you and the work that you’re doing.

Josh Meadows, Neighborhood Hope:

Yeah, Jeremy, appreciate that. I’m glad to be on the show with you and definitely good to reconnect. So part of my bio is I tell people one of my kind of taglines is that I feel like that my pain has been turned into a purpose. So obviously we can talk more about that later. But part of my story is that I was raised in Asheville, North Carolina, Until I was five years old, I had both my parents, they split up at seven. My dad moved to Chicago. So the majority of my adolescent life was spent being raised by a single mother and the village around me and grandparents, coaches, mentors. So I’m one of the kids safe to say it took a village to kind of raise me how that played in was, you know, years later after, you know, moving to Charlotte, found out about this community of kids in East Charlotte, I was in insurance. That was what I did for my day job. And one of my clients told me about, you know, these kids that, you know, met at a church and so I went to speak to them one night and you know, like 45, 50 kids in the room. And I ask a question that would change my life. So be careful what you ask. I said, how many of you guys have your dad at home and out of the 50 kids like one kid put their hand up. So it was this, you know, instant connection. I was a big runner, which meant that not running laps, meaning I could run from anything. You know, I had a male authority in my life that I didn’t feel like cared about me. I would, you know, shut them out or quit or just run away from things. And so instantly I felt this kind of connection to the kids and like, wow man, they are in a similar place as I was growing up. So there was this instant connection.

Jeremy:

 I love it. Do you remember where we met or how we met?

Josh:

 I remember – yes. From the school in Indian Trail, was that – 

I was thinking it was through Cyril Prabhu and Proverbs 226.

Cyril. I thought you said, Carol. Okay. Okay. I knew a lady named Carol. Okay. Yeah. Cyril Prabhu. He did prison ministry. Yes. And I remember you were connected to an organization called The Sandbox. I remember learning about you and The Sandbox through Cyril, yes. 

Jeremy:

Small world. I love the mission and being a father now, I can’t imagine not being around a child. So thinking about what these young people are going through, you know, not having your father around, if you would take a minute and talk about why people listening, why is the work that you’re doing so important and why should people care about this population that you’re serving? 

Josh:

Absolutely. Just to kind of speak to something that you said, you know, you’re a father now. I can imagine because I’m also a new father, my son is, you know, 13-months-old and just this morning, you know, he got up at 5:00 AM and we’re, you know, we’re in the living room and, you know, watch, you know, The Secret Life of Pets 2, for the 50th time, you know?

And so we’re sitting there hanging out and I, you know, I put some worship music on the TV and all of a sudden I stand up with him and I’m holding him and just literally like shedding tears over him, just so thankful to be his dad and just all this emotion and love that’s, you know, coming out of me because, you know, I had that growing up for a little bit, but I can’t imagine, you know, not doing life with my son and as I’ve been a father, I think, first of all, it’s made me realize like, man, if this love it, I feel it’s just a tiny bit of love that God feels, it’s just really doing something to me, man. It’s almost like redemption, you know, coming to my life. And then it even furthers what I’ve done in the neighborhood. It’s like every one of those kids deserves this. They deserve a father who deserves to speak life over them, to speak wisdom over them, to speak blessing over them and to be able to grow up without that, you know, to be able to like try to be a man when you can’t see a man, that’s what I say. It’s hard. And so a lot of these kids have been for all intents and purposes like their dad’s walked away from them. Sometimes the is in the same city, you know, their father doesn’t talk to them. And so, you know, me, if I can make a difference in the lack of the kid, if I can help change the narrative, that means everything to me. And I think that, you know, we could get into like fatherlessness and like really, man, it’s such a massive epidemic. I mean, you know, we’re struggling with the Coronavirus right now, which is real. But I mean, the fatherlessness is the biggest epidemic in our nation. And so I think there’s statistics to back that up. There’s a lot of negative narratives to coincide with that. And so yeah, for people that are listening to this and they’re like, man, like fatherless kids, like why should I care? I mean, by getting involved in, you know, mentoring and stepping in, I call it life on life. You can literally change the narrative for a kid. Like show them things, teach them things, impart wisdom. You know, I can say when I’m on my grass, I should bring a kid and teach them how to mow grass, teach them work ethic, just by work ethic can change a kid’s life. And so, yes, it’s such a heavy topic, it’s such a massive need.

Jeremy:

It absolutely is. And you know, you talked about some of the statistics and some of the studies and reports out there that bear out why it’s so important. And you know, I just remember some of this statistics that I heard years ago that really stuck with me and it’s how many young people, how many young men especially will end up in prison if they also have a father in prison or if they don’t have a father in the picture at all. And it’s a staggering number. You know, what you were talking about just a moment ago was modeling behavior for young people, right? How can you be a man if you can’t see a man? Well, who do they have in their lives? Because as I’m learning, children watch and they see, and they hear, and they absorb everything, they’re little sponges. And so if there’s not a father in the picture, something, or someone is filling that void and who or what is that?

Josh:

Right. Yeah. It’s interesting that you say that too, because you know when you get, when you start getting into cycles and you see, especially generational cycles, it’s a repeating pattern and they repeat what they see. And a lot of times it’s, you know, it goes back to generations of their dad wasn’t there because their dad wasn’t there and then their dad wasn’t there. And so it’s just this repetitive cycle. And in order to break a cycle, you have to set your eyes on something different. And it’s not easy, but being in, you know, neighborhoods and, you know, particularly I work in what Charlotte would label as low-income neighborhoods. I say, overlooked and forgotten because I think it brings more dignity and you know, obviously I realized that there’s a lot of beauty in those neighborhoods. And so, you know, to be in these neighborhoods and, you know, be running around as a kid every day with your friends and the only man that you see, or maybe the local drunk or the man, you know, that used to be in my program that’s now out selling drugs. You know what I mean? You, you see a lot of negative things or you don’t, you don’t see men out there investing in them. You don’t see, gey, let me, young fellow, let me teach you how to play basketball. You know, it’s just like, they’re left a lot of times to kind of like, they’re their own self. Like these kids have to lose innocence and all of a sudden raise themselves, try to figure out what it’s like to be a man in an area where there aren’t any, and it’s such a daunting task, you know?

Jeremy:

Well, if it were easy, somebody else would have done it already, right?

Josh:

Right. Absolutely. 

Jeremy:

And you know, what I hear you talking about is you are seeking to break that cycle because you know, one of the things I say all the time is nothing changes until something changes, right. If you keep doing the same thing, if the neighborhood looks and sounds exactly the same as it always has, has the same cast of characters and nothing changes either by someone within or someone outside coming in, then the same narrative plays out. And so breaking that cycle of what has happened in creating a new narrative of hope for the future. And so, you know, what you’re doing is it’s bigger than you, and it’s bigger than any of those kids. And we were talking to societal impact, you know, I mentioned this real briefly as I was reading your intro paragraph, you lead Neighborhood Hope, which was formerly known as The Abandon Project. Can you talk about that transition and maybe a little bit more about where that original name came from and where you’re going now with the new naming?

Josh:

So The Abandon Project was a 501C3 that I started prior to working with the kids. It never was actually intended for the kids. It was a speaking ministry that I had started and I love the word ‘abandoned.’ You know, it was kind of like calling people into a life of willful surrender. I used to say, listen, God’s not holding a gun to your head. You know, he wants us to willfully surrender. So it’s kind of this whole project that traveling, speaking to youth churches, and just calling people into like a willful surrender. Then when I found the kids already had a 501C3 established, and at the time, you know, I tell people, you know, my son is African American. I played football with African American guys. They were my best friends, you know, Mars Hill College, where there was, you know, a Hardee’s and a stoplight. So we all just hung out all the time and, you know, spent time together. But it’s amazing how little of the culture, I really knew in these neighborhoods. And so, you know, over time, you know, as I got to know the culture and even have people tell me like, hey, Josh, like this word, you know, The Abandon Project, like, you know, technically the kids have been abandoned and technically people label their housing as projects. Like, don’t you think we can do better? You know? And you know, I think that for a while, because maybe it was my baby that I just was like, well, you know, it’s edgy. It kind of, I mean, what will the work we do is messy. The name’s messy, this is just messy ministry. And so I think over time, okay, particularly as I got to know the culture better and started to add more diversity and just, you know, as I earned trust, I started asking people like, hey, does this thing bother you? You know? And the kids will be like, well, you know, Josh, we know your heart. Like, we know that you’re here. And you know, you’re not like coming in with white savior complex or anything like that, but I think we could do better. And so, you know, a couple months ago we were in a board meeting and we prayed before the meeting was like, God if there’s anything you want to say, that’s not on the agenda, just make it happen. And sure enough, my board chair was like, so what about the name? And I was like, oh, here we go again. You know? But this time it was different because I have a lady named Ms. Mimi that lives in the neighborhood that’s on my board. And immediately at all the people in the room, I looked at her and I said, hey, I need your honesty. Like tell me, what do you like being honest, what do you think? And she goes, she goes, Josh, there’s nobody that you work with that doubts your heart, you know, and what you and Jenny have done and what you have built. It’s beautiful. But she goes, imagine the people that don’t know what The Abandon Project is, and imagine the van with the name, The Abandon Project, driving down the road, people are passing by and they see little black faces staring out the window. And when she said that, I was like, okay. I was like, I’m in, let’s change it. And you know, a secret of marketing right, is tell what you do and make it clear, you know, Donald Miller, if you confuse, you lose this. So it’s like, let’s just be clear. And so we just made a decision that we needed to change it. I was tired of having to explain away the negativity of it, tired of having to put taglines to make people explain that we’re, you know, were abandoned in cycles, not kids or whatever, you know? And so that’s how we came up with Neighborhood Hope. It’s very simple. We’re a neighborhood-based ministry. We go into neighborhoods and we build relationships. We become family with the people that live in there. Once we become family and earn trust, we then can be a bridge or resources. So we’re bringing hope, Neighborhood Hope. And so it just stuck. So we’re in the middle of kind of this rebranding right now. 

Jeremy:

Well, I think that’s part of the natural evolution of organizations, right. You know, there may be people listening to this that perhaps they’re going through the same thing that you’re going through right now, or maybe they’re fighting with the stages of development for their own organization and so I appreciate you sharing, you know, The Abandon Project was a period in time and it served you well for a period of time, but then looking ahead at the next chapter or the next, maybe the next several chapters in the life span of your organization making an adjustment is logical, right? Because it switches from the negative connotation of abandonment and the projects or a project like, you know something that you have to work on to the more positive nature of hope and neighborhood-based ministry. I think it’s brilliant. And no, I appreciate you talking about, you know, some of the struggles that you went through with The Abandon Project being, you know, your baby and how easy it is for feelings to get in the way, or an ego or own feelings, attachment issues to get in the way of making an adjustment within an organization that is designed to serve many.

Josh:

Right. Absolutely. 

Jeremy:

So you know, good stuff. I appreciate your sharing that I want to switch gears just a little bit and go back to something that you said earlier, you talked about turning your pain into a purpose. If you want to, can you dig into that a little bit more and share more about that phrasing? 

Josh:

Absolutely. I believe everybody has a calling. I believe everybody has a specific purpose. And I believe that that specific purpose, I mean, we could say that, you know, maybe God had ordained this from the foundation of the world, but I believe that your specific purpose is to be discovered. It’s almost like it’s a journey when you come into this world, you don’t really know it when you’re in you know, a lot of times your teens, you don’t really know it when you’re in your 20s. Sometimes you’re starting to really figure out who you are, but then you look back, you know, and you realize how much you’re story as an adolescent, as a child really affects who you are today. Sometimes that’s good. Sometimes that’s bad. Sometimes it’s hard to really revisit those places. But I believe a lot of times if you want to find your purpose, I think first thing you got to lean into your pain. Why, you know, this is interesting. Funny story. So you’re familiar with Beth Moore, the female Billy Graham, right? I had a weird encounter with her at the Houston – So I tweeted at her. I tweeted her and I was like, you know, I think I just saw you eating pizza, very weird. I didn’t, I, you know, unusual tweets, well, my phone rings and she tweets back and she’s like, yeah, this is my favorite pizza place. I love this place. She was like, where are you? Ha you know, it was like, well, no worries. I’m walking to my gate, enjoy your pizza or whatever it’s very awkward, you know, conversation. But it was cool that she responded back. So I’m sitting at my gate and I’m the first person and I’m like, did I miss my flight? Like whatever. So all of a sudden, like she comes walking down the hall and it’s just me and her, you know, to the more I look back now, it was like this moment that God ordained in my life. And I remember she put her phone down, she faced me and so I began telling her about, you know, growing up and, you know, I was working with these kids in Charlotte and her eyes got big. And she was like, oh my gosh. It was like, Psalms 30:15. And it was like a verse on redemption, like in the Lord, there’s full redemption. She’s like, hey, and the phrase from her and it was the first time that I was able to be like, oh, so the reason I tell people to lean into that is there’s so many people in this world, and I know that there’s somebody going through the exact same thing that you did and you’ve come out on the other side of it. So now you have – because I’m in a store to be able to go back and pull up. So stuck in that place who are going through that hardship. So, yeah. I mean, I truly believe that you know, I’ve got a friend that was an alcoholic for years. Like nothing could shake this guy. Like he would always fall back into alcoholism and really struggle with it. And then one day he was like, I need help. He went to this place in Black Mountain, he got help, and now he’s working – He’s been clean for three years and his whole life has changed and he’s working with – 

Jeremy:

I think I lost you there for a second. 

Josh:

Can you hear me? 

Jeremy:

Yep. Good. 

Josh:

Okay. Alright. Were you able to capture the last part? 

Jeremy:

You were talking about the fellow who went to Black Mountain? 

Josh:

Yeah, yeah. So I had a friend that, you know, struggled with alcoholism and literally man, just cycle after cycle, after cycle just went back to that place. There was one day he finally said, hey, I need help. He checked into a facility in Black Mountain. First time he had ever asked for help, he went through the program, got out, got clean. Now he’s at a rehab facility and he works with people who are just like him and his pain became his purpose. And three years clean, not a drop of alcohol. Like it’s amazing to think he’s finally clean. He’s been married, just bought a house with his wife. And so I believe that there’s something to you know, kind of finding your story and your pain and being able to help people that are in that same situation.

Jeremy:

Yeah. That’s a, there are so many interesting stories out there. And, you know, in my work, I get to meet a lot of different people who are at different phases of their lives. Some people have discovered their story or you know, they’re beginning to lean into it. Finally, others are still on that journey. Right. And so you know, I appreciate you sharing a bit more about your story and then tying into what other people think that it seems like that’s something that we’re taught to sort of run away from pain.

Josh:

Right.

Jeremy:

You know, we’re taught the lesson, you know, you touch a hot stove once, but you don’t touch it a second time. But when that pain is emotional pain you know, we find, I think at some point that we need to lean into it as you were saying so that we can find healing and we can find our purpose. And through that purpose began to really serve and pour into other people. Because I can imagine for you, you have a spec, as you said, you’ve got a special connection to these young people, because what they’re going through right now with not having a father around, you experienced that yourself, it wasn’t something that you read about, or that you watched a movie on, or, you know that you just woke up one day and said, hey, I think I’ll go help these kids, even though I don’t know what they’re dealing with. You know, you’ve got a very authentic connection. And so it seems it’s important for others, you know, have those pains, whatever those pains might be to go out and find their population to go shepherd and serve or walk alongside or do life with. As you say, when you use that phrasing do life, what does that mean to you do life?

Josh:

Well, Jeremy ho hold that one second. I think, I think I was, as you were talking, I was thinking as well, that I think that you can take your pain and find purpose. And I also think, you know, on the flip side I have volunteers and even a staff member that had a really good family growing up and they’re coming out of that place. Will I, you know, I know what it’s like to be parented really good and how to be a son. So I want to help kind of pour that onto the kids. So I think that my journey is that I had to kind of look to my pain and find purpose, but I think also some people’s story will be different and they had something beautiful happened to them when they’re younger and they, you know, and that place. And so I think, you know, just to be careful, I think, I think it can come out of both sides. You know, for a lot of people, it’s, you know, trauma turned in into healing, into beauty for others, they have very beautiful experiences and they want other people to have that. So I think that’s important to note that my story won’t be everybody’s story and vice versa. Yeah.

Jeremy:

I appreciate you picking up on that and clarifying yeah. 

Josh:

Sure, and life on life. You said earlier, their life is very, it’s very messy. Life is hard whenever you, in your life that might not be great, but also you have stuff that might not be great. I feel like a lot, it’s when you’re consistent with them, it’s when you go beyond the surface level of like, hi, how are you doing? I’m great. Praise God, thank you. You know, it’s real-life where there’s there’s mess and hurt and pain and, or to be fully loved is to be fully known, you know, to be fully known as to be fully loved. And so when you get beyond the place of just the casual greeting and being able to enter into the mess of it, I feel like that’s kind of the message of Jesus in a way is that, you know, one scripture was that He came in, loved me at my worst, you know, like, and so if you love and He can love me as I get better. And so I think that when I assembled, when I say life on life, it’s really, you know, walking into these kids’ lives and being consistent and not running when it gets hard or when it gets messy and leaning into that. And all of a sudden by, you know, leaning into that, you see healing come and you see strides being made. That’s supposed to come from these relationships. You’re not just trying to, you know, put on a smile and act like everything’s great. 

Jeremy:

Yeah, so it’s about getting real, getting past courtesy of hello, how are you? Love it. You said something just a moment ago about when things get hard. You and I both know that work in the nonprofit space and in ministry is difficult. So if you would talk about when things have been tough and why you persisted, why did you give up and what kept you going?

Josh:

Yeah, so there’s so many different, different stories I could kind of speak to right now. One of the things that I feel like my wife and I, you know, we’ve made a lot of mistakes, but I think one of the things that we did well was we really wanted to be close to the people that the neighborhoods that we work in are government-subsidized housing. So we weren’t able to move into the neighborhoods themselves. So we rented a house near the neighborhoods and there was a low-income apartment complex in my backyard across the street. It’s funny. I used to have this little scooter and I’d just ride around in the neighborhoods and just, you know, they would be like, oh, Josh is crazy. He’s riding up in here in a scooter. But we just started really getting close to, you know, the communities. And so on the street that we lived on there was not at all the worst, you know, part of Charlotte. I mean, it wasn’t that bad. We had two bad houses on the street. There was a meth lab right across from my house. And there was another guy who I’ve gotten to know that sold drugs and his kids actually came to our program. There was a small amount of time where the meth lab got busted up and the guy that was across the street, he got murdered in his front yard. And so really, really tough times and, you know, my family and everybody was like, oh, you guys need to get out in there. And it was kinda like, man, we’re, it’s sad to say, but we’re kind of more, they where, you know, we got our house broken into, I came home one day and, you know, stuff was all over the floor, got our house broken into and there were times where you were like, man, I’m newly married. Like, you know, I have a wife who is gentle and delicate. And so I have to be careful with her, but I, you know, we stayed just, we didn’t feel like we should just like, get, have a spirit of fear and leave. So that was pretty tough. I’ve had kids that have been in the program that have shot people. I’ve had kids that have got shot, you know, just being seen a lot of brokenness. I came outside one day and one of my neighbors was pulling his girlfriend down the road by the hair. He’s like, what do you know, what are you doing in that situation? You know? And so there’s just so much brokenness. One of the guys that went, you know, to jail on a manslaughter charge, he – shot the guy and killed the guy and went to jail and I remember one time and when our programs, his name, you know, I won’t say his name, but I went up behind him and, you know, put my hands on her shoulders and just, you know, said, hey to him, it was just, just hanging out with him. And he came up to me and he goes, Josh man. So when you came up behind me earlier, when I was sitting down and put your hands on my shoulders, he was like, I just felt this like, I felt that I felt like I felt the Holy Spirit, Josh. It was a really cool, you know, and just having those moments, you know, where it’s like, I still remember that, you know? So yeah, say that, you know, and then, and then you have, you know, little things where two weeks ago, this is eight years and two weeks ago, I’m driving a 15-passenger van down the road. And one of the kids decided it’d be funny to punch me in the nuts while I’m driving down the road. It’s like, I’m not making this stuff up, man. Like, you know, so just everything that we have saw, I mean, it’s yeah, it’s tough. It’s a lot, a lot of moments in there. A lot of pain, a lot of hurt. You know, one of the things that, that that you spoke to a little bit ago, you’re working in a community where people living there don’t necessarily look and sound just like you, they don’t have the exact same background as you in many ways. And so you spoke to culture. What are, for those of us who may not be intimately familiar with culture in neighborhoods like those in which you’re serving, what do we need to know? What are some of the greatest learnings and lessons that you’ve learned that maybe you can pass on so that we can understand where you’re working? Yeah, for sure. I think just to speak a word on culture, if you’re a leader, if you’re a business person, if you’re, I’m at any place of authority to really try to understand the background and the stories of the people that you work with, or the neighborhoods that you serve, learning culture is such an important thing if you’re going to be a leader. So the culture that I work in, we serve too low-income neighborhoods in East Charlotte. Right now 99% of my kids are African American in the city of Charlotte right now, there was a study done by Harvard Business. We are the worst city in the nation that if you start in poverty, you don’t get out; only 4.4% of people that start in poverty, whatever, escape it in our city, which means that the people that I, that you know, that Charlotte beams in poverty are the people I work with. I don’t label them that the city does. So that means that the people that I’ve, you know, these beautiful families and kids, that I’ve got a chance to just call my family, to look them in the face and to know that their systems and stuff that has been set in place that prevents them from ever getting out. It’s so sad. You know, if you walk into, if I could virtually walk you into one of our neighborhoods, you would, you know, see kids running around playing jump rope and playing tag, shooting basketball, you would see trash everywhere, trash, everywhere, laying around. You would see some people in the, you know, in the breezeways of buildings, you know, getting high right in front of everybody. You would see some older guys out there laughing, having a good time, cutting up with each other. So really, you know, there are some, you know, negative stuff, but it’s also some really beautiful things in there as well. I mean, I grew up in Leicester, North Carolina, which is no stoplights. I saw every star in the sky growing up, very beautiful place. My neighbors were very spread out. So if you asked me if I could be a kid and wake up next to 15 of my best friends every day and play basketball and hang out and play tag every day, heck yes, man. That would be great. So there is a lot of beautiful things in the culture, but obviously there’s that doesn’t come without saying that there’s a lot of negative cycles as well. 

Jeremy:

Yeah. I think, you know, we, as human beings, we fear the things we don’t understand and that’s that fear results in fight, flight, or freeze mentality. You know, we either fight it, we push it away or we actively work against it. We freeze and do nothing or we, you know, we run away. And so I appreciate you digging into something that, you know, you don’t necessarily, didn’t necessarily understand the, continue to gain understanding and your point on, on leaders seeking to understand culture by understanding, you know, the real lives they’re human beings, the souls that they’re working with is sage advice. I appreciate your sharing that. What is it, let’s fast forward a few years, a few decades. And you’re looking back over the work that you’ve done with Neighborhood Hope, what’s the legacy you want to leave behind and, you know, what do you want people to take away from your story? 

Josh:

Absolutely. Yeah. I yeah, one of my visions is to see these communities and a lot of them, you know, it’s so funny. A lot of them are very similar. So whenever you have what the city deems as low-income neighborhoods and you have community that are fully African American, it doesn’t matter what neighborhood you look to in Charlotte. There’s going to be a lot of similarities. One of the things that I want to see, you know, my vision is to see these neighborhoods set free, that they are beautiful, beautiful people with a strong culture, and they’re worthy, you know, to live apart from these cycles. If we’re 15, 20 years down the road, my dream is to expand our presence in neighborhoods all across Charlotte. There’s a massive need, not only in these neighborhoods that we’re starting in, but neighborhoods that we haven’t yet, you know, to visit into contact. And so, as we, as we’re scalable and we’re smart, and we begin to replicate what we’re doing, I want to spread that. And I want to see the City of Charlotte rise out of the last city in the nation. You know, getting people out of poverty. I want us to move up the chain. It would be really cool. One day Baltimore and New Jersey. And some of these cities are like, hey man, what are you doing? Like, what is it that you guys are doing? And I think that it can be done and what I’m trying to accomplish, you know, it’s something that I can’t do alone. You know, it’s going to take partners, businesses, churches, individuals, to come together in a rally behind this band. So it’s going to happen. I’m excited about it. And I think, you know, my kind of my big legacy and the thing always think about is, you know, when I take my last breath, who’s going to be around the bed. You know, he was going to be around me. What about what have I done in my life that, you know, that matters? And so just, you know, being able to see all these, these kids who are now adults and faces, it’d be so cool to just, you know, spend that last moment with them, obviously in my family, just, you know, just doing something that sticks that matters, I think is what really drives me.

Jeremy:

Well, I’ll let you know, I love your drive. And, you know, as you were talking about this legacy piece, it was cool to see you light up, because I know that you, you can see it. It’s, you see it in your mind’s eye and it’s real. And I don’t doubt that you’re going to, if you’ve already achieved great things and making the impact that you have on even one person let alone the many, many that you have. So, you know, the name of this podcast is the Heroes of Change. The tagline for my company is Guiding the Heroes of Change. So when you hear that phrasing Hero of Change, what does that mean to you when you hear that phrase? And why is it important for everyday people like you and I to get up and go do something in the world? 

Josh:

Absolutely. Yeah. It’s so funny that you asked that question right now because I was just thinking there was a time where I was in insurance for 10 years. I was an insurance agent, very flexible. So I was actually, you know, selling insurance and working with the kids at the same time. And my passion began to grow for the kids. And my, you know, I became very passionate, less about insurance, you know, in that battle. And I see a counselor, you know, for multiple reasons. Like one of the reasons is like, hey, how do I not get offended? How do I not take things personal that have nothing to do with me? And you know, just working through that. And I remember one day he looks at me and he goes, Josh, you know, similar to what you just said, he goes, when you talk about insurance, I just see this gloom come up. But yet when you talk about the kids and the nonprofit and everything, like your face lights up. And so he goes what’s your exit plan because at that time I was doing both and I go, I don’t have one. He goes, get one. He’s just like very aggressive, like getting one. So the next time I, you know, my boss came in, I just said, hey, I think I’ve got to quit, man. Can you give me six months to get my stuff together? That was my plan. It wasn’t a plan. It was just a spontaneous, like I got to quit, you know? And so I think, you know, just realize that I’m an ordinary everyday insurance worker. You know, and I found something else I was passionate about. And so whether, you know, whether you have a job and a family or, you know, whether you want to pursue your passion, I think, you know, being able to have something in your life that you’re passionate about, where you’re using your gifts and abilities to impact another life. And you know, a lot of times we think it’s about, oh, you know, we need to help this person and we need help change this person. What we find when we’re making a difference, when we’re becoming an agent of change, when we’re pursuing our passion, what we find is it changes us. Favorite scripture chapter, Isaiah 58, and it says, when you go fight for those who can’t fight for themselves, healing comes in you a light break forth, it breaks forth in you, you know? And so I think that maybe I went into just wanting to help change the kids, but I feel like, you know, God did something to me, you know? And, and so I think, I just want to encourage people like by getting outside of yourself and blessing somebody else or fighting for somebody who doesn’t have a voice or fighting for somebody that, and if I, for themselves, like it is the greatest sense of purpose that you’ll ever find in your life. And everybody wants purpose. Right. We’re built for it, hungry for it. And so, therefore, everybody needs to do something, that’s worth purpose. 

Jeremy:

Good stuff. Yeah. I love it. So my hope is that there are people that are watching when the video comes available and listening to the podcast that they’re on their journey to find their purpose, somewhere along that continuum of I’m beginning to realize that I need to go find it. I don’t know what it is or all the way to those people who have found it and fully embraced it. What words of encouragement or words of advice might you give to other Heroes of Change out there that are somewhere along the way? Maybe some lesson you’ve learned or some word of encouragement for them? 

Josh:

Absolutely. I think that, I think to be able to tell people, take a risk. Take a risk and be, and don’t be so hard on yourself. If you don’t know what your purpose is, start trying different things until you find it, you know, go volunteer at a soup kitchen, you know, go work with somebody that’s doing something with kids. It’s, you know, whatever you can do to just start getting outside of yourself and you might go through five or six organizations or do five or six different parts, tier things, it’s still not fine. But then when you find it now, you’re like, oh, this is it. Like, this is where, like, I feel a sense of belonging. And it’ll make it all worth it. So just even getting to the place where you start, you know, writing in your journal, hey, these are the things I’m going to try after work the key here, I’m going to, I’m going to go do this for one-hour a week. I think taking baby steps and just not giving up. If one thing doesn’t click and keep trying until you find something that either relates to you, your beauty, or relates to your pain. And once you find that it’ll help you come alive. So take the steps, take a risk.

Jeremy:

Love it. Take a risk, step out, and don’t worry if step one, doesn’t work out, take the second step, and embrace your beauty. Embrace your pain. Reach out and share that with others.

Josh:

Absolutely.

Jeremy:

Yeah, love it. We could talk all day and I’d love to, maybe you can come back on for a second episode or, and or maybe I can come visit you in Charlotte and you can take me around and show me what’s going on. Let me meet some of these beautiful people. In the meantime, though, if listeners wanted to learn more about you and the work that you’re doing, how can they do that? 

Josh:

Absolutely. We are in transition mode right now. I’m going to give you our current website, which is theabandonproject.org, and the new website that’s coming out is going to be neighborhoodhopeclt.org. So those are going to be the websites either one of those should point you to the new website. So you can that’s, that’s the website, our Instagram handle is Neighborhood Hope For CLT, that’s our Instagram. Right now on Facebook, we’re still under The Abandon Project, but you know, pretty soon you’ll be able to just Google Neighborhood Hope Charlotte. Okay, cool. Email, josh@theabandonproject.org, you know if anybody, the listeners have any questions, just want to talk, I would love that. 

Jeremy:

That’s great. You know, I do hope that those who are listening, if you feel called to reach out to Josh and, you know, talk through your situation because I know that he’ll listen and offer some advice and just talk things through with you. And you know, the journey of being a ministry, work, being a nonprofit, work can feel exceptionally lonely at times. And so, you know, seek connection. And if you feel a connection with Josh, reach out, you’ll love him as much as I do. 

So that’s all I’ve got for today. Josh, you survived. So I appreciate you being on. So, everybody, that’s all for this episode of the Heroes of Change podcast from EPIC Mission, we hope that you’ve been inspired by something you heard today because together, we are the change. Tune in next time, as we dig into the story of another hero and learn what they do, how they do it, and most importantly, why they do what they do. In the meantime, take care, stay encouraged, and we’ll look forward to seeing you next time on the Heroes of Change podcast from EPIC Mission.