One Man’s Journey from Cocaine to Christ

A longer version of this story originally appeared April 4, 2017, in “Behind the Shield,” the online newsletter of The Salvation Army Nashville Area Command:

Raised in Nashville, Tennessee, by a single mother who worked two jobs to support him and his brother, Anthony Holmes often felt alone. The family moved around to several homes during his youth. After his mother remarried with unhappy results, she signed over his rights to the state because he wasn’t willing to move with her to Atlanta.

Always, he found comfort and support – or so he thought – on the streets.

“I hooked up with some people on the street who were in gangs, smoked some weed, drank, partied,” Holmes said. “They were older and when I went out with them, I finally found a place that I could release my hurt.”

Holmes was a good basketball and football player, but he couldn’t stay out of trouble or in school. Eventually, cocaine became his drug of choice, and despair his constant companion.

“I felt like dying numerous times,” he said. “I stared down the barrel of a gun and something just would not let me pull the trigger. I overdosed on drugs, and that didn’t do it. I would drink like crazy, and that wouldn’t do it.”

He had been in and out of prison and faced an extended stay on a drug charge when things finally changed. One day in late 2013, he listened to the preaching of a visiting jailhouse minister – Pastor Robert Scales III, a former alcoholic and drug addict. Holmes was unconvinced. Until later that night, when God paid him a visit.

“The Lord came and dealt with me and told me to repent to the Lord and to apologize to the minister because the Lord had sent him to help me,” Holmes said. “That is the first time that someone stood up in my face and told me whatever god I had wasn’t working, and that I needed to get the real God.”

Holmes turned his life over to Christ. He was finally able to forgive himself and others who had hurt him. A fellow inmate gave him an application for The Salvation Army. Holmes attended a presentation about the transitional housing program and other resources the organization offers.

He left jail Aug. 16, 2014, took a bus to The Salvation Army in downtown Nashville, and checked into its transitional housing program. Holmes needed a job, but he was unwilling to take just anything. Committed to weekly attendance at church, he turned down an offer from a prominent Nashville hotel because it could not guarantee he would not work on Sunday.

Then he found Demos’, a family-owned chain of five restaurants in Middle Tennessee.

“When I was filling out the application at Demos’, I read that they honor and glorify God. And, they would work with me on my schedule so I could go to church on Sundays.”

Holmes started working as a dishwasher. Soon, through promotions, he had earned enough that he began to look for a place of his own, which was not easy for an ex-convict. A friend at church – Holmes attends Pastor Scales’ Jesus Is the Answer Church in Watertown, east of Nashville – offered him a house he had for rent in Murfreesboro.

Murfreesboro is about 34 miles southeast of Nashville. The Lord made things work out: Pastor Scales had found a pre-owned car for Holmes two weeks earlier, and the Demos family had a restaurant in Murfreesboro, and they let him transfer there.

By this time, Holmes was moving up at work. The money was good, but he wanted to do more than just make a living. He wanted to make a difference in others’ lives.

A little over a year ago, Holmes said, “I went to Bible study and Peter (Demos) came up to me and said he wanted to create a new position for me – Ambassador for Christ – and that I should pray about it. I told him that I didn’t need to pray about it because I had already been praying for over a year for it.”

In his new role, Holmes, who is 33, visits the Demos’ restaurants and counsels employees by sharing his experiences and testimony. He also helps them with their restaurant training. Holmes serves as a deacon, ministers in jails, leads a Bible study at The Salvation Army, guest preaches at local churches and shares his testimony wherever he goes. “I’ve gone to probation officers and community leaders. I’ve shared the gospel when I’m at Wal-Mart. I have a real passion for Christ.”

He also is a program committee member for the Army’s Nashville Command. And, he just got engaged. His fiancé’s name is LaKenya Hannah. They met at church and plan to get married Sept. 2.

“I am so thankful for The Salvation Army, because that is where it began for me. The Salvation Army gave someone like me who was hopeless and helpless a foundation and a safe haven. It gave me the resources and an opportunity to get on the right path.”