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VW Joe

“VW Joe” Finds Compassion From Mission Staff, Clients

Jan 30, 2019

Joseph, a self-described motorhead, wrote for car and motorcycle magazines for 25 years. “I went all over the world,” he said. “I saw some of the great races and great tracks. I wrote about any racing you want. If it had been invented, I’d seen it.”

Joseph says he was a “professional gypsy. I did without a lot to live the way that I did. I got into a (Volkswagen) bus so I could travel and live and work out of it. The long hours, publishing deadlines, eating poorly—I started drinking too much to deal with the pressure of it all. In 1994, my insides came apart and I almost bled to death. It took two surgeries to put me back together.”

In addition to his health challenges, Joseph was laid off from his consistent weekly writing assignment, the one that always paid the bills. “They didn’t even use the word thank you, after giving them 25 years of my life.”

Joseph grew up in an abusive family, and after a particularly challenging phone call with his father, Joseph reached his breaking point. “I went to the biker bar around the corner and I started drinking,” he said. “After a couple hours of that, I felt like I really didn’t need this world anymore. I basically made the decision to put a gun in my mouth. About 30 seconds later, one of the regulars, she walked in and sat down next to me.”

That woman became an important person in Joseph’s life. “Never was there a cross word spoken between us. Never was the word ‘love’ used. It wasn’t that. It was life itself.” But after four months in one another’s lives, the woman moved on. “The time she was in my life was really the only good I’ve ever known in my life. I have a black hole inside of me from when she left.”

It was five years later when Joseph started his journey with God. “On April 21, 2000, I walked into the old Harley dealership looking for a carburetor. Thanks to the Christian biker who was working behind the counter, I left with God instead.”

Joseph, who now lives in his van, started taking advantage of some of the free meals the mission distributed at churches around town 10 years ago. “Going to churches has been pretty rough for me,” Joseph said. “I don’t fit in very good. But the mission has always been good to me. They’ve helped me a number of times with food. I used to come here to take showers until my knees got too bad to get up the stairs.”

Joseph, 71, said he’s grateful to have “found people who always have a good word for you, like these guys here,” he said of the mission staff and clients. A woman from a local church used to bring Joseph dinner. She recently died in a motorcycle crash. “These guys stepped right in. They’ve been bringing stuff down to me in this brown paper bag, and they’ve written a scripture on the side of it. That makes me feel good. … I still have a very hard life. The guys know me and the dark days that I have. But I never stop looking to God. I’ve never once told him I don’t want him anymore.”

Every morning, Joseph texts his entire contact list a link to a Gospel song and some of his thoughts. Some of the mission staff, like Director Jon Bronkowski, receive his daily touch. “We are happy Joe is trusting God and checking in every day,” Jon said. “There is not a one-size-fits-all approach to ministry, and we will keep helping Joe where he is at. We love and value Joe, and I’m blessed to call him a friend. He knows the mission is here when he needs it.”

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