by Todd Gobeille
As a child, Josh didn’t mind getting kicked out of class for acting out. The beatings he received by his Mother and Step-Father often times left him unable to sit down in his chair at school. When he acted out and was kicked out of class, he could go out to the playground and lay face down in the grass.
“I didn’t come from a normal happy home life like some. I had it’s ups and mostly it’s downs. I got pinched for the first time at nine-years-old for stealing. Started early I guess. My mom is an alcoholic, so naturally that left me with a lot of alone time. Time that eventually turned into trouble.”
His grandparents eventually stepped in, took custody, and showed him love for the first time in his short life. He also received new Reebok Pump tennis shoes. Having nice things was something he wasn’t used to. It felt good.
“My grandparent’s (house) was my safe place to go when things were bad for me. It was my safe place. I was loved there. I lost my grandpa in June of ’91, and then, on Dec.11th ’91, my grandma was shot and killed by my step-father. He held my mom and aunt at gunpoint. So at twelve-years-old I knew more about death and pain than most people I know.”
After the death of his grandparents, his life became a fight for survival; there was no safe place for him. Over the years, the level of crime would escalate – as would the violence. Josh began feeling pressure from rival gang members who wanted him dead, and continued to party and live recklessly.
“I went from stealing bubble gum to breaking and entering. I was a driver. I just did what was needed. I ended up with more beef over bringing dope into neighborhoods than I did over colors.”
He felt he had to show that he wasn’t the weak link because he was white.
“I always wanted to be the first do dirt. Once you get that rush, you go into a mode… it’s hard to stop when set in place.”
As time progressed, he was not proud of what his life had become, but he kept going. Pushing dope changed his life, but the empty feeling remained.
“My crew was made up of homies I grew up with. Now, most of those homies are dead.”
One night at a party, he went into the bathroom and looked at himself in the mirror. As he looked at the reflection of a worn down drug addicted criminal, he heard a voice inside tell him, “Party up. Enjoy it while you can because tonight’s your last night.”
Josh shook off the words and went back out into the living room to party. More booze and drugs flowed before they all decided to leave to another party.
Somewhere along the way to the next party, their truck swerved off the road and threw Josh out of the vehicle into a tree.
When he woke up from being unconscious he realized what had happened. He saw the wreckage and tried to get up and help his friends, but when he tried to get up he realized that he could not feel most of his body from the waist down.
Doctors told him he would never walk again.
Life didn’t get any easier for Josh. The anger, drug use, emptiness stayed with him.
“I knew God, but didn’t care.”
But God sent him an angel.
“I met my wife who helped bring me back to the Lord.”
One night, after going on a long drive to the coast, they sat and talked until the sun came up. After hours, they got back into the van and tried to start the car. It didn’t start. The battery was dead from leaving the lights on. Frustrated and not knowing what to do, his wife said maybe they should pray about it. Although Josh thought that wasn’t then best idea, they did. Immediately after, they saw headlights behind them and a car pulled up. When the stranger came to their car window, out of the blue, he immediately asked, “Can I tell you about Jesus?”
Needless to say this blew them away.
“I still fight daily, but not outta hate, to be the man that God wants me to be.”
Today, Josh is a youth pastor at his church and a prospect for Gorilla Gospel Motorcycle Club in Eugene, Oregon. He is still paralyzed from the waist down, but has never been more grounded in life and in faith than ever. With the help of modern technology, he drives the “run truck” for the motorcycle club and is now building a hand controlled Harley trike.
His full length life story/testimony was published in the book, “Crossing the River”.
To learn more about Josh or to ask him questions, contact: www.gorillagospel.com and send an e-mail addressed to Josh Stonecker.