Ex-Marine found Jesus, started recovery house that works

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By Mark Ellis –

Jim Glynn

Jim Glynn grew up in Iowa and dropped out of a Catholic college to join the Marines.

“It was hard to study because it had been an all-girls Catholic college up until the semester that I started there,” says Glynn, pastor of Joshua House, a one year, no cost, Christ-centered discipleship program located in San Clemente, California.

Joshua House provides a safe and caring environment for men struggling with homelessness, drugs or alcohol, who are working on rebuilding their lives.

During the Marines’ boot camp, Glynn tested so highly on a written exam they offered to send him to Annapolis, but he wasn’t ready to make that commitment, so he ended up as a basic rifleman at Camp Pendleton.

His battalion legal officer was looking for someone to be his clerk, and Glynn fit the bill. It turned out the legal officer, Captain Joseph Long, was also the minister of music at First Baptist Church in San Clemente.

“He was trying to get me to come to church for probably 10 months, telling me he didn’t have enough male voices for the choir. He asked me so many times I finally said ‘okay’ to get him off my back.”

Before the choir practice, Captain Long persuaded Glynn to attend the evening service, where a young woman named Laura shared about her short-term mission trip in Europe. “After the church service, I went to the choir practice and it just so happened, she’s in the choir. So I thought, well, maybe I do want to be in the choir.”

At the encouragement of the pastor to invite a Marine for Thanksgiving dinner, Laura invited Jim. Soon, the two were engaged and some months later, married on the one-year anniversary of their first date.

Jim and Laura (Facebook)

Even though Jim had attended church in his youth, he did not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

One day a fellow Marine cornered him about his faith as they drove along El Camino Real in a Volkswagen bug.

After a conversation about what it means to follow Jesus wholeheartedly, his buddy said, “Jimmy, are you ready to completely surrender your life to Christ?”

“I said, ‘Yes,’ and we pulled into Jim’s Delta Tire parking lot in the pouring rain, and he led me in the prayer to commit my life to Christ.”

On a men’s retreat in Big Bear, California in 1980, Glynn listened to to an inspiring message from James Cook, the great grandson of Captain James Cook, the explorer who made the first European contact with the Hawaiian Islands.

“When he finished his message, he said, ‘I really feel like God is calling some young men here into full time Christian ministry.’”

When Glynn heard those words, he says his hands started to sweat, and his knees began to knock.

Glynn went forward and committed to pursue a path in ministry.

When he got home, he told Laura what happened and his new sense of calling. “That kind of freaked her out,” he recalls.

Unnerved by the dramatic shift in her husband, Laura met with the wife of an elder in their church and she said, “Laura, you really don’t have to worry, I’ve seen this before. If God called Jim, he’s going to call you too. So don’t worry about it. Just keep on praying and trusting.”

Moving ahead, Glynn answered a call as a youth pastor at the Baptist Church and began attending classes at Biola University.

Later, he became the part-time administrator of Ocean Hills Church in San Juan Capistrano, California, initially earning $500 a month. Recognizing his gift of administration, he eventually became the executive pastor of the church.

Nine years later, he founded House to House Christian Fellowship, which later became Heritage Christian Fellowship in San Clemente.

After 14 years with Glynn at the helm of what became a thriving church, Laura had an unusual encounter with God during a walk at the beach.

”I was walking on the beach and just telling God, how much I love San Clemente,” she told Jim. “And I felt like he asked me a question.”

Do you love it enough to step aside?

When she shared this with Jim, he had no idea what it meant. He was busy preparing for a men’s retreat with 275 guys set to attend.

The next day, while meeting with one of the other leaders at church, Glynn also had an unusual encounter with the Lord. “It was like a light down into my brain or my spirit. God said to me, your season at Heritage is complete.

“Bam! I could barely concentrate to finish the meeting. I came home and I told Laura you’re not gonna believe what just happened to me. And, you know, I think God is saying that whatever he used us for, this is the end of it.”

The elders were stunned when Glynn announced he was moving on. “We had just built a new church building and we were rockin it in every sense.”

But God had another plan for Glynn’s future. He ran into JP Spitz, who operated a Christian drug rehab ranch in Lake Elsinore, California. Glynn volunteered to teach a Bible study at the ranch and later they went to breakfast.

Glynn shared with JP his heart for discipleship, which had led him to buy a duplex in San Clemente, with four men living upstairs and four young women downstairs.

JP told Glynn about a thrift store that had vacated its space in San Clemente. “We could open up a thrift store there and you could continue to do your discipleship ministry,” JP said. “The thrift store could help fund what we’re doing. I can send guys over from the ranch to work in the store.”

“So we negotiated a lease and that was that.”

They rented a house near the thrift store that became Joshua House. “It was a two-bedroom house. And then there was a room that was never permitted, a converted garage. We had two sets of bunk beds in each room, with eight guys. Then I went on vacation and I came back and JP put three sets of bunk beds in the extra room. So we had 14 guys living in this house.”

Fast forward from 2009 to 2016. Obamacare came into place. They said alcoholism and drug addiction were illnesses that would be treated by insurance. That’s when we became what they call the Recovery Riviera, from San Diego to LA. And everyone started opening up recovery homes, and they were not well run.”

Various cities in Orange County began passing laws to restrict the practice, including San Clemente, which created a new category for “boarding houses” — any residence that housed four or more people that were not paying rent.

In October 2016, a city worker handed Glynn a 30-day cease and desist order to close. He learned that if he applied for a conditional use permit, he could remain open. “For four months, I would get up every day at four o’clock in the morning, and work on this application,” he recalls.

“They made me get the property surveyed twice. It was unbelievable what I had to do. They kicked it back two or three times.”

The last hurdle was for Glynn to appear at a planning commission meeting and face any objections from neighbors living within 300 feet of Joshua House. “Everyone hated recovery houses in 2017,” he notes.

Glynn was stunned at the meeting. “All these people spoke and there was not one negative thing. Every single thing was positive — that’s a miracle!”

A doctor stood up and said, “I deal with people who are in recovery. Some recovery programs use other drugs to get people off a drug and it doesn’t work. I’ve watched eight years what they’ve done at Joshua house and how successful they are. As a medical doctor, I’m saying what they’re doing is working!”

One man stood up and said, “Pastor Jim, this program should be in every city in our nation.”

With this overwhelmingly positive feedback, the planning commission voted unanimously to approve Joshua House.

Initially, Glynn taught four Bible studies a week to the men and ran the thrift store, working from 7 am to 7 pm every day, except Sunday. “There was so much stuff to do and I didn’t know what I was doing. I had all these guys. It was just crazy.”

There was a six-month gap between the old thrift store closing and their new store, La Tienda, opening. “The day we opened people pulled down the alley and brought donations. Most people didn’t know Laura’s House (the former thrift store) never closed. We were in the black the very first month we opened. And it’s been that way ever since. For 15 years La Tienda has never been in the red,” he says.

La Tienda Thrift Store

At the beginning, Glynn didn’t know anything about drug addiction, drug testing, or how to help men live a clean and sober life.

A turning point in his understanding came through a young man named Miles. Before they met, Miles ran a credit card theft ring and was a meth addict. After Miles was arrested by the authorities, he spent several years in prison. After his release, he lived at Joshua House and began working in the thrift stores.

Miles became the assistant store manager, then store manager and eventually program director. “He kind of runs the whole thing. He’s brilliant, absolutely phenomenal. He’s the one who said we need drug tests,” Glynn says.

The urgency was apparent when a heroin addict who had been part of the Mexican mafia joined their program. He told Glynn he was not using drugs anymore, but Miles discerned the man was lying. “We’ve got to get drug tests,” Miles insisted, and Glynn agreed.

The drug test confirmed Miles’ suspicion.

Glynn says many of the men who enter their program are “wearing backpacks filled with giant rocks.”

“It’s like they’re trying to drag this thing through life. A lot of them got ordered to DUI school, or were put on probation, or they have child support payments, they lost their driver’s license, they have all these things that when they’re on the streets, they can never fix.

Joshua House participants, staff, & volunteers

“When the men enter Joshua house, we take inventory of their needs. If they need to go through DUI school, we pay for that. That’s huge, because they can’t get a driver’s license until they do that.  If they need anger management classes, we help them do that.

“The goal is no rocks in the backpack. Many of these guys have been in other programs, but they don’t help them do anything like that. That’s what sets us apart.”

After the men leave, the blessings continue. “When they graduate, we help make sure they have a job. When they get their first car, we pay for the first six months car insurance.  We also pay for the registration of the license.”

The money to support all this comes from the thrift stores or donations. Now, there are two thrift stores supporting their efforts.

Because of the success of the program and a rising demand for their services, Glynn asks for prayer to find another house.

Jim and Laura Glynn (Facebook)

“The men have to work the steps, which is huge. They take an inventory of people they’ve hurt, make amends with them, reconcile, that’s part of getting the rocks out of the backpack.

“A lot of their family relationships are broken. That’s one of the most amazing things to see — as God restores those. It’s unbelievable. I mean, literally unbelievable.”

 

To learn more about Joshua House and La Tienda, go here

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