Dry Bones Live: A story of reclamation and grace passed down and paid forward

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David Barnett found himself in need of new work after vocational training he received in the Navy became obsolete. Over the next few years he struggled with drug addiction and ended up homeless and hopeless in Miami, Florida. 

David wrestled with recovery over the years, but through The Salvation Army’s Haven program for Veterans, he was able to turn over the battle to the Lord. He took what he learned from his own trials and began to practice the call of 1 Peter, “Use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” 

Mr. Barnett created the DBL (Dry Bones Live) Vocational Training Program to help students earn an EPA Certification for HVAC Systems. Seeing the value of his course, The Salvation Army Stillman Sawyer Family Service Center opened its doors to the program. 

Now, Mr. Barnett uses his technical skills to help pull others from the muck and mire that he himself waded through for so many years of his own life.

Below is a transcript of the video edited for readability.

Speaker 1: I came from Mississippi, like that homeless [feeling] it seemed like when I first got off the bus, when you don’t have no money, no nobody, the first place they send you to is downtown Los Angeles.

David Barnett: I was a functioning drug addict for a while, but if you indulge you’re gonna eventually indulge more and more and that’s exactly what happened to me.

Speaker 1: Skid Row was an island ain’t no walking out. For two years, I’ve been out here all day long, raining, all kinds of temperatures, when people supposed to be inside, you know? And I lost it.

David Barnett: Instead of paying my bills I would indulge in drugs. I gave up and gave into it and found myself homeless.

Speaker 1: I was beyond what I could do, you know? I want to give up. I just got up one day and I just felt like, “How did I get here?”

David Barnett: I woke up one morning and wanted to go give some blood, so I can go get some drugs. I was walking down the street towards the blood bank and I heard a group of young men singing and praising the Lord but I found myself not able to move. I had to just stand right there listen to this praising. I guess one look at me they knew that I was on drugs, [that] I was a drug addict and they invited me in and they started pulling out food.

It touched my spirit that these guys would see this in me. It just really touched me, the love, as a result. I stayed there instead of going, moving on and getting my fix.

When I look back on it, I know it was God trying to reach out to me so that when the time was right and I really had drugged myself enough through the muck and mire I would come to him for help which ultimately was the sustaining remedy for my drug abuse.

If I could come from the adversities that I’ve had to face, maybe I could help somebody else. I’ve been blessed with mechanical skills I could share with others. In that, I saw myself as being a tool of the Lord to try to bring forth a better way of life to young folks who are struggling for focus and direction and give them a future and a hope. 

Speaker 1: When I got into The Salvation Army for the Dry Bones program, I was going there for food pantry then there were fliers on the wall, so I went up there because I saw some of our partners and jobs. Then I saw training, I was like, “it sounds good.

Immediately, I thought it was gonna be all this paperwork. No, he pulled up a part, “Look up in here.” The pipes, you know, the evaporator condenser. And he’s showing it to me—there’s no way now I could never go anywhere and see that and not know what that is and that kept me going

David Barnett: DBL is a 501c3 nonprofit that has been established as a vocational training center in the field of air conditioning. I started kicking the idea around at the Salvation Army Stillman Center and next thing I know I’m signing an agreement to have the class there.

Speaker 2: Before the class I was actually working for See’s Candy. I didn’t really know what my future was gonna be like so I was just pretty much winging it. He actually offered us to do some intern work. It’s been about 2.5  years now. I  know almost everything there is to air conditioning and heating.

David Barnett: The waste that occurs with really bright young minds through gangs through violence through drugs if we could just redirect that energy into something positive I know it to work. The one main thing I see about the students that come in here, and they’re hungry for a purpose, and the direction. They actually absorb this knowledge and you can see that they wanted for themselves.

Speaker 1: This is my second time there, and this is her first. I seen that she was interested because she was doing more of my homework than I would. Right? I asked and I said “you know what I think you would be good for this” and you know I just took it for a dry run she met Mr. Barnett and you know he’s so welcoming.

Speaker 3: Whoever gave him a hand up left their mark. I see him, you know, when he’s didn’t go in the part of the HVAC that you know he loves he really genuinely wants to share that it’s important to him and she walked away from his class you’re gonna have a piece of knowledge that nobody else can take from you you’re gonna have an opportunity to make more opportunities for yourself.

Speaker 1: I think it’s special for anybody to want to help you do better. You want a person you find a person that really wants to see the better view. That’s the blessing within itself.

David Barnett: This was the inspiration for the DBL vocational center that’s what it stands for Dry Bones Live. “The hand of the Lord set me down in the midst of the valley and it was full of bones and he said to me, “son of man can these bones live?” so I answered “Oh Lord God you know.” Again he said to me surely I will cause breath to enter into you and you shall live then you shall know that I am the Lord.”

Speaker 1: Mr. Barnett suggests with the basic knowledge that we’ll have coming out of class that will be eligible for the electrician union. So I’m gonna take that EPA, apply that and then I’ll evaluate my options within the Union. I mean you can only solve for that.

Speaker 3: The sky’s the limit.

Mr. Barnett’s course provides vocational training at no cost to the students. 

To find out how to share your time and talent, contact your local Salvation Army.

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