How God restored one man to fulfill his destiny in the Valley of Dry Bones
Dry Bones Live, a no-cost HVAC training program, helps individuals seeking a new direction in life.
David Barnett came back from the dead in 2021, literally. He said God just wasn’t done with him.
“I lived my own theme,” said Barnett, referring to “The Valley of Dry Bones” found in Ezekiel 37:1-14.
Dry Bones Live (DBL) is what he named the no-cost vocational training program he offers at The Salvation Army Stillman Sawyer Family Services Center in Harbor City, California, to prepare individuals to enter the workforce as a certified heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) technician. Created with young adults and veterans in mind, anyone seeking a fresh start is welcome—especially in a state where HVAC technicians are in high demand.
Barnett knows what it’s like to be at loose ends—and where that can lead. As a young man, he struggled to find a profession, and for a time battled drug addiction. He conquered his addiction for good at The Salvation Army’s Haven program in Los Angeles, which provided both rehabilitation support and shelter for unhoused veterans.
The idea for Dry Bones Live came to Barnett in a dream. He said God showed him Ezekiel in the Valley of Dry Bones and told him he should trust and obey as Ezekiel did.
“As promised, the Lord breathed life into what is known today as Dry Bones Live,” Barnett said.
After launching in 2014, the program was going strong until 2020, when it shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic.
By 2022, it was time to bring the program back to life.
Barnett, however, had died. At least the hospital thought so. He had been battling Legionaire’s disease, a staph infection and eventually septic shock. His body shut down. On Christmas night, his wife, Deborah, received a call.
“We’re sorry. David didn’t make it,” the doctor said.
In shock, she hung up the phone. It immediately rang again. This time it was someone she calls “an earth angel,” who told her he was going to take the sheet off Barnett’s face and asked her to start talking to him.
“I can’t tell you what I said,” Deborah said. “It was God talking through me…All of a sudden they said his head is moving; he’s nodding to everything you’re saying.”
Deborah believes God literally breathed life back into him.
“Even then they still didn’t have hope for him; he couldn’t breathe on his own,” she said. “They told me I had too much hope. But all I had was hope—someone told me, “No, that was your faith.”
Finding life again
Barnett had “withered away,” as he now says. At the time, he wasn’t aware of his condition.
“When I first came back to consciousness, I noticed a big change in my body.” he said. “It was depleted and my skin was all wrinkled and drawn. And I said, ‘Man, I really been through something here.’ It took a while for me to make it back. But through the grace of God, again, I did.”
After leaving the hospital, Barnett recuperated at home for several months.
“Dry Bones Live—the name of the school—it’s restoration,” Barnett said. “In a real sense, God let me know he had power over death, over life, and he brought these dry bones back to life…To actually live that Scripture is amazing to me.”
Once he had fully recovered, Barnett’s motivation returned. He taught one program session in late 2022; another is scheduled to begin in September. Barnett runs his own HVAC business and teaches class two evenings a week. To date, he has graduated 54 people.
Recently, Barnett received a Certificate of Appreciation from the City of Los Angeles for his contribution to the local community. Commissioner Douglas Riley, Territorial Commander for The Salvation Army Western Territory, presented the certificate to him at Territorial Headquarters in Rancho Palos Verdes, California.
“He asks for nothing in return. As a person who came to recovery through The Salvation Army, he is simply looking to give back, with no thought of recognition,” said Piers Fairclough, who submitted the application for the certificate. Fairclough, a Salvation Army employee, also serves on the Harbor Gateway North Neighborhood Council.
Fairclough said Barnett was thrilled to receive the certificate, as he wants to spread the word about Dry Bones Live, which is a 510 c 3 nonprofit business. He has a vision for its future.
Through partnerships and grants, Barnett hopes to provide hand tools for program graduates as he said many employers expect applicants to already have some tools. He’s also working on building relationships with contractors so he can transition graduates into employment.
Another goal is to add more classes, including security guard training and coding instruction. To do this, DBL needs funding to bring in another instructor. Barnett recently joined the Chamber of Commerce to expand his connections within the community.
Along with HVAC training, Barnett said he instructs students on soft skills: how to apply for jobs, how to present themselves.
“I’m mentoring them during the class about sagging pants and being on time—being more acceptable,” he said. “I tell them, it’s your journey. It’s your success that’s on the line, your ability to be financially stable. So present yourself in a way that ensures that.”
A life of impact
Josue Guerrero, an early program graduate, came to Dry Bones Live when he was 21 and unsure what to do with his life.
“I went in there, and the training just opened up a whole window of opportunity,” he said. “It made me feel that I’m capable of mastering anything if I really put my mind and heart to it.”
Guerrero maximized the training, accepting an opportunity to work with Barnett in his contracting business. He did that for several years. Today, he works as a technician at SpaceX.
“If it wasn’t for Dry Bones, I wouldn’t be here,” he said. “You’ve got to have heart; you’ve got to have the willingness to move forward. I guess it’s the perspective of the person taking these courses—it’s a blessing. What I’m saying is, run with it. Take anything you can and it’ll take you places for sure.”
Barnett said the restoration he received from God is what he wants to pass on to others.
“The education that I provide is a form of restoration,” he said. “Restoration from the aimlessness or lack of direction that a lot of my students have. They don’t know where life is going—the winds of life are gonna blow them. They’re just like leaves in it. And so why not take a little control, and put something in your brain that can steer you in a direction that can be successful and rewarding.”
In the end, he said it’s all God.
“God is all good,” Barnett said. “I’m happy that I went through what I went through. I’m happy to be in a place now where I have a great deal more appreciation for my life. It’s really a lesson, a simple lesson: just be grateful.”
- Watch this video to see David tell his story of reclamation and grace.
- Get the Do Good Digest. (Because being a nice human always has a place in your day.) Join 23k+ people who care and get weekly inspiration sent right to your inbox.
- There is a place for you in The Salvation Army. See more in our annual print edition, “A Place of Belonging.”