‘The heart of a Barnabas’
From sleeping in a cardboard box near Skid Row to receiving The Salvation Army’s highest honor for a non-officer, Envoy Joseph Moore has come a long way.
By Lizeth Beltran –
A booming voice rang throughout the auditorium. Its owner, Joseph Moore, stood six feet tall, welcoming those in attendance to Sunday morning worship at The Salvation Army’s Bell (California) Shelter with a beaming smile.
As the shelter’s former assistant director of urban ministry, Moore is someone many there look to for guidance and understanding. Mention his name to anyone at the facility and they’ll respond with a smile. During his 25 years of service at The Salvation Army, Moore helped countless individuals on the road to recovery. His wealth of experience made him indispensable, but it’s his relatability that draws people in.
“Before I came to the Salvation Army, I was living in a cardboard box right across the street from the Harbor Light Center by Skid Row in Los Angeles,” Moore said.
The Louisiana native fell upon hard times when a college drinking phase evolved into an addiction to other drugs. Growing up in Louisiana, Moore said drinking was something everyone did, but few acknowledged.
“You could drink every day, but it was something that no one ever talked about,” he said.
Moore eventually dropped out of school and made his way to California. He married and started a family, but his volatile relationship with alcohol and drugs continued.
He drove buses for 13 years before his addiction cost him his job, and after many court visits, landed him in prison for drug possession. Once inside, he soon realized something about life behind bars.
“You can either go with the guys that aren’t interested in God or the ones that are,” Moore said. “So I went to Bible study.”
Once released, Moore struggled with recovery, quickly relapsing and landing back on the streets. He knew he had to change his life. “I was sleeping in front of Harbor Light, which I didn’t know, and I said to myself ‘I have to pray now and ask God for help.’”
Moore looked to the sky and saw one word: salvation. He made his way to the bean line where The Salvation Army served the homeless on Skid Row two meals a day and asked for help. That turned out to be the right move.
Moore completed The Salvation Army’s Harbor Light recovery program and became a chapel attendant. The rest is history. He worked his way up from chapel attendant through various positions, eventually working as a case manager, and finally as the assistant director of urban ministry. He established a worship service at the facility and guided those who sought help.
“He has the heart of a Barnabas,” said Envoy Roy Snapp-Kolas, urban ministries director for The Salvation Army Southern California Division. “Barnabas was an encourager, and [Joseph] continues to encourage people—that they can live a lifestyle of recovery, that it is possible if it happened to him, it can happen to them.”
Fred Johnson, a Salvation Army soldier, said Moore helped him through one of the most difficult times in his life. Johnson suffered two strokes in consecutive years.
“I couldn’t move my arms for one year, and I walked with a cane for two years,” Johnson said. “Joe visited me every day and encouraged me to keep going.”
He also assisted Johnson after he was released from the hospital for cancer treatment with no place to call home.
Johnson said he especially loves Moore’s preferred response to anyone entertaining the thought of returning to a life of substance abuse. “He always says ‘You must be crazy!’ when he preaches at Sunday service,” Johnson said.
He always has a knack for being able to leaven serious moments with humor when guiding new clients at the shelter. According to Snapp-Kolas, it’s just one of the ways he serves others with his own unique style.
“He’s had an impact on the lives of more people than what we’ll ever know,” Snapp-Kolas said.