Three Transformations For a US Marine

imagejpeg_0The stern-faced magistrate stared at eighteen-year old Josh Lee in his closed- quarters room. With all the charges the young man faced, the Texarkana, Texas judge could have put him in prison for several years.

The future looked bleak. Of course, the past hadn’t been pretty either.

His mother married the man who became his stepfather when Josh was two. The man was an alcoholic and used drugs.

“The only way my dad knew how to act was physical. It went from a spanking here and there, to every day when I was little.” Later the abuse came from blows from broomsticks and electrical cords. Josh still carries some of those scars today.

It left him with a lot of questions. “Why would someone adopt me and treat me this way? Why doesn’t my mother stop this?”

As he got older his anger erupted in drugs, violence and crime. “By the time I was 15, I was on the streets and started doing drugs really bad,” he says.

Although his grades had been excellent, he lost all motivation in that direction. At the beginning of the 10th grade he was arrested for the first time on drug charges. He was kicked out of school in Texas, but allowed to go back his senior year.

At home the situation worsened. He wasn’t there often and when he was the violence level of the fights with his father escalated. “My dad, he was a rough guy,” he says simply.

But the judge offered an alternative that day in court: he could enlist in the US Marines. The choice was easy. Best of all, his record was erased.

Transformation #1—The Marines

He left home with the insult of his father stinging him. “The last words I heard my dad say to me were, ‘I’ll see you in a few weeks because you always screw everything up.’”

Once in the Marines, he could have continued in the direction he was going, but strangely they revolutionized his life. He excelled.

“When I got to the Marine Corps basic training they could still put their hands on you. It was screaming, yelling, and cursing. I was used to that. I thought, ‘I’m ready for this.’

“I was told all of my life I’d never be anything. The last thing my dad said was ringing in my ears. I said to myself, ‘You know what? I’ve actually been given a chance to turn this thing around. I’m going to take a chance. I’m going to do the best I possibly can in this Boot Camp.’”

He ended up finishing first of all the recruits in camp and followed that by excelling in combat training and specialized training. He was promoted to Sergeant in less than three years and was even named, “Marine of the Year,” one year.

“I picked up a lot of structure, discipline for myself,” he said. “There was an initiative in me that had never been there before. I learned to obey without knowing why the order was given. There’s a lot of qualities and character that the Marine Corps unlocked in me.”

Transformation #2-THE Girl

While he was stationed at Pensacola, Florida something else happened that proved to be more earth-shaking in his life, than even joining the Marines had been.

He met THE girl.

At the time a remarkable revival was going on at a church in Pensacola. All that was off Josh’s radar screen but one night when he and several buddies were leaving to go to a bar, he realized that he had forgotten something. He ran back to his room.

“This soldier came in and said to me, ‘I know you’ve got friends. I don’t have friends. I just got saved. I’m getting baptized tonight. Would you come see me get baptized?’

Josh was taken aback, “I was hard. I’d be the first to knock you out. But I’d pick you up. I wanted to tell him ‘no’ but I just couldn’t. I made all the rest of the guys go with us. I told them, ‘We’re going to church,’ and they’re like, ‘What?’”

Because they were military they were ushered in the back door and got good seats up front. Thousands of people rushed into the building that night. A youth group from Pennsylvania who had camped out in front of the church in order to be sure to have a seat, sat right behind them.

A young lady named Shauna sat behind him so he turned around and started to talk to her. He simply saw a beautiful young lady. He didn’t know that she was going to be his wife.

They began to write to each other every day and talked on the phone when he was in USA. Because of his job they actually saw each other only three times and got married the third time.

“We were 20 and 18,” he says. “We raised each other. She was the beginning and the catalyst of a lot of things changing. She was raised in the Pentecostal church.”

For the three years they were married while Josh was still in the Corps, Shauna’s relationship with the Lord cooled. She still went to church occasionally. Most of those three years Josh was deployed elsewhere and they might go months without seeing each other.

“It came time for me to get out. Our first daughter, Tristen, was born while I was on the foreign field. I didn’t see her until she was 7 months old.

“God really put it in my heart then. I started desiring to have a family! I spoke to Shawna and she said, ‘I support you whatever you want to do.’”

The Marines offered all sort of inducements for him to stay in but things were changing in Josh.

“Something clicked in me. Did I want to build the Marine Corps or did I want to build a family that’s going to be my heritage and my legacy beyond my life? I decided I wanted what I didn’t have and I wanted what I didn’t know anything about.”

Transformation #3—Earth-shaking

Life didn’t get easier once he was a civilian again.

“I’m out and not knowing what to do because it’s like taking someone and stripping their whole life away in a moment. Everything they had fought for. Everything they believed in was gone. I was totally empty.

“I couldn’t find a job. My skill set didn’t fit. It was like they were saying, ‘We don’t need anybody killed or disappearing,’” he smiles.

Alcohol had always been a problem but now it gripped him like never before.

Then Shauna came to him and said, “Life is worse for me than it needs to be. I’m going to stand behind you no matter what, but I’ve got to go back to church. I really feel that’s why a lot of things have happened because I know this to be true and I haven’t done it.”

Josh had no objections. “I always felt like there was a God. I didn’t go to church. Maybe I went in a couple of times and listened but there was nothing there. I believed in a Creator. I’d heard about Jesus but all I knew was Easter bunnies and Santa Claus.”

But something was happening with Shauna. “Over a three-week period I see this tremendous change in my wife. It’s like exuberant joy. Her countenance changed and I could tell. It started bothering me. My wife was getting satisfaction from somewhere else.”

All the while Josh would sit in his front yard in the evenings, listening to country music and getting drunk.

“One Saturday night, I convinced myself that she was cheating on me. I trailed her the next day. I got up and followed her in my truck. I had to fight myself to walk into that church. It was Sept 9, 2001.

“I walked in and looked around, then I squeezed in beside her and she said, ‘What are you doing here?’ And I got offended immediately. I was feeling like, ‘Oh, yeah. What? Is there someone here you don’t want me to know?’”

But, when the pastor started preaching things changed. “It was like everyone else in that room was absent and God gave him a spotlight on my life,” Josh says. Some of the stuff I heard him say, he didn’t say. I went back and listened to the cassette.

“It was like he took my life and God put it in front of him and the Holy Spirit changed his words so he could speak directly to my life. I had been leaning over and saying to my wife, ‘What have you been telling this man?’”

“Josh, I’m a face in the crowd. I come and leave.”

“How does he know all these details about my life?”

“Maybe it’s the Lord,” she responded.

When he finished the message, God spoke to Josh bluntly the way he was used to hearing it in the Marine Corps. “It’s heaven or hell.”

“Something hit that day. I went down to the altar. I didn’t know what to do.”

The pastor said, “What do you need?”

“I didn’t know what to say so I just said, ‘I’m going to go to hell and I don’t want to go to hell. Whatever it takes so I won’t go to hell.’ He talked to me, we prayed and I felt this burden lift.”

He asked the pastor if he could stay in the building that afternoon so the pastor locked him in until people came for prayer that night. God spoke to him that day and he began to feel that God wanted him to preach.

The next day he was praying at home and had a powerful visitation of the Holy Spirit in his life.

His life changed dramatically. “Before, I couldn’t sleep more than two hours. I drank, smoked and cursed. Immediately when I accepted God it was like he reached in and took that vocabulary out of my mind. Alcohol was gone as well as the cigarettes. I had an immediate deliverance.

“I slept so much the next two days. Monday I was in bed until 10:30 am.”

Tuesday, though, his wife called from work. “Turn on the television.” It was Sept 11, 2001. He saw the Twin Towers collapsing. His blood boiled.

The Marines called wanting him back.

“I prayed. ‘Lord, I’m at an impasse. I believe you saved me. I know this is real. But I also know you don’t make deals. If by Friday I don’t have a job, I’m going back.

I’m going to take that as a sign.’”

Yet he knew that if he went back he would probably backslide.

“So Friday comes. I put my uniform on. I was going to make a call to Little Rock to tell them I’m coming.” When his hand touched the doorknob to leave, the phone rang. It was a representative of Raytheon, a Department of Defense contractor.

“We want to interview you about a civilian job today.” He was hired and went to work for them at the Red River Army base near Texarkana.

He worked there for 3 ½ years. “I made it my goal to talk to everyone of the 250 people working there.” And God did some special things in many lives.

But, the call to full time ministry still rang in his heart. His job paid well but once again God spoke, “You ‘re going to do this or you’ll live a life that’s so unfulfilled and unsatisfied. You can take the money or you can take the ministry.

“I walked away. It was the best decision I ever made. Then fulfillment came.”


The family today

Today Josh is pastor of Cornerstone Assembly of God church in Atlanta, Texas. He has three kids—Tristan, Jacob, Jeremiah and two foster daughters Hollie and Hayley.

He hasn’t forgotten where he came from. He spends a lot of time playing basketball with young men from his city and he’s quick to let them know there is hope. The Lord changed his life drastically.

God brought him from abuse to respect to the faithful love of a woman. Then He revealed His Son Jesus in him and that made all the difference.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *