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550 || Building Tables, Rebuilding Lives

I haven’t been sober a day in my life since I was 13.”

The man David Palmer spoke with was in his mid-30s, and he drank and consumed drugs as much as he could every single day. Despite having a family that depended on him as father and provider, he lived in isolation, spending most days in his room by himself.

This man is just one of many in the Indianapolis area dealing with poverty, addiction and homelessness. And the more David got to know these men during his time on the board of Wheeler Mission Ministries, a homeless shelter in Indianapolis, the more he noticed a theme.

“I would ask guys how they were doing,” David said. “So often, the answer was, ‘I’m looking for a job.’ And I heard that over and over again and felt sad for the guys and thankful I had a job. After a while, it occurred to me that I ought to pray about that and learn in my own, personal life, that when I run into things that are bigger than me, it’s a good time to ask God about it.”

So David prayed, asking God what He thought about these men in need of jobs. He also asked if God had something for him to do about it all. Laughing, he said he was hoping God would say no, to just keep on doing what he was doing. 

But God didn’t say no. Quite the opposite, actually.

A New Mission

With the support of family and friends, David decided to try an idea he had seen online: using old, wooden pallets to create furniture. He thought he could employ some men to design and make the furniture, using the revenue from their sales to fund their jobs.

“It wasn’t a Harvard business plan or strategy,” David explained. “It was the result of a simple prayer.”

After fixing some hiccups like switching from wooden pallets to used lumber, David and his team hosted a small open house in 2014. They brought prototypes of the furniture and asked for the advice and support of friends and family gathered.

And so began Purposeful Design. Growth started through word of mouth, but soon Purposeful Design caught the media’s eye. David and his team have now partnered with more than 15 local organizations that specialize in helping those find jobs. 

Finding Faith

But David wanted to do more than simply hire and train men to create beautiful furniture. He also wanted this organization to help men grow in faith. So each morning they hold a prayer meeting, and every Monday they host a Bible study. Nearly everyone at Purposeful Design attends.

“They’re really hungry for (faith), we’ve found,” David said. “They’ve been knocked around or they’ve knocked themselves around so much that they’ve really bottomed-out and are looking for a new way of living, and for some, answers. Most of the guys we have here are believers, followers of Jesus. Some are not, and we welcome them and love to have them here, too.”

Throughout the beginning years of Purposeful Design, David saw families reunited, bills paid and faith restored. Because of the progress and success, he wondered how he could reach more lives. He couldn’t employ every man without a job. They had hired the 13 men their finances could support. But David knew more could be done.

“After prayer, we decided to launch a school so we could impact more lives,” David explained. “… It’s called the School of Woodworking and Discipleship, simply so that we could impact more lives. There we welcome in men, women and youth into the school.”

Finding Freedom

Despite the progress of most men who come through this program, not all turn their lives around quickly. Like that young man who had been living in isolation, never going a day without his alcohol and drugs. After graduating from the school, David hired him to work for Purposeful Design.

It wasn’t long before David discovered this man was still addicted to his old vices. So they had a chat about it, and David realized the young man believed it didn’t really matter how he lived each day. He trusted in Jesus, and so he knew he was going to Heaven when he died. Because of that belief, he thought his addictions were harmless.

“I don’t think he was being cocky or trying to get away with anything,” David said. “That was just his thought process. So we talked a lot about that, and I shared some ideas with him about why perhaps it does matter now what we do. I shared with him that he had an opportunity now to lead his five children well or not-so-well. When he thought about that, it really clicked with him.”

Through David’s leadership and God’s direction, the man decided to set aside his addictions. After more than 15 years of never missing a day of alcohol and drug use, he has now gone nearly a year sober. David said it’s been fascinating to watch God work in this man’s life.

“His eyes came to life in a way that they weren’t before,” David said. “He now will take his kids to the park; he’ll walk with them to school, and it’s really been crazy to see how his life has changed since he’s decided that it does matter what he does with his life. He loves his work; he’s very diligent and reliable.”

“Walking By Trust” 

David and those working at Purposeful Design are learning the importance of trusting God with this business. He said the greatest challenge has been to trust in God as their provider and not in the numbers or the business plans. 

“It’s tempting to do that,” David confessed. “I come from the business world, so it’s easy to think, ‘Hey, let’s work the numbers and be more efficient.’ And that’s good, we work really hard at those things, but it’s challenging to keep this a faith walk. To walk by trust and not by fear.”

With volunteers working alongside the 13 hired men, David said their plan is to keep on running in this direction, asking God to help them impact as many people as they can. And they have seen God helping them firsthand. They have witnessed God setting people free from their addictions and restoring families. 

Not to mention the growth of Purposeful Design as a business.

“We love seeing Jesus set people free, and we know He does,” David said. “Around here we’ve tried life our own way, and it didn’t work out so well. So we’re learning together that God’s ways really are better, and we’d like to run in His path.”  

You can help support Purposeful Design by putting their furniture in your home, volunteering or spreading awareness. And by praying for wisdom. David said they can always use more wisdom. 

Find out more on their website.

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