An Interview with Tom

This is the recent interview with Wendy Blight with Tom about his book Second Wind:

Today I am excited to introduce you to a great man of God.  His name is Tom Wheeler.  I can’t wait for you to hear his story and his heart.  Tom has written a book entitled Second Wind which shares much of his testimony and God’s call on his life to serve the least and the lost in our society.  A study guide for this book will be available November 15th.

Many of us leave our comfortable place in life for a a few hours or a weekend to serve the poor, and Tom did just that for  a while.  But then he heard God call him to more.  Tom not only left his comfortable place but also sold most of his worldly possessions to move in with the men to whom he had been ministering.

I will never forget the Christmas he invited the women in my Bible study and our families to a Christmas party in his neighborhood.  We were all nervous because it was not in the “best part of town.”  But we were intrigued with Tom and his ministry, so we took our families.  We shared a meal with Tom and his men and enjoyed a tour of their neighborhood.  I was so moved not only by Tom’s love for the men but also by their great love for him.

Below please find my interview with Tom.  I know you will love his heart for the poor as much as I do.  It is rare to meet a man like Tom who willingly did what Jesus asked the rich young ruler to do…give up all his worldly goods. Tom did just that.  And he will be the first to tell you, God blessed him with so much more!!

Tom, tell us a bit about yourself and your family.

I grew up as an Episcopalian, but my family went to church more for traditional reasons rather than for reasons of conviction. It was more of a Sunday tradition. For most of my young life, I was living life the way I was raised to believe it was meant to be lived: be a good kid, go to college and graduate, get a good job, make a decent living, start your own business, etc.. But I did all that and still felt empty. No matter what I got, it was never enough, even working for Apple Computer, living on the water, and having my own airplane at age 26.

My mom and dad were loving parents (and hardworking) and would have done anything for their children and often did. They raised me and my two older brothers better than most could expect, but I never understood spiritual matters to the degree I would have liked. But God had a plan!

When my life wasn’t working out as I expected, I began to read and study the Bible. In fact, I began teaching 12-year-olds at my Episcopal church about the Bible when I knew nothing about it! Talk about a God thing! It was then that I understood I had been living life in a way that was the antithesis of the Bible. God slammed the brakes on my old life and set me off on a new course – His.

I met Jesus. It was 1993. I ended up selling out of the company I had co-founded and took a job at Forest Hill church where I became an elder. I was then hired as the asst. director of discipleship in charge of the groups and the membership class. Feeling called to the poor, I left Forest Hill and took a job as a front door supervisor at the Uptown Men’s Shelter. Soon thereafter I moved into a poor neighborhood in northwest Charlotte where Hoskins Park Ministry resides today. I became an ordained pastor in 2006.

I got married to my best friend, Kate, on October 4th, 2008. We live in Charlotte with our ex-street dog Luci, who is going on 13.

I love the title of your introduction to Second Wind, “Never Enough,” share with us what it means and why you chose this as your introduction.

My expectations of life have always exceeded life’s realities. Once I started to “succeed” in a worldly way, ie: making a good deal of money, having a lot of nice things, starting my own business, I was not satisfied. Life was just “never enough” for me. Listening to other people, reading some of the more famous people’s biographies, and then just watching the news made me realize I was not alone. Even for those who don’t admit it, I don’t think life is working out the way they thought either, even the best of us, when we truly think about it. But then I read the Bible!

Why did you write Second Wind?

I wrote Second Wind for three reasons.

The first is because of those who are on the bottom and need hope. I wanted them to know the biblical explanation for their situation; the fact that God made them uniquely for a worthy purpose; He will fulfill that purpose in their lives if they trust in Him; that they haven’t blown it by their poor behavior or choices, and how to find true hope. I really want those on the bottom to read Second Wind to find new hope no matter their circumstances.

The second reason is for those who do not know Jesus as Lord and Savior. I wanted to share the story of the Gospel in a simple, direct, and practical way. I hope those that read Second Wind will understand their need for Jesus and accept Him as their Lord and Savior. Life is short. Soon it will be over for all of us and then reality will hit – the reality that we don’t really die when we die physically, but where we end up is based on our choice regarding Jesus. I wrote this for the lost. I also think many Christians will find some trinkets in Second Wind too, that can encourage them in their walk.

And finally, I wrote it to create a product that people could buy to help fund inner city or urban work with our poor rather than having to constantly beg for money. Sadly, people and organizations that want to help the poor are competing amongst each other and the local church for funds. I don’t think that is the way God intended it, but it is the way it is. Having come to that understanding, I have decided to be different by creating products and services that help us generate our own funds. Second Wind is the result of that strategy. I wrote this as a funding instrument for the poor.

Many of us “help” the poor, but you chose to move in and live with and among the poor? What gave you the courage to take this step?

I don’t like trying to help people without having the experience to actually do so. I too have many opinions about things, but I try to keep them to myself until I have some expertise in the area I get involved with. I needed to understand the environment of the homeless, and to do so I had to move in and live with and amongst them. That has given me the knowledge and ability to be part of the solution rather than just another well intended opinion.

Your book is filled with great stories, share one of your favorites with us.

My favorite is my friend who has a mental illness and who was also addicted to crack cocaine (when I first got to know him). Once when I went out of town to care for my father, I asked him to watch my house (at the time he had given up drugs – so I thought). When I got back I found out he had sold all of my valuable possessions in exchange for crack cocaine. When he finally apologized to me, he told me that while he sold all my stuff, he was thankful that he had the state-of-mind not to sell his guitar (which was the only thing he owned of value to him)! That still cracks me up. He sold all my stuff but was comforted by the fact he didn’t sell his guitar! If I didn’t think God owned everything and that He allowed it to happen for the sake of my friend, I would get upset. But, I trust God and so I laugh at that story.

What do you want your reader to walk away with after reading Second Wind?

For the readers that have little hope, I want them to find hope in their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I also want them to realize they have an enemy, a real enemy, and to stop thinking everything going on down here on earth is random or coincidental. We are in a spiritual war and when we don’t believe that, we are already defeated. I want them to read the Bible and believe that Jesus is bigger than their problems!

Second, I want those who don’t believe in the Bible or Jesus to give it more serious consideration. We spend so much time considering ways to reach financial freedom while disregarding eternity as the “unknown” when we have a book that spells it all out for us, fairly clearly. This book was written to simplify the Bible’s truth in an effort to get them to read and study the Bible themselves.

And third, I want the reader’s concrete support to help the poor. The book needs to get into the hands of those on the streets, but the homeless cannot afford to buy it and I cannot afford to just give it away. I want the readers who believe in the book and its cause to buy more than one copy and either give them out to those who need help themselves, or buy them so that I can get this book into their hands. This is more than a book. It is a resource that helps a cause from someone experienced enough to know.

Tom, thank you for sharing your heart with us today.  Tom has been gracious enough to donate four signed copies of his book for our giveaway.  For a chance to win one of these copies, please leave a comment today sharing a time in your life when your love for the things of this world kept you from pursuing something to which you know God was calling you.

Thomas Wheeler