For Anthony Holmes it all seemed so simple.
“I had the attitude that I am already in trouble, so I guess I should get the most out of it,” he said.
Raised in Nashville by a single mother who worked two jobs to support him and his brother, Holmes often felt alone. It was that way when the family moved around to several homes during his youth.
Annual visits from his father at Christmas didn’t help. It was no different when, for a time, his mother remarried, which led to an unhealthy home life, or when she signed over his rights to the state because he wasn’t willing to move with her to Atlanta. Even his own marriage and the thought he might be a father failed to change things.
Always, though, he found comfort and support (or so he thought) on the streets.
“My mom was a hard worker and she was doing all she could do as a single parent, and I wasn’t thankful because I was dealing with some hurt,” Holmes said. “So I hooked up with some people on the street who were in gangs, smoked some weed, drank, partied … they were older and when I went out with them, I finally found a place that I could release my hurt.”
Holmes was a good basketball and football player, but he couldn’t stay out of trouble or in school. Eventually, cocaine became his drug of choice and despair his constant companion.
“I felt like dying numerous times,” he said. “I stared down the barrel of a gun and something just would not let me pull the trigger. I overdosed on drugs and that didn’t do it. I would drink like crazy and that wouldn’t do it.”
He was in an out of prison for a time and faced an extended stay on a drug charge when things finally changed.
First, he noticed the positive effect the jailhouse minister seemed to have on many inmates. One day he listened to and talked with the man but remained unconvinced until later that night when, he said, God personally paid him a visit.
“The Lord came and dealt with me and told me to repent to the Lord and to apologize to the minister because the Lord had sent him to help me,” Holmes said. “That is the first time that someone stood up in my face and told me whatever god I had wasn’t working, and that I needed to get the real God.”
At that point, Holmes turned his life over to Christ. He said he finally was able to forgive himself and began to forgive others who had hurt him.
He wasn’t determined just to get out of prison. He decided he also needed to find a way off the streets.
A fellow inmate, someone he knew from the outside, recognized the change. “I see the Lord in you” he told Holmes as he handed him an application for the Salvation Army. Holmes attended a presentation about the transitional housing program and other resources the organization offers.
“I sent in that application and prayed on it, but I still had to go to court,” Holmes said. “One of the district attorneys didn’t want me to get out, but I had a chance to speak and told the judge that Jesus had changed my life and I would be thankful if I got another chance.
“I told the judge that I had done some bad things, but I was not the same person. I now had a relationship with the Lord and I just asked the court to have mercy.”
Convinced that Holmes was, in fact, in good company, the judge granted his release. He caught the bus and went directly to the downtown Salvation Army facility and checked into the Transitional Housing program.
Out of prison, he soon crossed paths again with two significant people.
First was April Calvin, Transitional Housing Program Director, who had made the Salvation Army presentation that convinced him to apply. Together they mapped out a set of goals for Holmes and settled on a plan for how to achieve them.
Then there was Pastor Scales, the man whose obvious impact on other prisoners first attracted his attention. Pastor Scales took Holmes shopping for clothes and other necessities to get him started.
“He is such a blessing to me,” Holmes said. “And I just love Ms. April. She just has a caring spirit about her and it just blessed me. She really wants to see people change and get the help they need. She and the other counselors would work overtime if they needed to in order to help you.”
Next, he needed a job but he was unwilling to take just anything. Committed to weekly attendance at
church, he turned down an offer from one prominent downtown Nashville hotel because it could not guarantee he would not work on Sunday.
Then he found Demos’ Restaurant.
“When I was filling out the application at Demos’, I read that they honor and glorify God. And, they would work with me on my schedule so I could go to church on Sundays,” he said. “The Lord had changed me and I wanted to stay faithful and honor Him.”
He started as a dishwasher making $8 an hour and could not have been happier.
A couple promotions followed and soon he had earned enough that he began to look for a place of his own, which was not easy. He confided to a friend at church that he was unable to find a suitable home because of his prison record. What happened the next time they saw one another was the last thing Holmes expected.
“My friend came up to me and said ‘You aren’t going to believe this, but the lady I have been renting to for eight years is relocating, so the Lord told me to rent my house to you,” he recalled. “But it is in Murfreesboro.’”
No problem. Two weeks earlier Holmes had received a pre-owned car from his pastor. He drove to Murfreesboro for a Bible study, met the people at the Murfreesboro Demos’ and promptly requested a transfer, which was approved.
The money was good. The work, though, was not wholly satisfying. Holmes wanted to do more than just make a living for himself, he wanted to make a difference in others’ lives.
“I went to Bible study and Peter (Demos) came up to me and said he wanted to create a new position for me – Ambassador for Christ – and that I should pray about it,” Holmes said. “I told him that I didn’t need to pray about it because I had already been praying for over a year for it.”
In his new role, Holmes visits all five of the Demos’ restaurants across Middle Tennessee and helps the employees with challenges they may have by sharing his experiences and testimony.
“I never force it on anyone and I always approach them with love,” Holmes said. “Whether it is love or prayer or encouragement, I just enjoy people and I want to help them. I smile a lot, so that helps draw people to me. I always encourage them that there is a way out and that God still loves them in spite of their pain.”
In addition to his work at Demos’, Holmes also ministers and preaches at other churches and in jails. He also serves as a Program Committee Member for the Salvation Army.
“I am so thankful for the Salvation Army, because that is where it began for me,” he said. “The Salvation Army gave someone like me who was hopeless and helpless a foundation and a safe haven. It gave me the resources and an opportunity to get on the right path.
“I have met others who have also been blessed and now have their families back on track thanks to the generosity of those who give to the Salvation Army. You may never know whose life you may touch, but now I am one of those people who gets to go touch someone else’s life with the love that you gave me.”
He still stops by the Salvation Army in Nashville every chance he gets to remind himself of where his life started.
Along the way he also came to an important realization. He never really was alone.
Even as a boy, throughout his darkest moments his grandmother, whom he called Granny, delivered a consistent message. “The Lord loves you and he has a plan for you,” she told him over and over. “Before I got locked up – my Granny told me she couldn’t wait to hear me preach my first sermon,” he said. “I thought my Granny must be high to think I am going to preach a sermon. She would tell me my whole life, ‘You are going to minister.’
“We stay on the phone and have a good time and I know it makes her day when we can talk about the Lord. My Granny never gave up on me.”
The Salvation Army – Nashville Area Command
The Salvation Army, an international movement, is an evangelical part of the universal Christian Church. Its message is based on the Bible. Its ministry is motivated by the love of God. Its mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination.
For more information about the Salvation Army and learn how you can get behind the shield, visit
SalvationArmyNashville.org – #GetBehindTheShield