Between the Liner Notes
Joel Engle: A Childhood Dream Fulfilled
By Audra Smith
The 700 Club
“In the back of my mind, I always did the math. Joel minus mom, equals Joel all alone in the world. There was always a fear in me that something could happen to my mom. ”
As a young boy, growing up in San Fransico, Joel Engle never knew his father, who left the family when Joel was one month old. Joel’s mother struggled to raise him alone.
“My mom was my world. She was my best friend. She was a beautiful woman, highly intelligent and a highly take charge person," he remembers.
But when Joel was 11-years-old, tragedy struck. His worst fear was realized.
“I woke up, and it was 7:27 in the morning. I walked into the kitchen, and I found my mom laying face down in the kitchen floor. I was absolutely frozen in shock, so I called the ambulance. They came and put my mom on a stretcher. The chief brain surgeon of the Children’s Hospital came in with the most grim look on his face and said, 'Joel, your mother has suffered a massive cerebral hemorrhage and a massive stroke.' Another doctor came in and said, 'Joel I need to tell you this. I hate to tell you this, but your mother has 30 minutes to live.' People say, what is the worst day of your life. I can easily tell them that was the worst day of my life."
After his mother’s death, Joel moved from San Fransico to Oklahoma to live with his grandparents.
"My grandma and grandpa were my two favorite people in the world. I loved going and spending summers with them. When I moved to Oklahoma after my mother’s death, our relationship changed. They were incredibly strict, incredibly from a different culture, and incredibly from a different set of values."
However, more grief lay ahead. Joel’s grandfather died of a sudden heart attack. His grandmother wasn’t well enough to care for Joel alone. She moved to a nursing home.
Joel had no place to live, so he was forced to check himself into the local Baptist Children’s Home.
“At that point, I almost had a nervous breakdown. I literally remember staring at the phone, and I called information, and I got the number to the Baptist Children’s Home, and I literally called them and said, 'Hi, this is Joel. I am am 14 ½ years old, and I need to talk to the person who runs this place.' Once again, were those feelings of isolation. I am thinking…my dad didn’t want me, my mom died on me, my grandpa died on me, and my grandma can’t take care of me. And I was all alone, just me and my bags. I really felt like the whole world had abandoned me."
During his time at the children’s home, Joel began to pour his energy into his greatest passion—music.
"I recently discovered music and that I had a talent in music, so I totally poured myself into music. There was something about music that lit up my heart and lit up my soul," he says.
At age 16, Joel met Dale and Nadine Engle, close friends of his house parents. They formed a close bond, and soon Joel was no longer an orphan. He became part of the Engle family.
“So when I got the news that Dale and Nadine Engle cared about me so much and loved me so much that they wanted to adopt me and move me into their home, it was absolute joy and elation."
Joel received an abundance of love in his new home. He began to ask questions about his parent’s faith in God.
"I remember going to Ms. Engle. She said, 'Joel, you can doubt about where you are going for college and who you are taking to the prom, but there is one thing you don’t doubt about…that is your relationship with Jesus Christ.' About a week later, I was sitting on the back row of this tiny country church where the preacher was preaching on the cross of Jesus Christ. He said, 'If you are willing to put your trust in what Jesus did on the cross for you and put your hope in Him as the Lord of your life, He will forgive you of all your sins. He will come into your heart and be the Lord and master of your life and change you.' I went down that day, and Jesus Christ came into my life. I haven’t gotten over Him yet, and I know I never will.”
Today, Joel is an author and professional musician.
"There is nothing like writing a song that comes out of your heart that is real, and singing that song, and then watching the light come on in people’s lives. The healing part for me is not just the writing part, but watching God use something He is in my life in someone else’s life."
Now, with a family of his own and a career of leading others in worship, Joel hopes his life story will help others to overcome their fears and live in victory.
“I cannot overcome depression. I cannot overcome the anger of losing my mother. I cannot in my own strength do it. But, Jesus Christ radically changed my life. If you will just surrender your life to Jesus Christ and allow Him to live His life through you, the possibilities of what He could do in your life are really more than you can imagine.”
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