Brett was one of those people we see nearly every day on our city streets. Unemployed, homeless, and alone. He grew up in Perth, Australia, and was five when his father abandoned the family. His father stumbled back home one night after drinking, and he was met by his wife’s new boyfriend.
“And there was a scuffle that occurred,” says Brett. “He was intoxicated. And he was pinned down by this other man. And I remember just looking at my dad and feeling hurt that my dad was defeated. No one is supposed to be able to defeat your dad. If the guy who was my dad was so easily beaten, then who? Who’s going to be there?”
The boyfriend was abusive to Brett and his sister, and he eventually left, too. Brett got a job to support the family. But it never felt like enough.
“This purveying knawing sense that something is wrong. And you are wrong. You’re bad. And everything that happens around you is bad.”
When Brett was 16, his mother gave him a keyboard, and music became his escape.
“And I felt this whoosh on the inside of me. This level of excitement, this breathlessness that I can remember putting it akin to being on a roller coaster. Just that rush that happened. And if it makes you feel this way, then if I can just bottle that feeling, and then give it to other people, I’ll have some worth.”
He taught himself to play several instruments and formed a band. In 1991, he moved to the United States, hoping for his big break.
“Fame and fortune meant to me, it wasn’t about the drugs or the alcohol, it wasn’t that, it meant that I would finally have a platform to be accepted. That I would be in a place where people would love me and I would feel okay about myself if people loved me.”
Brett joined a cover band and found some success. He got married, but the relationship was unstable and after years of constant fighting, Brett had an affair.
“And I was driving back thinking, ‘What have you done?’ You wanted to hurt me as a kid, all you had to say was, ‘You’re just like your father.’ And I just realized I have become the monster that I never wanted to be.”
When Brett’s wife discovered the affair, she made him quit music and sell his instruments. She even destroyed his original music.
“And I thought I deserved it. It was a dreadful, out of control feeling. And it was in the middle of that dreadful, out of control feeling that I woke up one day with this sense of get to the Bible. We had never – I didn’t know we had a Bible. I’d never read a Bible. I’d like to say it was such a safe place of comfort. It was not a safe place for me. Because it was dealing with who I was. I spent seven months on my face weeping before this Book, begging for forgiveness. Begging for healing.”
Then one morning, Brett received the answer he had been longing for.
“That morning, I was standing in a basketball court, the gym where I spent so many mornings praying, seven months praying, crying out. And I was looking up at the ceiling and I said, ‘What else do You want from me? There’s nothing left.’ And all of a sudden, fire came upon me. It had the sensation of fire but it didn’t hurt.
And I’m feeling something happening on the inside. I’m feeling life enter. And I was so filled with fire to find out that He was real, that I wanted to run everywhere I could and bang on every door and tell them that He is risen, He’s alive, He’s real, He’s real, He’s real.”
He surrendered his life to Christ and was filled with the Spirit. He believed God wanted him to move to Nashville and he boarded a Greyhound bus the same day his wife served him divorce papers.
“I spent the night in the Greyhound, and the Bible became my blanket and my pillow. In the morning I meet a homeless guy. He says there’s a mission just around the corner. I go around the corner. I was so jazzed. And I walk through the front door and I see the dirt and I see the hopelessness and I see everything that you think about homelessness. And I thought, ‘What are You doing, God? I’m going to die here.”
Brett was homeless for four months until he met chef Thomas Oglesby, who was serving meals at The Nashville Mission. The chef told Brett about a job opening at his restaurant, Flemings.
“When I came in that next day, I saw him in the kitchen,” says Thomas. “And it surprised me because I didn’t think he was going to show, which he did. And after that, he kept—he asked me a lot of questions and I gave him a lot of answers about the kitchen. And he just took it off from there.”
“Within a few months, from entry level cook and day cleaner, they offered me the keys to the restaurant,” says Brett. “A little while later they’re starting to fly me to different parts of the country to train up opening crews for brand new Flemings stores, and eventually I became second chef in charge of the Nashville store.”
He worked at Flemings for eight years. In 2014 he opened his own restaurant, “The Cookery”. He employs as many men from the mission as he can, and trains and certifies them as cooks.
“It wasn’t just about taking care of people’s needs anymore. It had to do with restoring hope. And giving them a sense of dignity through their own gifts – and hope restored is a very awesome thing.”
Brett married Merari in 2011, and together they run the restaurant and two discipleship homes. They also feed the homeless of Nashville every Saturday. But the greatest gift he offers is the hope he’s found in Jesus Christ.
“I was taken from darkness to light. And to someone who doesn’t know how dark it can get, it’s hard to say. But to someone who is experiencing something like this, the word “safe” glows golden. And He is real. He is hope. He is life. He is forgiveness. He’s restoration. And He is everything He says He is.