Hi, my name is Neil Weiss.
I grew up in a Jewish family in Rockland County, New York—my mom, dad, a brother and a sister. We had a yard; my dad loved his garden. I had to mow the lawn every weekend. I was bar mitzvah-ed. I grew up in a good school district and went to university. Nothing out of the ordinary.
Around the time I went to college, I realized then that I had depression, or a form of it, and ADD. I was a loner–I loved being on my own. I moved to England and went to the London School of Economics. I met the woman who was going to be my wife out there. We got married and had two kids, a son and a daughter.
We came back to the United States in 2008, just as the Great Recession hit. I had a job, but literally the day the plane landed with my family on it, my company let 25% of the company go— so of course, as somebody who hadn’t started, I was first on the list. I did a couple jobs that I felt were beneath me. This was the result of my narcissistic type of background, and I freely admit that. I went from job to job, struggled, and we eventually moved into the city.
From there, everything started to snowball. My daughter got extremely ill—a life threatening illness. My dad was also ill. I remember one time visiting him at the nursing home, and he looked up at me with tears in his eyes and he said, “I just want to go home.” I couldn’t do anything. My wife and I split up, and I lost my job.
In 2017, I became homeless, living in my car. I lived in my car up until the end of September, when I sold it for some money. I had lost everything—my family, my friends. When you’re homeless, you are a non-person. You’re invisible—people don’t see you.
That October, I waited for the last perfect sunset at the beach. I sent pictures to all my family and friends and said, “Folks, this is it.” I started taking all my pills that I had, and believe me, I had accumulated quite a lot of “great” stuff. I had one goal, which was to stop hurting.
I don’t even remember the timing, but I was about a quarter of the way through the vodka bottle, and I was physically stopped. Something physically held me–stopped me from lifting my arms, held my hand. It was almost like it was a hug. I don’t remember the next 24 hours—all I remember was me ending up on the A train up in Inwood.
Two days after that, I ended up in Bellevue Hospital. Then I went to a couple of drop-in centers. That’s when I met a woman who said that she volunteers on Saturday mornings at The Father’s Heart ministry. So, I went. That was the start of my going to The Father’s Heart every weekend for breakfast.
I started to meet people who would pray for me. There was a woman named Laurie with her husband, and she spoke to me about Jesus. Here I am, somebody that’s Jewish—you put a string of garlic around your neck when somebody puts a cross in front of you! I didn’t push her away, but I took it in. It just was so beautiful the way that she spoke with me.
I ended up going to a men’s group at The Father’s Heart, and there was a gentleman who runs it named Ross. He was Jewish, too, but he found Christ 32 years ago. He wasn’t trying to sell me on Jesus, but he asked a simple question, “What’s holding you back from accepting Jesus as your savior?”
I didn’t have that ah-ha moment, those angels in the background, the trumpets. It was just that it started to make sense to me. I saw Jesus in the people at The Father’s Heart—not fire and brimstone, but the Word of God as love, as hope. I saw care and compassion. And so I started to follow Jesus. It just made sense, and I started to understand what it means to have a personal relationship with him.
After I accepted Jesus in 2018 and surrendered to him, he started to change me. When I understood that Jesus was on the cross, dying for my sins, that was a whole sea-change for me. He needed to deal with my narcissistic part, my feeling that I needed to be in control. I used to be a ferocious liar, but Jesus is helping me to be honorable and honest. Jesus has taught me that if you’re hurt, if you’re desperate, if you need help, it actually is a strength to ask for that help. I always believed that I was invincible. I didn’t like to ask anybody for help.
Jesus is in my life. I have a hope. Jesus is helping me know and get on a different path, and I can take that path because he’s with me.
Jesus also started providing for me, and in November 2018, I was able to get a voucher for a really nice shelter. I was regularly volunteering at The Father’s Heart, eventually becoming a supervisor for the breakfast line. I entered therapy, and I haven’t missed an appointment in two years. And just last month, I was able to move into an apartment of my own.
I’ve had a problem in the past of knowing something and feeling it—sometimes the two don’t match up. But now the two have matched up—knowing what’s right and feeling what’s right, knowing that Jesus is in my life and feeling that Jesus is in my life. I have a hope. Jesus is helping me know and get on a different path, and I can take that path because he’s with me.
As I look to the future, there are things I’m hoping for. I’m looking for a job, even at my age, which I know is against me. I want to reconcile with my family. I know that’s going to take a long time. I want them to know that I’m proud of them and that I love them. As Pastor Chuck from The Father’s Heart says, “You’ve got to get back on your feet. It’s going to take time. Christ believes in redemption, but also in reconciliation.”
I want to be able to accept what comes, and I know and I feel that I can because the future is brighter for me now than it was in the past. I know it sounds like a cliché, but it’s true. Jesus came for the Jews 2000 some odd years ago—I may be late to the party, but now I’m here.