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Whispers of Courage and Faith

Glenn Edebohls gave up his many worldly possessions for a life of simple goodness. And, a trip to Ringgold a year ago is still changing his life.

Glenn Edebohls, of Snellville, in Ringgold, Ga. (Credit: Joy L. Woodson)
Glenn Edebohls, of Snellville, in Ringgold, Ga. (Credit: Joy L. Woodson)

(Editor's Note: This article was originally published May 30, 2012.)

Glenn Edebohls was that guy: The one with fancy cars, a fancy house and fancy money to pay for it all.

He'd been a self-made businessman since he was 18. He started a number of businesses, bought a few and sold many, too. He and his wife, Erin, were living an envious "monetary rich" life.

"It was all about the thrill, the kill," Edebohls said. "How much money we could generate, how much one we could get, and how much money could we spend. So, yeah, there was definitely ego involved.

"And, some of the things that we did to stay ruthless in business certainly hurt other people. But, that's the way business is."

Then the recent recession hit, and he came to a realization. He was working 80 hours a week in construction, and for what? It could all be gone in a moment's notice, and he wouldn't even know his family.

The importance that some of his clients put on material things -- $62,000 for cabinet hardware, for example -- started to bother him, as well.

"I was on a whole different path, and I knew it," he said.

So, the family downsized from their expensive home in Atlanta, moving to the Snellville area about five years ago. Edebohls' wife, Erin, is now the main breadwinner, pulling in in one year what her husband made in six weeks.

Edebohls looked to church and service to others, as a way of turning things around. He was listening, he said, to whispers from God.

"We always thought we were living a fulfilled, enriched life," said the 43-year-old. "We weren't."

'Kicked by God'

Things came more into focus for him last year, after a life-changing trip to Ringgold, Ga. There a rare EF4 twister packing winds up to 175 mph hit on April 27, killing friends, family and neighbors. 

That April was the second-deadliest tornado outbreak in history, with 758 tornadoes and 364 deaths, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Edebohls went to help in the tornado aftermath, returning to Snellville after an extended trip there around Mother's Day. He walked into his home, and noted that everything was exactly where he'd left it.

"I have my emotions," he said at the time. "I know what I saw, and it's an experience that has changed me."

He recalls telling Mike Yoder, who coordinates disaster response for the North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church, that he wanted to do more. By August, he and his wife were members of an early response team.

But, he continued having long-term thoughts about how he could better serve his community in a way he'd seen was needed in Ringgold. He thought about starting a ministry or a nonprofit, but needed more direction.

"I felt a lot of traction with it from when the seed was first planted in me," he said. "And, a little bit of walls here and there, which made you start doubting. Wow, am I really being kicked by God to do this? Am I really listening right?"

Then he got the opportunity to lead a faith-based emergency response initiative. It's been roughly six months now that he's led the committee, as an offshoot of with Gwinnett County Office of Emergency Management.

And on the day of their first multiple-agency disaster simulation in April, , Edebohls awoke at 3 a.m. He needed to write. God was speaking, he said. Three hours and five pages of notes later, he had more of a vision for his next steps.

'About the Need'

Certain that he should be advocating for emergency preparedness, Edebohls now sees it as his calling to reach as many people as possible by thinking globally and acting locally.

"I know I'm being guided to do this, and I use the word kicked, because a lot of times I feel like I'm being kicked if I don't listen to the little whisper immediately, and I postpone," he said. "I start getting these big nudges.

"I definitely believe that I listen to the little whispers, and I listen to the big kicks by the Lord. I believe that's what it is. "

Getting to this point was a five-year process, but today, Edebohls is proud to say he is letting God steer his moves -- not money.

"You got to put yourself out there, I mean way out there," he said, about committing to doing God's work.

He is active at Snellville United Mehtodist Church, as well as the county's faith-based disaster preparedness work. He's volunteered to help other churches and nonprofits, such as Habitat for Humanity and Parkwood Farms.

Even his wife and two children have been baptized, a testament to the change that the entire family experienced -- the challenging times and the comforting ones. Together, he said, they are "dialed in."

"And, I know we can get side-tracked pretty darn easy, and I don't want that because this right now, this is cool," he said.

Edebohls hopes that his children, ages 5 and 7, are learning from his journey, and grow up to be self-sufficient, aware, caring and faithful adults. And, he feels, in his gut, that he and his wife are destined to do greater things, things that help even more people.

One of his long-term goals is developing children's books that focus on disaster and emergency preparedness. He also wants to do more to help special needs adults and children, who are some of the most vulnerable during disasters.

"It's just God, and I'm just trying to be obedient," Edebohls said. "It's about the need."

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