Shane Waller sits on one of the furniture pieces he has for sale at his 180 Discount Furniture & Recruited Ministry store at 1933 Ledo Road, Albany. Waller said his life was headed down a destructive path of pills, alcohol and marijuana when he felt led by Christ to rehabilitate his life. (July 17, 2013)
ALBANY, Ga. -- Even as past friends taunt him, tell him he'll be back partying, smoking weed, taking pills and drinking with them again soon, Shane Waller confidently tells them they're wrong.
He knows something they don't.
"When I was in rehab, man, I made a promise to God," Waller says. "I told Him if He'd restore my life, I'd live every day for Him. I told Him if I didn't hold up my end, he could take me out."
For the past year or so, after a life-altering stint in rehab, Waller's been more than holding up his end of the bargain. He started 180 Discount Furniture & Recruited Ministry, where he sells used furniture and tells customers about the turn his life has taken since he committed to serving God.
"Yes, we give great deals, offer unique finds for our customers," Waller, 34, says of his 1933 Ledo Road business. "But, more important than that, I share my testimony with anyone who comes in. Whether it's five seconds or two hours, I'll talk with anyone who'll listen."
Spend a little time with Waller, watch him enthusiastically tell strangers about his life, and it's hard to doubt his sincerity. That the message is coming from a tatted-up, pierced bundle of energy with model good looks, someone who'd look more at home fronting an alternative rock band, makes it all the more compelling.
"Coming from where he's been, Shane offers an amazing testimony," said Ken Bevel, a former Marine best known as one of the stars of Sherwood Baptist Church's Christian-based films "Fireproof" and "Courageous." "He relates on a different level, having lived on the streets and come out the other side.
"The trials that he's endured -- the drugs, the alcohol, the street life -- turning that around makes him an amazing witness for God."
ON HIS OWN AT 15
The product of a broken home in nearby Dawson, Waller was on the streets by age 15. His life became a recurring cycle: booze, drugs, womanizing, jail. Out on bail, the cycle would start again.
"When I ran out of money, I'd sell drugs," Waller says. "I never stayed in long; the good thing about dealing drugs is that someone's there to bail you out."
By the time he was 18, Waller was working for a local flooring company. He admits that he spent most of his down time smoking weed or drinking, yet he still managed to learn the business well enough to start his own company. When he met the woman who would become his wife in 2008, he had his own business, a house at Doublegate, a new car and a new truck.
He took the plunge and got married a year later, and when he was part of an incident he labels a "wake-up call" a short while later, he joined Philema Road Baptist Church.
"Yep, I was all into getting saved and putting on a show of being a Christian," Waller said. "I became what I call an 'accosting Christian;' I'd put the mask on every Sunday and Wednesday but when I wasn't at church I was self-medicating with weed, pain pills, Xanax and more weed.
"All those drugs made me mean."
Within a year, Waller started having seizures from the combination of drugs he was taking, and in the midst of an argument with his wife one night he texted her and asked her for a divorce. When she said yes, Waller's already crumbling life spiraled completely out of control.
"Man, I became a teenager again," he says. "I went on a three-month binge, stayed in a local motel and didn't come out except to get more booze and drugs. I threw my middle fingers up to God, told Him I had no more use for Him.
"After I left the motel, I just sat in my mom's backyard and got blitzed."
'I'LL RESTORE YOUR LIFE'
Waller was arrested a short while later by a cop who'd offered him an opportunity to walk away -- "I peeled out after the cop got through talking to me, splashed mud all over him and ran over five mailboxes before he stopped me again. It was enough for five felonies."
Waller's mother had begged him to check into a rehab facility, an option he wouldn't even consider ... at least not until he sat alone in his truck one night, looking up from rock bottom.
"People don't believe me when I tell them this, but I was sitting there in that truck, and it was like Jesus was sitting in the seat beside me," Waller said. "He said to me, 'You can go this way, left, and go to prison or die on the streets. You can go this way, right, and I'll restore your life.'
"I called my mom and told her right then I was going to rehab."
Waller spent the first three months at Faith Farm Ministry in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., "hating every second of it." But as he gradually found himself getting stronger, able to lay off the booze and drugs, he started seeing changes in his life.
"A key moment for me was when I was driving back up to Albany to answer divorce papers that my wife had filed, and I stopped at a gas station," he said. "Instead of buying alcohol, which I just knew I was going to do, the Lord gave me strength to buy water instead. When I got to Albany, my wife called me, furious, wanting to know what my lawyer had done to get a judge to postpone the hearing we had scheduled.
"The next day she called me and asked if I wanted to keep our daughter for the day. I called out to God and said, 'If this is the deal, I'm all in.'"
The court eventually dropped charges pending against Waller. The seizures he'd been experiencing on a regular basis stopped. His wife took him back, and he re-started his flooring business.
"I had everything going for me, but I was still around people who were using drugs and alcohol," he said. "I asked the Lord to show me another way to make a living."
A COMPLETE TURNAROUND
Waller put all the money he had into buying used furniture and started the business that would become 180 Discount Furniture and Recruited Ministry. He opened his first storefront on Philema Road but was eventually led to the Ledo Road location that he says fits his business model perfectly.
"I have the traffic here, and there are great people on either side of me," he says. "I named the business 180 -- for the complete turnaround -- Discount Furniture and Recruited -- for being called into God's infantry with a will not to lose -- Ministry. I have an opportunity to reflect every day on what God has done in my life, and I get the chance to share that with others."
Waller's conversation with a visitor is interrupted when Ethan Schmittou enters his business, drawn by its unique sign.
"I minister to kids at my own home church, so when I saw the sign I had to come in and see what you were about," Schmittou says to Waller. "My parents were missionaries, and I just returned from a mission trip where I smuggled Bibles into China.
"It's rare today to find Christians willing to stand up and speak out for God. We're all brothers and sisters in Christ, and I'm excited to find a Christian brother here."
Waller responds, "We're called to be fishers of men; if we catch them, God will clean them. That's why I come to God just as I am, with my tattoos and piercings. The way I look doesn't matter; it's my relationship with Christ that matters."
In addition to offering his testimony to customers who visit his store, Waller has led blanket, jacket and clothing drives and he hands out Bibles in some of the community's rougher neighborhoods.
"That's where Jesus would be, not in the Doublegate neighborhoods," he says. "I have a lot of people say they think what I'm doing is a gimmick to get people to come in here. But this is not my place. My business cards say it all: Owner, Jesus Christ; servant, Shane Waller."
STILL MOVING FORWARD
People who have run into Waller along the way are certainly convinced his heart is in the right place.
"Shane has an amazing testimony, and he's not ashamed or afraid to share it," fellow Sherwood member Josh Henry said. "I can't see him ever going back to the place he was."
More importantly for Jere Williams, Waller helped him escape his own rock bottom.
"Shane and I met in a firefighter class, and one day the instructor talked about his relationship with the Lord," Williams said. "Some people in the class made anti-Christian comments, and that drew those of us who were Christians together. I was in a bad situation, was $200 away from living on the streets, my fiance had left me and even though I'd applied for 16 jobs, I couldn't find work anywhere.
"Shane and some of the other guys in that class prayed with me, and that was the thing that kept me going. I was at the point of suicide, even had a gun in my mouth, but I somehow found the strength to be patient. God has blessed me with a job that I love, and I'm looking into buying a new home. God just wanted me to be patient, and I found that strength by praying with Shane and others in that class."
Not one to sit still for long, Waller is looking for new ways to spread the word of God. He bought a 1979 van ("the year I was born") and with the help of sponsors is in the process of converting it into the "Holy Roller," a rolling testimony.
"I'm excited every day about being here, about doing God's work," Waller said. "I've seen what he can do in my own life; I think a lot of people would be surprised at what He could do if they'd let Him. The thing is, they have to let Him. Like 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, 'Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.'
"The way I look at it, taking steps -- even baby steps -- is still moving forward."
(Contact Waller at (229) 894-2987, on Facebook at 180 Discount Furniture or email 180Discountgmail.com.)