Goshen Farms / Dr. Gail Bowen (Reverend)
“I am President of Abigail International Missions AIM (501C3). Founded in 2008. We came into this area because of the leading of the Lord. I was an administrator and Counselor in the Arlington ISD School District and retired in 2007. I had always wanted to be a missionary and the Lord brought me to Texas. I felt like the Lord wanted me to build a mission there. I didn’t know anything about the area but I felt like this is where he wanted me to go. I questioned why here, why not Pakistan, Amazon, Costa Rica or some other country. I bought the property with my 94-year-old father, Weldon Bowen, who is a WW2 U.S. Marine and with other help started Goshen Farms.”
Reverend Bowen has ministered in Central and South America, Europe, Pakistan and Australia: helping children in orphanages, teaching the bible, preaching in local churches, and assisting various ministries.
“We have a board member who was married to a veteran and she is very familiar with veteran medical and PTSD issues. She refers veterans to us. She is a minister too. Camp-V in Tyler has referred the last four veterans to us. We provide food, clothing, shelter and medical paperwork assistance and in some cases help them pay their rent so they can catch up with some of their bills.”
The first thing Dr. Bowen did was build a Parsonage and and built a chapel. “We didn’t want to start a new church. We built near Ben Wheeler and Van on 22 acres.
The goal is the farm to support the ministry. We raise our own chicken and meat and I can actually milk if I need to. We have the veterans help us feed the animals and take care of the farm and they do a good job.
We first started out to see what the need was and not so much for the veterans. We saw where people had feeding stations in Canton and Edom area. This is still a learning curve for us, because we were just city people.
When I went to the Post Office I met my first veteran. His name was “Chuck” and he was a WW2 and Korean Conflict veteran. He served both in the Air Force and Army. He wasn’t in good health and as I listened to his story I realized he was only making about $600. A month to live on. Here was an 84-year-old disabled vet walking with a cane. He had cancer. He was trying to find a job and a place to live. Chuck did what he could including cutting the lawn on the riding mower. He once told me, “that was the best years of his life.” He had a small car and our mission helped him get a small travel trailer. He is now in the Volunteers of America on the East Coast in Maryland.
By this time, we had built a bunk house that looks like a duplex. One side is for women and the other for men. We have a female resident here now. She was married to a veteran and when she left she didn’t have anywhere to go. She has been here for about a year. Most of the funds we have now is going to be funneled in so we can build another bunk house to house more veterans.”
The bunk house has one bedroom, a complete kitchen, and one bathroom. Up to four people can live in the bunkhouse. “Me and my dad live in the main house,” said Dr. Bowen.
“In talking with “Chuck” I realized he had severe PTSD. I asked him if he knew about the VA helping him with medical and PTSD services. I realized the VA was not helping the needs of the veterans. I began to look for resources. I met a man named “Izzy Mackie” and he would go up to a place called the “Shed” and he was collecting money for veterans for the holidays. He was working with Brookshire’s and was helping about 500 families with delivering meals.
He told me about a man named “J.D. Collett.” He was a combat veteran. Since passed away, J.D. felt like the veteran needed a “homelike” environment. So, J.D. put together about 5 or 6 of those houses and the veterans would pool their money together and live in them. He wanted to join with me because I was doing the same thing for veterans. He, and a man by the name of Rickey Lee (Nashville Country-Western artist), started a company called “CARDBOARD HEROES.” He came down to the Bullard area and did a fundraiser. I met many of the people that J.D. was associated with including LONESTAR MILITARY RESOURCE, Julianne Sanford and another person Charlie George. We got together and were all helping the veterans. J.D. worked with filing with the VA for their disability. He would check out the veterans and see if they were suitable for this program and refer veterans to me. We were looking for veterans who served our country and not looking for a “Hand Out” but a “Hand Up.”
We were looking for people who could learn leadership skills, take care of themselves, knew how to farm and really wanted to get their act together and be a contributing member of society.
We have had as many as four people at a time on the farm. That does not seem like a lot, but it really is. Most of them have very little money. Some were living out of their truck or in the forest and had PTSD issues.
I had one Navy veteran living in a hotel and he only had $19. and sold everything he had. They were ready to kick him out. He didn’t have any place to go. This was back in December. He just really fell on hard times. A lot of the veterans are divorced and the wives end up with most of the assets. We were donated a mobile home and this Navy veteran ended up staying in there. He had electrical skills and just needed time to get back on his feet. He eventually moved out.
We had another Army veteran confined to a wheelchair. He lost his leg in an accident. He was making less than $800 and had a daughter he was supporting. We helped him with his eligibility and helped him get $2,200 a month. The VA was helping him for his prior service. He and his daughter are now living in an apartment.
We currently have an Iraqi war veteran. He suffers from TBI, (Traumatic Brain Injury). He has two small children and was living in the forest when I introduced him to Goshen Farms. He was a scout in the Army was exposed to a variety of IED’s, (Improvised Explosive Devices). He actually worked as an Arborist for a number of years. He helped us cut down trees and put up fences. He has a 2-year college degree. He has two kids and he wants to stay longer as our Ranch Manager. He wants to shelter here and also continue going to school on his GI Bill. Some veterans who come here are willing to work on the farm in exchange for their place to live.
A lot of the veterans have medical issues. Some don’t have transportation and I take them to get their necessities like food or they visit friends sometimes.
My father and I have basically built this place up and used our resources along with donations. As Christians, we help others people that are not veterans. We help families and even some who have come out of prisons. They become part of my family. We are a mission and we rely on donations. We don’t charge anyone to stay here. Every veterans goals are different. They live here as long as they need to be. The longest time a veteran stayed here was a year and a half.
We do work with other agencies who work with disabled vets. I make a contract with the vets when they come here. I meet them off premise first and just talk with them. I ask about their goals and how we can help them and how it would benefit them to come and live on this farm. Some just need shelter or jobs. Some are just too sick to work and need help with their disability. For some, it is just very difficult when you are 55 and have cancer and try to get a job. Many of the vets have service related issues and just need a place to stay until they can get their benefits straightened out.
Two of our veterans stayed for about 4-5 months until they were able to get back on their own. One of the vets here now is waiting for his eligibility. He didn’t have a copy of his DD-214 and we spent six months trying to get him a copy of his separation papers so he could move forward. Covid-19 has also made it difficult because of all the shutdowns with the government.
We have a strict, no drinking, no drugs or other addiction problems. This is a mission. We try to refer them to other programs if we can’t meet their needs. There is a large need for homeless veterans in our county. We never like to turn away a homeless veteran. They took care of business in a foreign war, they did their part, now we need to step up and do our part.”
You can contact Gail Bowen at Goshen Farms (903) 253-5980
785 VZCR 4605, Ben Wheeler, Texas 75754
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