My Brother's Keeper of Greater Richmond

"Encouraging Brothers Through the Storms of Life"

August 2014

Journey to Manhood

Jason Boswell, Father. Truck Driver, Elder

by Monica Haynes

Jason Boswell is a man after God’s own heart. And he’s funny, too. Whether he is teaching a Sunday class at church or ministering to men in incarceration, Boswell uses his wit and humor to bring home the message of redemption and salvation.

Spend just a little time with this 53-year-old husband, father, grandfather and former Marine and it is evident that he is enjoying his walk in the sunshine of God’s love. An Elder at New Canaan International Church, he is a natural at men’s ministry.

“Since I was a little boy, I’ve always been comfortable around other boys, as I grew up I was in Boy Scouts, went to the Boys Club. I hung out with other [guys] in the Marine Corp. Once I became saved and became more active in church, it was just a natural fit to lead men,” Boswell said. “I would like to continue to encourage men to share the Gospel in such a way that our men would give their lives to the Lord.” He said he operates from the premise of “Seek first understanding rather than being understood.”

Boswell’s current light-filled path belies the dark road he traveled, one that includes drugs, homelessness, crime and eventual incarceration. “People who knew me knew I couldn’t hide anything. I was always open about the things I did,” Boswell said. “I didn’t brag or boast but, if people would tell then I was out there. I had wanted help, I didn’t know how to go about getting it.”

During this time, he was living with his parents but his parents, who’d always been loving and supportive, even giving him money to make sure he ate, eventually administered some tough love. “I was in the midst of a lot of dangerous activity, around a lot of dangerous people,” Boswell explained. So one day after one of his binges, he came home to find his items on the porch. His mother had put him out.

His predicament was a far cry from his carefree days as a youngster growing up in the Westwood section of Richmond, a close-knit neighborhood. “We pretty much relied on each other for resources and everybody went to the same church.”

The youngest of Theodore Roosevelt and Anieda Boswell’s three children, he had two older sisters, Marilyn and Rosemary. “Me being the only boy and I was the baby boy, I would probably say that naturally, they kind of spoiled me a little more than my two older siblings,” he said. “My mother was very affectionate of me. She dressed me very, very well. She instilled some values in me…she instilled in me that I could be anything. That I had an equal playing field, just like everybody else.” From His father he inherited his work ethic. “My father was, and is still, today, the quiet man,” Boswell said. “But he communicated through his actions that he was strong. Those are the things he passed onto me. He was an honest man. Last, but not least, he was a hard worker.”

At one point, his father had a full-time job at Phillip Morris and he had two part-time jobs. “I was expected to help out around the house. At the age of seven, I was expected to go to work with him on one of his part-tine jobs.” As a teen, Boswell got his own part-time job, but still found time to play basketball and intramural football at Thomas Jefferson High School. And his father, found time to attend his games, despite his busy work schedule.

As a student, Boswell admits he was below average. “I didn’t excel. One of the reasons I felt sure was because I was popular and that lead me to do things to make me stand out.” Among those things was cutting school, doing drugs and being the class clown when he attended class. However, he attributes some of that to the fact that he worked and chose to play some days instead of going to school. “College was something that never crossed my mind. I would often think about going into the military, but I had no knowledge about it. But sharp dresser that he was, he was attracted to the uniforms of the Marine Corp.

After high school, Boswell obtained an apprenticeship at plumbing and heating company. “ I liked the work, but I would probably have to say for the first time in my life, I started to experience racism.” During an out-of-town work assignment, he explained that the site supervisor was an alcoholic, would use words like “nigger” and “boy” when he was drunk. “I was the only black there.” Even though, his co=workers didn’t condone the behavior, only one person did anything to stop it,” he said. “My reaction was I couldn’t totally understand why it was directed at me, but on the other hand I was always taught that confidence and that I wasn’t inferior.”

After another incidence of racism, Boswell left the company and entered the Marine Corp in 1980. During his eight years in the Marines, Boswell married high school sweetheart and the couple had a son. But by the time, he left the military, his marriage was in trouble. “We were apart for a large amount of time,” he said. “Both of us did some things neither one of us were really proud of.” But despite his best efforts, the marriage ended in 1990.

During his time in the Marines, Boswell made enormous efforts to visit his son, at one point driving four hours every weekend for two years to be with him. After his military stint, his ex-wife moved from Richmond to North Carolina, which necessitated more weekend driving to see his son. However, he was now working at an auto repair shop and as he described it, “my drug use become more complex.” Part of it, Boswell attributed to the physical distance between him and his young son. That really lead to a kind of hopelessness that gave way to increased drug use. “It took me to being jobless, my finances were totally depleted, it actually pointed me in the direction of stealing to support my habit.” Boswell entered a 30-day treatment program at a Veteran’s Affairs facility. “For the first time in my life I was functioning. I was being productive,” he said. “I would have a talk with God every day that I was out there with the Lawn-boy, just cutting yards.”

It was during a part-time job he had for a janitorial service that he met his current wife Sharon.