Finding Home in the Garden of Life

Where stories of brokenness abound there are now lives of redemption being lived outin Gospel Village

On East Lemon Street in Lakeland, a small but diverse garden grows outside Gospel Village.

Green onions, eggplant, kale, blueberries—more than 20 varieties of fruits, vegetables and herbs are grown and harvested by resident Anthony Razor.
“I come out here every day,” he says, gesturing toward the garden.
He tends to the plants and talks to them, and talks to God. He meditates for an hour each morning. “If I don’t pray, I know the devil is outside doing push-ups,” he laughs.
Razor was born in the 1970s amid family turmoil. He was thrust alongside his two brothers into what he calls a shoddy foster care system. Frequently moving from home to home, he was mistreated and neglected. “The system taught me I couldn’t trust anyone,” he says, noting he never knew where his parents were.
After years in the system, he fled, spending decades unhoused and living on the streets.
I believe God writes our lives, but I think he wrote mine inside out,” Razor says. He didn’t have the luxury of getting his footing in a stable home. He was born into chaos. It took him nearly 50 years to find peaceand it’s something he’s still working toward.
He has always been driven and considerate. He’s been a cook for nearly 40 years. Cooking, painting and landscaping, Razor always had a job, but never a place to call his own. When he was on the streets, a mysterious good Samaritan frequently left him $50 and some cigarettes. It happened over and over again. He didn’t know who it was, or why, but he saw it as a sign someone believed in him. So he split the money with others. A firm believer that good things come back around, he spread his blessings when he was lucky to receive them.

I should’ve been dead a long time ago, but every morning I wake up and figure I still have work to do.”

Living on the streets, Razor survived shootings, near-fatal car crashes and illnesses. “I should’ve been dead a long time ago,” he says, “but every morning I wake up and figure I still have work to do.”

When he turned 50, he “finally started listening to God,” and turned his life around. He offered to help paint the trailers at Gospel Village. The nonprofit’s founder, Brian Seeley, found out Razor was sleeping on benches around Lake Mirror at the time, and took him in. 

In the Gospel Village community, colorfully-painted trailers are tucked away between trees and lush varieties of floral. It’s cozy and welcoming. It has a sense of purpose and place, so vital to those who have spent so much time without it. 

I think of the garden like all of us. With proper care and attention, miracles can happen.

Being here has given me opportunities I never knew were possible for me,” Razor said. He gives speeches all over Lakeland to kids and adults about his story and what he’s learned. He’s a work in progress—and he is the first to admit it—but he’s proud of the radical change he’s made the past few years.

He speaks often of “Ms. Annie,” Gospel Village’s psychotherapist, and how she helps residents quell disputes and understand their lived experiences. He talks about his trailer and how he’s been able to make it his own. Gospel Village is home: he directs my attention again and again back to the garden. It is his place of solace, purpose and prayer. 
“I think of the garden like all of us. With proper care and attention, miracles can happen.”