Amy Calvey’s been dancing. She puts socks on and slides across her shiny kitchen floor in a dance of pure childlike joy. It’s a moment that stands apart, because grief has been weighing her down the past few years.
Amy met Jack when she was 21. A few years earlier, she had run away from her home in the Midwest and her Christian upbringing. “I accepted Christ when I was 12 at my brother-in-law’s Bible study, but I didn’t really have a foundation,” she says. “I got lost, and then I ran away after high school.” She ended up living with an abusive man in Houston and then Fort Worth, where they were introduced to a mutual friend, Jack. The three of them got into all kinds of trouble. “Jack was crazy—drugs, alcohol, clubs—just a wild guy,” Amy says. “Once, he and the guy I was living with got arrested for getting in a fight and shooting off a shotgun downtown.He was always drinking or depressed. Then one day, he showed up to our apartment changed.” Jack had met Jesus, and he wanted to know if Amy wanted to come to Bible study with him. Amy saw the difference in Jack and thought, If God could change this crazy guy, He could change me. “I started reading the Bible and it just opened up to me. I received the Holy Spirit,” Amy says. “I left the guy I was living with and joined a Christian band with Jack. He was the drummer, and eventually, we got married.”
Life with Jack was an adventure. They were not only husband and wife but genuinely good friends. They had fun together and enjoyed one another’s company. Jack was also a family man at heart. “I was afraid to have children, but he wasn’t,” Amy says. “He was confident that I would be a good mother. So we had a lot of children, and I found out I loved being a mom. I felt like the more children we had, the more room there was in our hearts for them.” Amy and Jack have 9 children (and 3 in heaven due to miscarriages). Jack had been a mechanic in the Army, but he got a job as a carpenter remodeling homes. “He worked long hard hours to provide for our large family. We never thought in terms of ‘we can’t afford more children or take care of them,’” Amy says. “We knew God would provide, and He always did.” But tough days were ahead.
“Twelve years into our marriage, Jack was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder from his service in Vietnam. He was having trouble sleeping and having nightmares and problems with his temper,” Amy says. After seeking help from Veterans Affairs (VA), Jack was told he couldn’t work anymore. It was devastating for him, and he eventually turned his energy to remodel- ing their home. “We had problems with water coming under the house, so he started replacing some of the bad floors—in the living room, bathrooms, hallway, and one of the girls’ rooms,” she says. “He was old-school and had a ‘if I can’t do it, it’s not gonna get done’ mentality.” During this time, he would tackle ambitious house projects or help Amy with homeschooling the kids, which was nice after all his years of working long hours, but he wasn’t himself. He started going to the VA for counseling. “The counseling wasn’t Christ-centered though, and they kept telling him he was always going to be like this and it would only get worse,” Amy says. “Eventually, a couple other guys quit the counseling group, and Jack did too.” This was a breaking moment of sorts, and Jack became more and more inactive. Over the next decade, his health plummeted.
“It was difficult. He would sit for long hours at a time. He started having problems breathing and had arthritis. He would get tired and not want to do anything,” Amy says. “Three years ago, I could tell the circulation was getting bad in his legs, and then one of his toes turned purple. It was causing excruciating pain.” Amy begged him to go to a doctor and finally convinced him to see a podiatrist. The podiatrist told them to go to the emergency room. “That’s when they diagnosed him with severe vascular disease in his femoral arteries. They wanted to do surgery,” she says. “That happened on August 10, which was our anniversary.”
Jack never made it out of intensive care. “He fought for a long time, but it seemed like one thing after another was going bad—his lungs were failing, he got pneumonia, his gallbladder got infected,” she says. For a month and a half after the initial seven-hour surgery, doctors did everything they could. Amy visited daily, seeing a rollercoaster of improvement and decline day after day. They decided to do one more procedure to try to get things under control, but when Jack got into surgery, his blood pressure tanked. At this point, there was nothing left for doctors to do. “We all gathered together to say goodbye,” she says. “They stopped the blood pressure medication, and ... he was gone.”
Years earlier, when Amy and Jack were newlyweds, the church they were part of split, and they didn’t see the need for them to find another one. But while he was in the hospital, Amy started attending Gateway with her son and his wife and their family. “I knew I needed prayer and encouragement. I needed fellowship and support,” Amy says. “I was so desperate. I remember falling to my knees at the altar after service as a pastor’s wife prayed for me. A lot of times I cried through the entirety of praise and worship.” With her newfound, Spirit-filled church home, Amy received all she was looking for. Prayers gave her peace, worship gave her joy, serving filled her life with new friendships, and the sermons and Equip classes filled her mind with truth. Through the people at Gateway, God bolstered her as she sat with Jack in the hospital, dealing with doctors and bad reports, getting her through those intense last days at his side. After Jack passed, she and two of her kids attended GriefShare at Gateway, a class for those who have lost a loved one. “I remember I just wanted to stay at Gateway all the time. I didn’t want to go home,” she says. Home was a constant reminder of Jack’s health decline and absence. She missed him—her best friend, the man of her dreams, the father of her children. Before he passed, Jack didn’t have the energy or ability to finish many of the big projects he started, so Amy, and three of her kids who were still at home, found themselves living amid floors covered in plywood or with big holes, sheetrock issues, and a fence over an easement line that posed a legal issue.
Amy was grieving and didn’t have the know-how or physical ability to complete these looming tasks. But God knew. “During church one day, I heard an announcement about Men’s Brigade, and I wondered if they could help me,” she says. Men’s Brigade is a ministry outreach at Gateway that helps widows, single moms, and others with household repairs or yard work. “I sent in my information, and they responded very quickly that yes, they could help,” she says. “In February 2017, merely five months after Jack passed, a huge group of guys descended on our backyard. I was stunned.” The first thing they tackled was the fence—it was too far over the easement line and needed to be moved. The guys, accompanied by Amy’s youngest, Jacob (who was 12 at the time), and some of her other kids, worked together for several hours while Amy helped where she could. It was no easy job—they moved and replaced fence panels, dug holes, filled the holes with concrete, set the poles, and put up the posts. “This team of 11 or 12 guys worked together like a well-oiled machine. Even the guys who didn’t know how to do a job were patiently instructed by those who did,” she says. “It was incredible how much they completed, and they kept thanking me for letting them come and help. It was overwhelming.”
A few months later, Amy got up the courage to call once more and ask for help with some of the sheetrock and flooring issues inside her house, and the Men’s Brigade showed up again and again. “I knew the house was in bad shape, but when they came inside to start work, I went back to the bedroom, shut the door, and cried because I was so embarrassed,” she says. “There were holes in the floor, water under the house. The living room just had plywood on the floor, and we had a lot of sheetrock that needed to be replaced.” When she collected herself and came out from the bedroom, Amy watched how the guys were replacing the sheetrock. Some of the guys noticed her interest and began teaching Amy how to do it herself. “They couldn’t do everything in the short time they were there, but they instructed me enough so I could work on it after they left, which was actually fun for me,” Amy says. Empowered, Amy got a lot of it done herself. Other times they came, they installed doors and laid down subflooring in one bedroom, the kitchen, and the dining room and coordinated with a local flooring company who was looking to help as well. The flooring company offered Amy financial help and even worked with her on what type of flooring would be best for her and her home. With pets in the house, she chose a vinyl plank flooring for the whole house. “It was so nice to have beautiful smooth floors that were easy to clean,” she says. “I put my socks on and danced and skated across the floor. That was a great day.”
The Men’s Brigade came to Amy’s house four times in the last two years. But they didn’t just replace flooring, move a fence, install doors, and repair sheetrock for Amy. They prayed for her, taught her how to do things herself, and began a generational impact. “Jacob has now gone out with Men’s Brigade on a couple of other trips to people’s homes,” she says. “I couldn’t ask for a better example for my son. With his dad gone, the Lord leading godly men into his life has been a tremendous blessing.” Amy has also experienced a lot of healing out of this journey. “For a long time, pride and shame kept me and Jack from opening up our home and asking for help,” she says. “But as soon as the Men’s Brigade guys came in, it felt like they were family. They were so kind and thoughtful. And now, I think Jack would have been really blessed to see how well God and Gateway took care of us.”
Amy and several of her kids, including Jacob, along with their spouses and her grandchildren attend the NRH Campus. Some of her other children and grandchildren attend the North Fort Worth and Southlake Campuses.
To receive help or serve with Men’s Brigade, visit men.gatewaypeople.com.