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My Dream: The footsteps of his faith

[Times photo: Kevin German]
The Rev. Toby Carlos kicks off his shoes during his sermon at the New Life Outreach Center. He does it to demonstrate “that we’ll all have new shoes and robes when we’re changed.”

By DAVE SCHEIBER, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published July 20, 2002

For the Rev. Toby Carlos of Illinois, sermons and life are a whirlwind of constant motion - often bringing him to preach in St. Petersburg and points beyond.

People wonder where I get all the energy to do everything I do, and I tell them it's all from God.

I'm a chaplain for the Home Sweet Home shelter for the homeless in Bloomington, Ill., an associate minister there at the Mount Pisgah Missionary Baptist Church, and I work a double shift six days a week driving a truck for the U.S. Postal Service.

My wife, Charlotte, and I love to travel to St. Petersburg. We've been coming here for five years so I can preach at the New Life Outreach Center. I'm good friends with their pastor, who I knew up in Bloomington.

In the picture of me, I'd just come down the aisle to share with the people. I kicked off my shoes -- as a way to show them that we'll all have new shoes and robes when we're changed.

My parents were sharecroppers in Louisiana, and my dad was up in years when I came along. We lived on a small farm there, and never had much. But we had the church and we had love. As a youngster, I wasn't able to do sports or anything real active because I developed a bone condition that put me in the hospital on and off. Nobody knew exactly what it was. But then it just went away.

I was always showered with a lot of attention from my (13) siblings when they'd come to visit for the holidays, 'cause I was the baby. My mother passed away in '65, when I was 14, and my dad was getting older, so I moved to Bloomington to live with my brother Frank and go to high school. After I finished, I got a job at a hospital driving ambulances to transport patients who needed X-rays or care someplace else.

In 1970, I met my wife. We raised two sons, who are 30 and 28 today. I eventually got a job as a city bus driver in Bloomington. I held that job for 12 years. But then my illness returned in 1984. This time it was really bad, in my legs and my stomach. I went to Minnesota to the Mayo Clinic. They took bone marrow from me to do tests, and they wanted me to stay for more tests to find out what was wrong.

But I didn't want to. I decided to go home to Bloomington and whatever what was going to happen to me was going to happen. Being sick and all my trials kind of made me look at life differently. I started wanting to work with the sick and people in need. And that's when the Lord showed me a new calling. I never looked back. The pain was still unbearable for me some days. But just like when I was a child, it went away. I did my trial sermon on Feb. 24, 1985, and I was ordained in 1993. Ever since, I've just been trying to give people hope, and let them know that if they fall, they can get back up.

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