His experiences of abuse, homelessness, and the death of two brothers have led this musician to a passion for ministering to youth.
As Damien got out of his car and approached me while I was sitting in front of Panera Bread, a couple of things immediately came to mind. First was that he’s definitely what I’ve heard people say about him since meeting him for the first time: He’s cute (and a bit taller than some people might expect him to be). Yet as he greeted me with a hug, a smile and a gentle tone in his voice, the other thing that resonated with me is that fact that a man with such an impressive resume actual seems…almost shy.
The resume? Well, you can Google “Damien Horne” and see that he has his hands in all kinds of things. He’s one part of a country music trio known as The Farm. He’s a solo artist who writes songs about love, life and loss that makes you either ponder or swoon (depending on the day, I guess). He’s also a philanthropist extraordinaire with passions that range from everything to homelessness (he has been homeless himself a time or two) and music to prison ministry and youth.
Yet if you were to ask him to share his top priority, he intently says “youth”. In fact, ask Damien about his heart for kids and whether he realizes it or not, his face lights up. Yet interestingly enough, if you ask him about where the fervency came from, for a brief moment in his eyes, a shadow is cast. “I come from a family of 12 siblings,” he says rather matter-of-factly, going on to explain that it was a blended family. “My father wasn’t around. I was exposed to sexual abuse. I have family members who fell victim to substance abuse. I’ve already lost two brothers. Two others have been incarcerated before.” Damien takes a pause—whether it’s to reflect or to exhale is debatable. “Yeah…I’ve seen a lot. That’s a part of why I’m so passionate about speaking to youth now. I want them to know that their environment doesn’t have to dictate their outcome. I want them to know there’s a better way.”
As a 36-year-old single man with no children, no police record—not even the smell of alcohol or the reverb of swear words on his breath, it is a bit of a miracle and at the same time no surprise that when you ask him “So, what would you say that you do for a living?”, his first response is “I’m a minister.”
Just to clarify, Damien is a bible school graduate. Therefore, he is able to marry (something he actually did for one of his bandmates) and eulogize people. However, he’s not a pastor. He and I both agree that far too often those roles get confused. Damien breaks it down this way: “A pastor has a sheep or flock that they are responsible for in a more personal sense. A pastor tends to work in a corporate setting. I don’t do that. Every pastor is a minister; not every minister is a pastor.”
You’re a minister, got it. So, in the midst of singing and acting and everything else that Damien has his hands in (and trust me, it’s a lot), where does the whole “ministry” thing fit in?
It started at the age of 7 when he recalls first accepting Christ (it also didn’t hurt that his mother was adamant about all of her children attending church on a regular basis). From there, Damien’s interest in Christ’s life and purpose and influence continued to take shape, all the while forming him simultaneously.
“I try and make a conscious effort to be like Christ and live by his examples, rules and guidelines,” says Damien. And with a thoughtful pause he adds, “I’ve made my mistakes. I’m not perfect and I try and encourage people to not want to be like me, but like the man I strive to serve and that’s Jesus. Because of all that God’s done for me and spared me from, I have to give back.”
When you ask him just how exactly he goes about doing that, it’s clear why late philanthropists such as Ghandi, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mother Teresa come to his mind. It would appear that Damien wakes up each day with three things on his personal agenda: To make God prouder of him today than he was yesterday. To take advantage of opportunities that will help to expand his platform. And yes, to give back. More specifically, to discern needs and meet them (and in that order).
If you ask Damien what a need, to him, is, he’s going to a bit abstract with his answer. “I have a sensitivity towards what people need in order to survive rather than what people want. Children in Africa who don’t have water? That is a need. The latest cell phone? That is a want. Wants are cool, but my heart is to look for where people need food, water, shelter and clothing and see what I can do to help.”
Every day, Damien? Yes, one way or another, Damien seeks to serve God through meeting needs—daily.
You’ve probably looked at the picture of him a couple of times throughout this article by now. You’re probably wondering how much his mission has taken a toll on his personal life. He admits that although a lot of people know of him, very few know the core. The core being the man who thrives on a stage but feels somewhat claustrophobic in a mall. The core being the man who loves serving people but enjoys a long drive, sitting alone in a movie or turning off his cell phone more than most people would suspect. The core being someone who knows that rumors and speculation come with being in the spotlight; that’s why he can count his intimate friends on one hand (literally).
“I definitely have to work better at finding a balance”, admits Damien. “It’s just that when you’re clear about your purpose and you know that ministry is a part of it, there’s not enough time in the day to accomplish it all. I always feel like I need to do more.” He pauses again. “Sometimes at the expense of myself.” Thank the Lord he adds, “I’m working on that.”
And so, as a bit off-the-beaten-path Damien’s journey may be, especially being that he’s a minister who is also a performance artist in so many unique veins, you might wonder how he is able to reconcile merging so many worlds together.
Good question. “Fame is not a priority to me,” he says thoughtfully. “I will definitely use it to expand my platform, though. Christ spoke in parables so that more people could understand him. I just look at all of the things that I’m doing as a way to reach more and more demographics. I don’t plan on going anywhere any time soon, but when I die, I want my epitaph to say that I made the most of every opportunity, I was a good steward of my time, talents and spiritual gifts and that my life truly meant something. That’s what matters the most to me.”
At the expense of everything else? Pretty much.
And as he walks away from the table as unassumingly as Damien walked up, it’s funny. Suddenly the fact that he’s a cute guy with a gentle voice is not what stays with you. The question of “Am I making the most of my own self?” beckons from within.
Something tells me that’s what he would want people to focus on after meeting him anyway.
Duly noted. It was certainly a pleasure, Damien Horne.
I’ll check Google periodically. I have a feeling that there will be a lot more links coming in your future.
Photo courtesy of the author