Feels like home: Burdette shares journey to leading shelter
Published 9:02 am Monday, February 1, 2016
By EMILY SPARACINO / Staff Writer
Fourteen years ago, Lew Burdette answered God’s call to serve at King’s Home.
As a former executive and storeowner in the book business, Burdette transitioned into uncharted territory as the new president of King’s Home, a program that operates 22 Christ-centered homes for women and children escaping from domestic abuse and other dangerous situations.
“God just immediately stirred my heart,” Burdette said of the opportunity. “I knew this would be what the next journey was going to be.”
But to understand Burdette’s work as the person at the forefront of the King’s Home mission, you first must know the trials Burdette endured to arrive at his present spot.
BOTTOM OF THE WELL
Burdette and his three siblings grew up helping their father by sacking groceries and completing other tasks at his grocery store in small-town Roanoke.
As he was leaving work one night, Burdette, who was 15 years old, was abducted at gunpoint outside of the store.
The abduction was for ransom, but it soon turned into a messy situation in which the kidnappers beat Burdette, dropped him into a deep well down a dirt road in a remote area, shot him and left him to die.
Burdette languished, recited scripture and prayed to God in the bottom of the well for nearly two hours before he found the strength to climb out.
He then crawled about a mile along the dirt road to find help.
Despite the extent of his injuries, Burdette was released from the hospital less than two weeks later.
“Things don’t always go our way,” he said. “Every single one of us faces struggle, but the true test is how we handle adversity.”
Burdette said he learned lessons at the bottom of the well that have stuck with him through adulthood, such as perseverance, respecting others, respecting life and valuing one’s own life.
“We really don’t know what’s around the next turn, so appreciate your life,” Burdette said. “Never give up when things seem impossible and when all hope is lost. Don’t quit until you finish it.”
Burdette certainly hasn’t given up. His path before arriving at King’s Home more than a decade ago was filled with ups and downs.
Burdette worked in the book business for 16 years, 13 of which were with Books-A-Million, where he rose to chief operating officer.
He left Books-A-Million to start Kindred, a company with two Christian bookstores in the area.
The first store was a success, but Burdette encountered a roadblock with the second store, which opened after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
“I couldn’t make it as a small start-up,” he said. “That was a very hurtful experience.”
Burdette and his family lost nearly everything, barring their home.
“You learn and grow through some of the hardest times,” he said. “You grow through pain.”
Burdette’s background is perhaps what connects him so strongly with the residents at King’s Home.
“Obviously something very hurtful and traumatic happened to me,” he said. “I can identify with that … the kind of hurt and tragedy that’s inflicted on you by somebody else. Everything just doesn’t always go the way you want and plan it.”
When Burdette heard about the administrative opening at King’s Home, he decided to see what God might have in store.