Breakthrough: Damon Owens
Posted by: DVULI | July 21, 2023
by Kimberlee Mitchell, Staff
On the outside, looking in, one would surmise Damon Owens (Oakland-SF Bay Area 2017) has the Midas touch. He was a successful restaurateur with three franchise locations and 30 employees. The church he planted and now pastors is growing. He is a partner and Executive Vice President of Business Development and Community Engagement for the Silicon Valley-based tech firm Dalet Access Labs. Damon serves as a collaborative leader with Converge.org, an international movement of 2,300 churches and missionaries aimed at planting and strengthening churches worldwide. To round things out, he is a devoted husband and card-carrying “girl dad” to three adult daughters.
Behind the scenes, there was a different dynamic. Damon and his wife, Shantell, were at odds. She recognized that their long work hours were unhealthy and pleaded with her husband to sell the restaurants. Damon didn’t want to let go and risk being perceived as a failure.
“I was always stressed and worried about success and results,” shares Damon who felt guilty when he wasn’t working. “I was all over the place. Despite a full calendar and all my roles, I felt empty and unfulfilled. It was challenging trying to find harmony with everything I had going on.”
Damon’s DVULI journey revealed telling blind spots in his life. He learned he suffered from a “superhero complex” and wanted to be “all things to all people.”
“It was all pride,” says Damon, a self-admitted perfectionist who wanted to be the best in everything he did. “Being overly busy robbed me of my joy, fruitfulness, rest, and fellowship with God and others. I was withering away from focusing on business, business, business.”
DVULI’s NC1 would reveal how Damon neglected the health and well-being of he and his wife. “DVULI helped me realize what was most important,” he shares. “It was a breath of fresh air that allowed my wife and I to pause, exhale, and really focus on the importance of relationships and mental and emotional health.”
Embracing the core value of balance and the process of reflective journaling brought further clarity to Damon’s life and guided his next steps. As if on cue, when Damon accepted that a shift to healthy change was needed, he and Shantell were presented with an offer—one he likely would have refused prior to his DVULI experience.
“A guy offered us a package deal for all the restaurants!” says Damon, who hadn’t yet listed the stores on the market. “He just came by, looked at the financials, realized they were healthy, and wanted to take them off our hands. God turned it around. It was a huge blessing!”
It’s not surprising to learn that Damon thoroughly embraced the breakthrough planning process or that he rewrote his plan three times! Stepping away from restaurants allowed him the space to achieve his goal of increasing his capacity as a collaborative ministry and marketplace leader. He’s working with a church planting team and as a church plant coach with World Impact and Converge.
“By the grace of God, I now sit as chairman of the board for my Converge district, consisting of 98-plus churches from Northern California to Nevada and Hawaii,” he says.
In this work, Damon is achieving another breakthrough goal, which is being more intentional about Community Youth Development. He supports youth struggling with personal trauma by offering tools to navigate a trauma-informed approach on navigating and expressing pain. A trauma survivor himself, he learned firsthand of the significant void in the church when it was ill-equipped to support him as a teen.
Damon is addressing this glaring need for structured trauma-informed care and mental health support in a collaborative effort with the DVULI Oakland-San Francisco Bay Area cohorts in partnership with the Trauma Healing Institute, the American Bible Society, and Quest Movement.
“We want to provide affordable, accessible, and reliable training materials through World Impact to help indigenous urban leaders in churches and communities address trauma,” says Damon. “Our plan is to take youth, young adults, and adults whose lives have been disrupted by trauma through six core lessons.” People who’ve been violated, subjected to domestic abuse, addiction, caring for caregivers, or experienced racialized or generational trauma will receive the support they could not find in the church.
“I found my sweet spot,” declares Damon, who helps empower and coach others to find themselves and discover a better version of themselves through healing. He teaches people how to lament and deal with the heart wounds they’ve accumulated over the years with the eventual goal of rebuilding and resilience.
“Growth and change are painful,” explains Damon, who realizes now that he is a work in progress. “But nothing is as painful as staying stuck doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results.”
More intentional about taking time off and spending quality time together, Damon and his bride went to Cancun this summer, a vacation he would not have considered years ago.
For high-achieving, make-it-happen, go-getting doers like Damon, he shares an anchoring reminder from his friend and former city coordinator Bernard Emerson: “God honors faithfulness, not fruitfulness.”