Big Man on a Big Mission

By Keith Dobbs

Big Joe may be Goliath size but he’s more like David, the man after God’s heart. At 6’6” and a record weight of 495 pounds, Big Joe became an overnight sensation when a random video was captured in Los Angeles at the Women’s March following President Donald Trump’s inauguration.

Big Joe and Keith Dobbs, Vice President of Advancement department at Weimar Institute.

With over 100 million views and over a million shares, in one form or another, of the YouTube video clip (, Big Joe says he’s humbled by this experience.

In the video and subsequent videos, his experience is one of defending Christian beliefs, opposition to planned parenthood, and advocating for a united nation.

“There was no way that I was supposed to be in the middle of this march. I was on my bike on the way to the subway,” reflected Big Joe. “I’m a believer in the Creator. I believe in Divine Providence.”

Big Joe is seeing some mighty work from the Big Man with book offers, online shows, radio interviews, and even offers to visit the White House.

“God has a calling in my life. I’ve always known that He was going to use me.”

Sighting his love for evangelism, distribution of mass Christian literature, and his love for working with people, Big Joe said that God opened the door…wide open!

“The video, and several subsequent videos, has given me a very unusual platform where people would be willing to hear what I’m saying,” Big Joe continued. “People understand that I was speaking of prophecy. God has given me a bold confidence, like Stephen in the scriptures.”

He said that it’s hard to keep his faith a secret when so many people want to hear what he’s saying. “The seeds have been planted and are being germinated.”

In a home of divided faith…his mother was Catholic and his father was a Seventh-day Adventist, Big Joe was raised in New York with his mother. At age 13, he started to split time between his mother in New York and his dad in Philadelphia.

bigjoe-222 His father had studied ministry at Oakwood College in Alabama and instilled some of the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s beliefs. His grandfather was a church planter in the Island of Haiti.

Big Joe began studying for himself, trying to find the right hope for his path. “I ended right back where I started after my research. I believed in the Sabbath and the dietary laws of Leviticus.”

His research extended into the Spirit of Prophecy and Ellen White as a prophet for interpretation of scriptures to compliment the Biblical truths. “I came into the Adventist truth by studying all the religions. It wasn’t a tradition thing for me.”

A series of life events happened for Big Joe including marriage, three sons, divorce, and a lot of emotional eating.

When referencing his divorce, Big Joe shared that his mother said, “God is punishing you until you come back to the Catholic faith.”

He said that it was like a “Job experience” all in one day. After earnest prayer, Big Joe was put in contact with some health-conscience Adventists. Using his words, “God put the right people around me at the right time.”

Fast-forward to February 2017 when Big Joe reached out to Weimer Institute in Northern California to enroll in the NEWSTART program. “It was time to get my life back in order and be reflective of the health message that I have in my heart.”

NEWSTART is an 18-day residential program from an acronym for nutrition, exercise, water, sunlight, temperance, air, rest and trust in God. He feels that as he gets his weight under control, and drops down to his desired weight of 240 pounds, that people will notice and ask questions. “Being in front of the camera all the time these days, it will give me an opportunity to tell about the Seventh-day Adventist health message which can open all kinds of doors.”

L to R: Ron Giannoni, Dr. Neil Nedley, Big Joe, Steve Brownell, Pr. Don Mackintosh, Dr. Roger Gallant, and Pr. Jerry Page.


During his 18-day program at Weimar, Big Joe got a good start toward his goals. He lost 21 pounds and five inches.

With a size 16 shoe, Big Joe says, “I plan on looking like actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson with a set of six-pack muscles. That will get everyone’s attention and they’ll be asking questions.”

Now at 47, he felt it was time to claim the promises of Isaiah 8:20, “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.”

Big Joe automatically began singing his favorite hymn, Seeking the Lost.

“Seeking the lost, yes, kindly entreating, Wanderers of the mountain astray; Come unto Me, His message repeating, Words of the Master speaking today.

Going afar upon the mountain, Bringing the wande’rer back again, back again, Into the fold of my Redeemer, Jesus, the Lamb for sinners slain, for sinners slain.

Seeking the lost and pointing to Jesus, Souls that are weak and heart that are sore, Leading them forth in ways of salvation, Showing the path to life evermore.”

Left: NEWSTART Chaplain Damon Snead baptizing Big Joe; and Weimar Academy principal for the next school year, Kirk Krueger on the right.

Big Joe said that God wants him to use his new-found fame to sound an alarm to the lost and point them to Jesus. He believes the prophecy that during these end times, the Seventh-day Adventist message will come from obscure places. Reference a passage in Selected Messages, book 1, pp. 221, 222, Big Joe said, “We are standing on the threshold of great and solemn events. Prophecies are fulfilling. Strange and eventful history is being recorded in the books of heaven–events which it was declared should shortly precede the great day of God. Everything in the world is in an unsettled state. The nations are angry, and great preparations for war are being made. Nation is plotting against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. The great day of God is hasting greatly. But although the nations are mustering their forces for war and bloodshed, the command to the angels is still in force, that they hold the four winds until the servants of God are sealed in their foreheads.”

Being a public figure himself, Big Joe isn’t star struck with a request to meet the president or of his encounter with renowned neurosurgeon Ben Carson who now serves as the United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. He wants to make sure that people know his motives are not about politics but rather sharing a common ground…that Jesus Christ is the Lord and Savior over all.

During Big Joe’s recent experience at Weimar Institute, he was re-baptized by NEWSTART Chaplain Damon Snead.

“It’s all part of God’s plan to put the right people in the right place at the right time. God will provide a path to share His ministry just like he opened the door for me to be at that Women’s March.”

*Big Joe is his name of choice. With a birth name of Joseph, his last name means “of war” in French, however, he’s a man of peace. He has been known as Big Joe since 1998. He is a member of a Seventh-day Adventist Church in Southern California.

Lifespan Development (3 Credits)

From conception to old age, this course explores focuses on the biological, psychological, and social developmental issues and milestones for each stage of the lifespan, paying particular attention to the aspects of context, culture, and environmental issues. Topics include, but are not limited to: parenting style (child guidance), social contexts, social stress, poverty, low educational attainment, abuse and neglect, gender and family issues salient to relationships, separation, nontraditional and blended families and inadequate housing and how these affect development. Issues of aging and long-term care are included.

Moral Identity and Faith as a Counselor (3 Credits)

This course explores the formation of the student therapist’s identity as a counselor within the framework of Christianity and how this plays out in a secular world of counseling. This course presents philosophical and ethical perspectives integral to the understanding of the contemporary psychologies. Students learn how to analyze the ethical bias of psychotherapeutic psychologies, identify their underlying philosophical assumptions, and develop an appreciation for the moral components in individual, marital, and family identity formation. Also included will be a workshop to enhance spiritual development.

Christian Counseling and Psychotherapy: Basic Theories and Skills (3 Credits)

This course develops an understanding of the major theoretical orientations used by current practitioners, focusing on systemic approaches. Theories provide a coherent framework for understanding how people change. This course will highlight the Biblical understanding of how change takes place. This course covers the concepts and techniques associated with the primary theories of counseling psychology: psychodynamic, existential-humanistic, cognitive-behavioral, and post-modern; in contrast with wholistic counseling techniques. Also included are the evidence-based treatments, limitations, and outcome research associated with each concept. The course also highlights cultural and spiritual diversity as it applies to the therapeutic process and awareness of the self, interpersonal issues, and spiritual values as they impact the use of theoretical frameworks. This course also introduces the student to basic skill in attending behavior, clinical interviewing and clinical intervention. Finally, this foundational course clarifies key issues in human nature and prepares the student for developing a worldview that is consistent with their theological and spiritual orientation.

Advanced Counseling Theory (3 Credits)

This course will examine several individuals, and family approaches for counseling. The development of specific behavioral, cognitive, humanistic/experiential, psychodynamic and systemic frameworks will be deconstructed. Student will distinguish Christian approach of addressing individual and family concerns. Students will be involved in experiential activities designed to relate the observation, demonstration and practice to research-based explanations. In this course, we will consider how each approach is used in clinical, school, and marriage and family counseling applications. Training in the use of the therapeutic relationship will be a focus for understanding and intervening with clients.

Group Processes in Counseling (3 Credits)

This course introduces students to the theory and practice of group counseling with children, adults, families, and couples. The course focuses on basic group counseling theory including therapeutic group factors, stages of group development, and principles of commonly accepted and research-based group interventions. The course will cover different types of groups, such as support, psycho-educational, and process groups; the tasks, skills, and qualities of effective group leaders; roles of group members; and legal and ethical issues pertaining to groups, group leaders; roles of group members; and legal and ethical issues pertaining to groups. Importance is placed on responsibilities and skills and cultural considerations. Emphasis on small and large group processes and involvement in experiential activities is designed to relate the clinical process to theoretical explanations. Throughout, there is an emphasis on group work within community mental health settings.

Child and Adolescent Counseling (3 Credits)

This course provides an understanding of the broad range of childhood and adolescent problems and maladjustment behaviors. A variety of psychotherapeutic modalities are presented, providing the student with an opportunity to develop knowledge of basic child and adolescent therapy skills, assessments, and treatment strategies. The impact of the development aspects, family dynamics, social environments, and multicultural issues are addressed. In addition, legal and ethical issues and the role of hospitalization are considered.

Addictions Counseling and Treatment (3 Credits)

This course covers the prevention, assessment, and treatment of substance abuse/dependence, behavioral addictions, and co-occurring conditions. Theories of etiology, populations at risk, and the role of persons and systems in supporting or compounding abuse/addiction are discussed. The course reviews the cognitive, affective, behavioral, and neurological effects of psychoactive drug use and the impact of addiction on the family system. Best practices for the screening, assessment, and treatment of addictions and co-occurring behaviors are covered as well as community resources for individuals and family members. Additional focus will be placed on developing understanding of Recovery Oriented Care, social and psychological implications of socioeconomic position, and cultural awareness and competencies.

Counseling Diverse Populations (3 Credits)

This course focuses on the intersection and convergence of culture, race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, disability, socioeconomic status, religion, acculturation, and chronological age and how these inform effective mental health care. The goal is to increase awareness of multiple dimensions of diversity in order to prepare students to work sensitively and effectively with California’s multi-cultural population. Attention also is given to issues of privilege, marginality, and oppression, including sexism, racism, classism, ableism, ageism, and heterosexism. Theoretical perspectives on multicultural counseling will be examined as well as strategies for intervention and advocacy. This course will focus on eliminating biases, prejudices, and processes of intentional and unintentional oppression and discrimination. Throughout, effective strategies for communicating about emotionally charged material is emphasized.

Couples and Family Counseling: Post-Modern (3 Credits)

This course continues the study of the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of individuals, couples, and families using interactional and brief models. This course provides advanced training in the theories and techniques of modern and post-modern schools of family therapy including Cognitive Behavioral, Behavioral, Solution-Focused, and Narrative Therapy. Also included are the evidence-based treatments, outcome research, and limitations associated with each theory. Specific family issues addressed include: transition to parenthood, parenting young and school-age children, household division of labor, and blended families. Throughout, careful attention is paid to the historical and cultural context in which the theories were developed and the implications for working with diverse populations in recovery-oriented community mental health settings.

Christian Counseling and Psychotherapy: Advanced Techniques (3 Credits)

This course is designed to further develop the psychotherapeutic skills of students prior to their entry into a clinical placement. Students focus on developing proficiency in the core interviewing qualities, deriving goals for a clinical session, and in making contracts with clients for change. Additionally, students are encouraged to begin developing a theoretical and conceptual understanding of cases and trained to work with diverse populations. Students are also encouraged to address issues regarding the integration of their faith with the practice of psychotherapy.

Assessment of Individuals, Couples, and Families (3 Credits)

This course examines the application of psychological instruments to the assessment of individuals, couples, and families. Fundamentals of psychological assessment are reviewed including standardized and non-standardized testing approaches, basic statistical concepts, and moral, ethical and cultural considerations in assessment. The course will also provide an overview of issues related to cognitive assessment, achievement, aptitude, and neuropsychological assessment. Emphasis will also be on clinical, behavioral, and personality assessment.

Knowing God Better Through Career Development: Theories and Techniques (3 Credits)

This course prepares students to address the intersections of career, values, and life roles in the context of career counseling and responding to career and work-related issues

for majority and marginalized groups. Students will gain core knowledge of major career development theories; examine the implications of sociocultural factors on career development, work transitions, and the career counseling process; gain experience with career counseling assessments and resources; and become familiar with current career development literature.

Crisis and Trauma Counseling (3 Credits)

Students will develop a foundation for assessing and treating post-trauma reactions in adults along with an overview of trauma responses in children. We will begin by reviewing the variety of trauma populations followed by in-depth instruction on the mechanism of development major trauma concerns. The assessment and intervention of post-trauma conditions will be identified. Next, we will address clinical interventions including disaster mental health and exposure-based treatment. Finally, we will review issues affecting therapists working with trauma populations and self-care strategies to prevent compassion fatigue.

Research and Evaluation in Counseling (3 Credits)

The goal of this course is to enable students to become informed consumers of psychological research and to use current research knowledge and tools to improve treatment outcomes. Students will explore methods and issues associated with the conduct and use of research concerning phenomena relevant to counseling psychology. The course provides an overview of hypothesis generation, research design, data collection and interpretation, and utilization of research findings in clinical practice, while considering systemic and sociocultural influences. Students will review seminal research findings including research on specific treatments and common factors across treatments that improve therapy outcome. The course also provides students with assessment tools for evaluating mental health programs and the effectiveness of one’s own clinical practice. Emphasis is given to helping students become knowledgeable consumers of research, including the use of research to inform evidence-based practice.

Clinical Neuroscience and Psychopharmacology (3 Credits)

Fulfills the California Board of Behavioral Sciences requirement for surveying the use of pharmacological agents in patient care. This course provides a basic overview of neurobiology in order to understand the biological bases of behavior and the psychopharmacological treatment of mental disorders. The course includes information about commonly prescribed psychiatric medications for children and adults – indications, contraindications, mechanisms of action, side effects, drug-drug interactions, iatrogenics, and variability related to age, gender, ethnicity, and medical condition. Students will learn how to work cooperatively and effectively with clients, family members, and prescribing clinicians. Additionally, controversies related to the medical model and to specific prescribing practices will be explored.

Psychopathology & Diagnostic Processes (3 Credits)

This course examines the major types of psychopathology. It explores techniques of intake interviewing and determining mental status to formulate a differential diagnosis based upon the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Students will also recognize and understand the controversial history of the development of the DSM. The

course also includes a critical examination of the clinical and experimental literature in psychopathy. Etiologies of cognitive/affective functions and dysfunctions and implications for therapeutic intervention are also addressed.

Human Sexuality and Sex Therapy (3 Credits)

This course will provide students with an understanding of human sexual development with a particular focus upon sexuality counseling from a systems perspective. The goal of this course is to learn about the many facets of human sexuality and the treatment of sexual dysfunctions in a safe and respectful environment. Topics include the physiology, psychology, and sociology of sexuality, including the effects of sexual attitudes and functioning on individuals and families. Gender Identity and LGBTQ and sexual perspectives will be reviewed. Clinical applications, including the treatment of sexual difficulty and dysfunction will also be explored. Students will develop familiarity with the language and terms of sexology and demonstrate an ability to apply this knowledge to clinical situations. Finally, students will explore the above with a framework of Christian compassion and love, exploring how God created sex to be beneficial. A review of AIDS, HIV, and STDs will be given.

Legal, Ethical, and Professional Issues in Counseling (3 Credits)

This course introduces students to the legal, ethical, and moral issues related to the practice of LPCC and MFT in the state of California. This course focuses on contemporary professional law and ethics and moral dilemmas related to counseling practice. Students review statutory, regulatory, and decisional laws related to the scope of therapy practice, including confidentiality, privilege, reporting requirements, family law, and the treatment of minors. Professional codes of ethics (ACA, AAMFT/ CAMFT, and APA) will be reviewed. California law that is relevant to the practice of counseling will be examined including goals and objectives of professional organizations, standards of training, licensure, and the rights and responsibilities of professional counselors. Case examples will be discussed. Consideration is also given to the student practitioner’s values and behaviors, especially in relation to becoming a Christian therapist.

Practicum in Counseling (6, 3 per term)

The purpose of this course is to develop counseling competencies when working with a variety of clients with unique presenting concerns. Specifically, the focus will be on your ability to engage your clients in treatment, establish a working alliance, identify dysfunctional patterns, and use either general strategies or ECBIS strategies to facilitate change. You will work toward the development of a personally acceptable and professionally effective style of establishing and working in helping relationships. We will work toward helping you to examine your behaviors and rationales and to modify for greater effectiveness.

Course Prerequisites:
This is the terminal course for the program and will run concurrently with a weekly seminar that will address issues in counseling practice.